THE STORY OF MY LIFE
BY DAVID LIN
David Lin is well-known in
Adventist circles because of the sufferings he has undergone, while ever
remaining staunch for the
truths of Gods Word.
That which follows is an
autobiographical account, David's own story of his life, as told on a
recent (1991) trip to America.
However, to more clearly
understand his youth and manhood, one needs to understand the historical
background in which this story was set. Unfortunately, there are few in
the West, today, who are well-acquainted with 20th-century Chinese
Therefore, to help you
understand David's story better, we have interspersed throughout it a
brief historical overview of Chinese history since the turn of the
century. This was done without David's knowledge or consent.
Therefore, he is not responsible for any of the historical facts we have
included. Here now is the story of David Lin, as told by himself:
In October 1911, Chinese rebels succeeded in overthrowing the government, and in the spring of 1912 the Manchu's abdicated. An imperial army, led by Yuan Shih-kai had been sent to put down the revolt, but Yuan bargained with the rebels in the north and joined them. Now, as their leader, he marched south.
Sun Yat-sen was in London when the revolution began, and he immediately returned to China and became leader of the rebels in the south. In December 1911, he was elected president of the United Provinces of China. Meanwhile, Yuan, hoping to make himself monarch, set up a capital in Peking. Sun Yat-sen was forced to compromise, and let Yuan become president in 1913.
In 1915, Yuan tried to declare himself emperor, but both Sun Yat-sen and the warlords opposed it. Yuan died in 1916, and Sun Yat-sen began fighting to gain control of the nation from the warlords.
My mother, Pan Cheng Kun, had, in her childhood, attended a Christian school in Suzhou, Jiangsu. An American missionary, Miss Pyle had taught her to pray, which habit she neglected for many years until after she was married and gave birth to Brother Paul and me. The trials of married life drove her to her knees. One day I ran a high fever and was rushed to the hospital. My worried mother knelt in prayer and promised God that if He healed me, she would bring me up as a preacher. Before the doctor had diagnosed my case, I recovered instantly. Since that day, Mother drilled it into my head that I belonged to God and would become a preacher.
In 1919, my father was transferred to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, where he served as Chinese consul. Mother, Brother Paul, and I joined him in 1921. And, from 1922 to 1925, we both attended the Magee School and went to the Baptist church in that city.
But, having encountered growing
opposition from the Communists, Chiang Kai-shek turned against them and
was successful in the purge which followed in killing or exiling most of
In 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek came to power, Father lost his official position under the defunct Peking regime. So we moved back to Shanghai, where Paul and I attended a school run by British schoolmasters in the British settlement.
In 1930, we moved to Peking,
where Paul and I attended the Peking American School. I began in the 6th
grade, taught by Miss Moore, the principal. One day she let the pupils
say what they wanted to be after they grew up. When I said I was going
to be a preacher, all were stunned, and after that I was regarded as an
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government was recognized by the Western powers in 1928 as the official government of China. After the suppression of Communism, relative peace prevailed in China for several years. Britain and America gave some help, and industrial and financial improvements occurred. But soon the Communist rebels began fighting in south China. Once again, they were trying to take over the nation.
One day an SDA missionary came to solicit for Harvest Ingathering. Father made a contribution and conversed with him in English. Thereafter a Bible worker, Miss Abbie Dunn, invited Mother to attend the Hankow Adventist church, where she was impressed by the reciting of the Ten Commandments by the church members. This made her recall an instance when her brother-in-law, who was a lawyer, questioned her regarding the rules of the Christian faith. When she said that Christians lived by the Ten Commandments, he asked her, Which ten? She tried her best to recall them, but all she could repeat were nine precepts. The relative smiled and remarked, You've been a Christian for ten years, and cant even recite the Decalogue correctly! Mother was chagrined. Now, in the Adventist Church, the emphasis on the Ten Commandments convinced her that they taught the truth. During summer vacation, I went to be with my folks in Hankow, and Mother explained to me the Sabbath doctrine. When I returned to Peking and the Pikes learned of my new belief, they tried to dissuade me. Meanwhile Abbie Dunn wrote to another Bible worker in Peking—Miss Lucy Andrus—who came to my school one day, introduced herself, and invited me to study the Bible with her. Thus began a tussle which put me in a strait—to keep or not to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. In 1934, Mother came back to Peking and we attended the Adventist Church together.
When I graduated from high school in 1935, Paul was studying in Park College, near Kansas City, Missouri. One day he was killed while speeding on a motorcycle, and that left me the only son in our family. Relatives tried to dissuade me from my intention to study for the ministry, stating that I should strive for a more lucrative vocation in order to bear the family's financial burdens in the future. For preachers in China were poorly paid.
