Chapter 15: Experiencing Many Tribulations (Part One)
When the Lord Jesus was in the world as the Son of Man, he often has anxieties, experiencing all sufferings, and was nailed on the cross for us in the end, completed God’s salvation. He clearly told the disciples: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above his master.” (Matthew 10:24) “He said to them, My cup you shall indeed drink.” (Matthew 20:23a) So those who follow Him getting persecuted, being targeted, is not out of the ordinary. I will describe the trials I have experienced since 1956 to today, as below:
A. Entering into the Furnace of Tribulations the First Time
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I might learn your statues.
John 13:7 Jesus answered and said to him, What I am doing you do not know now, but you will know after these things
Psalm 23:4a Even though I walk Through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not fear evil, For you are with me.
Matthew 12:20a A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.
In the January of 1955, after all the local churches in Fuqing county withdraw from a religious organization, all the churches’ spiritual situation have a big turnaround, all localities recovered the work of gospel preaching, and many were baptized into the name of the Lord. In the latter half of the year, the winds of persecution started. That time, it was not long since I’ve set aside my career to serve fulltime, my family were still renting Sister Dan’s house in Chengguan of Fuqing. One day, I suddently received a letter from Brother Wenqou Zheng of Yuxi county, which has written, “In Yuxi county, I heard people say that you had already been arrested, why is there news like this?” After I saw this letter, there is a clear word in my heart: “Since I’ve put up everything for the Lord, I would not care about gain or losse.” Then, I wrote a hymn according to this feeling. The first three stanzas are as the following:
1. Since I’ve put up everything for the lord,
I would not care about gain or loss,
Just to finish my journey,
Willing to suffer for the Lord
2. All the worldly praises,
I cast them all down today,
Fame, profit and shallow glories,
Are all hung from the cross.
3. Who worries for their life,
Is whom that dares not go forward,
Though trials and prisons be hard to avoid,
Will find it hard to stop me going forward.
This hymn shows that regardless of the environment, regardless of what happens, I have made up my mind to suffer for the Lord.
On January 10th, 1956, when I went to bed at night, my spirit suddenly felt very melancholic and anxious, I have never experienced anything like this before. Turns out that this is the night that the storm came, all the responsible brothers of the churches in Fujian Province were all arrested this night. At four o’ clock in the morning, I was arrested as well, this is the first time I’ve entered into the furnace of tribulations.
From Fuqing county, there are over ten other brothers who were arrested on that same day. We were all held in the old prison that was next to the county government building. Those three of us brothers of Chengguan got into prison the earliest. Brother Lianhao Wang and I were put in the same cell. Brother Changji Chen is locked in the cell across from us. Not long afterwards, the other arrested brothers gradually arrived. Brother Chunfa Lee, and Brother Juming Lin also got locked into my cell. Because we all have the expectation of suffering, even the expectation for martyr, so when we met each other in prison, everyone did not feel sad, but held each other by the hand joyfully praising the Lord. The weather that time was very cold, so we huddled together to fellowship. In fellowship, Brother Juming says: “This time (during the thought reeducation, he and Brother Chunfa were arrested), I don’t think I will go back to see my wife and children again.” Brother Chunfa also testifies, “When a man knows that there is a treasure I the land, thus sold everything to acquire it; knowing the jewel’s preciousness, then sacrificed everything to obtain it.” The two of them all came with the attitude of being a martyr for the Lord, but at that time I do not have the feeling of martyrdom, the Lord gave me a picture, which is Acts chapter 27, Paul was at sea, there was a great storm, and the sun, moon and stars weren’t seen for may days, but in the end he was still saved. At that time, I also fellowshipped my feeling to the others.
At the time, because Brother Wenqou Zheng and Brother Changji Chen are the main responsible ones of the church; Brother Lianghao Wang was once the head transcriber of the Kumingtang, thus a serious history problem; and I am a full-time serving one, so the four of us were considered as leaders of the church. On the third morning since being imprisoned, we were transferred together to the holding facility in Minhouluozhou, to have the regional first level public security to take care of our case. In the holding facility, we were imprisoned there for five months and a half, living there was very hard, our family members are not allowed to send anything in, can’t buy anything in jail even if one had money. Only a little bit of congee every mean, everyone was unbearably hungry. Some of us even fight to eat the congee soup next to the rice bucket. The situation was very bleak at the time, the government’s sentencing is very heavy, there were two brothers who were imprisoned earlier, who do not qualify as leading brothers but were sentenced to ten and twelve years of prison. So when I was arrested this time, I was preferred to suffer for the long term, and estimated that I might get over ten years worth of sentence. Because my heart is very dead towards the world, but very urgent for the Lord. Under the heavy pressure of the environment, I can only pray earnestly, and hoped for the Lord’s coming. Thus, not long after I entered prison, I wrote the hymn “Lord, Your coming”. The original lyrics are as the following:
1. Lord, Your coming, is my only comfort,
Lord, Your coming, is my only hope.
