The Lord's Time Has Finally Come
My reform extended for five more years (1974-1979). Amazingly, the Lord had shown me much greater grace during this period than over the past 16 years. Even though the treatment during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) could not have been worse, I was filled with peace and anointment, without anxiety for leaving the Camp.
Thank God that eventually in 1979 the Lord's time for me to leave the Labor Camp had arrived, and He reached out His amazing hand. The whole matter was simply too incredible, and miracles happened one after another.
It was not until 1978 - almost 30 years after Mainland China had segregated itself from other countries - that China finally began to "reform and open to the outside world." By 1979, there was an influx of foreign visitors to China, including relatives, tourists, businessmen, etc. What followed was the growing news-coverage on China by foreign countries; among which was the Labor Camp situation. It was then known that a great number of Labor Camps existed in China - 21 in the city of Shanghai alone, with 20,000 inmates in the small Camps and 50,000 in the large ones. The news-coverage that spread overseas was perhaps the reason why the control of Labor Camp inmates became somewhat comparatively relaxed, and inmates' requests for home-visits were granted. We were allowed home-visits of two-weeks per year - or longer with special considerations such as serious illnesses. I then returned to Shanghai for home-visit in 1979.
First, I thank God for my home in Shanghai. My wife was a physician in the Hua Shan Hospital, a subsidiary of the Shanghai Medical University. She was also a medical instructor (no job title in China at the time). According to her qualifications, she could have been allotted a larger and reasonably comfortable staff residence. Yet simply for being the wife of a "counter-revolutionary element," she was excluded from the allotments over the past 20 years (1958-1978). For years, she had been living in a small attic with an area of only 75 square feet (see photo - "residence of my wife and elder daughter"). In fact, it was not even a decent attic but a crudely and illegally built shelter over the unused end-section of an alley. My wife lived on the upper level of the thin-walled enclosure, measuring 6 feet 6 inches high with a door measuring 4 feet by 3 feet (one must bend low to go through). The room had a window facing west (originally facing east, altered by the Housing Management Bureau as it was overlooking the premises of the People's Liberation Army stationed in the neighborhood). With the bitter north-westerly winter wind and the hot summer sun-rays from the west - and no stoves and fans - the room was very uncomfortable (for this reason, my wife never invited any guests). Seven times during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards15 came to conduct house-searches, staying overnight for seven days in our home as well as other spaces available in the neighborhood. With such limited space of our home, the searches were quite simple - confiscation included Christian books, woolen blankets, bank accounts, etc.
Surprisingly, just one month before my home-visit, the hospital allotted her a space of 172 square feet in an old building (staff quarters). Thus, I had a bed-space when I visited my home. When my wife moved, she had only three pieces of old furniture, including a broken bed. Her colleagues were surprised and remarked, "Even after 30 years of service, Dr. Liang is still so poor!"
By then, the Communist Party had ruled for 30 years, during which all jobs were to be assigned by the central government, with private hiring or job finding being prohibited. Requests by any organization for specially qualified workers were made to the higher authority that may or may not grant them. Thank God that as soon as I came home to Shanghai, I noticed in The Liberation Daily an extraordinary advertisement - in fact, over the past 30 years the Communist government had never placed any advertisement in the newspapers. It was an advertisement for English teachers in the Shanghai East China Normal University. Ever since the start of Communist rule in China, the so-called "idolize-America, pro-America, fear-America ideology" had been publicly criticized and the teaching of English was prohibited nation-wide. Instead, the Russian language was taught in all high schools and universities by several thousands of poorly qualified teachers who were randomly trained to teach Russian for a short period of six months. By the time (1978) China opened its doors to English-speaking countries, very few people in China could speak English. So, how could English teachers be found? The solution: by inviting applications from the public. There was, however, one requirement: the applicant's permanent residency must be in Shanghai.
At that time, it was extremely difficult for anyone in the countryside to claim residency in a large city like Shanghai. As the Labor Camp was then my registered residence, I was, rationally speaking, not qualified to apply. Yet, deep within me, I felt the urge to do so. I then wrote a letter stating that my residence was not in Shanghai and asked if I could apply for the job. In response, the East China Normal University sent me an application form, which I then completed and returned with my photograph.
On the day of the examination, as I checked the location of my examination room and seat number on the poster at the building entrance, I noticed there were more than 600 applicants. I thought: "While others come with dependence on their own capabilities, I come with dependence on the Lord." (See I Sam. 17:45). There were two types of written examinations, namely arts and science. As my major was Chemistry, I selected the science paper. To my amazement, I found that the paper seemed especially prepared for me, for I knew the answers to all the questions. There was, in particular, a Chinese translation of an English essay regarding Newton's report on his first storm test, which we were required to translate back into English. Amazingly, I had no problem with vocabularies or sentence structure and finished the paper in a breeze. I walked out feeling very satisfied with my answers.
Thank God that I had excelled in the examination! It turned out that, out of more than 600 applicants, I was one of four selected. I was called for an interview. This was what the four of us were told to do: "The teachers we're going to employ will be required to teach in English in the classrooms. That's why even though the four of you did very well in the written test, we need to observe and listen to each of you teach to see how well you can teach in English. We're giving you a textbook that has just arrived from the United States; you're to take it home and prepare for the class presentation a few days later. In the classroom, you're to speak English only, because all the students will be Chinese research scientists approved by the State Council for further studies in the United States. They've been taught Russian at school and learned English on their own."
We gave the presentation as scheduled, with more than 30 listeners who were English teachers of the University's foreign language department. I was the third to perform. I was only half-way through when an elderly professor, surnamed Ye, suddenly stood up and said, "Mr. Yu, you may stop here." Satisfied with my performance, I left the classroom feeling peaceful and joyful.
Back home, right after I finished my lunch, I was notified by phone that I had been selected and was told to report for duty early. I learned that only two of the four selected applicants were successful - a Protestant (I myself) and a Catholic, both having been reformed for over 20 years; I ranked first and the other second. Praise the Lord for what could only be His own miraculous work! - " had it not been the Lord who was on our side ??" (Psalm 124:1, 2).
Note: The reading of English books was not permitted in Labor Camps. Even during the Cultural Revolution, I was reported on for having purchased a copy of the English edition of The Quotations of Mao Tse-tung and was blacklisted for denunciation.
15 Red Guards were teenage activists serving the Communist Party led by Mao Tse-tung during the Cultural Revolution in China.