Hark the Herald Angel and Mr. Xu

Posted by admin in December 24th, 2009
Published in Uncategorized

The Chinese government had a funny way of doing things back in the day when I first started teaching there. The Communist Party had a strict policy protecting its citizens from the invasion of dangerous stuff like “foreign ideas and philosophies” coming into the country through the massive influx of English teachers from the West. Their policy (loosely translated) was called “The Crackdown on Spiritual Pollution.” Christianity topped their list of biohazardous materials.

The policy dictated that foreign teachers meet with the Party Secretary of each campus every week to discuss the dos and don’ts of the “crackdown.” We were not permitted to wear nail polish (that went for the guys too); we could not wear bright clothing, like my favorite red sweater. We were not allowed to wear bluejeans. Foreign films were forbidden, unless prescreened and approved by top Party officials. And to ensure that we followed the regulations of not discussing democracy, religion, or politics in the classroom, each class was given a monitor—the human kind. The monitor was someone that actually wanted to be in the class to learn English, but was also a person the Party could trust to report the hazardous use of materials. i.e. Christianity, democracy, human rights, etc.

The monitor’s job was to keep an eye on the wily foreign teachers, but, just as important, their job was to watch over the students and make sure they didn’t make any comments in class that would make China, or its governing leaders, look bad.

The first day of class Mr. Xu came up to me and introduced himself. “I Xu Yao Shi. I am class monitor.” He spoke the sentence with some difficulty. I could tell he’d been practicing it for a while.

Mr. Xu was a little heavier than the average Chinese man. He was in his mid 30s, wore very thick horn-rimmed glasses and had kinky curly hair which he wore very short. All the male students wore Mao jackets and dark colored pants. Mr. Xu’s jacket was not the usual army green or navy. His was a dull gray.

One afternoon I was in my room reading when there was a gentle knock on the door. I opened the door to my small room and was surprised to see Mr. Xu standing there all alone. First of all, no students were allowed to visit the foreign teachers without a buddy. Secondly, the monitors never came by for a friendly visit. I thought I might be in trouble.

“Mr. Xu,” I said warmly, “Won’t you come in?”

He wouldn’t pass over the threshold. “I can only stay a moment Miss Teri,” he was struggling with the language.

“I have to stop coming to class and I am very sorry about it,” he was twisting his woolen cap in his hands.

“Mr. Xu,” I began, “why do you have to drop out of the class? Is there a problem?”

Even though he was the monitor, I really liked the guy. He was a gentle soul and always helped in class. He straightened up the room; cleaned the chalk board; made sure I had chalk each class period. These were really big things back then.

“It is my wife,” he said. “She is very ill. The doctor have found seven different cancer in her body. They told me she to die. So I must stay with her in special part of hospital just for dying.”

His face was ashen. His voice was soft and low. Without a doubt Mr. Xu’s marriage was one of love and not convenience as so many were in this mixed up place.

In Chinese hospitals at that time nursing care was unheard of. If someone had to be in the hospital, it was their family’s duty to take care of them. The family was required to provide the bed linens as well as all the patience’s meals.

The ward Mr. Xu was talking about was the ward for the terminally ill. His job would be to watch over his wife twenty-four hours a day, feeding her, bathing her, caring for her every need until she died. This was the Chinese way.

Mr. Xu said again how sorry he was to miss the class. He thanked me for being his “most excellent teacher.” As we stood there in the doorway of my little room I felt sorry for Mr. Xu. I felt sad that he was suffering this tragic blow. About that time a voice sounded off in my head, “Tell him you’ll pray for her. Go on, tell him!”

I wasn’t going to tell the Communist Party monitor that I would pray for his wife. I had two very good reasons: He would report me to the authorities and if she died he would be even more convinced that there is no God. Forget it. I’m not sayin’ it.

Mr. Xu and I bowed to each other and shook hands. I expressed my condolences and offered my help if they needed anything. I watched him walk down the long concrete corridor of my building leaving my room and heading toward the foyer.

Then the voice shouted at me, “Tell him! Tell him you’ll pray for his wife!.”

“I can’t,” I argued under my breath. “You know I can’t and besides, what if she dies?”

Then, on an impulse stronger than fear or reason, I shouted after Mr. Xu. My voice echoed and bounced off the long concrete hallway walls, “Mr. Xu! Mr. Xu!” I shouted. He turned around and looked back at me.

“I’ll be praying for your wife…uh…that…God will heal her.”

He smiled and nodded the way an adult does when a child speaks of the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.

I slipped back into my room and shut the door, I leaned against it. “You idiot!” I said out loud to myself. “Why did you have to add the healing part? Why didn’t you just leave it at ‘I’ll be praying for your wife’?!?”

I really beat myself up over that one.

The months passed and spring finally came to the city whose name is ironically Eternal Spring, although it snowed on May 1st that year. Classes wrapped up and I successfully completed my first year of teaching in China. With the summer break many of the foreigners decided to head home to pick up supplies, see family and get some R&R from the strain of living in a Third World country with a Communist government. I decided to join them.

Summer back home was fun. I asked all the women’s groups and churches where I spoke to please pray for Mr. Xu’s wife. Since the day he visited me I had kept my promise and habitually prayed for her healing. Now I was asking for good, strong backup. Many people across the U.S. were praying for Mr. Xu’s wife.

