LIFE IN EXILE
CHAPTER 6 The Precious Words Of God
The Collection of Vital Biblical Truth
One day in late 1979 (by this time, I had already returned to Shanghai from the Labor Camp), brother Chang, a co-worker in his 30’s from a small village in northern China, came to see me. His testimony, filled with praises and tears, was extremely touching.
After the Cultural Revolution, the Bible was an extremely rare and precious possession. In his thirst for God’s words, he enquired and found that an elderly sister living about 3 miles away possessed a Bible consisting of both the Old and the New Testaments. Since it was a family heirloom, she refused to lend it to anyone. Therefore, to read the Bible, everyday brother Chang had to walk a total distance of 6 miles before and after working in the people’s commune. Some time later, he proposed a deal with the sister – he offered to care for her “private lots”1 and to grow vegetables for her in exchange for borrowing the Bible. With her feet bound2 since childhood, the elderly sister found it hard to work on the land, such as growing vegetables, weeding, digging, carrying human waste and fertilizing. Therefore she agreed to the proposal. Brother Chang then studied God’s words with great thirst and effort, finding them more precious the more he read, realizing “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psa. 19:10).
Later on, he wondered if something could be done to share the words of God with the many co-workers who had no access to the Bible. He then had an idea. He copied down those Bible verses he considered vital and then sorted and compiled them into The Collection of Vital Biblical Truth. He asked some Christian youths who came from the urban areas3 to assist with the preparation of wax stencils and the mimeograph printing. The printed material was then distributed to co-workers who hungered for God’s words. Everyday he worked hard until midnight. His wife, though a believer, considered his work too dangerous; for once the Public Security Bureau found out about it, the consequence would be disastrous. She was, however, unable to stop his burning desire to sacrifice for the Lord.
Eventually, after a great deal of dedicated effort, brother Chang finished preparing the work that was to be stenciled and printed by a young sister. Yet his wife became more and more worried and nervous, fearing that if the finished work should end up in the hands of the Public Security officers, the whole family would be victimized. She decided to take the matter in her own hands by cold-heartedly thrusting all his manuscripts into the furnace. With an aching heart and unable to change the situation, he set out to redo the work all over! To make a long story short, his wife burnt up his manuscripts each time they were ready for printing. This happened three or four times! Thank God, though, for brother Chang’s unyielding spirit!
One night, as he was sharing God’s words in a meeting with brothers and sisters in a cellar not far from his home, the police were informed and they rounded up the meeting place. They later released everyone except brother Chang. He was then hanged up and beaten until he fainted. The police then left. In the mid-night chill, he came to but was unable to move because of his bad wounds. Thinking that his wife would be worried about him and knowing that God was “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1; Heb. 4:16), he pleaded for the Lord to give him strength to return home. He did eventually make his way home by crawling but collapsed right at the front door. With anger mixed with pity, his wife carried him into the house. His blood-soaked clothes had adhered to the wounds all over his body and could not be taken off until his wife washed away the blood with warm water from the kitchen. Thank God that it was during those several hours that night that the Holy Spirit worked within her and touched her. She realized that she was Satan’s accomplice in the destruction of God’s work, thus seriously sinning against God. She then confessed her sins with great repentance “in sackcloth and ashes.” Indeed, when death worked in the brother, life worked in his wife (see II Cor. 4:12). Since then, the couple worked together until the book, The Collection of Vital Biblical Truth, finally came out in print (mimeographed).
On the day brother Chang and I met, he showed me the book. I could not help marveling at its production – thousands of words with essential Bible verses that were particularly noteworthy in those days, compiled by a young co-worker with only middle-school education, without the aid of any reference book. We can only bow down before the Lord for providing this book that has greatly helped many co-workers in promoting the spread of the gospel and in the nurturing of believers. Oh, how great the blessings were that the Lord had given through the several fishermen - “unlearned and ignorant men” like Peter, James and John who gave up their all to follow the Lord!
1. After the country had adopted the policy of “collective agriculture,” peasants were allotted small pieces of land (about 133 m² for their private farming. They were allowed to keep the produce.
2. Feet-binding of women was a bad custom in ancient China.
3. During the Cultural Revolution, middle-school graduates were dispatched from the urban areas to the countryside in order to receive the so-called “Re-education of The Poor and The Lower-Middle Peasants.”