The Lord's Time Has Not Yet Comep
The following is my recount of how the loving Father led me out of China into the United States. (Further details regarding my 21 years of exile for faith are written in the book The Cross & Suffering (by Joshua Yu), published by the Chinese Christian Testimony Ministry in 2005.)
I was exiled to the Labor Camp in 1958. By 1974, I had been through 16 years of Labor Reform. Early that year, the director of the Labor Camp Committee announced the inception of a "classification movement." The aim of this movement was to classify the inmates into two types of "contradictions," namely 'self-contradiction" and "contradiction among the people" - in short, the inmates were to be classified as either "well-reformed" or "non-reformed". This was a course of action that the inmates had long anticipated. In an endeavor to meet the "well-reformed" requirement, many inmates tried their very best to excel in labor and to discipline themselves by controlling their temper and speeches.
When an inmate was classified as "non-reformed," a cadre would be sent to notify the supervisors of the work units of his wife, parents and children. The purpose of such action was for the family members to exert pressure on the inmate, thus helping to accelerate the process of ideological reform (acceptance of Marxism-Leninism).
When the inception of the movement was announced, my heart sank. I thought about my two grown daughters - one aged 18 who was barely two when I was exiled 16 years ago and the other aged 17 who was only 5 months old then. Because I was on Labor Camp, all members of my family were despised.
The government did not allow my eldest daughter to continue her education after her middle-school graduation - even though she was an exemplary and "three-good"9 student. Instead, she was assigned to work as a mixer of cement (a mixture of lime, clay, sand, and water for use in house repairs). The job required her to mix the ingredients with a metal rake and to carry the pails of cement from the ground floor up to the workers on the second or third levels of the building. Being of a tall build, she had to bend low to lift up the pails of cement from the ground. This tough and dirty chore was normally assigned to men, as the two pails of cement had a total weight of no less than 55-66 pounds - too unfit for a young girl. Growing up in a persecuted family, my daughter had developed a strong character and she rarely cried even as a child. Yet she cried over the job assignment a number of times and could not be comforted. This was because she knew that, in a Communist society, such assignments were usually permanent with hardly any hope of change. I felt very guilty for depriving her of a future, as well as deeply sorry for her physical and emotional suffering.
My wife was even more ill-treated and despised because of our marital relationship. She was an oral specialist in the Hua Shan Hospital (a famous teaching hospital affiliated with Shanghai Medical University). Around 1960, a year after my exile to Labor Camp, she was transferred to work in a lower position in the suburb of Green Cattail ( Shanghai), treating patients with blood-fluke diseases (unrelated to her specialty). This new job was very stressful and carried great responsibility, especially when complications developed during the treatment process. Moreover, for seven months during the Cultural Revolution (July 1968 to January 1969), she was confined for interrogation in a small room with barbed-wires and closed glass windows. She was not permitted to receive any family visitors. In addition, she was not allowed to take baths in the hot summer and had to request permission to use the toilet. At the time, our eldest daughter was only 12 years" old. My wife's salary was reduced by one-fourth (reverted unexpectedly a year later). During the confinement, she was ordered to write confessions daily and was made the subject of denunciation or a "denunciation companion"10 on numerous occasions. During these seven months of terror, she did not eat or sleep well and her health deteriorated.
I was not aware of what my wife was going through until my mother wrote to tell me that my wife was "hospitalized." I then understood something terrible must have happened. I wanted very much to encourage her in the Lord and could think of no way to communicate with her other than to send her a booklet mimeographed by the Labor Camp, The Poems of Chairman Mao11 - the only thing that she was allowed to receive. The booklet contained a secret message from me, "9 p.m. on day X, Sept. 1968." The "9 p.m." was the hour we had earlier agreed on for praying in spiritual oneness in our respective locations. The hidden message to her was: "I earnestly pray for you with regard to your implication."
Shortly after her release from interrogation confinement, my wife was sent to the high mountain region of Qimen, Anhui to work as a medicinal-herb collector. At the time, she was suffering from high blood pressure. There were many other hardships, which I am not going to list here. She was so ill-treated simply for being the spouse of a "counter-revolutionary element."