Summer faded and before long I was back in Changchun unloading my suitcases full of bounty. It was unusually warm for Changchun so I had my windows open and was giving the small room an airing. Lost in thought, I jumped when I heard a loud pounding at my door. I opened the door and there stood Mr. Xu. He lunged toward me, closed the door and then he said to me, “Your God healed my wife!”

I was stunned. I was absolutely shocked out of my mind.

“What? Tell me what happened,” I said anxiously.

“After I left your room that day I went straight to the hospital and told my wife about your kind words, how you said that you would pray to your God to heal her.

“Soon she was feeling much better and within weeks the cancer was gone—completely gone. She is home. Doctors cannot explain to us why. We had a very good and active summer. She is stronger than ever and your God did it. Your God healed her. Now we want to believe in your God. How do we do that?”

Twelve months of praying, interceding, hoping for a convert in China and this was my first one. Mr. Xu and his wife were the only people I led to Christ my first year there. But what a miraculous conversion it was. Everything about them changed—their countenance, their conversations, their outlook on life—everything.

Mr. Xu was once again assigned to be my class monitor that fall. He gave me total freedom in the class. My students, most of them graduate students, were eager to discuss the deeper things of life and the hard issues. We had lively discussions; we put on plays and learned English songs. One afternoon after class Mr. Xu and his best friend Mr. Yang, also in that class, came to me and made an outrageous suggestion. They thought it would be a great idea to put on a Christmas play in December. They wanted to do the story of Jesus. Would I mind writing it?

“You see,” Mr. Xu stated his case, “Christmas is culture for Americans. We need to learn your culture. Also, if all the parts are in English, we can say it is a tool for learning the language. Last year one of the classes did Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This might be considered by some as just another fairy tale put into play form.”

“Do you think it’s safe?” I asked them both.

“Let us worry about that and you just take care of writing the play,” they responded. After all, Mr. Xu was the class monitor.

The gospel according to Luke was the best place to start. I wrote the play and made sure there was a part for each person in the class. The one Muslim student insisted on playing the Inn Keeper who refused Joseph and Mary a room. He was hilarious and quite good at his part.

Mr. Xu and Mr. Yang wanted to be the shepherds and we all agreed that Mr.Wu, 4′ 11”, had to play Herald the Angel.

We had a Mary, a Joseph, shepherds, an angel, we had three wise men, an inn keeper and a narrator. Two weeks before the play was scheduled to be performed, someone showed up with a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned plastic baby doll. We wrapped it in a blanket and that was our baby Jesus.

The class really got into the idea of putting on the play. They made costumes and rehearsed and everyone memorized their parts—all taken from Holy Scripture.

One afternoon during rehearsal, in front of the entire class, the angel Mr. Wu announced that he believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior. I just stood there and looked at him. We all were shocked. Some even laughed nervously. “Why do you say that Mr. Wu?” I asked, trying to break the silence.

“Well I was thinking about the words I say in the play, ‘Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all people. For unto you this day in the city of Bethlehem a child is born, a Savior who is called Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward all men’.

“I like those words and they made me feel something. So, I decided that I would receive the baby Jesus as a Savior and when I did His peace came to me. My wife did this also.”

What could I say? Mr. Xu and his wife had done the same thing months earlier. Mr. Yang was contemplating it, but hadn’t quite made up his mind.

“Well Mr. Wu, thank you so much for sharing that with us.” I patted him on the shoulder and we continued with rehearsal.

On December 25 we had our opening night. Mr. Xu had asked permission to perform the play before the entire campus. The school had agreed believing it would be a good English language exercise for everyone.

The room was packed with old cadres, students, parents with children, grandparents, husbands and wives of the cast. We were all dressed up and the set looked beautiful.

Mr. Xu spoke to me and suggested that he give a brief introduction in Chinese to explain the story about Jesus so that those whose English wasn’t so good wouldn’t miss the really important message of the play. We agreed and he blew them away.

So there, in full shepherd’s costume, Mr. Xu eloquently explained to the audience the story of Christ’s birth. The play was a great success. Quite honestly, I think Mr. Wu came under the anointing as he said his part. His face literally shone and I “got a witness!”

Baby Jesus was laying there in the manger all wrapped up in a Chinese baby blanket and split pants. “Oh baby Jesus,” I prayed, “please come and visit this place the way You did 2,000 years ago. Please reveal Yourself to these dear ones and their loved ones whom I care for so very much.” And I think He did.

The Christmas story has never quite been the same for me since that night. Star of wonder. Peace.

4 users Responded In This Post

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315. jalling1 said,
December 25th, 2009 at 9:11 am

what a great read on this Christmas Day 2009. God is everywhere, just the same as He was 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

Thanks for writing that for us this Christmas. Merry Christmas to everyone. We are snowed in.

316. Jim Alling said,
December 25th, 2009 at 11:19 am

Powerful! Wonderfully complements the book I just finished called The Heavenly Man featuring Brother Yun who was miraculously saved and evanglized much of China under severe torture and persecution.

317. Lisa said,
December 25th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Oh, Teri, that gave me goosebumps! I love to hear how God works! Keep sharing!

318. texas sister said,
December 25th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Wonderful reminder amid the chaos of wrapping paper, dirty dishes, people everywhere and gorged stomachs, of why we even celebrate this day.
love, hugs and kisses to all

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