This post tells the powerful story of love and forgiveness. If you are looking at reading some life-changing books during 2012, make sure you add The Heavenly Man to your list. Also, check out ‘The Bookshelf” for other reading recommendations.
When I shook his hand back in early ’02, I had no idea that needles had been shoved under those fingernails, that an electric baton had been placed in his mouth, that he’d shrunk up so small his own family didn’t recognize him.
It was his mother who finally confirmed his identity through a tiny birthmark on his shriveled, malnourished body.
Husband and I were standing in the parking lot of the missionary training center. “They are headed to your country,” our mutual friend said and a translator interpreted the introduction. Husband and I beamed, fresh and inexperienced, ready to change the world for Jesus’ sake. Ready to forsake it all. Ready to give our lives.
I had no earthly idea that I should have dropped to my knees right then and there and washed this man’s feet.
He shone Jesus. He oozed Jesus. He was filled with the joy of the Lord.
It wasn’t until later that I read his story, an absolute incredible story of a life filled with Jesus and poured out for Jesus and used by Jesus so powerfully and I couldn’t put the book down!
It was in those pages that I read of Brother Yun and a crazy man named Huang:
One morning the director of the prison called me to his office. He courteously offered me a cup of tea and asked me to sit on a soft chair. He said, “Yun, I know you believe in Jesus. Today I’ve decided to give you a special assignment.”
I thought he was going to ask me to report on other prisoners, but the director continued, “In cell number nine is a murderer named Huang. Every day he tries to kill himself. He is crazy and tries to bite the other prisoners. We’ve decided to send him to your cell. From now until the day he is executed we want you to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t harm himself or the other prisoners. If you don’t remain alert, and he kills himself, we will hold you fully accountable.”
When I heard this news I immediately felt Huang was a precious soul the Lord had given us to rescue.
When Huang was brought into our cell the next morning, I thought he was like the man possessed by a legion of demons, in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. He was handcuffed behind his back and had chains manacled around his ankles. He spoke filthy words and kept trying to mutilate his body by cutting himself with his ankle chains. He was ferocious and full of hatred, and just 22 years old.
In cell number 9 the prisoners had treated him like an animal, kicking and punching him. They’d refused to feed him for days. Instead, they mocked him by deliberately pouring his food over him. His clothes were covered with food stains.
One day, out of sheer desperation and pain, Huang waited until nobody was watching and rammed his head into the wall as hard as he could, in a bid to kill himself. He survived, but left a dent in the wall.
…For many days he had not washed because of his chains, so he smelled terribly. Because of the love of God in our hearts, we loved Huang. The cell mates pointed to me and told him, “This is Yun. He is our leader and a Christian pastor. Do not fear. We will take care of you.”
I asked everyone to give Huang some of their precious drinking water. We filled a basin and I carried it to Huang’s side. I tore off part of my shirt and dipped it in the water. Then I gently cleaned the dirt and dried blood from his face and mouth.
After drying his face I tore off part of my blanket and cleaned the cuts formed by his handcuffs and foot chains. I used a little toothpaste to disinfect his raw wounds, then carefully bandaged them.
Huang didn’t say a word. He just sat there with his eyes wide open and stared at everyone. I knew the Lord was already touching his heart.
At lunchtime we each gave some of our rice to our new cell mate. I used a spoon to feed Huang…
Dinner that evening happened to be the time for our weekly mantou (a small piece of steamed bread). All the brothers looked at me. I knew they were so hungry. I told them, “Today we’ve already shared our rice and water with our new friend Huang, so we can eat our own mantou tonight, but I hope you’ll share some of your soup with him tomorrow.”
I fed Huang first and then started to eat my own meal.
When I took the first bite of my mantou I felt like crying. A tender voice welled up inside me, saying, “I died for you on the cross. How can you show me that you love me? When I am hungry, thirst, and in prison, if you do these things to the least of my brethren, you do them unto me.”
Immediately I knew God wanted me to sacrifice what was left of my mantou and give it to Huang. I bowed down and wept. I said, “Lord, I’m also starving. I feel so hungry.“
A Scripture from the Bible came to mind, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)
I wrapped the rest of my mantou in a handkerchief and placed it inside my clothes, saving it for Huang. Immediately peace and joy returned to me.
The next morning’s breakfast consisted of watery noodle soup, containing just a few strands of noodles. We all shared with Huang, but he wasn’t happy even with his larger portion so he shouted to the guard, “I’m going to die! Why don’t you give me a good sized meal? Are you trying to starve me before you execute me?”
Right then the Lord told me, “Hurry, take the mantou from your shirt and feed him.” With my back turned towards Huang I broke the bread and placed the pieces of mantou in his soup bowl. Immediately Huang’s stony heart broke.
Huang dropped off his chair, knelt down on the floor, and wept. He said, “Older brother, why do you love me like this? Why didn’t you eat your bread last night? I am a murderer, hated by all men. Even my own parents, my brother and sister, and my fiance have disowned me. Why do you love me so much?”
I knew this was the time the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with him. This hardened criminal tearfully accepted the love of Jesus into his heart.
~From Brother Yun’s biography The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, one of those books that will change your life. Brother Yun also tells what happened to Huang after he received Jesus. Truly amazing.
And this man reminds me of the tender love of Jesus and how we are to owe no man anything but love and do I love like that? Do I allow myself to be loved like that, to know the love of Jesus that deep?
To experience the deep, tender, passionate love of Jesus means I allow Him to use my body as His means of expression, as the vehicle of His demonstration. “God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God in him. By this, love is perfected…” I John 4: 16-17
Perhaps my body goes hungry. Perhaps my body grows tired. Perhaps my arms ache and my feet blister and my heart hurts. By choosing to love, God’s love is perfected in me.
So when I hear of a mom and son in our area for medical observation, I jump at the chance to be His hands, His feet, His expression of love. Will He really allow me to play such a part? Amazing!
It’s not much, but it’s a Holy Spirit prompting and I follow it. I print the card and glue it onto construction paper and write on it, “You’ve got friends in Memphis.” And I attach it to cookies and deliver it so they know that Jesus is with them and Jesus people are here for them and even if they are far from home they are never far from His arms and we are ready to make sure they don’t ever forget.
So I want to say the same to you, dear reader: “You’ve got a friend.” Jesus is with you and Jesus people are here for you and even when it seems like you’re all alone, the love of Christ is there, compelling another to express His love to you.
You are loved and you’ve got a friend.
Can I express it to you, dear friend? Here, take my mantou and know the love of Christ…