Lord, Your coming, is the only thing that can wipe away my tears.
Lord, Your coming, is the only thing that can cease my wandering.
But why do You still delay today?
Let Your promise go unfulfilled for a long long time?
Millions of saints beg Your glory to appear,
So that we can meet You, be in Your bosom.
2. Lord, You’re in the heavens, know that your children are being trained,
Lord, You can see, all the dangers we have experienced,
Lord, You can hear, the church calling millions of times,
Lord, You remember, we’ve waited many years.
So we, beg that You not delay,
Beg that Your coming, can it be today?
So that all the saints meet before Your throne joyfully,
Praise Your name together, enjoy the sweetness of your love together.
(The tune uses “Since Bethany We’ve Parted”.)
Thru my intimate fellowship with the Lord, the Lord’s words gradually came to me, such as: “Even though I walk Through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not fear evil, For you are with me;” (Psalm 23:4a). “For His anger lasts but a moment, His favor, a lifetime; Weeping may linger in the evening, But a ringing shout goes up in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5). “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matthew 12:20a). These Words of the Lord all gave me great comfort. Not long after, these words all became my hyms, I sing them over and over again in prison.
After the four of us were imprisoned, we went through an intense process of appealing. Every time Brother Wenqou was taken for trial, when he walked past my jail cell no. 1, he always gave me a look with his eyes, with one hand at his chest, raising his head towards the sky, I know that he means for me to worship the Lord in faith. Yes, in such a hard situation when we’re being pressed from all sides, aside from the Lord, what else is reliable? In the few months of being detained here, I wrote several hymns, such as “Have you seen our Lord”, “Overly Tight Pressing”, “Though the Way of the Cross is Hard”, “When the Man ends, the Lord is your beginning” etc., the feeling was all deeper. In late June of 1956, the middle people’s court opened, when the police put handcuffs on me, I can’t help but sing what I’ve written: “though my tears are all over my face, but quickly show Your glory, today I still have chains on me, but they are for exchanging for the crown.”
The court put in the verdict, four of my so called “truth of crime”: 1. I’ve attended Watchman Nee’s Kuling training; 2. Was among the signatories for the preservation of the Kuling land; 3. Attending the meeting that Lianmin Ke gathered in Putian; 4. Withdrawing from the Three Self Church. This time, Changji Chen, Lianghao Wang those two were sentence to three years, Brother Wenqou Zheng was sentenced to five years, but I was only sentenced to one year, this is greatly outside of my expectation. The judge asked me if I had any objections, I was worried that I heard wrong, so I asked: “Just now did you sentence me to one year or ten years?” He raised one finger and says, “One year sentence.” I was amazed at the Lord’s marvelous deed!
A few days before I was sentenced, the same numbered cell has a prisoner who’s last name was lLin that was once a civil servant in the KMT administration, he said to me, “all the other convicts in our cell have been sentenced and transferred away, now only the two of us left. I think the two of us have bigger problems, we might have to be ready for ten years of prison.” I, with a heavy heart, answered, “You be ready for ten years of prison, I might not be just ten years.” A few days later, the two of us were picked to be sentenced on the same day. Once we returned from sentencing, I was imprisoned in the cell before, he was locked in a little numbered room across from me, we can look at each other in the eye. He asked me how many years I was sentenced. I raised one finger to say, “one-year sentence.” Then I also asked him how many years he got, he held up his right hand, made the gun gesture and pointed that towards his head, to say, “Death.” I must admit, God truly had mercy on me! This night, I cannot sleep, keep on thinking about God’s miraculous plan.
When I was just arrested, and imprisoned, I said to the Lord, “You have called me to set aside my career to serve full-time in the church for you, but how come only after a short half a year, you let me be imprisoned, and possibly get sentenced for over ten years, what are you planning?” Not long after, the Lord has a word for me, “What I am doing you do not know now, but you will know after these things.” (John 13:7) After the sentencing, I then understand why the Lord allowed me to experience this not-long trial, this will have great benefit with my spiritual life. At this time I wrote a hymn, the first two stanzas goes like this:
1. Every step of leading, Are all the Lord’s mercy,
Every step of arrangement, has good intentions,
Every pounding of the hammer, has the Lord’s plan
Every cut of the chisel, shows how marvelous the Lord.
