December 13, 2007

‘A Chicken Laid Our Bibles’

from Open Doors...

‘A Chicken Laid Our Bibles’

(This is a good story to illustrate Bible need. There are so many rural churches that are based on family units, and many of them are not linked into other house church movements. Thus, their need for Scriptures is still acute.)

To tell you about our chicken, I first must tell you about our church.

The church had only 22 members, and we were all relatives. The head of our family (my grandfather) once worked in the fields during the Cultural Revolution with a former pastor. The pastor had died there, and my grandfather became a Christian then because he would say, “I never saw a man die better.”

The rest of the commune abused this pastor. Every day he was beaten and forced into “struggle” meetings where 80 members of the commune screamed, “capitalist pig” and “foolish believer of myths.” But, according to my grandfather, “He would just smile serenely back at us.” Working alongside him in the fields gave my grandfather a chance to talk and share with the outcast.

In those days, people lived in dormitories. As my grandfather and the pastor were both single, they bunked together. The pastor would repeat Scripture to himself all day, and then at night sing himself to sleep with hymns, but quietly, so as not to disturb the others.

Eventually a bowel disease killed him, but the pastor sang as he died. “He never stopped singing,” my grandfather testified. Just before he expired, my grandfather saw a look of such excitement and joy on the face of the dying pastor, who said, “I am going somewhere so beautiful.” Then he died.

My grandfather was very impressed by this. He had been a soldier for Chiang Kai Shek (who fought against Mao Zedong) and had seen many men die. But none like this. As he went to sleep each night, it seemed as if the sound of hymn singing was coming from the lower bunk. He would look down and see it empty.

It wasn’t long before he trusted the Lord.

My grandfather had an amazing memory. When other members of his family came to join him in rural Gansu province, he taught us about Christ from the fragments of verses he learned from the pastor. We were very poor and lived in an isolated village. We drew our own water and ate only rice and vegetables, never meat. One man in the village owned chickens, but that was all.

In 1995, my grandfather gathered us all together in the open air (none of our houses were large enough for us all to fit in). He said he had bad news. “I have taught you of Christ for over 15 years from the memory of the pastor who died so I might have faith. But I have to tell you now; I have no more to teach you. I committed about 500 verses of the Scripture to memory from that pastor, and I have expounded each of them to you a hundred ways since then. It is time for us to find the rest of the sacred texts.”

We all looked at each other. This sounded impossible. We did not even know that what we were looking for was called a “Bible.” For all we knew, there may have been thousands of different scriptures. In fact, that’s what we assumed, since that’s what the Daoists have.

We said to him, “But who will find us these texts?”

He replied, “God will, so we must pray.”

We prayed … and prayed … and prayed. For two years we prayed. Nothing happened. But for the faith of my grandfather, I think some of us would have moved to another faith. He was firm: “God is testing us to see if we are really His. We must keep trusting, and keep faithful.”

One Sunday a few of us were praying and a chicken came into our house. She clucked and made a great noise, and then promptly laid an egg. We did not know where she had come from, as a few more of our villagers had chickens by then. So my grandfather tied some money to the leg of the chicken. It was only about 10 cents. The chicken strutted off with an injured air from the whole experience. We knew she would return to her owner.

Less than an hour later there was a loud cry on the street. Someone was yelling, “Who tied money to my chicken? Who tied money to my chicken?” The voice sounded angry, but my grandfather replied without hesitation, “It was me.”

The man came into our little house. We recognized him from the village, but a well-dressed man, who had soft hands and was very well groomed, followed him. He said in a cultured voice, “I am a high ranking member of the Communist party in Beijing.”

Our hearts sank. What was he going to do?

“I have never heard of such honesty in all my life,” he said. “This is astonishing. I have just come from Beijing to visit my brother after being betrayed and deceived. I lost lots of money.”

He turned to my grandfather and said, “My government desperately needs your spirit of scrupulous honesty. If only there were more like you in China. Tell me, what makes you so honest?”

My father answered him in two words: “Jesus Christ!”

The Communist official seemed to smile to himself and then asked, “Can I do anything for you?”

My grandfather, with the boldness of a long life, said, “We would like to find the sacred texts of Christ!”

The official looked at him, puzzled. “What do you mean ‘sacred texts’? Don’t you mean a Bible?”

It was the Communist official who told us what a Bible was.

Again the boldness of my grandfather staggered me. He asked the official, “Can you help us get a copy?”

The official smiled openly now. He made no promise, but merely said, “I will see what I can do.”

The official went back to Beijing, but nothing happened. Months went by. We continued to pray. Then in the fall of 1998 a young man appeared in the village asking for us. We welcomed him. He pulled out from his totebag seven brand new Bibles. One was in large print for my grandfather, and the rest were small, which we could read, although slowly, for we were not very educated.

We asked him, “How did you know to come here to us?”

He said, “I am part of a network of house churches, and one of our leaders was arrested in Beijing last year. But while he was in jail, he was visited by a high ranking public official, who was the uncle of the policeman who was holding him. The official said, “If I let you go, will you promise to deliver a Bible to an old man and his family in Gansu?” Our leader said he would see to it. The next day he was released, and given a piece of paper with my grandfather’s address on it.

That’s why we say, “A chicken laid our Bibles!"

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