Chapter 15: Experiencing Many Tribulations (Part Four)
D. Another Ten-Year Sentence
Romans 4:18 a He beyond hope believed in hope.
Psalm 138:7a Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will preserve me
Psalm 27:13 I have believed that I woud see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.
Those two previous instances were short term detainment, in 1983 I had another more long-term test. Before 1980s, the saints within and without the country rarely had fellowship. After the country practiced political reforms to be open, then the believers from outside had contact with us. They gave us many Bibles and the publications of the Taiwan Gospel Bookroom. Because we follow the flow of the Holy Spirit to walk the way of the Recovery, persecutions follows immediately
On July 13, 1983, I called for a Fuqing co-workers’ meeting. I was not feeling well that morning, had several bouts of diarrhea, my wife advised not to go because there are obstacles. But I thought, I called this meeting, how can I not go? I will go regardless of what happens. On this day, we met in the morning and the afternoon, at night, they came, I was arrested again.
There is a total of nineteen people arrested this meeting, two are sisters. The morning after, they send me down to the county detention center, the other eighteen brothers were sent to county lockup. When I first went in the county detention center, there were not many convicts, a month later, the whole country started tightening restrictions, and the detention center became full of convicts; my cell has over ten death row criminals with me, I took the opportunity to preach the gospel to them.
One young man from Shapu Township, was sentenced to death due to being caught fornicating with many women. When I talked to hi, he said, “My home is a meeting place! Meet very often. My mother fervently loved the Lord. A shame that I don’t believe the Lord, which is how I came to be today.” I suggested that he believe in the Lord, ask for the soul and spirit to be saved, I also taught him how to pray when his time comes. The morning of the execution, the official came in to call his name, he stood up, I looked at him to remind him how to pray at his execution, he looks at me and nodded in return. May the Lord receive his spirit by his prayer.
One day, a death row inmate from Donghan suddenly sang: “The Lord said, behold, no fruits for three years, might as well chop it off, why let it take up land!” I was surprised upon hearing this and immediately asked him: “How do you know how to sing this hymn? I wrote it!” He answered: “My wife taught me how to sing this, she is a very good believer of the Lord.” I took this opportunity to tell him to believe in the Lord, so that in the coming age, his soul can be together with his wife. He very quickly believed in the Lord.
One death row inmate was from Xihang Village, Longtian Township, Fuqing City, he was sentenced due to being arrested a third time on theft. When I spoke the gospel to him, said to him, “I am also arrested for a third time, and I am a political prisoner, also extremely likely to be sentenced to death like you.” He immediately says, “Not you, not you, because you do good things due to believe in the Lord, God would protect you.” Later, I really was only sentenced to another ten years.
Among the ten death row inmates in my cell, seven among them were willing to believe into the Lord, may the Lord honor his covenant and give them salvation!
When court is in order in August of the second year, many saints from all over Fuqing came to court, to see me. I made a speech at court saying, “Everything that I’ve done, is for the Lord. It’s okay if it is just me who suffers, I just wish that the brothers and sisters can love the Lord more fervently, love the church, pursuing growth in life. The government deciding my sentence; I hold no grudge, I feel that this is the path that God has laid before me, I am willing to obey.” When I was speaking, some of the brothers and sisters below said “amen”, some were touched to tears. Once court is adjourned, when I was being transferred back to the detention center, many brothers and sisters chased after the car, loudly calling me, crying, waving to me! Such a touching scene! Many bystanders in the surrounding crowd all marveled, how can such an old man like me can shook the court? God truly expressed His glory, letting me see the brothers’ and sisters’ love.