2. Every trial, the Lord’s grace is expressed,
No matter what danger, cannot hide the glorious face;
Though my heart suffers, though my face be streaked with tears,
But once before the throne of grace, my spirit feels sweet.
(Tune uses hymn 988)
Not long after the sentencing, I and Brother Wenqou were both sent to Xiaoyuadao Laogai facility, one of my middle school classmates saw me and asked, “How many years were you sentenced?” I answered, “One year.” He replied with shock, “I thought you were be sentenced for life. Because when the four of you were transferred away from the detention center of Fuqing, the Party Men greatly broadcasted that you are the leaders in Mr. Nee’s anti-revolutionary organization. Later on, the few brothers you guys have left in the county detention center, the ones who are not leaders, were all sentenced to Heilongjiang for seven to twelve years. So, I thought that the few of you leaders, would get life sentence?” After I heard this, I can only bow my head and worship God! I think that I would have a light sentence, is truly out of God’s sovereignty and plan; because at that time all the major responsible brothers have been given longer sentences, there is a lack of people to take care of the believers, so God allowed me to return first to take care of God’s sheep.
In the laogai team, I and brother Wenqou were assigned together in the grass moving labor team, every day we must go besides the stream to pick the reeds into the kiln for them to use. The work is very hard, there are a lot of thorns in the reeds, our hands and feet were full of prick scars. One rainy day, the two of us are hiding from the rain inside an empty kiln whole. Brother Wenqou sang a hymn, “The Loving god is my shepherd, He often shepherds, he often gives grace: He is mine, and I am His, what else I need? Who are lacks?…” This hymn is translated by Brother Nee, that we often sing durin the Kuling training. Brother Wenqou can memorize the entire hymn, he was tearing up while he sang. After singing, we prayed to God in one accord, truly experiencing the shepherding and caring of God’s love.
In those months, I was always together with Brother Wenqou, laboring together during the day, learning together at night. One day, Brother Wenqou and I are laboring at the work place, the overseer suddenly called me back to our bunker, and say to me, “You can go home today.” This day is ten days from when my sentence is up, I was startled, thinking, if I returned like this, Brother Wenqou wouldn’t know while he is still at the work place, he has many words that he wants to pass on that he hasn’t told me yet, how can I leave him like this? So I said to the overseer, “I have ten more days.” He doesn’t believe me, so he took me to the administration. The administration also said that I get to go home today. Bu I don’t want to leave Brother Wenqou like this, so I insisted on saying that there are ten more days on my sentence. The Administration doesn’t believe me, and asked, “Are you really willing to be locked up for ten more days?” I said, I am willing to be locked up for ten more days.” After returning to the prison cells, all the conicts says I’m beyond stupid, how can there be someone so honest under the heavens, that they are willing to let you go, you yourself is willing to be locked up for ten more days. They don’t understand, only the Lord knows that I’m willing to endure laogai for ten more days for the brother. In those last ten days, I had very intimate fellowship with the brother, I made a copy of all the hymns I’ve written in prison and gave it to him, he also told me all the words he wanted to pass on. On that day, I was leaving, he helped me pack, and send me off all the way until the line, then we parted.
When I carried my luggage, walking out of prison, the day outside seemed especially sunny, the air outside is also especially fresh. I first walked to a xiaochi shop and eat a bowl of fried noodles. As I eat, I remembered that not long before going to prison, back when mentally preparing to have a sentence well over ten years, At that time I thought I would probably never have another opportunity to eat a bowl of fried noodles. But today it is not so, I’m thankful of the Lord! After finishing those noodles, I took the train and arrived at Nantai in Fuzhou, because there was not enough time to make it back to Fuqing, so I had to stay at a hotel. Met Brother Duoxing Yu at the meeting place in Zhongzhou. He told me the situation of the church in the past year: 1. The Church in Fuzhou also had three brothers (Biying Chen, Zhenfan Chen, Binqiang Chu) were arrested and sentenced; 2. Under political pressure, all the churches were all dragged back into “Three-Self Church”; 3. The government set up a “Mr. Nee’s anti-Revolutionary group Convention”, to show off the so called crimes. I can only sigh afer hearing this!