The Lord arranged for me to
attend the China Training Institute in Chiaotouzhen, an Adventist junior
college where I majored in Bible. I happened to be the only ministerial
student who paid my own tuition. All my classmates were beneficiaries of
a scholarship set up to encourage young people to train for the
ministry. Any student who could afford to pay tuition took premed,
business, or the normal course. Only those who could not afford an
education applied for the ministerial scholarship. In this respect, I
was again an odd fellow.
BACKGROUND In the winter of 1931-1932, Japan
seized Manchuria and, in 1933, took inner Mongolia. In July 1937, Japan
invaded China, and large areas had been conquered by October 1938.
(Earlier, recognizing that Japan was too formidable an opponent, in
1934-1935 the rebelling Communists had marched out of China and into
Russian territory. They had suspended the Communist-Komingtang Civil War
until the end of the war with Japan (which ended in August 1945 when
America dropped those two nuclear bombs).
Then came the Sino-Japanese War in August 1937, when the school closed down. I went to Hong Kong, where I received funds from my folks to enable me to obtain passage to Pacific Union College, where I continued to study for the ministry. During the dreary war years, my folks were safe in the northwestern city of Lanzhou, which was never occupied by Japanese troops. However, it was badly hit in a big air raid. All buildings around the house where my folks stayed were razed, but their one lone structure remained standing amid the rubble—a mute witness to Gods watch-care over His own.
The first summer in the U.S. I spent canvassing in Chinatown, San Francisco. Otherwise I worked in the college cafeteria, machine shop, bindery, or in the forest cutting cordwood, paying my way through in four years. After graduation in 1941, I studied at the SDA theological seminary in Takoma Park, where I also canvassed for a living during my spare time. In the winter, I worked in Danville, Virginia, as a colporteur. I began working on my Masters thesis—a study of the Today in Hebrews 3:13 and its connection with the Sabbatism of Hebrews 4:9. I did not complete it until 1946 , when I received my degree. To acquaint myself with the use of Psalm 95 (where the Today occurs) in Jewish liturgy, I attended the services in the synagogue and befriended its rabbi. In the fall of 1942, I was called to teach Chinese at Pacific Union College. In 1943, I resigned and went to Honolulu to spend a year as a colporteur. I set a few sales records, gave Bible studies to a Japanese family, and won them to the Sabbath truth.
In 1944, I
was called to conduct the Chinese Bible correspondence school at
the Voice of Prophecy. Lacking Chinese type, I printed the lessons by
hand and had them duplicated by offset.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND After World War II ended, Communist forces again sought to take over China. They were helped by the fact that Russia now controlled Manchuria. Late in 1945, full-scale war broke out between the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek, and the Chinese Communists under Mao Tse-tung. Russia gave Mao weapons they had captured from the defeated Japanese.
In four years of fighting
(1945-1949), Chang Kai-shek's Kuomintang was driven from the mainland
to Formosa (which they renamed
Taiwan). The birth of the Peoples
Republic of China was proclaimed on October 1,
1949. Only U.S. intervention kept the Communists from invading Taiwan.
After peace was restored, I returned to Shanghai with a group of missionaries, in December 1946, and worked with Milton Lee in the radio department of the China Division. In 1948, the civil war in China was reaching a decision in favor of the Communists. The liberation of Shanghai was imminent. By December most of our missionaries had withdrawn to Hong Kong, where a provisional China Division headquarters was set up. The radio department moved to Canton, functioned for six months, then moved to Hong Kong in June 1949. I was appointed editor of the Hong Kong edition of the Signs of the Times. In December 1949, the provisional office of the China Division turned over all duties to the Chinese staff in Shanghai, and I returned to Shanghai as division secretary. Hsu Hua was division president, and S.J. Lee was treasurer.
The Korean war broke out in June 1950. As American GIs fighting under the UN flag drove into North Korea, Chinese volunteer troops marched across the border to push them back. Meanwhile the U.S. seventh fleet was ordered to patrol the Taiwan straits to block any attempt by the Red Army to liberate Taiwan. China and the U.S. were at war. Since the SDA mission was an American organization, its assets were frozen in December 1950. In due time it wholly disintegrated. Politically active elements among our workers got the upper hand, and the division officers were replaced by more suitable persons. That was in December 1951.
From 1952 to 1954 some of us who were discharged got together to make slide rules for a living. At the same time we took time translating Desire of Ages. The other volumes of the Conflict Series were also eventually translated. A group of young people of the Shanghai SDA church produced mimeographed copies of these books and distributed them.
In 1955, I quit making slide
rules to compile a book on servicing X-ray machines and then wrote a
condensation of amateur telescope making.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Life under Mao became very difficult. At first, he won popularity with the peasants. He wanted to build up the nations industrial and military power so China could become the dominant power in Asia. But terror became a basic method of control. He later admitted that his government had executed more than 800,000 persons who opposed his programs.
