Stephen Chan

The Late Home-coming Prodigal Son – Chapter 13

A translation from ‘遊子遲遲歸’

Chapter Thirteen        The Upper Prayer Room,
                                           The Gatherings,
                                           and Christmas Caroling

The university campus was situated in the beautiful Mount Lu (鲁山) of Xichang (西昌), almost twenty miles away from the city. The male dormitory was at the foot of the hill, while the classrooms and the female dormitory were built midway to the hill top. There was a large lake in the valley called the Chenghai (澄海), because it was so big that people in Xikang (西康) who had never seen an ocean had mistaken it to be the ocean. The water was serene and translucent; it was a wonderful resort area in the summer time. This university had many faculties: geology, forestry, chemistry, engineering, veterinary and now medicine, and we were the first class of medical students.

I searched for Christian friends and church as soon as I arrived at school, because it was God who answered my prayers, and I was grateful for His grace. There were only three Christians, including me, in the whole school. There was a Chinese Christian Church in the city which was over twenty miles away. For a round trip would require at least five hours walking on foot. Although the worship services were nothing spectacular, we loved to attend the Sunday services as much as possible.

Since it was impossible for us to attend any church meetings during week days, the three of us found a quiet place in the woods. We cleared the bushes, flattened a 10’x15’ area and laid thick layers of dried sheaves of grain on top of it. This became our meeting place. All three of us had never even read through the four Gospel once. Our spiritual leader was Mr. Zhou Jian (周鉴). We knew nothing about the term ‘fellowship’, but knew about revival gatherings in church. Every morning before dawn, before our school wake up call, we went up the mountain for morning prayers. Every Wednesday, we had a Bible study. It was not an easy task as our meetings were on whether rain or shine. Each of us only had one bamboo hat for shelter, on top of that, lots of mosquitoes and little animals to fend off. However, we maintained our little patch and made good use of it until winter time.

At Christmas, we had an unforgettable Christmas Eve. At this time our group expanded to four Christians, a sister had joined us. We decided to go caroling to our classmates on Christmas Eve. We practiced singing and memorized four songs. At midnight 12 a.m. of December 24th, we went to the slope between the men’s and women’s dormitory and sang ‘Silent Night’. No one responded, and no one invited us to their quarters for a hot drink either. The chilly cold wind was penetrating; we had only flimsy shoes made of cloth covered with straw. Our feet were frozen numb. Winter in Xichang (西昌) was the mildest compared to the rest of the province of Xikang (西康). But for poor fellows like us, this chilliness was very harsh. We sang all the songs we could remember, and concluded our Christmas caroling in about fifteen minutes. The sister was the most courageous. She had to walk from her dormitory down to the slope of our meeting place, where little rodents were most active across the field in the dark night.

The next morning, we received the most vibrant responses. Someone cursed us and said, “Who were the idiots who sang in the woods and woke me up?” Some were friendly and asked about our caroling. “What is this about? Why believe in Jesus?” Those had encountered caroling before promised to join us to church in the future. To me, it was an exciting experience. Whatever the outcome, we had effectively spread the good tidings to many classmates about Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.

Later we found out that our librarian was educated in a Christian school. He helped us to get permission to use a classroom every Wednesday night for two hours. Thus we enjoyed indoor meetings without having to worry about mosquitoes. Our activities grew, we invited out of town speakers for special talks; but at the same time, some school mates ridiculed us for praying before meals, and gossiped about us as ‘Christians’.

In the two years at Xikang (西康), I had not heard any great moving sermon, but the Lord worked in us, three brothers in Christ, to preach the Gospel to the nearby villages. During school breaks, we went further to places twenty to thirty miles away from school. We adapted Dr. John Sung’s (宋尚節) evangelical method to preach in open space or on the street. Each of us carried a bottle of water, some dried food, and a few big poster of song sheets rolled up on a bamboo stick. When we entered a village, we borrowed a wooden stool as stage, hung up the song sheets, and started singing. People would gather around us automatically and listen. Each time we were very tired physically, but very joyful in spirit. Some remote villagers told us that they had heard about Jesus from some western foreigners years ago! I was deeply moved and amazed at the zeal and loving kindness of those missionaries.

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