The next day (January 11, 1957), I returned to Chengguan of Fuqing county, where our family had been renting and staying in Sister Diao’s (Rongguang Lin’s widow) home. This old sister is extremely pious, good at praying. The first thing I did after returning home, is to kneel before the Lord to thank the Lord with Sister Diao and my wife. Not long after, Huizhen Lin, Meiyue Zhuang, these two sisters heard that I’ve returned so came to visit me, we were all very joyful at seeing each other. At this time, there are two things that especially touched me. The first is that there was a sister, who upon learning that I have returned, cooked a bowl of egg and noodles for me, but she didn’t know where I live, so she had to ask around on the street with this bowl of noodles, it took over an hour until she found my home. Second, there was a sister that live in Longtian, heard that I’ve returned, and especially went from Longtian to my home. Once she saw me, said nothing, just crying there. These all expressed how real the love of the members of the Body!
During this year of laogai sentencing, I wrote a total of ten hymns, which showed all my heart’s thoughts towards the Lord; because that year, I have been pressured too much, the world is closed to me, my heart is dead to the word, but very urgent for God. So I wrote may hymns (see “Wanderer’s Hymns” 7 to 16). Just as when my sentencing was almost complete, I had asked before God, what will I do after leaving prison? The Lord touched me to still choose the way of wholly serving the Lord, so I wrote the hymn “This Life already belongs to the Lord, cannot walk another way”. The lyrics are as below:
1. This life already belongs to the Lord, Cannot walk another way,
Though the path is hard, With much frost and sorrows.
But the Lord has much life, His smiles dances,
Allow me to continue forward, With no regrets.
2. Living is for the Lord, This will cannot falter,
Not by own self, But by the might of the savior.
Though sympathetic days decrease, Jeering days increased,
But I am still willing, To run this narrow way.
3. Faithfully serving the Lord, Requires trials and tribulations,
At times even need to experience, much senseless ruin.
Today’s pain, is very light and brief,
Seeing my Lord in the future, I will gain His praise.
The road still ahead, I not know is short or far?
Don’t know how much more, dangers that I must experience?
But the Lord has promised, eternally stable and reliable,
He will lead me to enter, into that glorious city of heaven.
(Tune uses hymn 339 “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord”)
This time, many from the churches of Fuqing were arrested, the attack endured was the heaviest. There were five brothers that were taken away by the Lord in laogai teams. Among them, Chunfa Lee, Juming Lin, Youzhou Gao, and Zhouxin Lin, these four brothers martyred for the Lord one by one at Heilongjiang. Brother Changji Chen was at Jiangxi laogai compound, and was burned to death saving the ill when the prison caught fire. May in that coming day when the Lord returns, they will all be remembered, all be rewarded!
B. The Experience of the Second Long-Term Suffering
Psalms 34:19 Many are the troubles of the righteous man, But Jehovah delivers him from all of them.
Psalms 39:9 I was dumb; I did not open my mouth; For You have done this.
Psalms 79:11a May the sighing of the prisoner came before you.
Acts 20:24 But I consider my life of no account as if precious to myself, in order that I may finish my course and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus to solemnly testify of the gospel of the grace of God.
After I was released in January of 1957, I still served in the Church in Chenguan of Fuqing. At this time all the churches of Fuqing was dragged back into a religious organization under political pressure. In the July of the same year, I was invited and went to attend the coworkers meeting of the national Christian Meeting Hall held in Shanghai, and was was serving as record keeper in the secretary area. I stayed for seven weeks in Shanghai, and met coworkers from the local churches of many other provinces, and met Brother Nee’s second older sister Juanzhen Nee and Mrs Nee, Sister Pinghui Chang, got to share a meal with them at the same table, and have some fellowship. The day of departure, second eldest Sister Nee gave me 4 sets of children’s clothes, for my four children. Not long after I returned to Fuqing, starting from the winter of 1957 to the summer of 1958, the Three Self Church of Fujian Province held two representative meeting, mostly as a ploy for anti-right, for the promotion of the great leap forward movement, and then having the gimmick of having all the assemblies uniting. The meeting hall of Chengguan in Fuqing was taken to become the sanitarium of Chengguan, and we changed to meet in a in Taoyuan that was formerly an Anglican church. Myself and coworker sister Zhuang were called to attend the so-called labor exercise at Christian Yuliqiao Farming camp, and got very little time to serve in the church every week. As I see this situation, I made up my mind to not be a professional clergy member, and moved my whole family back to Yuxi county. In a very short time span, the Lord prepared for me, enough fees for moving. Thus, the six of us in my family, moved back to my hometown of Yuxi in January of 1960, started another kind of life.
