During the second semester the United Nations sent an American petroleum expert to the university because universities in China are the primary locations for government research. Mr. Green, a mature Christian and experienced world traveler, quickly sized up my situation. As a strategy to break the effect of isolation he asked if I would be willing to go off campus when the university officials invited him to various places. I was the only American teacher to eat supper in the dining room reserved for foreign teachers so he invited me to join him for meals. His meals were much more elaborate than mine because he was considered more important (Chinese are extremely class-conscious in spite of their claim to the contrary.) but he shared with me to the embarrassment of the cook and Foreign Affairs officials.
When Mr. Green insisted that I be included in the sightseeing day trips that were planned for him, the Chinese got the impression that we were relatives and became more respectful of me. (Brothers and sisters in Christ are often closer than blood relatives, are they not?) On returning to the States, Mr. Green called my family to tell them I was all right but needed their prayers.
Meantime, thinking I must be adequately softened up, the Black Dragon sent two Chinese engineering teachers to whom I was to confess my crimes. One of them, John, was utterly disgusted with what was happening and told me so, explaining that he was to spend an hour a couple of times a week getting information from me. Then he was to write a report on his time with me.
“Please don’t worry,” he urged. “Trust me if you can.”
John had given the time with me some thought and set about teaching me local customs. He was a wonderful teacher and didn’t reserve any topics I might ask questions about. Together we watched two Chinese classics being shown in serial form on television. After watching Dream of Red Mansions with me, he asked me to read the historical novel – a prodigious task, for it is long and has more than 600 historical characters. Chinese social attitudes are expressed through characters in the novel set in a noble family. Ideas about child-raising, servants, courtship and marriage, and how good and bad fortune played out in everyday life were presented. Then I had the privilege of asking John questions.
“All things work together for good to those who love the Lord,
to those who are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28).”
This period of time, an investment of many hours one-on-one, was a precious time of learning and developing trust, both in God and John, in the midst of fiery trials.
What the enemy meant for evil
the Lord turned to good in my life (Gen. 50:20).
My Desire to Return
Because my commitment to China was long-term, I went to the Foreign Affairs Office to ask if I could return the coming year. Returning to the same university was important to me because I wanted to extend tangible forgiveness to my hosts and I also realized my need for emotional healing. The Black Dragon was surprised and agreed at first, then changed her mind. I decided to persist by going every morning to her office before classes began to ask again and again. At last she agreed to sign a second year contract with me.
Toward the end of the second semester John brought me the university newspaper and, angrily waving it at me, demanded, “Did you write this letter to the Foreign Affairs Director?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded. “What is it? Why are you angry?”
“This newspaper has printed a letter it says is from you. It confesses certain crimes you have committed against the Chinese.”
“No, I didn’t confess any crimes. I did write the Black Dragon a thank you note for her kindness this year. That’s something an American might do even if it isn’t completely true. I didn’t know there was a university newspaper; much less write a letter confessing anything.”
John believed me so the letter confessing crimes against Chinese society, supposedly from me, violated his sense of what was right. When I explained that I had written a thank you note he was furious in my behalf and promised to look into the situation. He visited high level officials within the university to find out what the Black Dragon had been saying about me and explained that he had been appointed to be a friend to whom I would confess my crimes. Instead, he had discovered that I was quite interested in early Chinese history and the philosophical foundations of the society.
Possibly the FAO director had the fictitious letter, allegedly from me, printed in the newspaper to avoid losing face when she allowed me to return for a second year. After telling the university officials how bad I was, she needed a good reason to invite me back. In fact, all four of us foreign teachers returned the second year along with six additional foreign teachers. That school had earned a bad reputation among English-speaking nations and finding enough native speakers of English was difficult. Later we learned that the previous year there had been ten British English teachers whose salaries were capriciously withheld until they could not count on travel money for holidays even during the six-week-long Spring Festival at the end of first semester. At last the education section of the British embassy closed service to that university.
The Black Dragon was “promoted” the following year to an office in Beijing. In China relationships are the focus of the culture so when a personnel change is called for the individual is usually bumped up, not fired. Thus, all faces are saved and confrontation is avoided. The Chinese worldview is politically based. Everything a foreigner might do or say will be interpreted politically. Western literature, which is often Christian in worldview, is analyzed from the Chinese political viewpoint; thus western classics are contorted into ominous, often ridiculous material. Fortunately, John understood this important difference and was able to help me grasp Chinese concepts, asking his own questions about the West as well.
Since that first year in China the Black Dragon considered me a spy, a Public Security Bureau official from the nearby town was assigned to one of my classes and mixed with my students. I noticed that the newcomer wasn’t well accepted and later John told me with disgust who he was. At the end of the year I gave the Public Security Bureau agent an “A” much to John’s distress. At the beginning of the second year this man knocked on my apartment door to say that his grade had not been turned in to his work unit. Did I remember what his grade was? His brow was furrowed and with an inward smile I assured him I did remember. He thought I had no idea of his identity or his reason for enrolling in my class, but in fact, his English was fluent, his manners were polished and I wished him no ill. I wrote out his Chinese name and grade, the name of the course and date along with my name as his teacher. His grade was proof of his attendance. This delighted me.
Well Cared For
While I was home during summer vacation after that first horrendous year, I got a phone call from a complete stranger. He was a pastor in a large American city who made frequent trips into China, spoke the language and was familiar with the political situation. Earlier in the school year my very frightened parents had found a contact who knew this man was going to the area of China where I was teaching. Upon arrival in the province where I was located he was not allowed to make a phone call to me. He did learn that I was at the university where I was supposed to be and I was all right. When he returned to the States he sent out a prayer request far and wide for my safety and steadfastness, so there were literally hundreds of people praying for me. The pastor was elated to learn that I was returning to the same university for a second year and laughed with delight as I told about God’s supernatural provision in the various events of that first year.
In another chance meeting, a retired American armed forces veteran heard that I had undergone some severe treatment in China and sat down to talk with me at length. He knew the tactics used against me and commented that I was in excellent spirits in contrast to many men who had returned home in great emotional and spiritual turmoil from all they had seen and experienced. With these several chance encounters I began to realize that while I was an “independent” teacher in China, I was indeed part of a large and well-organized system with an extremely capable Director.