When it was announced that the inmates would be classified at the end of the year, I felt great pressure as I considered the implications of the classification on my family, and I prayed fervently to the Lord. As praying was strictly forbidden in the Labor Camp, I used to pray under the cover of a blanket in the winter and inside the mosquito net in the summer. But as the burden to pray became too great, I took advantage of the brief duration between the after-dinner recess and the political-study session to run to the distant fields to kneel down and pray on the ridge in the dark. It was particularly cold that winter with more than a dozen snowstorms. In fact, some tung-oil trees at the hilltops that we had planted and wrapped with insulating straw had withered in the cold. Kneeling on the snow, I cried out to the Lord, "O Lord, I"ve been through the reform for so many years already! I"m concerned about my wife and my children - they"ve already endured too much for my sake. I pray that the cadre will classify me as "well-reformed"." Surprisingly, every time I uttered this prayer from the heart, I clearly sensed that it would not be granted. Still unyielding (how weak the human nature!), and concerned with my wife and children, I held on to a thread of hope as I persisted in my pleading.
My hope became more intense especially after I received a letter from my eldest daughter one day. Barely two years" of age when I was exiled to the Labor Camp, she had since grown; and this was the only letter she had ever written to me during my exile. She wrote, "Oh Dad, you"ve got to be well reformed; for our hardship is too unbearable "" Yet, how was I to be "well-reformed"? I was not sentenced to reform for committing crimes but, rather, simply for maintaining that Jesus Christ was the Head of the Church and that the Bible was the sole and supreme authority of Christian living and service. There was no way that I could be "well-reformed" unless I gave up my faith; and this was definitely something I could not do.
Extremely distressed, I could only turn my burden into prayers. At last, I pleaded, "Lord, haven"t You said that "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (I Cor. 10:13). These are Your own words. Many godly brothers and sisters have already fallen and I can hardly endure any more!" The Bible teaches us to plead earnestly as we pray; and I cried out from the bottom of my heart, "O Lord! I just can"t plead any more - I can only weep before You."
In spite of my earnest prayers, I sensed that I would not be classified as "well reformed." I felt more convinced as I recalled that I was caught for secretly preaching the gospel in the Labor Camp in the years 1962 and 1963. That was when the Labor Camp reform was a little less rigid following the Soviet Union's inception of the "Revisionism" movement and the rise of Brezhnev12 as their leader. In the evenings, I took advantage of the recess to secretly preach the gospel. Unfortunately, during a later political movement, my action was secretly reported to the authorities. Consequently, I was made the subject of denunciation for two winters (slack season in farming).
One day in 1965 (prior to the start of the Cultural Revolution) when the inmates were gathered to view a movie, the cadre suddenly announced that I was to continue wearing the ?-ounter-Revolutionary Hat"13 - this penalty was not revoked until 1987, after I had already left for the United States (in 1986). By 1974, I had already worn the "Hat" for nine years (1965-1974), and it should not have affected my classification. I knew that because I would not give up or denounce my belief - as my faith was strong and unshakable then - I would not be classified as "well reformed" and be able to take off the "Hat." Even so, how could I ever depart from my Lord who loved me and laid down His life for me! If the Lord's time for my release had not yet come, then I would rather disappoint my family and learn to commit those innocent ones to the faithful and loving Lord in the conviction that He would not mistreat them.
I prayed and prayed until August came. One day the Camp supervisor sent for me. Usually, he did not give interviews unless there was something particularly important. I prayed on my way to the interview. I was somewhat anxious because I had not yet learned to fully trust and rest in the Lord, to totally deny myself and to accept God's best for me. I said, "Lord, please be with me and strengthen me. I"ve no idea what questions I"ll be asked nor do I know what to say - please give me the words." ( Ref. Mark 13:11).
Once inside the cadres" office, I was told to sit down and handed a publication to read. It was the Communist Party's Information for Reference, which was for internal circulation only and not to be read by Labor Camp inmates or the public. It contained a report concerning a world conference of Catholics held in Belgium, following which a team of representatives was dispatched to China to assess the situation of the Catholic Church there. The report centered on the remarks of a bishop in Nanjing (surnamed Ding) to the visiting representatives: "Since the nation came under Communist rule, most people in China believe in Marxism-Leninism rather than Catholicism. The few existing Catholics are already white-haired. They became believers prior to the nation's Liberation." It took me just two minutes to finish reading this article. The reason for ordering me to read it was to persuade me to give up my faith - a way that would win me a "well-reformed" classification at the imminent decision announcement. Fixing my eyes on the report after reading it, I prayed in that brief moment, "Lord, I"m now faced with a new temptation! For Your glory's sake, please do guard me, Lord! Please give me wisdom, boldness and the appropriate words to say." As soon as I finished praying, I was ordered to be interviewed.