1960 is the year when the government started practicing publicization, this is the hardest time of the country, and there was very little food. After I’ve returned, my wife and I joined the productivity team labor, on the other hand, started planting our own vegetables and sweet potatoes. The two of us often went to a mountain twenty to thirty li away to chop firewood. Once, when we climbed the mountain to chop wood, my wife suddenly had a high fever on the mountain, I also unfortunately tripped, and broke one of my ribs. The two of us prayed on the mountain, begging the Lord to give us strength, so that we can carry these two loads of bundled firewood back. Originally, every time we went up here to chop wood, based on estimate, the latest time we can make it home is 2 to 3 pm. That day, the two of us still didn’t make it home at evening. My younger brother and his wife were worried that something happened to us, and took a lantern, walked for five li, then saw the two of us each carrying the firewood, walking back slowly.
Despite this, I still took part in serving the church. The Lord also greatly blessed my work, the number of those meeting in Yuxi increased from over ten people to gradually around a hundred. In 1962, brother Wenqou Zheng’s sentence was complete and returned, to coordinate with me, strengthen the word and life supply, thus the Church in Yuxi became the center of the work of all the churches in Fuqing.
Not long afterwards, the movement for socialist education starts. During the period of the Great Leap forward, all the churches were in ruin, the believers greatly decreased; only the church in Yuxi shows revival, the number of those who meet increased, so we were chosen to be the target for persecution again. Over a month before I was arrested, there were winds of persecution outside. One day, when I was cooking in the kitchen alone, suddenly a word surfaced from my heart: “Though bitter yet sweet in the Lord’s will.” Later on, I use this sentence as the opening sentence, and wrote the hymn below:
1. Though bitter yet sweet in the Lord’s will,
If He is pleased, no fear of ten thousand dangers;
Outside of the Lord’s will is short term gratification,
Left His love, how would you gain His favor?
2. Following the way by the Lord’s will,
Will experience many sorrow and pain at times;
But all of this contain blessings,
That I might be benefited, bring in His riches.
3. In the Lord’s will, I have no choice,
Only allowing His will to prune me;
Though the joys on earth decrease, they increase in heaven,
With His care, what else does my heart need?
4. I am willing to follow anything that is the Lord’s will joyfully,
Not by myself, following the Lord’s footsteps;
If He allows me to pass,
I need not hide from the cold flow of the river of death.
5. If the Lord wills that I must carry the cross,
I will completely obey and pay the price;
Experience many trials before Him today,
Exchange for a crown after seeing the Lord in the coming days.
This hymn predicted, that I would enter long-term tribulations soon.
In the week before I was arrested, the holy spirit
Thys hymn signifies that not long after, I will enter into long term trials.
In the week before I was arrested, the Holy Spirit touched me to revise the hymn “The Returning Way of the Cross”, I feel that the Lord has arranged a way for everyone, different ones. Some brothers, the Lord want him to bleed as a martyr, some others, the Lord only wanted them to suffer. The Lord’s intention for me does not seem to be martyrdom, but to suffer, so I revised the second sentence of the second stanza of the hymn “The Returning Way of the Cross” from “I am willing to bleed and martyr for the Lord, to not be afraid of death”, into “I am willing to suffer much for the Lord, not willing to pass by this life empty.” Turns out that during this attack, I also just suffered a few years for the Lord.
In the morning of July 22, 1963 Brother Qizhong Zheng and I were both staying in the house of Yuxi Meeting Hall established by Fuqing county. Before leaving, the two of us and Brother Wenqou Zheng prayed in one accord upstairs in the meeting hall. At that time, Brother Wenqou’s prayer is quite unique. He prayed, “Lord, the wound that the church took from the attack back in 1956, has not fully heal, are we to face yet another attack under these circumstances?” Turns out that his spirit already felt that persecution is upon us again.
After Brother Qizhong and I got to county seat, we lived in Brother Zhikuang Zhang’s home. The next day, while we were still eating breakfast, three public security workers came to arrest me. When the handcuffs were about to be put on me, I remember that there was still an offering envelope in my pocket, which was addressed to the mother of Brother Guobao Wu (Who at the time was still sentenced at Heilongjiang). I immediately gave the offering envelope to Brother Zhikuang and ask him to pass it on. This is the last thing I did before losing my freedom.
On this day, I was arrested in Chengguan, Fuqing county, I didn’t know that Brother Wenqou Zheng was also arrested in Yuxi, I still thought that he can remain in the church to shepherd the saints. It was until the end of September, two days before National Day, the prison had a great event, gathered all the prisoners to the field, it was then I saw Brother Wenqou. My sorrow at that time, was greater than my own arrest. Because he’s suffered for six years, returned home for only a year, but suffered trials again, I truly am sad for him!
