Chapter 15: Experiencing Many Tribulations (Part Two)
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.
One winter, when my sentence was about to reach six years, the laogai team conducted an annual winter training critique, a brother who has suffered with me, his sentence was about to be finished. The officer asked him, “Do you still believe in Jesus?” He said, “I still believe.” The officer said to him, “then that means you have not been properly reeducated, you won’t return even after your sentence is up. If you want to go home, then criticize your faith, to show that you don’t believe anymore.” This brother felt that the sentence is too harsh, and very homesick, so he begrudgingly agreed, and criticized the faith in front of the entire camp during the rally. There was another Brother Zhou who was sentenced to ten years, because he regularly debated on the matters of the faith with other prisoners, and thus considered stubborn in his thinking, and thus was put before the rally to be shamed and taunted. Those few evenings, the officers made me to attend the rally. In this rally, a brother criticized the faith, another brother got mocked and taunted, I was facing extremely severe test. Under the inspiration from the Holy Spirit, I wrote “Willing to give even my life for the Lord” this somewhat valorous hymn:
1. Willing to give even my life for the Lord, how can I fear small attacks,
The heavier ruination, the more humiliation and pressure,
For the Lord I am willing to endure all, not be scared or worried,
Because the Lord has shed his precious blood for me, washing clean all of my transgressions.
2. My heart is willing towards the cross, facing the death land of skulls,
Throwing away fortune, joy and fame, stop cherishing myself.
If the Lord will lead me, enter deep water and harsh fire,
I will certainly not hide, get by with the Lord’s grace.
3. Long in the spiritual battleground, how can I not have battle scars?
Though Satan’s attacks are fierce, but the Lord personally defends me.
All my hopes now, is upon the savior,
May I can go to his bosom early, and have rest from laborious wandering.
4. Lord, my road ahead, is it sweet or bitter?
I can only hear your instructions, regardless of bitter, joy, luck or misfortune,
May your word quickly come to pass, Your coming not be delayed,
My heart would not be tested, frown turned into a smile.
5. Every risk and hardship, would all see the Lord’s grace be expressed,
That my faith not decrease, but looking towards the heavens even more,
That I can be wary from now on, humbly quiet before the Lord,
Often be awake in prayer, be more pious in the coming days.
(Chorus) How can I turn from the Lord? How can I leave the narrow way?
Because the Lord’s great love compelling, I will loyally suffer!
(Tune uses Chinese hymn 353, “Once I had a fervent heart”.)
After I finish this hymn, while I was walking alone in the cold windy nights on them mountain road between the cowshed to the main camp, singing while walking, it gave me considerable strength. After the criticism conference was over, I was protected, the Lord lead me thru this series of scary battle safely.
On the day I finished seven years of my sentence (July 23, 1970), I wrote this following hymn:
1. The homework that the Lord wants me to learn,
Have I learned? Have I learned?
Precious times cannot pass by empty,
In this trying time.
Trust, obedience, endurance in tribulations,
Joy in sorrow, praise and worship,
Peace and quiet, resting in the Lord,
Quietly enjoying God’s presence.
2. The way the Lord wants me to run,
Have I finished running? Have I finished running?
Picking up the cross and follow in the Lord’s footsteps,
Not daring to linger.
Though there are many dangers and thorns on the way,
When the mountains are high, the waters deep and the journey feels hard,
But I continue forward not going back,
Run that way I must run.
3. The truth that the Lord wanted me to abide by,
Have I abided by? Have I abided by?
I had known Christ as the most precious,
His grace boundless.
Keep abiding by the Lord’s way require a price,
At times there will even be man’s attacks,
But I still will abide and not slack,
Until I return to the heavenly home.
4. The ministry that the Lord has entrusted me with,
Had I been faithful? Had I been faithful?
I am willing to have a firm will,
Serve until eternity future.
Preaching the gospel and lead people to Jesus,
Encourage saints to walk the Lord’s way,
And use hymns to express my feelings,
Praising my Lord.
(Tune uses Hymn 1050.)
In the seven years while I was at Mingxi, my family and the Fuxing’s brothers and sisters were all unable to come visit me. Until my ten years of sentence was about to be finished, then there was a young sister from Xiamen at Mingxi’s Shangshanxia county, brought a bag of fruit candy that waited about a kilogram to give to me, saying that Brother Guowei Shu of Gulangyu asked her to pass this on to me. I was very touched to receive this bag of fruit candy, and can’t bring myself to eat it. In that long period of suffering in ten years, only this time I received the care of a brother, so it was extra precious!
