Stephen Chan

The Late Home-coming Prodigal Son – Chapter 8

A translation from ‘遊子遲遲歸’

Chapter Eight        The Price of Freedom

I had to look after myself from this time on. I enrolled in Yuqiao High School (育橋中學) in Kunming that fall. Although I was penniless, I decided never wrote to my parents nor asked them for money. And in fact I did not received money from them since then. I lived with my older brother for a year, but it was a disastrous year. The money he received from our parents could only sustain him, but he also had a live-in girlfriend. We had lots of conflicts and I left them for good after a big fight with his girlfriend.

Fortunately I had some real good friends. I was an innocent and enthusiastic youth. I often would sell my personal belongings to help out emergency financial needs of my school friends (used clothes could easily be sold or pawned during war time). These friends now became my support and help when I had no place to go. I spent those days with them until I found a junior position at the post office.

In 1940, Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor, and swept through Southeast Asia. After Hong Kong fell to the Japanese, my eldest brother came to Kunming, and my parents moved to Shanghi (上海). There my mother made a living by selling soy milk and Chinese donuts as breakfast to the workers of a pharmaceutical company owned by my uncle. I never inquired any news about my parents or my family all these time, but I learned about this from my mother when I returned to Fuzhou in 1948.

When my eldest brother came to Kunming I was working in the post office with a salary sufficient for all my expenses. Since I had not completed junior high, he persuaded me to continue my education and promised to support me financially. My brother had a good job working as a transport officer. The Dian-Mian Highway(滇湎公路)(also known as the Burma Road), was the only road for export. All goods had to go through this route to enter Yunnan (云南) before transported to other provinces. In those days, a transport officer was a high paid job. So I took the entrance exam and enrolled in the Yu-Qiao Secondary School (育桥中学) for senior high. However, I was a very rebellious youth, very hostile to any family member, also ignorant about life. I did not like my sister-in-law and totally refused to make any effort to understand her. Many would consider their elder brother as father, their sister-in-law as mother, but I did not even understand or care for my own parents, why would I care for anyone I hardly knew and respect my brother and sister-in-law as my guardians? I lived with them for about a year, and left furiously after a fight. It was in the summer of 1942, I had nothing with me except a few dollars that could last me a couple of days, and I had not graduated from high school.

The real reason I left my brother was that I felt I did not achieve my purpose of leaving home. I left home to be free from my parents. Living with my brother only meant switching different guardians, which was against my will. I wanted to be independent and support myself. But how can I continue to study and support myself at the same time? I had no idea. I wouldn’t dare nor willing to come to God for help. Not only did I hate my family, I blamed God for treating me very unfairly. I did not see His works or His secret protection. I stubbornly struggled to reach for my own success. In fact I failed miserably just on the problem of room and board alone.

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