The two of us were imprisoned in Fuxhing’s old detention center, the facilities and sanitation were extremely terrible, one cell is only allotted two wooden bowls worth of water, everyone use this little bit of water to wash our face, brush our teeth, wash the dishes, do laundry, clean the floor. The food for our meals is sparse, sometimes there isn’t enough to fill us. There’s no bed, all the prisoners sleep on the floor at night. A year and four months of hard life passed by while I was held here. At the end of January 1964, Brother Wenqou and I were transferred back to Yuxi for public judgement in the same car. On the car, I discussed with him, those who were sentenced less than seven years were not allowed to appeal, but those who had more than seven years can. Because I thought, the first time I was only sentenced to one year the first time, if I got sentenced for seven years this time, it is enough. But in the end, Brother Wenqou was sentenced to seven years, I was sentenced to ten years. When I returned to prison, a prisoner who’s surname is Piang asked me how many years I was sentenced. I answered, “Ten years.” He sighed a long sigh and said, “How many ten years a life has!” At that time, I thought about my elderly mother at home, my fragile wife, and my young children, with such a long sentence, my heart was extremely sad! Thus I wrote down “You Know the Pain in My Heart”, this hymn can really tug at people’s heartstrings:
1. Lord, you know the pain in my heart,
May you come and comfort me;
Or else I will cry,
Hard to overcome such heavy burden.
2. Ten long years of suffering,
Don’t know how to get thru this,
You know of my weakness,
Please support me thru this.
3. This way of the cross is extremely narrow,
With so much sourness,
First pass by sorrow valley of tears,
Enter joyful heavenly home in the end.
4. Olives must be pressed to become oil,
Grapes must enter the press to become wine,
Lord, I lost all that I had for you,
What else do you ask of me!
5. When can the impurities be completely be rid of,
That the fire burned me into pure gold,
Sculpt me into a holy vessel,
Express God’s Divine nature.
6. This is God’s miraculous plan,
It is God that chose me,
That I will first follow Him to the cross,
Later ascending the glorious throne.
7. So with tears,
I worship and praise God,
Willing to bear the labor and be lowly,
Only considering God as precious.
(Tune uses hymn 207 “Lord Jesus! When We Think of Thee”.)
This heartfelt hymn, later comforted many who were suffering.
Not long after being sentenced, the Lord used a passage in the Old Testament of Jacob’s to comfort me, God said, “And, behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will cause you to return to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15). So based on this, I wrote down the hymn, “Dearest God gave me a precious Promise”.
This time the court sentenced me to ten years, with six sins: 1) in 1956 when Brother Wenqou Zheng finished his sentenced and returned for the first time, I invited him to a love feast, and it was said to be shady dealings with him; 2) In 1962, the greater environment was poor, I once helped several families of brothers who were suffering, that it was comforting them; 3) I wrote fourty scriptural songs (copied and haven’t been distributed), which were said to be anti-revolutionary songs; 4) in 1963 I had been in Yuxi and Longtian these two places and given baptisms twice, with a total of 69 people, at the time before baptism it had been reported and permitted, completely within the law at the time, but then is said to be expanding believers and affecting productivity; 5) I said, “Brother Youzhao Gao is a loyal believer that loves the Lord.”; 6) I spoke of an instance where Brother Chunfa Lee helped driving out a demon for someone in the county. It is because of these so called “crimes”, that I was sentenced to ten years. After half a year of appeals, the last two “sins” were removed, with only the first four remaining, but still maintain the original ten years of sentencing.
When I was about to transferred to Laogai for my seltence, the prison allowed me to see my family one more time. When we met, my four children stood there, stared at me; my wife was sad and doesn’t know what to say; one of my sisters (Huizhen Lin) can’t bear that I was sentenced to many years, and will suffer long term, so she lead her head on the wall of the prison ot cry. It was my elderly mother is stronger, can use a few sentence of the Lord’s word to comfort me. Facing this situation, I had to held back the tears, and say to the people in my family, since the Lord let us suffer, we all must obey. I wish that you will uncessingly pray, and be close to the Lord often, whether life or death, follow the Lord, trust Him in everything, ahd have Him be your help and comfort.