I had left home serving my sentence, would I miss my relatives at home? My answer is definitely! This is the most painful thing in my suffering. In the hymn I’ve written during the first time I’ve suffered, it included “Children’s familiar feeling is hard to shrug off”, “How can I forget the tenderness of the children” these sentences. In this time when I’ve left home for longer, my homesickness was even harder. Thus in the hymn “Not according to the seeing, but by Faith” that I’ve written, there is “Though the heart suffers, the children’s familial feelings doesn’t not stop, I suffer from departure in this life, don’t know what day I may return.” as a stanza. Once old Brother Luosan Chen read this hymn, he wrote: “I’m crying! I’m crying!” Later, I remember the Lord’s word has said, “he who loves son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37b). Then, I felt that a man that serves God cannot have familial love, but also can’t not love his own children, just that the love for anyone else cannot be greater than the love for the Lord that loves us; man’s familial love also must be dealt with, otherwise they cannot focus on following the Lord. In the first half of the year of 1973, which is when my sentence term has only less than half a year left, I often dreamt of going back home and being together with my family, but when I wake up, I find myself still in laogai team, and unbearably sad! Once, I dreamt that I’ve returned home, even said to myself in the dream, “This time it can’t be a dream! I’ve really returned home!” But when I woke up, I find that it was still a dream, my heart was extremely disappointed! The shorter my remaining sentence was, the more I missed my hometown and greater the desire to reunite with my family. I thought, this is just human!
In the July of 1973, I and two brothers from Yongtai has filled our ten-year sentences, but were allowed to be released immediately, because laogai team has a class for prisoners that finished their sentences every season, so we could only start the exit procedure in October. At that time there was a rumor saying, the laogai team would make me stay to do the work of hatching chickens and ducks. I was very worried, and fervently prayed for this. But the Lord quickly gave me a hymn: “God’s promise cannot be nulled, every sentence is firm and sure; faith never need evidence, because God’s word is always followed by action. Though the heavens and earth may burn, hills and mountains can collapse, but those that believe in the Lord, will see the Lord’s word come to be.” This hymn gave me comfort. In the end they still released me, this fulfilled God’s promise of getting me “peacefully returned to father’s house”, I really need to thank and praise Him!
October 5,1973, I left prison along with the two brothers from Yongtai, we first took the car to Sanming, and then take the train from Sanming to Fuzhou. When I walked out of the train station, carrying my luggage, my son Kesheng came to pick me up, he held his hand out to take my burden of luggage, I actually asked in shock: “Who are you?” When I entered prison ten years ago, he was only eighteen or nineteen; when I left prison in 1973, he was almost thirty, I naturally didn’t recognize him! I stayed for two days at my two younger sisters’ homes in Fuzhou, met with the brothers and sisters in Fuzhou, talked a little of church affairs. October 9, I reported to the public security office of Fuxing county, and only returned to my home in Yuxi on the tenth. When I saw my wife at that time, experiencing humiliation, hardships alone, is now so skinny that she is only skin and bones, I can’t help but feel bad!
In this ten years, I participated in labor in laogai camp, rarely saw family members, so my clothes were very worn and full of holes, mended and mended again. When my sentence ended and I left laogai, I felt that there are two articles of clothing that though they are very ragged, but very warm when worn, I can’t bare to throw them away, I want to mend them a bit and then wear again, so I brought them back. But once I returned, I don’t need to wear then anymore, so they were abandoned in a corner on top of the stairs. But once brothers and sisters saw these two patchy clothes and pants, they were very touched, even teared up. Because they touched many people, so I kept them, as a memento for suffering for the Lord.
Prison this time totals to ten years and seventy-five days for me, it is the longest time for when I suffered, tested the heaviest. But the Lord’s grace also brought me thru. The miraculously thing is, I had tuberculosis before going to laogai, often sweated at night, and often had to take medicine, both oral and parietal; but in laogai for ten years, once the prison arranged for me to get an x-ray for a physical, but found that my lungs have calcified and healed, this truly is God’s miraculous healing! If it weren’t for God’s healing, how can I bear such harsh labor? The Lord truly especially watched over me, supported me!
In this over ten-years amount of time, I wrote a total of 37 hymns (see “Hymns of Man on the Way” 26 to 60, with another two short hymns in the appendix). I’ve written twelve hymns while staying in the county detention center for a year and four months. “If the Lord takes me away today, How willing would I be” is the first hymn written after entering prison. “If no resurrection they would be more pitiable than others” is written on the first anniversary of entering prison. In the two years of sentence in Yongan’s kiln factory, I’ve only written four hymns. From 1966 to 1973, transferred to Minxi laogai camp for my sentence, I wrote a total of twenty-one hymns. Among them “The Path I have walked” is written on the day of the fifth-year anniversary of my suffering. “The homework that the Lord wanted me to learn” is written in the seventh year. “If you do not carry the cross” is the last hymn written in the ten years of my suffering. The original words are as follows:
1. If you do not carry the cross, how can you enter the Kingdom?
If you are unwilling to take the Lord’s path, how can you get His Blessings?
