LIFE IN EXILE
CHAPTER 5 My God-Given Wife
The Sister Who Shared My Wife’s Load
My two daughters were in Suzhou before I left for Labor Reform. My elder daughter was born in Shanghai and her permanent residence was registered in Shanghai. My younger daughter was born in Suzhou and her permanent residence was registered in Suzhou1. As my wife and I were very busy, our two daughters were cared for by a devout sister, Mrs. Sun. We called her Granny, an address which in Suzhou was for someone intimate. Granny had no children of her own, and her husband had long passed away. When my elder daughter came of school age she returned to Shanghai, while my younger daughter all along stayed with Granny. When Granny grew old, my younger daughter cared for her until she rested in the Lord on July 16 th, 2000 at the age of 87.
Right after I was taken to Labor Camp, my monthly salary of 83 yuan was immediately stopped. At the time, my father had died a martyr for two years, leaving behind no inheritance (he never bought any property). The Nanyang Hospital in Shanghai where he had worked did not even pay the pension he had earned, as “counter-revolutionaries” were not allowed pensions. After his burial, our family was stricken with poverty. Thank God that my wife had a loving heart and offered to send 16 yuan each month to me in the Labor Camp. The financial condition of our small family had therefore drastically declined, and we could no longer afford to pay Granny for taking care of our children. To save on living expenses, my wife then decided to go to Suzhou to bring the children back to Shanghai (90-minute ride by train). But as a despised family member of a “counter-revolutionary” as well as a hospital teaching physician responsible for treatment, teaching and research, how could she take care of the children in Shanghai? She was at a loss as to what to do. At barely two years’ old, our first-born needed care, and our younger child, only 5 months old, had to be nursed. My mother was already 58 years old at the time, and her youngest son was only 13. She could not afford to help my wife because of her own heavy housework. Coupled with the difficult financial situation, my wife had no alternative but to bring the children back from Suzhou.
Praise the Heavenly Father for His love and faithfulness! He knew about my wife’s predicament and had not forgotten His loving promise: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). Thank “God who comforts the downcast” (II Cor. 7:6)! When my wife went to Suzhou to bring the children back, Granny said, “Our brother is undergoing Labor Reform for the Lord’s sake, and your burden is too heavy. I’ll share your load!” My wife insisted on bringing the children back to Shanghai, “With your present age and qualification, you’d have no problem finding a job that will earn you a pension when you retire. You’ll be paying too great a price for not going to work and just caring for my children. My family has no future because the children’s father has an indelible record of being a ‘labor reform released element.’ To be honest with you, I can’t afford to pay your wages and the children’s living expenses.” With loving kindness, Granny comforted my wife, “You needn’t pay me. As for the children’s living expenses, just pay according to your ability; we can all look up to the Lord in case of shortage - our God is a living God.” Seeing Granny’s persistence and failing to dissuade her, my wife returned to Shanghai alone with a grateful heart.
Granny was 45 years’ old at the time. Though she never received any education, she was skillful with her hands. To earn a little extra to cover the expenses, she brought home some sewing work from garment factories, such as embroidery and button-sewing. Everyday she worked tirelessly until midnight. To save on the electricity bill, she placed a five-watt light-bulb right before her eyes as she worked, consuming only half a unit (Kwh) each month on a shared meter. At times when she could not make ends meet, she secretly sold some of her limited old possessions.
During the so-called “Three-year Natural Calamities” (1959-1961), the government food rationing amount was greatly reduced. The children, too young to understand the situation, often cried when they grew hungry. Granny often reduced her own food intake in order to save up coupons for cakes for the hungry children. When the children were sick, she took them to seek medical treatment, carrying the younger child in one arm and leading the other child with the other hand. She waited until the children had recovered before asking someone to write2 to inform my wife so as not to distract her from work. On New Year’s Day or other festive days, my wife went to Suzhou to share with them the food she had saved up. When she learned from the neighbors that Granny fainted on the street as she was lining up to buy rice, she knew that it was due to hypoglycemia caused by hunger. Granny never told my wife of matters such as this that would cause her to worry.
Granny’s love was deep and hidden, poured silently over the Lord. I truly thank and praise the Lord for this wonderful and God-loving sister who shared my wife’s heavy burden and who helped raise my two children. Oh Lord, please remember on that day the pure and selfless love this sister had manifested for Your holy name’s sake!
When my wife returned to work in the hospital after visiting me, her colleagues noticed the tanning of her skin and knew that she had been to the Labor Camp. They talked behind her back. During the time of the Cultural Revolution, her Camp visit was one of the issues raised in the denunciation of her.
Were it not for the Lord’s grace and the intercessory prayers of godly members in Christ, my family would have broken up long ago under those trying circumstances.
China’s system of residence registration was quite uncommon: it was easy to convert one’s residence from a city to a village, but not vice versa. It was almost impossible to convert it to large cities like Shanghai and Beijing.
Granny had never been educated. She learned to read the Bible after accepting Christ.