In the a-year-and-four-months’ time of being locked in the county detention center, I wrote a total of over ten hymns (“Hymn of the Man on the Way” 26 to 35, with 2 other short songs put elsewhere). “If the Lord takes Me Today” is the first hymn I’ve written after I entered prison, “If no Resurrection, Would be More Pitiful than the Masses” is written on the first anniversary since entering prison, which is also the last hymn I’ve written in Fuqing prison. During this period of a little over a year, all my thoughts and feelings have been reflected in these hymns.
In the November of 1964, Brother Wenqou Zheng was sent to Jianyang laogai camp for his sentence, and I was sent to Yongan Kiln factory for my sentence. After I arrived at Yongan, I met five other brothers: Chuanguang Chen, Shiyu Zheng of Yongtai etc these five brothers (Brother Chuanguang was also sentenced to ten years this time), they were happy to see me. My arrival seems to add to their resolve, mutually supplied.
The living conditions here were very poor, a big building has all three teams of over three hundred crammed in, when we sleep, a row has over a hundred people, very crowded. The labor is very hard, at first I didn’t know how to carry, just know how to dog, after a couple of months, even I can learn to carry a car with over a hundred kilograms of dirt. In the two months that I’ve been in Yongan, my family visited me twice. The first time is my wife, she carried a score kilograms’ burden to Yongan, after getting off the train at Yongan, thru someone’s directions, walked for half an hour until getting to laogai team to see me. The second time is my with with my elderly mother to come see me together, at that time we can only see each other and converse at the workplace, and within the hour they had to leave. At that time, I thought, my wife and mother came from far away, to see how tired I was serving my sentence at laogai team, on the way back, how heavy their hearts must be! Lord, please remember and comfort the relatives who’s hearts ache for me! I’ve cast aside my wife and said bye to my mother, to come serve my sentence here, you know that it is utterly for You!
In the two-years’ time that I’ve been at Yongan Laogai camp, I’ve only written four hymns: “Lord, Every Step I take”, “You be Quiet, Know that I am God”, “Lord, I ask You to attract Me”, “Returning into the Spirit”. The last four sentences in the last hymn is: “Trials are long and hard, only He knows how; In loneliness and weariness, Only He comforts my heart.” This is the true reflection of my internal state at the time.
In 1966, I and Chuanguang Chen these four brothers of Yongtai were all transferred to serve our sentence in Minxi Laogai agricultural camp. In the first few years, I was allotted to herd a herd of over twenty cattle. The few of us convicts stayed in the mountain ditch that is four hua Li away from the team center, regardless of hot summers or cold winters, we must get them on the high mountain to grace, then herd them back in the evening. Sometimes we even have to sweep the whole mountain for any lost cattle, so our clothes often were shredded by the thorns. At night, we sleep in a little straw hut besides where the cattle are kept, where the smell of cow plops assaulted our nose, and there are a lot of mosquitos. The walls of the straw hut is made of bamboo and grass bags, the roof is overlaid with straw, during rainy days the roof would leak, and everyone cannot sleep at night, have to hold a container and sit while collecting rainwater. Our living is just that harsh. Later, I was transferred to the agricultural team to labor in the fields. One winter, the weather was very cold, the ground iced over entirely, my feet were so frostbitten that there were several cracks, which bled, and I still had to go barefoot into the muddy field to open the water mill. There was a period of time when I was arranged to cook in the kitchens, I steam the rice, another convict cook the vegetables, the both of us has to cook the food for over a hundred convicts, but God also gave me wisdom, can remember the different appetites of each convict and allot the correct amount of rice, and never made a mistake. In the last two years, I was arranged to the work of hatching chicken, ducks and geese. By God’s grace my labor grades were not bad. In this close to seven years period here at Yuanshan region, living was harsh, the labor was intense, it is truly suffering the harshest sourness of the human world, but God also gave me adequate grace.
When I was first transferred to Minxi laogai farm camp, I wrote the following hymn:
1. Restrain my heart, often before God, then I won’t be loose, practice piety;
So that I can be quiet, so that I would not have loose tongue, and can be intimate with the Lord, follow the Lord forward.
(Chorus) Lord I need You, Lord I need You, in loneliness and weariness, need You even more;
Without You no joy, without You no satisfaction, You are my shepherd, is my help.
2. Shelter my heart, to overcome all, then can receive mercy, to gain God’s pleasure;
The fruit of a lifetime, comes from the heart, may it never be lacking, God’s guidance.
3. Consecrate my heart, to the Lord I love, may His Holy Spirit, live in my heart;
Light and move, with no obstacle, so that thru faith, I can obey more.
