Remembering My Father
Children of Slaves Are Still Slaves
Ever since I can remember, father often went to countryside to serve. No matter how remotely we lived, there were always even more rural places that needed visiting, to care for. So there were always several days of the week he didn’t come home, or came back very late. He was always willing to go serve the impoverished regions where travel was inconvenient. I suppose this is probably the call he got from the Lord. When we lived in Yilian City, he did rounds in small villages like Lotung, Suao, Beifangao, Chiaohsi; when we lived in Yuanlin, he did rounds in Yunlin; when we lived in Gangshan city, he served Yanchao, Qiaotou; when we lived in Hsinchu, he went to care for Miaoli; when we lived in Changhua City, I forgot where he went to serve. Lastly in Hualien, he served the entire Eastern Taiwan island region, including Fenglin, and Shoufong. In these early days, transportation was not as advanced as it is now, such that often times one trip would take the whole day, including riding a bike, taking the train, and walking a stretch of remote mountain road. Some places often rained, some places could get very windy, some places were especially prone to earthquakes and typhoons (Eastern Taiwan is). I never heard him complain, not even once. He truly did this out of willingness in his heart.
Hoping That We Children All
Become Full-Time Serving Ones
He not only willingly served, he also wished that his own children would all do as he did. I clearly remember that he once said in a meeting, “the saying goes that if you work one profession, they complain about this profession. I, on the other hand, hope that my children would all become full-timers.” If he did not consider that being a full-time serving one is glorious and worthwhile, he wouldn’t say that publicly. Regrettably, he never had the chance to see with his own eyes that his wish came true. Today, Chen-Shi, Li-Shi and my husband Keh-Shin, are all co-workers that serve the Lord full time. I believe that my father went to see the Lord by his faith. His attitude towards serving the Lord was this—-I am a slave. He didn’t say he was a servant. A servant can leave, can quit their job. A slave doesn’t even have decision-making powers of their own, even their life belongs to the master. The master can give the slave a wife and children, but the wife and children all belong to the master. I also recall that he often said, “Children of a slave are still slaves.” Thus, it goes without saying that our family should love and serve the Lord for generation unto generation
Due to Moving Often, I went to Two Kindergartens,
Four Elementary Schools,
Two Middle Schools and Two High Schools
My mother said that father always said amen to the arrangements in coordination from the leading co-workers. Sometimes our family hadn’t even been in a place for one year, and he already accepted the burden and was getting ready to move again. Though we were a family of six, everything our family owned could fit in four big bamboo baskets along with a few simple personal things. We rode the slow train and went on our way. Our family truly lived a life of the altar and tent! Everywhere there were pure-hearted brothers and sisters that loved the Lord and that coordinated and cared for us, so our spiritual living was very rich. Materially, because everyone back then was not particularly wealthy, I never felt wanting for anything. Due to the frequent moves, I went to two kindergartens, four elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. Not every school welcomed transfer students. There was a teacher that purposely gave out hard questions that made me fail the transfer student qualification exam, so I could only borrow other students’ textbooks to study. There was another teacher that ranted while walking away, “Why is there another transfer student!?” I don’t know why our moving dates always conflicted with school semesters. There was a time my father seemingly decided at the last moment to move to a new locality. As a result, I, a junior high student, took the train alone at night in order to take a transfer exam next morning. The air horn that cut across the night sky still seems to reverberate by my ear. When morning came, I arrived and went to stay at a saint’s home. The sister there was really nice to me so my weary soul was comforted. Another time we moved to a new place and the school was not taking any new transfer students, so my younger brothers and I could only go to another county to take their transfer student qualification exam, resulting in all of us getting into the best school in Central Taiwan. That time as a student, running to catch up with the train let us strengthen our body and became a wonderful experience. Other than the frequent moves, I had to learn to get used to the new environment and to make new friends. But the miraculous thing is, in every graduation exam (elementary to middle school, middle school to high school), I might have been a transfer student that came in half way through the semester, but in the whole student body of several hundred people, I was always the one that tested best. To my father and mother this was a sign from the Lord, to know that the Lord is the One that was ultimately responsible for our family. As for me, I also thank the Lord for giving me the chance to practice to live out this all-inclusive life since I was little. This made a huge beneficial impact for my future family life, my service in the church, and successes in my career. The Lord truly doesn’t mistreat His people.
Father and I
Since I’m the eldest, father spent a lot of effort teaching me. What I remember most clearly is father teaching me to write essays and submit drafts to the Chinese Daily Paper. They often got corrected and corrected again, until midnight. He also generously bought the whole set of world famous biographies for me to read. He was a former elementary teacher and school principal, so he probably had lots of practice educating children before educating me. So everything the school taught, I already knew! At that age where cram school is the only way to get ahead, I never had to spend a dime to take cram classes.