Three cadres were present at the interview: the director (head of the Labor Reform Team); the instructor (overseer of political study and ideological reform); and the production-team leader (overseer of labor assignments and operations). These three seated figures formed a very solemn atmosphere. If a 16-year imprisonment in Labor Camps had failed to reform me, then I just could not imagine how many more years I would have to be imprisoned for. Surprisingly (praise the Lord!), the moment I stepped into the room, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and was completely anxiety-free.
The interviewers asked for my response to the report I had just read. The first sentence I said was, "I"m a true Christian, not a false one." My statement was straightforward, direct, clear, open, irrevocable and without self-reservation. The director, Landon Zang, asked, "Are there false Christians"? "No, not any more now," I replied. "These days, even many true Christians dare not profess to be Christians. Before the start of Communist rule, there were indeed false Christians within the churches - for instance, the very poor who were attracted by the charitable handouts; youths who wanted to seek companions in the churches because the young ladies there were far better; those who wanted to seek the help of pastors or priests in obtaining traveling visas; businessmen who wanted to establish connections (for instance, to get people to buy their over-stocked goods). At present, though, such falsehood no longer exists." I went on, "In a sense, it"d be very easy for me to lie and vow that I"ve given up my faith. Also, it"d not be hard for me to provide a written criticism to "denounce" my Christian faith using quotes from Marxists - Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Yet, I don"t want to deceive you; nor can I because I"m a true Christian."
I added that if I were to give up my faith, I would have done it much earlier - I would have been a fool to have labored 16 years in Labor Camp before doing so. I could also have easily done it when I was a university student back in 1951. That was the year the Communist Party had just taken over the government, and three high-ranking cadres of the Jiangsu Province were sent to my university to initiate the "ideological reform" movement in an effort to change our ideology from "bourgeois ideas" and "petty bourgeois ideas" to "proletarian." One of the three cadres, Wayne Chen, happened to be my uncle's friend. The first thing the three cadres did was to evaluate the state of our ideology and to find out who were the most backward and reactionary (of which I was one). Praise the Lord that since I became a student of the Suzhou University, I teamed up with more than 20 members of the Christian Fellowship. In a year's time, we had succeeded in spreading the gospel throughout the whole university as well as to the nearby Jing Hai Girls School and the Bo Xi Hospital and its nursing school. I was therefore regarded as extremely "idealistic" and "reactionary." When Wayne Chen, the cadre, found out that I was the nephew of his close friend Quentin Wu, he wanted to help in deleting my name from the "reactionary elements" list so that my job assignment after graduation would not be affected. That was why he talked with me thrice, each time for three hours. He explained to me the religious viewpoints of Marxism-Leninism, how religions were formed, their eventual eradication and so on, trying to persuade me to deny my faith in exchange for a promising future. Yet, by the grace of God, I contended that my Lord was a true and living God for whom I would willingly sacrifice everything.
Thank God that I was able to tell the interviewers that day that I had previously been availed the best opportunity to deny my faith. I reiterated strongly that I was a true Christian and would never give up my faith. The interview clearly showed them that I was not the least "reformed," and it ended right there.
Back at my dormitory, the young inmate who slept next to me, named Chevy Hu, asked, "So, what's up"? I told him about the interview. "You"re so stupid!" he said. "Haven"t you had enough of reform for 16 years? Why didn"t you just tell them that you had given up your faith, and then the day after the removal of counter-revolutionary label, simply tell them, "I didn"t mean what I said earlier. The fact is: I"ve not given up my faith." You think they"d be able to make you wear the "counter-revolutionary hat" again"? "You don"t understand," I said. "As far as the Bible is concerned, this is a very solemn matter. If I deny the Lord before men, the Lord will deny me before God and His angels (Matt.10:32-33; Luke 12:8, 9). That must not happen! Moreover, how could I, for worldly gains, go against my conscience and deny my Savior who died for me"?
Shortly afterwards on 20 th November 1974 (right after the autumn harvest), we suddenly received notice of a meeting in which the classification results would be announced - who were the "well reformed" and who were still required to continue with the reform. On that day, we carried our own bamboo stools to the assembly hall filled with over 1,000 attendees. Afraid that I might hear incorrectly, I seated myself in the very front row (even though I felt very sure in my spirit that the Lord's time had not yet come for me to be classified as "well-reformed" - just how weak my flesh was!) Unlike a man fully trusting in the Lord and resting in any situation the Lord places him in, I was holding on to a thread of hope, wishing my inner sensation was erroneous. With undivided attention and accelerating heartbeat, I listened carefully when the names of the "well-reformed" were announced - mine was not called, and I wondered if it had been left out by oversight! Later, the names of the "unreformed" were announced; sure enough, mine was among them. Well then, that was it!
