The leather-clad hand slapped my face hard. But that was history. Here in the present the lingering sting was its reminder. I could predict my future as the swelling threatened to enclose my right eye.
The three Red Guards from the out of control Chinese Youth Movement, thought necessary to overcome one young girl, left me alone with my thoughts and pain. They were hoping I would be more receptive to their demands when they returned. The Little Red Book lay prominently in my fading eyesight as a fellow reminder to my throbbing head.
I closed my eyes and thought, but not how they wanted me to. Instead of self-preservation, I thought of the Crucified One.
Sister Mary Elizabeth had prepared us to the best of her ability. We knew things were changing rapidly in our world. Stories of the Red Guard preceded their actual arrival at the convent. Nothing could really prepare us, though, for the brutality we witnessed as they raped and then killed each and every nun within the once sacred and safe walls.
Some of the younger girls never survived the trip here. Some of the older girls chose not to survive after they were ravaged and left with their unbearable shame. The Old Ways were still running in their veins despite the Christian teaching or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that Mao preached. For them their shame was a death sentence.
"Lord, help me to see what opportunity You have for me here. I will die for You. I will never renounce You or Your life giving ways. Speak to me, Jesus," I prayed silently.
The guards returned accompanied by an older officer. Unlike the youthful zealots of the Red Guard, he wore the uniform of the regular militia.
“Ling,” the officer addressed me by name, “you are an intelligent young woman from a formally privileged family. I’m sure you can see what the future of China is. We are a few years away from a new decade. The 1970’s are just around the corner. I am confident that you want to be part of that future.”
He picked up The Little Red Book and lovingly turned its pages. Lingering now and again on a favorite passage, his demeanor casual, it was as if we were all in class waiting for the teacher to enlighten us. He found what he was looking for then read out loud.
“ ‘Fighting is unpleasant, and the people of China would prefer not to do it at all. At the same time, they stand ready to wage a just struggle of self-preservation against reactionary elements, both foreign and domestic.’ ”*
He closed the book and looked at me. “You have thus far been educated in a foreign school, with a foreign religion, by foreigners. That has ended. This is a new day and you will now be sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants. They have much to teach you.”
He handed me the book. “This is the only thing you need. I suggest you study it with all the enthusiasm you have for education. There will be no university for you. They are now closed.” He turned on his heel and left.
Alone in my cell I let the book fall to the floor. It opened to Chapter Twenty-Eight.
‘A communist must be selfless, with the interests of the masses at heart. He must also possess a largeness of mind, as well as a practical, far-sighted mindset.’*
Suddenly a passage of scripture that Sister Mary Elizabeth had so effectively cajoled me into memorizing came flooding back.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”**
Maybe I had something to teach the peasants as well.
** Philippians 2:3-5, New King James Version
For more on the continued persecution of Chinese believers visit www.persecution.com
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