Father may have been busy, but he still had plenty of opportunities for quality time with his children. Once he took us with him to Nanfangao to visit. I was wearing good-looking hand-me-down clothes mailed from the USA, following the twisting and bending mountain path, gazing at the azure sky and the sea, how beautiful the scenery! When I was in college and returned back to Hualien during summer and winter break, I would wake up at 5 a.m., sit on the back of my father’s little moped and hold onto his waist to go to morning revival. These wonderful times are worth remembering until eternity future.
He also gave me many opportunities for perfecting. One time when I was in high school, he was preparing the young people’s special conference material to show that man is tripartite with a spirit, soul and body; that God’s Spirit first enters into our spirit, then gradually expands into the soul and body. He wanted me to help cut many big, medium and small circles, and they needed to be colored black, white or even gold. We were busy until way after midnight, and that helped me have a clear concept towards God’s economy.
I always obeyed mon and dad, not naughty, did not cause trouble, didn’t talk back, and was willing to help with household tasks. When I was in college, there was a time that, due to a misunderstanding with mother, I gave her the cold shoulder by not writing letters home for a long time. After father found out, he wrote me a very long letter. He explained that mother was once very talented when she was young, she wrote an essay about her being charge nurse and submitted to the Central Daily News. She could also play the piano and had a solid grasp of English. But when she was thirty-five, she got chronic migraines and suffered ever since, making handling the household extremely hard. He wanted me to respect mother and understand that father could not do everything. I was very touched by this letter, and then accepted mother from the bottom of my heart. This migraine of hers was one of our crosses, and led us experience Christ even more. In the last ten years, mother lived in my Riverside home. Keh-Shin and the children all took care of her, that’s the Lord’s grace. That letter of father’s is still speaking.
Several Notable Trivia of Father
A Wonderful Deed
Father went to Taiwan a few years before the KMT and the CCP broke up. He worked, as well as preached the gospel wherever he went. At the time, he was single and his monthly salary all went to a neighboring family of orphans: an older sister, and two younger brothers total of three. Mother said she only knew of father’s wonderful deed when they came to their wedding.
A Hokkien Bible
Due to speaking for the Lord, he had to use the lingua franca of the time in Taiwan, Hokkien, to communicate. I remember that our home has a Romanized pinyin Hokkien Bible. I heard that it was protected by Taiwan provincial brothers, hidden in their homes, when the violence of February 28, 1947 erupted between those who immigrated from Mainland and those that lived in Japan-ruled Taiwan. This shows the effects of his gospel preaching.
A Silken Comforter
When I was little, there was a silken comforter that father brought from his old home in our house. The silk inside was yellow, shiny, and super soft- it was my favorite. When he came to Taiwan at first, the relatives were split between two lands, and no one expected that there would be a reunion for decades. It was very hard for father to communicate with his relatives back home, have to have people in another country to transfer mails for him. During the year we lived in Yilan City, one day, father cried a whole day inside that silken comforter because news came of his father’s death. They could not meet again, and he could not attend the funeral and mourn. How powerless it is with the greater environment so! Just like an ancient Chinese saying: “The tree wants to remain quiet, but the wind won’t stop; the son wants to serve his parents in their old age, but they are no more.”
It was my senior year in college when father suffered a stroke. At that time our family lived in Hualien, he was serving both Hualien and Taitung county alternatively- one week in Hualien, the other week in Taitung. Transportation was very inconvenient, so it was very harsh, he didn’t pay too much attention to diet and he didn’t notice that his body was failing. One day on the train back home from Taitung, he felt something was wrong. At the station one hand went numb. When we got this news, we children were going to college in Taipei. It happened to be around the time of our final exams. We all lived in corporate living in Hall Three of the Church in Taipei. That evening during prayer, my younger brother Chen-Shi announced to our fellow student brothers and sisters that a brother that loves the Lord truly, let woe come or bliss, is ill. We sang hymn 472: “Many crowd the Savior’s kingdom, few receive His cross.” This hymn was truly a great reflection of father’s life. Later, for chronic treatment, our family moved to Taipei. It was Chen-Shi that carried father down the airplane for that trip. I thank the saints in Shipei Meeting Hall (Hall Fourteen of the Church in Taipei) for their service and care. Father and mother lived there for ten years, until father went to meet the Lord.
For the Next Generation, I Wish That They All Know
My goal in writing this is not for a eulogy to my father. There will come a day when we will all go to the Lord, and good if the Lord accepted our deeds, what people say doesn’t matter. But for the next generation, I wish that they all know: How their grandfather loved the Lord and served God; and may they know the real and living God that their grandfather had served; and understand grandfather’s wish through this, that we love the Lord and serve the Lord for generations to come. That all of his descendants would be God’s slaves!
Daughter Maritha Lii (Ming-Shi Lii-Liu)
April 26, 2016