As I sat looking at my books, wondering what to review next, my eyes fell on the shelf I keep in my office, special books that have changed me. Among the dark colored spines, the light blue of The Heavenly Man stands out.
Missionaries to China
I can hardly believe Brother Yun’s story is twenty years old, and I was twenty years younger when I read his book. I was a newly minted Bible teacher with an international organization founded by a woman who had dedicated her life to the Christian mission in China. But after World War II ended she, along with all the other Christian missionaries in China, were expelled. Through a series of unexpected events, God led her to found what eventually became Bible Study Fellowship.
Brother Yun is one of millions of Christians whose lives were affected by those brave missionaries. These women and men had shared the Gospel, taught many how to read, and had left their Bibles behind, in the care of believers who were now part of the Christian underground network in mainland China.
Hunger for the Word
Early in his account, Brother Yun tells of how his mother led a church in her home, in secret, for it was during the Cultural Revolution when Christianity was outlawed and Bibles were confiscated. No one in his village had a Bible. Their only scriptures were his mother’s memory of what she had heard many years before. Brother Yun’s longing for a Bible grew. In his words,
“From that day on I earnestly wanted to have a copy of my own Bible. I asked my mother and fellow Christians what a Bible looked like, but no one knew. One person had seen some hand copied Scripture portions and song sheets, but never a whole Bible. Only a few old believers could recall seeing Bibles many years before. The Word of God was scarce in the land.”Brother Yun, Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, 26
His yearning for a Bible prompted him to speak with a pastor in a neighboring village who advised Brother Yun to pray, with fasting and weeping, and he did. He ate only one small bowl of rice every evening, wept daily and prayed that God would satisfy his hunger for the Word. For months he prayed, a hundred days. Then, early one morning, God gave him a vision of two servants who asked if he was hungry, then gave him bread from a red bag. As soon as he put the bread in his mouth, it became a Bible.
When he awoke from his vision, he was certain God had answered his prayer, and searched all over his house for the red bag. With all the noise and commotion, his family awoke and feared he had finally lost his mind from fasting and weeping. As his father prayed over him, asking God to protect his son from madness, they all heard a soft knock at the door.
Imagine the dark, early morning hour, the hair prickling along their arms, their breath caught in their throats, as before them stood two men exactly as Brother Yun had described them. And in their hands was a Bible in a red bag.
In Brother Yun’s words,
“About three months before I received my Bible this evangelist had received a vision from the Lord. God showed him a young man to whom he was to give his hidden Bible. In the vision he saw our house and the location of our village.
“Like many Christians at that time, the old man had placed his Bible inside a can and buried it deep in the ground, hoping a day would come when he could dig it up and read it again. Despite this vision, it took the evangelist a few months before he decided to obey what the Lord had told him to do. He asked two other Christian men to deliver it to me. They then walked throughout the night to reach my home.”Brother Yun, Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, 30
Only a few pages into this book, and already I was myself breathless in awe and wonder of God.
Prayer and Power
Brother Yun’s true life story involves many more miracles, powerful intervention by God in impossible situations, many lives saved, and a vibrant cryptoChristian organization that survives to this day, spreading the love of Christ and the good news of the Gospel throughout many otherwise “closed” areas to missionaries.
Among the stories that really stick with me was the time Brother Yun found himself in prison once again, and there were no believers to fellowship with. So, he began to share the Gospel, in spite of the grave danger that presented, and the Spirit of God brought many prisoners to new life. Soon, the Lord had provided warm fellowship, and the glorious light of God’s word for many who would never again know freedom in this life.
During this time, church mission boards responded to the Chinese underground Christians’ plea for copies of the scriptures, by smuggling in case after case of Bibles. But along with Bibles came church tracts, and soon Chinese house assemblies began to argue the merits of this denomination’s catechism or that denomination’s systematic theology. Unwittingly, western congregations had sown the seeds of discord into vibrant fields “white unto harvest.”
After Brother Yun and other house church leaders gathered together to pray for guidance, they realized they had to reject Bibles that came with tracts, even though they were in desperate need of the scriptures for new believers who were daily joining their assemblies. They could not afford to hamper the work of the Spirit with arguments over denominations’ differing doctrines.
There is a chapter in Brother Yun’s story entitled, “Third Time In Prison—My Lowest Point.” It is a grim and heart-wrenching account of police brutality, miscarriage of justice, terrible beatings, and unspeakable tortures. As he said himself, it is only by God’s providence that he survived. Having no Bible, he meditated on the word he had painstakingly memorized.
The account of his deliverance still sweeps me away to this day. On legs that were only six weeks into healing from being crushed and smashed, and through three iron gates all ordinarily heavily armed, the Lord led Brother Yun to safety, outside one of China’s highest security prisons. As if on cue, a taxi stopped at his side the moment he miraculously walked through the final gate, and took him to the home of a Christian family who lived nearby.
“The precious Christian family warmly welcomed me inside their home. One of the daughters told me, ‘The whole church has been fasting and praying for you and your coworkers for more than a week. Yesterday the Holy Spirit told my mother, “I will release Yun and the first place he will stop will be your home. He will stay for a short time and will pray for you.
“’My parents told us to expect your arrival and we have organized a secret place for you to hide. Nobody else knows about the place except us. My mother has prepared some food and clothes for you. Come, change your clothes and we’ll take you there.’”Brother Yun, Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, 258
When I finished this book I knew that was how I wanted my own life of faith to be, with the Word so deep in my mind and heart I would have the scriptures even if my Bible were taken from me. I wanted to be so in tune with God that I would receive this kind of revelation and be confident to act on it. I knew it would mean a change in my prayer life, and in my commitment to the work of God.
But I was ready.
And God is faithful.