Ling slammed her Bible shut and jumped up from the floor.
“Quick! Bring them over here!” She ran over to the large ceramic vase in the corner of her apartment and lifted out the entire silk flower arrangement in one giant handful.
“Hurry! Put them here!” Ling dropped the three small Bibles into the vase and thrust the flowers back inside.
By this time, the knocking at the front door was loud and impatient.
“Be right there!” Ling yelled in her native Chinese. Her heart pounded. Just last month, one of her closest friends, Shen, was thrown into jail for distributing Bibles on the streets in their native city of Guiyang. She pushed the hair out of her face, and opened the door to her apartment.
“Hello, Miss Chow?”
“I’m Officer Chang and this is my partner Officer Woo. We are here to investigate a report that you are leading an unauthorized religious study group in your apartment.” The officer’s voice was deep and serious and his dark, unkempt eyebrows were a furrowed v-shape. His young partner stood stiffly by his side.
“Really?” Ling did not want to lie, but she didn’t see why she had to tell them outright what she was doing. Her mind raced, but she kept her eyes still. She focused on the officer who was not speaking. His face seemed kinder.
“Look at me!” Officer Chang said loudly. “What’s going on in here?” With one large step, he brushed by her and into the apartment. His eyes immediately scanned the small apartment for evidence.
“What are all these people doing here?” He glanced around accusingly at the seven other men and women in her apartment.
Ling lifted up a silent prayer for courage as she walked toward the officer.
“Sir, they are here because they are hungry.” She stood directly in front of him, her voice surprisingly steady despite the anxiety churning in her stomach.
“I offer them something that they cannot find at the restaurants in town and we all enjoy a meal together as friends. Is there something wrong with that, officer?”
“You must be quite a good cook!” The officer said snidely, not fully believing what he was hearing. He leaned over to examine the titles of the books stacked neatly on the wooden bookshelf by the entryway.
“Well, actually, I can’t take all the credit. It’s my Father’s recipe.”
“Oh, an ancient family recipe. Of course!” He snickered as he stomped away and into the kitchen. He swung open the cabinets and began yanking plates and bowls out on to the floor. The clatter shot through Ling like lightning. She turned away from the noise and saw to her horror, that Officer Woo was lifting the flowers out of the vase that held the Bibles! She cringed as he reached his hand in.
“Alright, that’s enough. Let’s get out of here.” The older office yelled from the kitchen as he stepped over the mess of bowls, pan and plates now scattered all over the kitchen. “We’re off in a few minutes anyway and I don’t have time for this nonsense.”
Officer Woo quickly shoved the flowers back into the vase and avoided Ling’s eyes as he followed his partner out of the apartment. The door slammed shut behind them.
He must have felt the Bibles!
Why didn’t he arrest me?
She did not move or speak until she heard the whoosh of the elevator as it descended to the ground, six stories below. Ling turned to face her friends.
“Did he notice the Bibles?”
“Your Father’s recipe! Good one, Ling!”
“You didn’t lie! We do come here hungry!”
As they tittered nervously, she tipped the three precious Bibles out of the vase. She passed out two, and then motioned for everyone to sit down. With trembling fingers, Ling turned the thin pages of her Bible to the Gospel of John, chapter six, verse thirty-five.
“And then Jesus said, ‘I am the bread that gives life.’ Her voice was soft, almost a whisper. “‘Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” She looked up from her Bible and around at her friends. Each one had a knowing smile on their face. As they knelt to pray, the phone rang.
“Hello, Miss Chow?”
“This is Officer Woo.”
“I’m hungry, too.” He said softly. “Can I come over?”
Hope A. Horner, 2004