Communist China 1994

“They wanted me to kill you, Pastor.”

Suyin grasped the bars and tried to pull herself up so she could see into the next cell. She was very young, still in her teens, but from her treatments her face was aged beyond her years. Her hands and back ached and she slumped to the ground, content to converse from the floor.

“They wanted me to shoot you, and they would free me.”

“Did they beat you much?” the pastor replied from the other cell.

“I could bear it,” she said.

“So, they did.”

“Don't let it trouble you. Have they done the same with you?”


“Did they-”

“Child, I am tired, let us both rest.”

I listened to the conversation as I stood by the gates to the inner cell space. I was ordered to suppress all discourse from the cells, but I tried not to if possible. The Christians' speech intrigued me at the very least, and struck me at most. Today I expected to hear some sounds of defeat, considering the treatment I had watched them go through.

No! No! Suyin's earlier screams echoed through my head. We had first drawn her by her limbs, then sliced a razor across her back. No! No! We then forced needles under her fingernails, and pounded her hands to a bloody mass. No! No! Finally, distressed by her stubbornness, the torturer simply beat her head and body over and over. No! No!

I was afraid to admit that I never wanted to be promoted. I never wanted to torture. Weakness! They made us younger soldiers watch whenever an important prisoner was to be tortured. I almost admitted to myself that I felt more broken than the prisoner, but I couldn't; I wouldn't let myself. I would not be weak.

The man was easier. He was broken by the razors. Simple, weak man. He screamed yes.

There was no more talk that night.

The next day the leader brought Suyin and the man outside to the courtyard. They waited against the high stone wall as the young soldiers filed to the side in silent straight lines. I was second in the first line, close to the prisoners.

“I suppose we shall die together, friend,” Suyin turned and smiled at the pastor. He did not look at her, and his face remained as stony and silent as the wall. “Fear not, we shall meet again,” she encouraged. Still the man was silent. Suyin began to sing:

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I'll walk with Him always,
He leads me by still waters,
I'll walk with Him always.

The leader walked past Suyin and jammed the butt of his gun into her stomach. She collapsed on the ground.

“Get up,” the leader ordered. “You!” He pointed to me and motioned to the girl. I stepped from formation, grabbed her arms, and roughly pulled her to her feet.

Suyin looked at me and smiled, a gentle but pained smile. “Thank you,” she breathed. She straightened herself and lifted her drooped head.

I was taken aback by her smile and her words. I tried to hide my emotion as I marched back to formation. The soldier beside me looked intently at my face from the corner of his eye. I glanced back. We are human.

The leader took the gun and loaded it. He walked to the prisoners, grabbed the man by what remained of his shirt, and pulled him forward. “Today,” the leader proclaimed, “you are about to witness what happens to those who do not comply with the law, ...and what happens to those that do.” He shoved the gun at the pastor, who raised it with both hands, eye level, pointed at Suyin. She looked at the cold, hard ground. The air was dead already.

“Before you shoot, I would like you to know... that I thank you. You have led me as a faithful servant of the Gospel, and helped me learn the truth. Be it known that I do not die with bitterness or hate, but only with gratitude. I pray, here in my last moments, that after I am dead you will not be overcome and hang yourself as Judas did, but as Paul, repent and live. I die humbled as a servant, with the name of Jesus Christ on my lips!”

The pastor pulled the trigger. Suyin crumbled to the ground.

The leader wrenched the gun from the pastor's frozen hands. Without word or warning he pressed the barrel of the gun to the man's skull, and fired. The pastor too fell, the hope of freedom still on his lips.

A cruel smile spread across the leader's face. “That concludes our demonstration today.”

It was not only I, I am sure, who heard a song, and not the gunshot, echoing in the air. All the men's heads turned round and round, unsure where to look. But the song was there, ever bright and clear:

I'll walk with Him always,
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I'll walk with Him always...

Integrity is an overused word and an underused principle. It comes as a “be real” message without any solid foundation, like a pretty package with nothing inside. Too many churches have reduced their message (especially to youth) to this “pretty packaging” preaching.

“Don't do drugs.” “Abstinence before marriage.” “Be 'nice kids'.”

These messages are not bad, but they undercut and deemphasize the one necessary truth for their execution: a foundation. The paint, the roof, and the windows are the pretty parts of the house, not the brick foundation; the icing and decorations are the pretty parts of the cake, not the actual cake itself. Yet these basic parts are the most necessary. Without them, everything built ultimately, and literally, falls. The same happens with many teenagers today. When they head off to college, many leave the church under the pressure of the academic community. They have no foundation; there's no cake under all that icing.

Jesus told a story of two men who built houses. The one who does not heed his word is like a man who builds his house on the sand, which is washed away by the storm. But the one who heeds his words is like the man who builds his house on a rock; his house is not blown away in the storm.

The story of Suyin is fictional, but it is based on the stories of millions of martyrs whose faith did not waver in the greatest of storms. Theirs are stories of true integrity. Their integrity was like a deep root which brings forth a flower, not like a flower put in a vase, beautiful to see but which soon withers and dies.

Those who build on the firm foundation will not fail. They will grow. They will prosper. They will “walk with Him always”.


Anonymous said…
One of your friends showed this to me a bit earlier than when you posted it...I really think that it is a good story that drives a hard, but rarely mentioned, fact home. There are Christians being martyred, beaten, and abused in other countries. We as Americans think we have it bad when we can't pray in schools or have Christianity accepted. But, in all truth we have it the best in the world and we need to think and pray for those that are believing in and dying for the Faith.
Laura said…
Charli, that was wonderful. So true, and it made me think a great deal.

[Just that one of your speeches? Or did you just write it?]
Soren Stevens said…
Wonderful Charli! I was very, very impresed with your style and the way you intertwined Suyin's song throughout the story.

As we both know, the title, the story, and the character all complement each other. That's the way it should be! Well done!

Also, great commentary at the end; it is very relevant, very poignant. I know God will use it to move many.

Good question Laura! Sp Charli, tell us, is this one of your IE pieces???
Anonymous said…
I recognize it. you did a really good job at NC. it was great seeing you again!

Sam Kent

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