The Lord said, " No one, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Oh, dear brothers and sisters, were it not for God's grace, it is not even possible for one to trust in and depend on the Lord!
Devastated as I left the assembly hall, I began to worry what the cadre would tell my wife and her hospital supervisor, my mother and her residence committee, and my daughters" school supervisors - " O you of little faith" (Matt. 14:31; 16:8). I was concerned if my family would be subjected to even greater despise, affliction and hardship. No wonder Paul says, " I wish that all men were even as I myself "" (I Cor. 7:7); it is a privilege for a believer to remain single to serve God.
Too disheartened to pray, I simply sighed, "Lord! Lord!" as I walked back to my Camp dormitory. Surprisingly, as I was half-way through, the Holy Spirit softly whispered to my heart, " You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." These words from John 19:11 were the Lord's words to me. When the Lord appeared before Pilate, he did not say a word until Pilate proudly said to him, " Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You and to release You"? The words Jesus said in response to Pilate were what the Holy Spirit was saying to me. Actually, I had long forgotten these words, but the Holy Spirit had brought them back into my heart. In addition to those words of Jesus (" You could have no power at all against Me, unless it had been given you from above"), the Holy Spirit explained to me, "The Labor Camp Party Committee would have no authority to make you go on wearing the "counter-revolutionary hat" unless it's been given to you from above." Once the Lord spoke, my distress rapidly vanished and my troubled heart rested. How I thanked the Lord for His comfort to a devastated man!
That evening after dinner, I went again to the fields as usual and knelt down on the ridge to worship the Lord in the dark. "Lord! I worship You even though I don"t understand why You didn"t take off my "hat." But I trust You won"t be wrong - everything You do is worthy of my worship. One day - at the latest when I see Your face - I"ll understand what You did was out of Your love for me and is the best for me. Today I don"t understand and feel the pain; but Lord, you won"t be wrong. For it is written, " The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works" (Ps. 145:17)."
That evening, I had only one prayer request, which was regarding the disclosure of the classification result: I asked the Lord to guard the thoughts and emotions of my mother, my wife, and my daughters and to strengthen and uphold them. Even though the news was another heavy blow to my wife and my mother, the Lord had wonderfully kept them in His grace and peace. Thank God for heeding my prayer!
God was truly a "God of all comfort" (II Cor. 1:3). Not only was I given God's tender yet powerful and anointed words but I also received a surprise parcel that very day - I had not received one for over 10 years. Actually, by that time the Labor Camp had been established for over 10 years and, with food production even much higher than the surrounding farmlands, there was no food shortage. Therefore, life-saving parcels were no longer needed. I praise the Lord for the comfort and encouragement the parcel had brought to me - not only was the Lord my comforter but my loving brothers and sisters, too, were also thinking of me (this solitary and weak member).
Ever since then, with 99% of the inmates already well-reformed, the remaining minority was even further degraded. The reformed inmates began receiving monthly wages and were granted Sundays off. The unreformed inmates were not only unpaid but had to wake up earlier daily to empty all the dormitory urinals, as well as to provide "public welfare labor"14 on Sundays.
9 "Three-good": all-round development of morality, intelligence, and physique .
10 "Denunciation Companion": A term used in China referring to the person who was ordered to accompany someone to be denounced. He/she was to bow his/her head while standing next to the person being denounced and to experience the frightful horror and be criticized along with the guilty.
11 Chairman Mao: Mao Tse-tung was Chairman of the People's Republic of China and of its Communist Party (1949-1976).
12 Brezhnev, Leonid Ilyich (1906-1982) was General Secretary of the U.S.S.R. from 1960-1964 and 1977-1982.
13 ?-ounter-revolutionary Hat": a charge for being counter-revolutionary; the word "Hat" implies a breach of law.
14 The so-called "public welfare labor" was different from "voluntary labor." The latter was praise-worthy whereas "public welfare labor" implied a deed for redemption of sin. These two types of labor differ in "political treatment" - for instance, the unreformed laborers were not allowed to attend certain meetings.