A month later, I received my sentence. There are also “four so-called-crimes” this time: 1. I wrote three essays in 1982, about Tianzhao Gao, Chunfa Lee, Wenqou Zheng, praising their life of loving the Lord; 2. Hong Kong’s Brother Andrew Yu came to visit in the Mainland, I have one instance of fellowship with him in Fuzhou; 3. One brother from Shanggan copied the book “The Recovery of the Holy Temple and the Holy City”, with the book’s source allegedly being from me; 4. A Brother Wang of Fudie said one “dissent” sentence against the Three-self Movement in one meeting in Fuqin. It is a meeting that I had also attended, so the responsibility of this sentence is also upon me. That period was a tight time, the government passed down especially harsh sentences, those that repeat offenders were all sentenced to death. Those who were locked with me in the same sell, there were over ten people who got on death row. I as a political prisoner, and arrested a third time, many people thought it was highly likely for me to be sentenced to death as well. I myself had also made the preparation, and written a will. But thank the lord, I was only sentenced to another ten years.
In the detention center, I had written two hymns: “Life and Death all for the Lord” and “May there be Love’s Abandonment”. Later, when I on transport en route to serve my sentence in the second prison of Jianyang, Fujian Province, I kept on singing these two hymns.
In November of 1984, the day before when I was first sent to Laogai camp to serve my sentence, the prison notified me that my family had come to visit. The brothers and sisters from various villages in Fuqin learned of this news, came, there were many people gathered before the gates of the detention center, they all hoped that they can see me one last time. But the jailer won’t let them go in to see me, some of the brothers want to rush in, but were all driven back out. In the end, only ten were permitted to go in and see me. Many people can only stand outside the gate of the detention center, praying for me in tears. This scene fully expressed the Lord’s love and the love of the members of the Body!
Once at Jianyang prison, the conditions were much better than the laogai at Yongan and Minqi, so it wasn’t as hard to live here. I was arranged to be cultural educator in the prison, as the language instructor for middle school, God has also shown me mercy, so that the class I taught has the best grades. Jiangyang country literature major send their people to come test, the two classes I taught all tested satisfactory. Later there were three key personnel wanted to pass the graduation test, also came to me for studying. I’ve also preached some gospel while I was in prison, after I finished serving my sentence, a party key person handler even wrote a letter to me, that says, “Though you were a convict in jail, but I learned some things from you, you are worth the respect.” Glory be to our Lord!
On the six year of my sentence in Jiangyang, I was on duty along with a Mr. Won. He is over sixty, very cultured, was the culture teacher in prison. We discussed the matter of faith. I said, God is like the father of the lost son, full of love. No matter how much we’ve fallen, as long as we’re willing to return before Him, He would accept us. The Lord Jesus is the good shepherd that lays His life for the sheep, He left ninety-nine sheep, gave his all and overcome all difficulty to find a lost sheep. Then I sang: “Lost sheep, where are you today? The Savior is searching for you today! One is missing among a hundred, is it you?” He wept before I even finish singing this hymn. Then he honestly told me, “I am a lost sheep. Many years ago, I was working in a bank of Zhangzhou. Every Lord’s Day, I would go to the denomination’s chapel to have mass, and attended the church’s choir, others all thought I am a more zealous Christian. After the Liberation, the environment changed, and I left the Lord. Hearing your fellowship and the hymn you sang today, I’m touched. I will immediately return before the Lord to repent, asking for the Lord’s forgiveness and accept me! That I will never be adrift, and not be lost!” So, I lead him in prayer. From now on, his life had a clear change. Not long afterwards, the prison manager transferred him to another team to manage the prison library. The Lord used me to find a missing sheep, I rejoice, the Lord also rejoice!
In 1990 another convict arrived in the prison, he is sent from the provincial detention center. His last name is Yang, at least seventy years old, was once a bishop in the Catholic Church, later due to the Vatican appointed him to be the Archbishop of Fujian, was sentenced to three years by the government. I had some fellowship with him, which I learned that he’s once sentenced to over twenty years in 1955 when Catholicism experienced a a huge hit. I say to him, “we all suffer for the Lord.” He immediately replied: “Our suffering is nothing, the Lord Jesus’s redemption for us on the cross, what He has suffered is true suffering.” I am really touched to see that his determination to suffer is that strong.
