I met David when our university took their American teachers to a site of interest. He was self-taught in English and was delighted to have the privilege of many hours one-on-one as a translator for a native English speaker. David had failed the necessary university entrance exams but, in fact, his ability was well above the average university freshman. Eventually he enrolled with my financial help in a normal school that employed American teachers and passed tests to the second year. Unfortunately, at the end of that year the dean refused to give him his earned certificate, a common type of corruption, until he received more money under the table.
As an ordinary worker who quit his job to go to college, David didn’t have enough money to pay tuition for a third year, much less slip money under the table. A two-year certificate in China has more value than a junior college associate degree in America, as it shows adequate training for English teaching in middle schools, factory translation and other work with foreigners. In spite of his training and considerable knowledge, David would be passed over in favor of others less competent but with money or back door connections. So he had neither job nor job prospects. David tended to be high as a kite or lower than a snake’s belly, so I went to the countryside to visit him often and lend encouragement.
Since David’s parents lived in a small village and his father was a common laborer, the rather large family was extremely poor. When I visited I offered David 10 Yuan to buy vegetables but he refused to accept the money. I felt so bad about stretching their meager resources that I decided to stop visiting them. David begged me to come again and secretly accepted the offered money for food.
David’s mother was a gentle, gracious lady my age but she looked many years older. Her skin was dry and wrinkled from the hot sun while working in the fields and her dental health was poor. When I arrived she sent David to buy the ingredients to make jouza, a dumpling stuffed with a meat and vegetable mixture, a traditional sign of celebration. David had a room of his own in the quadrangle so while I was visiting he slept with his parents in the main house and I had his little room to myself. The courtyard houses were made of mud and stone and in the winter they were never warm, although a tiny stove burned one small round block of pressed, powdered coal at a time. The top of the stove would hold a tea-kettle, so we huddled over the stove in our many layers of clothing while the kettle heated water for tea.
Hunger for Jesus
We frequently talked about Jesus, for David was awed by the stories I told. Once I asked his permission to sing some simple worship songs. He eagerly agreed because the Chinese love to entertain and be entertained by singing. I closed my eyes to obtain a little privacy and began to sing very softly. The songs flowed one after the other for quite awhile, then a sweet silence descended. After a long pause David whispered, “Your God is holy.”
On a couple of occasions David took me to the local Three-Self Church. The church was packed and there was barely room in the courtyard for one more stool. As much as I could understand, the message was quite straightforward in explaining salvation, a forbidden topic in Three-Self churches. Three-Self churches are registered with the government and must agree to self-government (no foreign organizations), self-support (no foreign money), and self-administration (no foreign workers). Three-Self churches are forbidden by the government to address certain topics such as salvation, baptism, or to organize Sunday Schools to evangelize children. Catholic churches in China come under much closer scrutiny than Protestant churches because Roman Catholics declare loyalty to the Pope whereas the Chinese government insists that all citizens be loyal to their political leaders. Officials in David’s village were active in resisting the growing Christian influence and David told me of believers’ homes being bulldozed and other believers who were forced to hold bowls of boiling water until the flesh fell off their hands.
One of David’s married brothers had kidney failure. The week before I was to return to America for the summer I received a letter from David asking if I could possibly get a medication with a very long technical name for his brother. My American doctor happened to be ethnic Chinese so I took the letter to him. The requested medication was outdated in the States although it could still be obtained, so my doctor wrote out the prescription at no charge and I took it to the local Wal-Mart. The pharmacist questioned me about the unusual prescription and when I explained the circumstances he filled the order at no cost to me. Another person who heard about the need paid postage for the medicine to be airmailed to David’s family home. This prescription extended his brother’s life another two years and he was able to ride a bicycle to the middle school where he taught English. His wife and little daughter were deeply grateful to have their husband and daddy a bit longer and David’s sister-in-law thought there might be something to the belief in God.
Success Little by Little
As time passed David got a factory job and tutored children in English in his spare time. Occasionally I went with him to a home to tutor a child because my presence gave him credibility with parents. With my encouragement he finally quit his factory job and started a small kindergarten. During summers I found teaching materials and tapes appropriate for nursery and kindergarten children as well as textbooks and suggestions for teachers. David pored over the books, materials and tapes, eventually organizing an excellent school, teaching English to the children of officials in his area. Ironically, several years later his school was honored as a model kindergarten in that province.
While David was working at the factory he met a girl who had a sad family situation. David was tender hearted and listened sympathetically when she wept and told her story. At last they became intimate. He regretted this many times over because among the peasants such behavior assumes marriage. He did marry her but declared that he didn’t love her. They had a child and his wife was a good help to him in the school. David became rich by Chinese standards, able to buy an apartment, a motorcycle, and a telephone. But there wasn’t enough money to buy happiness.
David felt that his unhappiness justified his unfaithfulness to his wife, and shared with me his extramarital activities. We even discussed his father’s unfaithfulness to his mother and her patient kindness in return.
Accumulation of sins passed down from parents to children is a serious issue. Misrepresenting or concealing the truth seems to be an acceptable coping strategy. If there are no absolutes and man is merely the apex of the evolutionary process, there is no such concept as sin. People must be taught that God’s Word is not negotiable because it is based on His character as Creator. God’s little children perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea.4: 6). Generational sin made sense to David but he was unwilling to make a lifestyle change.
Eventually David got work as an interpreter for a small international company and was permitted to travel with officials from the company to the United States for business. He managed to slip away from the group and found work as a cook in a Chinese restaurant. He also found women who were delighted with his sensitive personality. Rather than pay him for his favors, they offered drugs and commodious housing. David called me every few months for several years to tell me how much he was enjoying this new life, but eventually the phone calls dwindled and now I have heard nothing from him for about ten years. I am thankful that David received a strong witness of God’s grace and forgiveness, where ever his choices may have led him.