If you would not suffer with the Lord, how can you share the glory in the heavens?
If you are unwilling to follow in the Lord’s footsteps, how can you receive the crown?
2. If the wheat would not fall into the earth and die, how can new sprouts grow?
If the flesh is not nailed, how can the spiritual life transcend?
If the earth vessel has not broken, people cannot see the treasure;
If the jade vessel was not broken, people cannot smell the fragrance.
3. If the olive is not pressed, it cannot become oil,
If the grape does not enter the press, it cannot become wine.
If the gold does not pass thru fire, how can the impurities be taken out?
If the vessel is not cutted, how can it be used by the Lord?
4. Thus I need the Lord’s hammer, more than I need the Lord’s smile.
That I can be even more broken, let the Lord’s life be expressed
Lord! Today I am willing to consecrate all that I have, willing to lose the freedom of this life,
Not be greedy for fortune, joy and not worried for bitterness and sorrow, there is none other than You that I want.
(Tune uses Hymn 960 “My King will soon come back again”.)
But the hymn that I love and sang the most often in tribulations, is the following hymn, because it expressed all the honest thoughts and feelings for the Lord during those trials:
1. Lord, You know how treacherous my path is,
Lord, You know how much storms I’ve experienced,
Lord, You know how much anxiety and sorrow is in my heart,
Lord, You know that my tears for You are as rivers!
(Chorus) Merciful Lord Jesus, You are my dear Lord,
Outside of You, who else can help me,
Who can comfort my loneliness?
2. Lord, only You can bear my burden,
Lord, only You can understand my hardships,
Lord, only You can be my companion when I’m lonely,
Lord, only You can stop my sorrows.
3. Lord, who aside from You can mend my wounds?
Lord, who aside from You can let me rest from my wanderings?
Lord, who aside from You can comfort my heart?
Lord, who aside from You can understand my weaknesses?
4. Lord, only You can point the way in this dark night,
Lord, only You can navigate for me on this foggy sea,
Lord, only You can turn my weariness to strength,
Lord, only You can make me sing during suffering.
5. Lord, when I have You, I have joy and hope,
Lord, when I have You, I have life and strength,
Lord, when I have You, I have light on my way,
Lord, when I have You, my sorrow can turn to joy.
6. Lord, I am willing to not dilly dally to the world,
Lord, I am willing to lift my eyes to heavens even more,
Lord, I’m willing to humbly kneel before Your feet,
Letting Your loving hands wipe away my tears.
7. Lord, I beg that Your promises quickly come true,
Lord, I beg that Your coming would not be delayed!
Lord, I beg that Your glory appear now,
That I can personally attend Your Lamb’s wedding.
(Tune uses hymn 959 “Since Thy Departure from Olive’s Mountain”.)
“Using My Hymns for the Lord that I Love” is written in 1968 while I was in Mingxi laogai camp, which is also a hymn that I love and sang often, because it describes my heart, and sings out my thoughts towards the Lord. Shows that I am willing to walk the narrow way, and believe that the Lord will lead me on this way to His kingdom. This hymn is as follows:
1. Using my hymns, for the Lord that I love,
Sing out my heart, and sing out my sorrows.
The road I have walked over the years, the sorrows of humanity I’ve tasted,
Only the Lord, who else would understand?
2. Using my hymns, for the Lord that I love,
Offering up my praise, and speaking my thoughts.
Though the road I have taken, is sour and foggy,
But the Lord’s hand guide me, continuing forward not looking back.
3. Using my hymns, for the Lord that I love,
Show that I am willing, to keep walking this narrow way.
Though the cup that I drink, is suffering with the Lord,
I have no complaints, I am happy to obey.
4. Using my hymns, for the Lord that I love,
Sing about this way of the cross, is my only means of return.
Though I passed, the valley of weeping and sorrow,
But the Lord guides me, thru this road to the kingdom.
The tune of this hymn is from an elderly brother from Tianjing, who is over eighty years old, which can really sing out the spirit of this hymn, many brothers and sisters were all supplied by this hymn. A sister from Pingtan county told me, once there was a young man of Anhuei ancestry came before her home to sing and perform, someone had this hymn in their hands and asked him to play it. He played it once, then carefully read the lyrics of this hymn, and was so touched that he cried, because he has been away from his hometown and wandered, with barding as his livelihood, wandered on the road for many years, and truly tasted the bitterness of humanity. This sister took this chance to preach the Lord’s gospel to him, and lead him to pray. This singer (bard?) sincerely prayed along, received Jesus as Lord, and gained precious salvation.
In these ten long and harsh years, I’ve experienced all kinds of hardships, in exchange got these 35 hymns to leave for the Church, so at least it was not wasted years. The background for the hymn I’ve written “Thoughts that were Pressed from Tribulations”, has a more detailed description of the details of those ten years in jail.