Stephen Chan

The Late Home-coming Prodigal Son – Chapter 18

A translation from ‘遊子遲遲歸’

Chapter Eighteen        Return to Destitution

Chongqing was the second capital of China during the war, a place for many elites and intellectuals. When I arrived there, the deadlines for admission to most universities were over. However, I was racing around like a ‘mule’ with ‘no understanding’ (Psalm 32:9) It was God who was patiently taming me, and preparing me to finally surrender myself to Him.

The morning after I arrived at Chongqing, I went out to look for lodging. I remembered there was an overseas student service center in Kunming, so I approached a police officer on the street and inquired about such service. He gave me the address. I went back to the inn and packed up all my possessions. I found the service center and settled my lodging issue for the time being. I thought I would move to a university dorm in a few weeks’ time.

The center was a hostel, an old worn house of several large bedrooms full of bunk beds. There were narrow pathways in between. I had many mosquito and insects bites all over my body when I woke up the next morning. This center supplied free lodging and plain white rice only. So plain rice was my only food each day because I was broke; there was no money for extra dish. The entire bedroom had one window with a 50 watt light bulb for lighting at night. Each person occupied the space of his bed. I had no other space to study. My health was deteriorating. I could not sleep well at night, I became malnourished, very weak, I got fatigue easily and climbing up staircases became very difficult. Besides, my knees still badly inflamed. I was in a much worse condition than when I was living on the street at Kunming.

This center located on the south side of Chongqing. The universities were on the opposite bank of the river. To get school information, I had to take a ferry. Since I had no money for the fare, so I would follow my roommates to cross the river, and shamefully let them pay my fares. They were also poor students and kindly helped me through, but their help were very limited.

Soon a month went by. I had not applied to any university because I had no money to pay for the application fee. I did write to a friend in Xichang (西昌) once, but I sent no return address, because the hostel had none. I was ashamed to tell my friends in Xichang (西昌) of my predicament, for fear of disappointing them. I later found out the medical school was finally closed, and some students were sent to the Northwest University. By now it was too late to regret my impulsive move. From then on, I lost contact with all of them.

I tried to apply to a pharmaceutical school in GeLe Shan (歌乐山) of Chongqing. I walked all morning from the river bank to the school. I finally arrived at 2 pm sweating profusely, hungry and thirsty. It was past their exam time, but the examiner took pity on me and allowed me to write the exam. Unfortunately I failed. Sweat and tears streamed down my face. The examiner took pity on me again, and gave me a glass of water and some money for transportation to go home.

What could I say now? I was in complete ruin. Once again I spun myself into destruction. I often sneaked into cinemas to watch ‘free’ movies in order to occupy my empty and weary mind. At times, I felt very angry, but I refused to pray to God.

Soon two months had passed by and I was still at the student service center. Most universities had already started their first semester. Meanwhile my health continued to deteriorate. Chongqing streets had many stone steps and I would feel dizzy just climbing up a few steps with my weak knees.

At this time, another lodger at the center came to me. He discovered the center would sponsor students to any university as long as they have high school diplomas. Although most school had already started, late admission could still be considered. During war time, the government would provide free education, food, lodging and loan for university students. At that time I was at my wits end. So I decided to cooperate with my friend. We worked together to produce two pieces of fake high school diplomas from Hong Kong. At that time, Hong Kong had fallen into the hands of the Japanese, and the officers at the center had no way of verifying our documents. In fact, there were so many overseas students to look after, they were very glad to send us off to any university that would accept us. Thus we were accepted into the Fu-Dan University (复旦大学) of Chongqing. There was no medical faculty, and sponsored students like us had to start from the first year General Arts and Sciences.

By then I had lost all zeal for studying. I felt like a little canoe drifting aimlessly in the ocean. I was very tired, both spiritually and physically. How true was it that all things happened for the good of His children; if I had not fallen into such miserable state, I would not have chosen to serve God, but would have taken another more devastating path. He was secretly molding me, and preparing me to ultimately surrender my life to Him.

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