Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Delayed Vision 

"In 1956 [Simon Zhao] was sent to the Urumqi Exhibition Hall and told to paint pictures for the Public Security to help educate the prisoners. He painted many pictures but they were never hung up and he wondered why. One of his pictures depicted Christ on the cross at Calvary. This was considered sufficient proof of his thoroughly "counter-revolutionary" nature. He was beaten up with fists and wooden benches and collapsed in a dead faint. When he regained consciousness his head was still bleeding. He had no idea where he was, but was conscious throughout that the Lord was with him.

"From that day on, Zhao stood convicted of being the leader of a counter-revolutionary organization and was brutally beaten daily. They produced a name-list and demanded he give clarification. But as it was sheer fabrication, how could he reply? He was locked up for a further two years. Once he was dragged out for further interrogation. The accusers took turns to rest but he was forced to stand upright for seven days and seven nights, with only two hours off each day to eat or relieve himself. Whenever he faltered he was beaten. He remembered that “man cannot live by bread alone,” so he straightened his back, preferring to die standing before his accusers rather than to admit guilt.

"He was interrogated again in mid-winter. The courtyard was frozen and the interrogators chain-smoked, making the atmosphere stuffy. Beating became routine. During one such session the time dragged on and the accusers all dozed off. Suddenly one of them woke up, saw Uncle Simon still standing motionless and became infuriated. He stripped Simon of his clothing and pushed him into the icy courtyard. The interrogators all wore padded jackets and thought they would have some fun at his expense. But it was so cold they all beat a hasty retreat, leaving Simon half-naked in the open, unable to move. But Simon knew that God was not only with him in that courtyard, but was inside him. He felt a fire glowing within; he survived!

"Through all these experiences he advanced in understanding the deep sense of Calvary and of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. Such understanding is vastly different from mere book knowledge.

"All this time in prison and labor camp he was totally cut off from the outside world. He kept praying for his wife but had no idea where she was. But in 1973 he got some bad news. In 1959 their compound at Shule had again been raided and his wife arrested. The next day people were allowed to bring her food and clothing but not thereafter. No one ever saw her alive again. In 1960 the police summoned an elderly Christian to sign to identify her corpse. She only signed her name and did not go into the mortuary. Many years later Uncle Simon let his tears flow as he recounted his wife's death. Before their departure for Xinjiang, he and his wife had dedicated their lives to the Lord and expressed their willingness to suffer. But who could imagine the reality of that "bitter cup"?

"In 1981 Simon was finally released. But he was utterly alone and could find no other Christians. He wrote the following hymn:

"How many years of wailing wind and weeping rain?
How many times of storm and hurricane?
The temples of God disappear in wind and rain,
Fresh blood of Abraham does the altar stain.
O vine of God, where are you? Oh, cedar of God where are you? Where?
Jerusalem in my dreams, Jerusalem in my tears,
I long for you in the altar fires,
I seek you in the cross, its nail-hole scars.
How far is it out of the valley of tears,
How far is it to return to our home in heaven? How far? How far?"

Simon Zhao represents, in my opinion, the very best of the very best in terms of the criteria I mentioned earlier. He had a clear vision for what he wanted to do, his mission was pure and selfless, and there was no price he was not willing to pay to accomplish it. This is the type of person we want our children to emulate. But in the end, what motivates each of us, indeed, what motivated Simon Zhao, was not the example of some great person, but the presence of the Living Christ in his heart and life. And if his vision was something which came, ultimately from the heart of God, then it will be fulfilled in it's own time. So if our vision is clear, and our mission is pure, the best indicator of that is that it will be bigger than any one of us. Simon Zhao died without seeing his vision fulfilled. It is perhaps for this next generation of visionaries to see it through. If it is really from God, it will come. It will not fail.

Last Thursday, I boarded the train for Urumqi. Friday night, after I arrived, I had dinner with Sunny and Luo Enjin. I wanted to take them to dinner as a way of thanking them for helping me on my way through Urumqi the first time. The past couple days I have been fighting some sort of stomach problem, probably from something I ate just before I left Kashgar, or when I was on the train. Fortunately, I had a little Cipro left, and that seems to be knocking it out. I am going to have to replenish my supply. So far, I have not found a pharmacy anywhere in China that even knows what Cipro is. I will probably have to go to the international pharmacy in Beijing and pay through the nose for it. Not much I can do. I really don't like to travel in China without antibiotics. I have managed to pick up some sort of stomach bug on every trip to the west. Nothing serious, and I could weather it without the antibiotics, but it takes a lot longer.

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