In those few years, the work I had in prison is easier, my family and the brothers and sisters were allowed ot see me, so the living isn’t as hard as the first ten-year sentence. But because I was imprisoned due to matters of faith, the government see my case as especially severe. All the other prisoners can easily have their family members visit, everytime I want to meet my family I need to ask for permission and the visit has to be monitored and recorded. In the last one or two years, Psalms 27:13: “I have believed That I would see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.” If I didn’t believe that, I’d have sunken into despair. This verse gave me great comfort. In the few years of my sentence, though there are difficulties, but God’s mercy is greater. Though I had coronary artery disease in prison, sometimes my heart beats were fast, over a hundred times per minute. At that time, I prayed to the Lord, “Lord, if you see that I have no more duties on earth, and call me back, then I willingly obey. If you still have work for me on earth, please heal me, and let me return peacefully to live for you once more. I myself have no choice, just that Your will be manifest upon me.” In the end, God heard my prayer, and saved my life. It’s truly as the hymns say, “The cross would not rescind His grace, the storm would not cover His glorious face.” In prison, due to the fact that my teaching grades were exceptional, the superiors requested to lessen my sentence twice, but were all denied. The jailers and the prisoners were all unhappy with the injustice on me. It was only until the third request, that I had one year and a half taken off of my sentence. Another two years, another year was taken off. Just like this, God lead me year by year, eventually my sentence was complete.
January 14, 1991 is the day when I was released. That day, one of my daughter-in-law brought one of my granddaughter, Xiping Lin to Jiangyang to pick me up. There were three other sisters that came along with them (Xiangyu Cao who lives in Fuzhou, Qinni Jiang, daughter of Dunxin Jiang who works in Jiangyang and Sister Linhui’s mother). I first took the car to Nanping, and then took the train from Nanping to Fuzhou. Stayed at my eldest daughter Jinyu Lin’s home that night. Early morning the next day, I immediately head to Chengguan, Fuqin to visit my brother-in-law Brother Junru Chen, he has been ill for two years, and hoped that he can see me again before going to see the Lord. Thus, the first thing I did after becoming a freed man was rushing to see him. When I got to his home, he was lying on the bed, incapable of speaking. But whatever I say to him, he can still understand and nod to indicate he heard. In the end when I was praying, he would lightly say, “Amen”. Being able to see me one last time is his last wish, that God has fulfilled for him. Four days later, he left this world and went to the Lord.
Brother Junru Chen has attended the Kuling training, really had the gift of the evangelist. After 1980, he became the responsible brother of the Church in Chengguan, Fuqin. In those few years, he and I had close coordination on the shepherding and perfecting towards all the young saints of the county of Fuqin. He is the husband of my younger sister, younger than me, but left ahead of me, that I’ve lost a really empowering coworker to coordinate with.
This time I served a sentence of seven years and six month, it is the fifth time I’ve been in prison, a third time that I’ve been sentenced. I really feel that the greater the pressure from the environment, the better it is for the life of a Christian, just like if the olive is not pressed, it cannot become oil. In those two instances of prison time in 1956 until 1963, the pressure was great, living was really hard, the cross was really heavy, but my heart toward the Lord is very intense, which is why I could write many of the better hymns. Being in prison this time, the quality of life is better, didn’t face hunger, didn’t have to wear rags, so I did not write much hymns. I thought, if my whole life is all successful, I might have never been able to write any hymns. Every environment that God has prepared, are to benefit those who love Him.
After I’ve returned to my hometown in January of 1991, many brothers and sisters came to see me, their love was great comfort to me. One brother wrote to me, very intensely said, “In 1983, you at sixty seven years old was sentenced to ten years, I thought I will never see you again, and heard that you’re pretty healthy and spry, truly praise the Lord!” Thinking back to 1970, after Brother Wenqou Zheng finished his sentence and returned home, he was subject ot strict monitoring so much that it was inconvenient for brothers and sisters to visit him. He was lonely and had no one to talk to, even when he was very sick and hospitalize, the brothers and sisters still cannot go take care of him. He has poured out so much love on the brothers and sisters, with his heart for the Lord, for the church, but at that time, the environment was that heartless, he has finished walking the last step of human life in such a harsh condition. Whenever I thought about this, I can’t help but tear up, my heart aches for him!