CHANGDE, China – After a 90-minute drive from the city center along a winding and muddy path we finally arrived at the home of Madam Zhou, a retired farmer, to deliver Bibles and listen to her story. Madam Zhou, 70, received us warmly, while her husband prepared lunch in the kitchen. Here, in her old but cozy home, she told us the story behind her Bible, a story that happened nearly half a century ago, while it drizzled quietly outside and the aroma from the kitchen slowly filled our noses.
After serving us hot green bean tea and some peanuts she planted herself, she started. “In those days, Bibles were confiscated and burned. But I was determined to keep my mother’s Bible and so I hid it in the rooftop of our home,” shared Zhou, seated on a wooden stool, referring to the days of the Cultural Revolution. She was 24 then. To many Chinese Christians, the Cultural Revolution, which took place in the years between 1966-76, was one of the most painful events in China history. All churches were closed and Christian activities were not allowed.
“My mother and aunt who were Christians were locked up, interrogated and forced to confess that they had links with foreigners. There were indoctrination classes seeking to brain wash them to believe that Christianity is imperialistic. We were not allowed to see them. It was a harrowing time. My mother and aunt were already in their 60s, I was so worried for them.”
But Madam Zhou was undaunted by the waves of Red Guards who were going around ransacking houses, looking for any anti-Communists people and materials. “We lived in thatched houses and to prevent my mother’s Bible from getting wet, I put it into a plastic bag before hiding it in the rooftop,” continued Zhou, holding the 1924 edition Bible in her hand, “The Red Guards came to my house but did not find it!”
Why would Madam Zhou risk her life to keep her mother’s Bible? “I was influenced by my mother’s prayer life. Because we were very poor, she would pray everyday for all our needs. From her life, I knew that the God of the Bible is the true God. She taught us never to abandon the Lord; we are to walk the path of heaven. So the Bible is very precious to me, it is filled with truths to help me live.”
Little did Zhou expect that it would be five years before she would bring the Bible down again. “Five years later, I was made a commune leader in my village. And since I was a leader and had some authority, no Red Guards would come into my house. So we began to have secret meetings among some Christians in my house and then did I dare to bring down my mother’s Bible from the rooftop. And my mother would read it everyday till she passed away at the age of 96.”
As we adjourned for lunch, Madam Zhou shared that her husband came from a family of geomancers and fortune-tellers who said that he wouldn’t be able to live past the age of 59. Her husband had not been well and couldn’t work but by the mercies of God and through the prayers of her mother, he is now 75 and an excellent cook!
We were amazed as we sat down for lunch looking at the sumptuous spread of dishes in front of us and thinking about the spiritual legacy left behind by Madam Zhou and her mother.
Story and Photos: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Pamela Choo
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership