Chinese Church Voices

A Story of Two Drug Addicts, Part 2

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

This moving article from Territory shares how one drug rehabilitation ministry has impacted the lives of drug addicts in China. Qiu Han tells the faith stories of Huang Feng-hua and Bao-ling, two former drug addicts who also battled cancer. Due to the length of their stories, the article was posted into two parts. You can read part one here

Would Jesus Want a Drug Addict with Final Stage Cancer?—Bao-ling’s Days at Home of Abundant Grace, continued.

A Misty but Gentle Expression Appeared on Her Face

Thinking back to several months ago, the first time I saw Bao-ling was in Feng-hua’s house. It was during fellowship. Because Bao-ling and her husband were late, and they were in wheelchairs, the sound of doors opening and chairs moving was quite loud as they entered. Bao-ling’s long hair was disheveled, her face pale, her gaze unfocused. She wasn’t even able to hold a cup of water steady, and was clearly unwell. After the sermon, a sister in Christ told me about her situation, “Breast cancer. Oh, looks like she took drugs just before coming.”

 Breast cancer and doing drugs? Coming to church after doing drugs? Many of the brothers and sisters at the Home of Abundant Grace are recovered addicts—they had used drugs in the past, but are now believers. They've quit drugs, and are recovering and growing both physically and spiritually. But clearly, Bao-ling has not yet successfully moved forward.

The second time I met her was at the women’s rehabilitation center in Foshan. Feng-hua stayed in the village herself to take care of Bao-ling. She prepared three meals a day, helped her wash her clothes and take showers, cleaned her wounds, and also read the Bible with her and played the guitar while teaching her praise songs.

That evening we spent the night and talked a lot. Only then did I learn that when Bao-ling was young, she was a top student at an armed police officer school. She came from a good family, and had a strong personality. When she was eighteen years old she met a boyfriend who used and sold drugs, and she became addicted to drugs like him. In the next twenty-some years, her boyfriend was sentenced to death and her brother overdosed, went into shock, and died. For her own handful of heroin, Bao-ling did everything, from cons to theft. Once she was seriously injured during a robbery attempt. . . Her parents had long since given up on her, and there was no family affection to speak of.

In 2015, she met her current husband Zhi-qiang. After the wedding, they lived together in a small, broken-down house in an abandoned alley. All day they mingled with drug addicts and drug sellers. Both husband and wife were arrested again for taking drugs in the same year, and it was during the standard physical checkup for the police that Bao-ling was diagnosed with final stage breast cancer.

During the two days we spent in the village, Bao-ling was doing fairly well. We sang songs together, and she particularly liked “The Most Beautiful Blessing in This Life,” saying that Zhi-qiang taught her this song. A couple times she complained to me about pain in her chest. After all, the pain increased quite a bit without the numbing effects of drugs. At the same time, she expressed frustration at the limited freedom at the village, and said that she missed her husband very much. I asked if she regretted coming to the village. A misty but gentle look appeared on her face. “I don’t regret it. It wouldn’t be fair to them if I regretted it. . .” she said slowly, gesturing at Feng-hua who was busy beyond the door.

Although Her Flesh Is Now Failing

There were many opinions about whether or not Bao-ling should quit drugs while in the final stage of cancer. Those who have been taking drugs for a long time often do worse once they quit. It might be no more than a few days before problems arise, and might cause structural damage. Some people think that since the person is dying soon either way, what difference does it make whether or not she quit drugs? Why not just keep taking them until the end?

In the end, Brother Chen and his staff decided to take Bao-ling into the village, so as to take better take care of her, even running all over the place raising funds for her. For the past several years, Brother Chen has also been caring for Zhi-qiang, Bao-ling’s husband. Three years ago, Brother Chen learned that they got married, and he and his staff would often visit them in the drug dens, hoping that husband and wife would together decide to quit drugs.  

Old Brother Chen said:

Although her flesh is now failing, I still say to Bao-ling, “as long as you cherish the Lord, and are willing to be used by him, you can still be a witness for him.” God values people’s souls over their bodies! Therefore, we welcomed Bao-ling, so that she might have more opportunities after entering the village to learn about the faith. Abundant Grace does not simply help people quit heroin. Does quitting drugs fix everything? Of course not. Once other problems arise, they quickly go back to drugs. So, drugs are not the root of what binds us. Sin is the root. Drugs are but one of the tools that Satan uses to destroy us. When we turn to God, then our root problems are solved. In the past I have seen many miracles. Some people rely on God and successfully quit drugs once they become Christians. They do not need to go to rehabilitation or use any medication. But I do not want to emphasize these things. Gospel rehabilitation—the gospel is the key! If the gospel is simply a tool for quitting drugs, and a person does not become a Christian after quitting drugs, their life will still perish.

The last time we saw Bao-ling was in the place she and her husband used to do drugs. It’s in a deep alley, a small house of a dozen square meters, dark and damp, and incredibly run down. She was anxious and restless, having lost hope in her own body. She had pleaded with Feng-hua to take her out. Once they had gone out, she contacted drug dealers and gave herself a shot. She thought that the staff did not know that she had stumbled again, but in reality, everybody had noticed. So, when Bao-ling regretted it later, and asked to return to the village, Feng-hua did not agree immediately. She suggested that Bao-ling take a couple days to think through it quietly. On the other hand, the staff discussed together how to comfort Bao-ling’s physical and emotional sufferings in her final stage cancer.

Feng-hua shared with me their thoughtful plans as she hurried to the hospital: 

The rehabilitation village is too far from the hospital. Bao-ling also wanted her family to be nearby, but her mother refused to let her come home. In the end we came up with this plan: to have Zhi-qiang—who had successfully completed his rehabilitation—return temporarily, so husband and wife can be reunited; and then rent a place to settle them near the fellowship gathering. This way the husband can take care of the wife, and brothers and sisters can help out often, and they can encourage one another.

Don’t you feel disappointed, knowing that she relapsed? After all, she had finally quit after all your difficult care.

Feng-hua said:

We all came through it this way. Whatever happens, we know the most important thing is to come back to God.

The river filled with flower’s fragrance.

Thankful for a Final Chance to Carry Her down the Mountain

On January 24, 2019, the evening before Chinese New Year, Bao-ling was officially baptized in the name of the Lord. The church that has always supported the fellowship came to help with the baptism, and many friends who cared about Bao-ling came to bless her new life. That day, just as Brother Chen had said, Bao-ling stood up and gave her testimony for the Lord—three years ago she had heard about Jesus for the first time when she married Zhi-qiang, and then she came to know a “family” who never tired of urging her to quit drugs. Who would have thought that three years later she herself would become brothers and sisters in Christ with them?

After the baptism, Bao-ling went to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor said that she did not have many days left. The strange thing was, she was no longer afraid as she had been in the past, nor did she yearn for the comfort and numbing effect of drugs. Peacefully, she enjoyed her husband’s love, and even went back to the rehabilitation village to live for a spell.  

Zhi-qiang said that she was in good spirits the day she died. Throughout the day she happily chatted with him, and as usual she sang songs from the hymnal. In the afternoon she took a shower and was all clean. When Bao-ling died, Feng-hua rushed back to the village. Even though Feng-hua was emotionally prepared, she still could not help but burst into tears. She said:

I’ll miss her. We spent so much time together; I see her as my own sister. I am thankful that she left peacefully, and looked even more beautiful than usual. I am also thankful that we had an opportunity to pray in front of the emergency care personnel and the funeral staff, making clear our faith. I am also thankful that I had a final chance to carry her down the mountain, seeing her off one last time.

On March 3, Sunday afternoon, the weather was clear. Everyone gathered at the funeral home near the rehabilitation village to say their last goodbyes to Bao-ling. Afterwards, Zhi-qiang scattered his wife’s ashes in a nearby river. As they said goodbye, Old Brother Chen arranged for a staff member to stay with Zhi-qiang in the village. He explained, “Zhi-qiang has decided to continue and finish his rehabilitation course. I know that this is his wife’s wish. Though they only knew each other for a short time, we have all seen Zhi-qiang’s love and care for Bao-ling. I think that he will need time to recover.”

The river was filled with fragrance from the flowers on the shores. Everyone thought it was a beautiful place.

Original Article: 癌症晚期的吸毒女,看耶稣要不要? ——宝玲在盛恩之家的日子  by Territory.
Translated, edited and reposted with permission.

Image credit: Ken QCL on Unsplash.
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