A Testimony Left Behind in the Labor Camp
Following the success of my teacher application, the University Committee requested the Labor Camp Committee to revert my permanent residency to Shanghai based on the reason that I was needed for achieving "The Four Modernizations"16. At the time, it was almost impossible for the common people to register as permanent residents of big cities like Shanghai or Beijing, not to mention a Labor Camp inmate whose "counter-revolutionary hat" had not yet been taken off!
Having a clean personal record was particularly important for teachers as they were regarded as "soul-engineers." How could an "unreformed" inmate be a "soul-engineer"? Moreover, could a high-school teacher become a university teacher? Therefore, as news of this controversy broke out, words spread throughout the Labor Camp: "What! Yu's going to be a university teacher?"; "You see, his God's a true and living God!" How I praise and thank the Lord for leaving such a testimony in the Labor Camp! (I was officially registered as a Shanghai resident on December 3 rd, 1979.)
In the society at the time, released prisoners and Labor Camp inmates were treated as subordinate citizens. As such, they were normally assigned the heaviest and foulest jobs, such as cleaning sewers or the waste of hospital patients. That I was offered a university teaching position was clearly the wonderful work of God.
Many years ago when I pursued my college education, I switched from civil engineering to medicine with the hope of preaching while practicing medicine. However, with the unanticipated political changes, I had to switch to chemistry from medicine. (This was because in Communist countries, like the Soviet Union, physicians were among the first to be controlled and reorganized by the government. They had much less individual freedom than engineers.) I had then contemplated on preaching after my graduation while earning a living in a Christian brother's chemical factory - in fact, the boss even promised to pay me salary if I had to devote all my time to gospel work. However, by the time I graduated (1952), the political situation changed again and I was assigned by the government17 to be a high-school teacher. Six years later, I was exiled to the Labor Camps. After 21 years in the Labor Camps, I was then to become a university teacher. Thank God that he let me experience what Jeremiah said, " I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." (Jer. 10:23). In retrospect, my primary career (to serve God) was, by God's safekeeping, never disrupted, though my "secondary career," which was actually not very important, had been subject to a number of changes. In fact, God had led me from step to step, with each step timed by Himself.
Back then, I did not understand why God made me teach English in a university for several years before leaving for the United State. In fact, by making me prepare for my English lessons, God had actually made me brush up on my English. As I later realized, this training was necessary to prepare me for sharing with brothers and sisters in English; for, after my arrival in the United States, the Lord had made some arrangements for me to preach and testify in English-speaking churches.
Reflecting on how the Lord has led me all the way, I can only bow down in humble adoration before Him.
16 Four Modernizations: modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science & technology.
17 At the time, all college graduates were assigned jobs by the government - known as "centralized placement."