I’ve had in my office for nearly 20 years a picture of Pastor Chen, because his is one of the remarkable stories of faith I’ve ever heard. He first shared it publically in 1989 at the Lausanne Congress I was privileged to help put together in Manila. Born into to a wealthy Shanghai family in the mid-1930s,
Pastor Chen was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and thrown into Shanghai City Jail, where he almost starved to death. “I was so hungry that there were times that I wanted to even eat my toothpaste,” he recalled. “I was so weak that I didn’t have the strength to stand up. From morning to night I would be exhausted and I could only crawl along the floor.”As well as coping with this physical suffering, Pastor Chen’s wife died during his imprisonment.
And after three and a half years in jail, he was sent to work in a labour camp.He told how in the labour camp, the guards wanted to especially punish and break him because he was a pastor. And so they made him work in the camp cesspool all alone. Because the stench of human waste was so overwhelming, none of the guards would come near.
So Pastor Chen said, “I thanked God for sending me to cesspool, because that was the only place in the labour camp to be alone and sing hymns out loud.” The words he sang, he wrote for me in Chinese on his picture, “I come to the garden alone…” A couple weeks ago, I saw Pastor Chen’s story on video for the first time.