On a recent visit to China, correspondent Lorry Lutz shared in a very special reunion. Paul Chang took his wife and two children from their home in Southeast Asia to meet his family in China. For the first time, 21 family members gathered together; some had never met before. This account first appeared in the Christian Nationals World Report.

There was no silver Communion plate to celebrate this holy meal. A lid from a tin box of cookies painted with a local scene for tourists, covered with an inexpensive handkerchief, served instead. The “bread” was some broken biscuits purchased at the local store. Teacups that were filled with sugar cane juice represented the “shed blood.”

Silently Paul Chang passed the plate to each one sitting in the crowded hotel room; one after another they reached out to take the “bread” slowly, almost caressingly. The only noises heard were muffled sobs and the sounds of people blowing their noses, trying to hold back their tears.

When the plate was passed to Grandma Chang, she could contain herself no longer. Rocking back and forth on the bed, she wept and prayed as her heart overflowed. “O Lord, it has been so long. For more than 20 years I haven’t been able to take Communion. We’ve not been able to remember your broken body and shed blood as you commanded. Oh, thank you that you allowed me to live to see this day. At last we’ve been able to come to your table again.”

Paul wept unabashedly as he held the plate before his 83-year-old mother, knowing that the years of deprivation and personal suffering were also being washed away in this ceremony with its spiritual healing.

This was the last night of a four-day family reunion for the Chang family. Though Paul had been able to visit his mother briefly in 1979 (the first time in 30 years), he had not been able to take his own family along. Now his wife, Nien-Chang, and their two children, Mark and Ruth, had come to meet Grandma and their uncles and cousins. As many as could obtain permission under the recently relaxed government policies gathered.

One brother, a doctor, traveled three days and two nights by train. Because of the great distance and expense, he was not able to bring other family members along.

From just a day’s journey away, another brother came with his two sons and his son’s fiancée. One of Paul’s nieces was allowed to come home from the rural area to which she had been assigned during the Cultural Revolution to work on a farm. All in all, there were 21 family members at this reunion, and as the days went by, other local Christians who had known the family joined the group.

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It was a time to rejoice and a time to weep.

Over the years, Paul had gleaned snatches of what had happened to the family and especially to his father, who had been a seminary leader. Pastor Chang had moved the seminary twice, fleeing with his students ahead of the army, but after the second move, he realized there was no other place to go. It was then that he sent his third son, Paul, out to Hong Kong on a junk crowded with refugees.

Paul’s brothers wrote that his father had been imprisoned until he promised to have “right thoughts” toward the government and confessed his “wrongs.” Even after his release, they wrote, he had been ill and had suffered from malnutrition, and he died in 1962. After that letter there were more than six years of silence before Paul heard from any of them again.

But it was only on this visit that the family felt free. The “time to speak” had come. Paul learned for the first time that his father actually died in prison. In the quiet hours when the two could be alone, Paul’s mother told her story:

“One night in 1958 they sent a message that your father should come to a meeting. He washed and dressed in his best clothes and left. He never came back. They accused him of connections with former political rulers. But I know it was just because he had missionary friends, and was still leading the seminary. Even through those early years of the new government, he was able to keep the seminary open. It was a struggle; the students had to work hard to care for their own needs. They even erected a simple building on the property your father bought for the school.

“But when they put him in prison, they closed the school and took over the property. Some of the students were detained; they put two of your brothers in prison for two years.”

Paul was shocked and heartsick to learn what the family had gone through. Other family members told him how the prisoners had nearly starved to death. The families tried to take food to them, but those were days of severe shortages and rationing. Mrs. Chang was allowed to visit her husband only once a month. Other Christians in the community, remembering Pastor Chang’s kindness and his godly life, also tried to help, though they knew this could endanger them as well.

Then one day in 1962, the message came from the prison, “Chang has died. Come and get his body.” The guard had made an honorable gesture to a man who had distinguished himself by love and kindness even in prison, for usually prisoners were buried in common graves unknown to their families.

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Now, as the family gathered around the table one night, one of Paul’s lovely young nieces asked, “Do many people in America believe in God?” She seemed startled when she was told that probably 90 percent believe in God, though far less than that have a personal relationship with him. But when asked if she was a Christian, she hung her head and said, “No.”

She, like some of the others, had never heard the gospel message. One cannot imagine the fear of harassment, threats, and imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution, which had left deep scars on their parents—and which had sealed their lips lest their children, pressured at schools, should report them or should be taken from them and raised as atheists. They felt they could only silently live out their faith.

But several of the nieces and nephews were believers. The oldest could remember his grandfather, and had heard his grandmother pray aloud many times. But he, too, was concerned about his faith. “We don’t know what Christianity really is. We only see our parents praying silently. We’ve never had a Bible.”

And then came the floods of questions: “How do we grow? How do we pray? How can we understand the Bible? How can we witness? There is no one to go to for answers!”

On the last evening, one of the Christians who had suffered beatings for being a Christian, and was paraded down the street wearing a dunce hat during the Cultural Revolution, came to ask to be baptized. With the churches closed, there had been no one to administer the sacraments for over 20 years.

She knelt in the center of the room with the family of believers around her. A teacup had to serve as a baptismal, sanctified by the “sweet communion in that place.”

Then as she rose from her knees, without any warning, the oldest grandson came forward and knelt, then a daughter-in-law, then one by one—until all the grandchildren but one had made this step of commitment.

Before the evening was over, a former evangelist, who himself had spent five years in prison, rushed home to get his daughter who was a Christian. She had told her father she wanted to be baptized if the opportunity ever arose. He returned with three other neighbors who also wanted to follow the Lord’s command. It was a time to laugh and rejoice.

Perhaps the time for suffering and weeping is over for this family. Many barriers were removed in this reunion, hearts were bared, memories washed clean, and the years of silence broken.

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But the fears are still there, and though they speak, they speak softly as though looking over their shoulders to see who is listening. The man who betrayed their father is still active in the town. The Christians are hesitant to meet together to draw attention to their faith. They do not carry the Bibles they were given, for they are still not sure if doing so may cause difficulties.

This was a time for healing, but these people are still bruised and tender. They are a picture of many in the church in China, and their experience should cause us great care lest we, as fools, “rush in where angels fear to tread.”


Gregg O. Lehman was inaugurated as twenty-seventh president of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Lehman, formerly executive vice-president at Taylor, succeeds Milo Rediger, who is retiring.

John W. Alexander, 63, is now president emeritus of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship; he was president since 1965. The new president is James McLeish, formerly senior vice-president of IVCF.

Eleanor Soltau, a medical missionary to the Middle East for 30 years, received World Vision International’s Robert W. Pierce Award for Christian Service. Chosen for her pioneer work among Arabs in the Middle East, she has been director of the Hospital of Light in Jordan since 1967.

Dead: Reuben E. Larson, 84, cofounder with Clarence W. Jones in 1930 of the Quito, Ecuador, pioneer missionary radio station HCJB; on November 17 in Orange City, Florida, of heart failure.

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