4. Empty my heart, let the Lord come live here, be molded in the Lord’s image, like Him in every way;
Like His humility, like his selflessness, rather losing for self, that people may benefit.
Then I also wrote “Lord, I beg of You”, that hymn that everyone loves to sing. In the beginning, I’ve only written three stanzas:
1. Lord, I beg of You, that my life, thru Your sculpting, according to Your heart;
Like the purification of gold, like the sweetness of honey, the swiftness of the eagle, flying high.
2. Lord, I beg of You, that my living, can be more intimate with You, without weakness;
Fragrant like the flowers, light like a lap, support people like a staff, giving people power.
3. Lord, I beg of You, to be one with You even more, so that I am in You, often gain more power;
Gentle and humble, Holy and just, awake and often prepare, waiting to be raptured.
After a week or so, an officer called me for a conversation. He asked me: Do you still believe in Jesus?” I said, “I still believe!” He said, “You still believe even after being reeducated for so long?” I answered, “Yes!” His countenance and voice changed, saying, “I heard that those of you who believe in the Lord would not eat blood, is that true?” I answered, “Yes!” He got aggressive, raised his voice at me, “Seeing that you won’t eat! I will force you to eat!” After I’ve returned, the Lord’s spirit inspired me to add the next two stanzas below:
3. Lord, I beg of you, that in this trying times, Your resurrection power, safeguard me;
That I really can, smile facing the storm, walk towards the hardships, without hesitation.
4. Lord, I beg of You, that in this training, that I may be willing, to be loyal towards You;
Not fear the heaviness of the cross, not the meanness of the attacks, following you closely, until the path’s end.
Later, I’ve added the chorus:
(Chorus) Lord, I admire you, Lord, I admire you, in the deep long night, I admire you!
Only You are the most beautiful, only You are the most kind, You are in my heart, is my comfort!
Many brothers and sisters love to sing this hymn, and got supplied from it.
In the couple of years when I was serving my sentence in Minxi, I’ve only received a letter from my mother. In the letter, she mentioned two of the Lord’s word, both helped me a lot. One sentence is “I was dumb; I did not open my mouth; For You have done this.” (Psalms 39:9). The other is, “A man’s steps are ordered by Jehovah;” (Proverbs 20:24a). They describe the many sufferings I’ve endured all these years, all passed the Lord’s permission, and is ordained by Him, I should not disobey, and ought to not struggle; but believe even more, that if I really am a person that loves the Lord, everything will coordinate for me, so that I might gain spiritual benefit.
In laogai team, sometimes the environment is very harsh, and the pressure is very heavy; sometimes the work is easier, and living is more tolerable. But from a spiritual standpoint, a tolerable environment is easy to allow us to be loose; the harder the pressure, the more we are pressed before God. Since in the period of time when my living is more comfortable, I became wary, and wrote down the hymn “If Comfort Makes me Fall, I would rather labor and worry; if ease made me weak, I would rather take the heavy burden”.
On the day of the fifth year anniversary since my sentence (July 23, 1968), I wrote another hymn “The Way I have Walked” the lyrics are as follows:
1. The way I have walked, how lonely and hard!
Gloomy clouds and fog abound, to enter into the valley of death.
If this is of the Lord, I will quietly obey,
I will quietly obey, quietly obey.
2. The cross that I bear, how heavy it is!
Receiving much taking and attacks, how painful in the spirit!
But want to follow in the Lord’s footsteps, must be faithful to the Lord,
Must be faithful to the Lord, faithful to the Lord.
3. Five years is not short, only half way thru, (after leaving prison, it was changed to ”The years of suffering has not been completed, the gloomy clouds have not yet parted,”)
Fully experiencing the rain, dew, wind, and frost, all the hardships.
But I know in my heart, everything I’ve experienced is for the Lord,
Everything I’ve experienced is for the Lord, all for the Lord.
4. The road ahead is still long, My heart yearns for,
That beautiful home in the heavens, with no sorrows,
Without the bitterness of separation, always be companions with the Lord,
Always be companions with the Lord, be companions with the Lord.
5. Now what I am waiting for, is the coming of the Lord!
That I might be in the Lord’s bosom soon, enjoying the Lord’s love.
That time would be no pains or suffering, only praises and worship,
Only praises and worship, praises and worship.
(Same tune as hymn 614 “Nearer, my God, to Thee”.)
This hymn spread out from prison way before I was released, many brothers and sisters sang it and got supplied. One Fuzhou sister who is over eighty years of age, sang this hymn and was deeply touched. She got to know that I had been suffering in prison, and had such a burden to often pray for me.