It was a Saturday afternoon when my husband got a call from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) telling him to get over to the office. They were waiting for him.
“Now???” It was our son’s birthday and I was not too happy seeing my husband leave for the office. And he didn’t come back right away. Time passed with no sign of when he would return. Then suddenly he called me saying, “You need to come over as well, and bring our passports. And . . . when you get here . . . no questions.”
“What? What do you mean no questions?”
I went right over and as I opened the door the sight of policemen walking around our office met my eyes. Some were sitting on the sofa talking with my husband. One was walking from room to room taking photos of things in the office while another one was video recording everything. In my mind I thought, “what is this?” while with my mouth I said: “Hello, how are you? Here are our passports.”
That was the beginning of a month and a half of interrogations until we left China, my husband with a “ten days to leave the country” stamp in his passport.
During that time, almost every day a call came for my husband. Even when we were enjoying lunch with friends, they would call him, asking him to come downstairs so that they could ask more questions. Needless to say, this was not the way we wanted to live our last days in the place we loved.
We left on a Friday morning—June 2 at 8.10. It felt surreal. It was sad to think that this was the last time we would leave the place we called home. The place where our kids had learned to walk, talk, read, and ride a bicycle; where they had grown from little children to teenagers.
At the same time, because of all the pressure, especially on my husband whose passport they had been holding, I was relieved when we were in the air—our whole family together—on our way to our home country.
It happened that we had to leave China at the same time we were scheduled for our regular home assignment. Most people didn’t realize what we had been through and so didn’t think it was unusual that we were there. When we shared what had really happened we quickly learned that no one really understood.
We all grieve, but we grieve differently. We each travel our journeys of grief at our own paces. Spouses are often out of sync with each other in where they are on that journey.
We also grieve in different ways. With my personality I needed, and wanted, to talk—to talk about the place we lived, the people we knew there, and what we had experienced. My husband, on the other hand, withdrew and did not want to stay in touch with our team or friends in China. He didn’t like it when I told him about what was going on there or passed on greetings from friends and co-workers. He became increasingly isolated.
Looking back, I realize I failed him. I should not just have encouraged him to see a counsellor, I should have booked an appointment for him and taken him there.
I remember several times when I was out driving that I had to stop by the side of the road because tears filled my eyes. I kept singing “you give and take away . . . Lord blessed be your name.” It felt so unfair and painful that the calling, the love for the people he had given us and the life we had there had all been taken away.
There were moments when it felt like our days of serving God in fulltime ministry were over. But here is the good news: they weren’t! In his goodness to us, God had plans for another chapter in our book of Life. We would relocate to another place and continue to serve.
I am thankful for the year we had at home between our abrupt departure from China and our new ministry. It gave us time to gain some perspective. Standing at the crossroads, preparing to move to another country, was at times more of a commitment than of feelings. “Do I trust you enough, Lord to do this all over again?” It wasn’t that I didn’t trust in him. I did. But I was concerned about the circumstances, the unforeseen, and the unknown. In the end I had to say: “Here I am. Here we are. I chose to trust you and to go where you tell us to go.” It wasn’t always easy. My first love was still where we used to live, but just like in a marriage, it was an act of will to trust him and go where he told us to go.
Looking back now, I am grateful. No, not grateful for what we went through. But grateful that I have been able to use our experience to help others who are facing similar circumstances. And not only that, but because we were willing to serve him and be used by him, God has used us in ways we could have never imagined.
Image credit: Q via Flickr.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.