"The following testimony, though it may seem like fiction, is fact. It took place in the primitive mountain fastnesses of interior Yunnan, South West China. There, cut off from civilisation and itís amenities and living daily in primitive filth, squalor and misery, not to mention the daily possibility of murder, God saw fit to reveal his peerless beauty in many ways, of which this testimony is one. It is recorded for the glory of God, and for the edification of saints, sincerely desiring to be saints.
Alone in a God forsaken place
It happened on a most depressing foggy day, in a wretched, squalid mud hut, perched precariously on the crowís nest of a mighty mountain range in Yunnan, SW China. On rare, bright days the view was a deep, long, and gorgeous perspective! But this seemingly God forsaken foul den of murderers was usually draped in dripping, chilly, dense fog which incessantly hurried past us in ghostly formations like monster demons hurrying to an appointment with death, some urgent mission of murder. Natural darkness was nothing by comparison with the spiritual. One could almost smell it in the bloodís chilling atmosphere. A spiritually sensitive soulís only means of defence in the demon-infested atmosphere was to persistently breathe in the name of Jesus. It must be experienced to be understood or maybe even believed. Witchcraft was flagrant and often-flung cursed souls utterly wasted and withered into an early grave. Truly, the fog darkened heavens quivered with evil intent and superstition was deep and very dangerous. The common people lived in daily dread of unjustified reprisals. Woe betides someone, if any official fell ill, for lives had to pay for it! Murderous, village-burning bandits who specialised in rape and cruelty, vied with criminal chieftains and deadly diseases to keep us near to the gates of death continually. The city Chinese told terrible legends of these interior uncivilised places which proved to be almost true. God, through a succession of miracles had taken me there, a place where no white man had ever set foot. And God by a succession of miracles kept me in there for a number of years with no money from home. Cut off from help by the Second World War, I ate whatever these utterly poverty stricken and grievously oppressed native Christians gave me of their rat contaminated and fly polluted food. Lived in any lousy mud and straw hut available wherever I happened to be, right along with the family and domestic animals and flies and vermin, altogether in one heap. I slept in their vermin infested beds and endured their revolting personal habits and filth, by the grace of God and the love He had placed in my heart for these pitifully oppressed people. At least in this one respect I am able to look God straight in the eye without a blush. I lived with them for years and shared their terrible existence and miseries and perils. And they proved to be the happiest years of my whole life for the sordid misery and danger provided a vacuum that God filled up with His glory, until it spilled over the mountains and valleys.
On this particular morning I was sitting on a narrow wooden trestle, the nearest they ever get to sit comfort, luxury compared with the usual, a three-inch piece of tree. The ragged ruin of a mud brick and worm eaten house that hovered perilously over my head had been staggering for a long time. Walls and ceilings were black with the soot of generations, from fires built on the floor in the centre of the room. The tarry looking black was draped with thick green mildew from incessant fog, with an over coating of dust and cobwebs. Spiders and rats enjoyed a free and easy existence with almost no frustrations. White, dusty pockets of cobwebs pockmarked the black walls, each one concealing a large spiderís egg. The place never got a clean up and the dust of generations covered the rot and ruin like a grey blanket. The gloom could only be slightly relived by opening two tiny,
sooty shutters. They were open, but all that could be seen outside was the deathly cloud wraiths that slid furtively by in rapid succession. Truly it was the limit of sordid misery and dull gloom. And this was my home! Shall I say, one of many but all pretty much alike.
It was an upper room, free from the incessant coming and going of constantly chattering, kindly though exceedingly dirty and poverty stricken native Christians. They were gathered in the room below spinning coarse thread. Most of their conversation was about the things of God. I could see them through large holes in the floor and hear every word. Jesus meant much to them, in fact everything, in their extreme poverty. Never had they known joy until they knew Jesus. He had become their life and their simple faith was most impressive! To me, they were an inspiration and gave me much joy because of their affection, and gratitude for introducing them to Jesus. God blessed these ugly, poverty stricken, pitifully oppressed people in a big way over and over again. During meetings, when the power of God has fallen on them in a special way I have witnessed them weep and dance for joy. They had no carnal attractions and Jesus was everything to them. They had suffered cruel persecution, which had only served to make them stronger in God. Their warm love for God ever served to fan my love for them so that I no longer noticed the dirt.
But this morning I could find nothing to be encouraged about anywhere. Morbid blue spells were cast out as soon as they came and refused admittance as if they were devils. Blues are ungodly things that must be firmly resisted. However, this day, this one would not be cast out and dug himself in tightly. It persisted and increased. I swung my eyes around the sordid soot and dust laden mildewed misery and reminded myself of the cruelly unreasonable, cunning and continually trouble making chiefs. I remembered that I was alone, and likely to be for as long as this terrible world war raged. Alone and penniless! It seemed impossible to even force myself to read the Bible or pray. I felt dead and buried out of sight at the end of the earth in misery and peril, lonely and unhappy. And this was actually a new experience for me. I was usually very happy and contented.
Absorbing another misery filled glance around at the mildewed sooty ruin I was appalled! I hunched on my trestle as the gray ghosts hurried past the open shutters. Everything was chilly and damp and the fog went drip, drip, on the collapsed cement balcony. Shaggy, filthy, vile and evil looking rats roamed brazenly around or gnawed away confidently at the contents of dusty boxes. Flies, thousands of them, congested the airways and made a loud buzzing with their wings when taking off after a rest. Large, dust-laden cobwebs hung from every convenient vantagepoint and the fat spiders were kept busy. What a hole! What a deplorable picture of sordid filth and misery! Yet there were "homes" even worse than this. At least I did not have to share it with water buffaloes, mules, pigs and chickens and a dozen or so other unfortunate human beings. Even so, what a hole! I began to pity myself. Maybe after all, the city folks were right when they said "You are wasting your valuable life on people that are not worthy. Why donít you stay with us here and be our pastor? Weíll see that you have a house to live in and a church too." Maybe after all I should have listened to them. But it wasnít too late yet and I could return to them. Ought I to do that or not?
With yet another misery filled glance around at the dirt and ruin I told myself. What a terrible setting for the student of art, painting and drawing and music and singing and a builder of modern homes. I well remember when first saved, leading an open-air band who, like me, were on fire for God and having a revival service right on the street. An old crony passed by looking down his nose at me in obvious contempt. It hadnít worried me, though it was obvious he considered me a crazy fool. But what would he think if he saw me now, just throwing away my life on people so poor and dirty and ugly with eye and skin disease and large goitres? A fool all right but for Christís sake and souls. But I could not see it in that light this morning. I was truly oppressed of the devil and needed deliverance. Was it worth while? Why not get out where I could help myself a little until the war was over? Thus Satan tormented me. I cupped my head in my hands, leaning my elbows on the dirty table whose one leg, rotted in half, was held up by a mud brick, and gazed out with unseeing eyes at the silent and stealthy but fast moving misty wraiths outside. Descending into deep gloom and emotional misery I wondered how much more I could stand without cracking mentally. Normally, I was most happy in that place with Godís presence so very real every day, always whistling and singing and ever begetting new songs. But now: It felt as if God had fled the place and left me high and dry and anxious to flee too.