Monday, December 26, 2011

The Prisoners and Mr. Shan

By Mary Vee
From Gladys Aylward's Journal

The governor gave me permission to go into the prison and tell the men about Jesus. He didn't believe that my words would make a difference.

The prison guards lined all the prisoners in rows and ordered them to sit in the court. I walked to the front of the group and told a few Bible stories. It took a while because the men interrupted me constantly with insults, rude noises, and cruel jokes. 

I must admit, at times like these the missionary life can be discouraging--but this did not give me any right to give up. I stood bold and told the Bible stories but when the men left without one person to show an interest in Christ, tears came to my eyes. 

A group of lepers lived outside the city. Several had accepted Christ as their personal savior. Visits to the camp became a highlight to my day. I shared my sadness about the cruel prisoners with several of the lepers who had become my close friends. Each day I went to their camp to pray, share, and tell Bible stories. I told the Christian lepers about the prisoners and how they laughed at the Bible stories.  Several spent hours with me praying for the prisoners.

A few weeks later one prisoner asked Jesus into his heart. Then another and another, soon five men had accepted Christ and willingly stood by me to give their testimony. Still, most of the men laughed and mocked the Bible stories. Oh the mean things they said made me cry when I left.

One day the guards pulled four new prisoners through the prison gate and shoved them to the ground. Chains bound their arms and legs. I didn't know they had murdered several people. God spoke to me as the guards jammed their feet on the prisoner's backs. As I watched God spoke to me, "Go speak with them, Gladys." 

Even with chains to hold these men captive they looked scary. I didn't want to talk to them.God spoke to me again."Tell them I love them just like I love you." Why did God ask me to do difficult jobs? I walked to the guard and asked, "May I speak with these men?"

He growled at me. "No!" I walked to the other side of the court and prayed for a few minutes then returned to the guard and asked again. "May I speak with these men?" Oooooo he became very angry and had me escorted out of the prison. The next time I went to the prison I learned three of the men had been killed. 

The one who still lived in the prison had an angry face. Mr. Shan became the meanest prisoner. He spit in my face and shouted terrible things. The others watched him and copied his horrible ways. I didn't want to be around him, but God asked me to go to the prison EVERY day. I asked all my friends to pray with me for Mr. Shan. Without the prayers of my friends I don't think I could have gone back to the prison each day. Soon others from the city joined me in the prison work.

Months had passed and only a few men accepted Christ. One day the men stood to leave the court for their cells. The guards force them to jog as they left and absolutely no one was allowed to speak. It was then, of course, it had to be at an awkward time, that God told me to speak to Mr. Shan. I didn't want to. No one was allowed to speak as the men jogged out of the court.

God repeated his instructions to me. "Speak to him." My muscles tightened and I couldn't think of words to say. Mr. Shan would soon pass by me. I would break the rules if I spoke to him, but God asked me to. Confused and quite nervous I leaned forward to speak to him as he jogged by and mistakenly touched his shoulder. "Mr. Shan, aren't you tired of feeling angry?"

He whipped his body in my direction. I thought he might hit me. "What do you care?"

I took a deep breath and said, "Because, my heart is content."

He growled and squinted. "Sure. Anyone who can leave this prison at any time would be content." 

His eyes pierced my heart. I didn't want him to hurt me, but I needed to finish no matter what happened. "I am content for quite a different reason, Mr. Shan. I know Jesus loves me and to prove His love He died for my sins."

When he left the court I realized I had done a terrible thing. In China: no woman is allowed to touch a man in public. Had I ruined an opportunity to tell this man about Christ? 

The next day, one of the Christian prisoners came to me and told me what happened after Mr. Shan left the court. The prisoner said Mr. Shan sat down in the inner court and refused to look at anyone. He asked Mr. Shan if he needed help. Mr. Shan raised his head. Tears filled his eyes as he spoke, "She touched my shoulder as one who cares, truly cares. No one has ever cared about me."

The prisoner stayed with Mr. Shan and listened. Then he told him about God's love. Mr. Shan asked Jesus to be his Savior that day. In the days that followed Mr. Shan showed the prisoners his new love for God. Because of the great change in Mr.Shan many other prisoners came to know Christ. 

Not by the words of one person do people come to know Christ, but the prayers and actions and words of many. Including you.

God's blessings on you
Gladys Aylward

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