Industrialization was pushed with ruthless energy. Families were frequently broken up. Farms were collectivized into government-controlled groups of several hundred families. But, as food shortages increased, industrial growth was slowed and more attention was given to growing food.
In 1965, 77-year-old Mao began a
series of purges to get rid of imagined opposition. He called it the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Schools were
closed and hundreds of thousands of students were organized into Red
Guards to go out and attack and kill
teachers, provincial officials, the elderly, and anyone else with old
ideas and ways. In 1968, as the convulsed nation neared total
disintegration, the Cultural
Revolution was stopped.
In April 1958, I was arrested on a counter-revolution charge, and in 1960 sentenced to 15 years. I was sent to a water conservancy project where I pushed wheelbarrows, operated a power winch, and served successively as X-ray technician, power station switch operator and tractor electrician on a State farm. In all these years I received humane treatment, and at times I could so arrange my work as to keep the Sabbath fairly well. My children came to visit me several times, and on one occasion I baptized my son, Roger, in a moat. It has been said that I baptized some souls in prison: That is not true. It was possible then only to tell others the truth. On March 28, 1991, I was fully exonerated. In retrospect, I praise God for His providential care in making all things work out for the good of all concerned. Firstly, the years of trial have revealed many flaws in my character, stressing my need to overcome them. Secondly, He who sees the end from the beginning put me in cold storage to tide over the perilous years of the Cultural Revolution, when the whole nation went berserk. A labor camp warden observed that I was in an air raid shelter.
Only after many years did I realize that my arrest was Gods way of protecting me from virtual disaster. A political tornado stuck our home in 1966. My father had died in 1959, my mother, wife, son, and four girls remained to brave the storm. If the Lord had not also miraculously provided for their safety in those trying years, they would not have come through alive.
The rumpus started by the organizing of young people into Red Guards to protect chairman Mao from bourgeois elements who, it was said, threatened to undermine our socialist system. Religious people naturally became targets of attack. And because our oldest girl, Flora, had given her school much annoyance by her Sabbath truancy, our home was the first one to be attacked when the Red Guards launched a city-wide onslaught on the bourgeoisie. Our home was ransacked six times through those tempestuous months. And they made it a point to come with their war drums on the Sabbath. All my books were piled in our alley and burned. A voice told my mother to go stay with her aunt in Tientsin. She was already 72; so the Lord arranged for a young relative to accompany her, and she stayed long enough in Tientsin to tide over the most dangerous months, during which my wife, Clara, was beatened, had her hair cropped, and forced to stand on the street to be a public spectacle.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13, NKJ). In the light of these words, as far as moral stamina is concerned, my wife stands highest in Gods estimate: for He suffered her to undergo the toughest trials, and though she did once falter and loose His presence, by His grace she overcame. As for Mother and me, God saw that we might not survive, so put us under shelter.
Another fact which speaks in favor of a high score for my wife is that she managed, by Gods help, to bring up all five children in the nurture of the Lord. Every one of them kept the Sabbath during their school years and continued to keep it while employed in various capacities under the socialist regime. We must stress the fact that it was by the grace of God that they have witnessed for Him successfully. When our youngest girl, Angelina, was quizzed by a panel of grade school teachers, they asked her, Who taught you to keep the Sabbath?
The Bible, she answered.
Do you mean that you will read only the Bible and not Karl Marx?
I read the Bible and also Karl Marx, and will obey what is true.
That was unusual for a girl of eleven. We believe that such a wise rejoinder was not her own, but given her by the Holy Spirit. Yet in the last analysis, if her mother had not taught her to love the Lord and His Sabbath, the Holy Spirit would not have been with her in that crucial hour. My seminary teacher, Prof. M.L. Andreason, once remarked that if we dedicate ourselves to the Lord, He will see to it that we will find the right life companion. The many years of test and trial have proved the truth of these words. God saw fit to take me away from my family and put the burden of educating the children on my wife. The result is for all to see.
However, the bringing up of children was not tearless. Clara, like me, had her failures. The hot temper of our third child, Eva, proved a real challenge. Clara resorted to beating, but it made things worse. Eva felt that any place on earth would be better than home, so she signed up for the rustication program which was implemented in 1969, after all schools had been closed for four years and the roaming Red Guards became a social problem. To go up to the hills and down to the countryside was chairman Maos call to unschooled youth. Eva jumped at this chance to flee from home. Flora and Roger succumbed to the political pressure and signed up too; together the three went to the hills of Gweizhou. Life was tough, and only Roger, who could cut wood in the forests, made a fair living and helped his sisters tide over eight dreary years. After they came back to Shanghai, I, like Clara, failed to adjust properly to Eva's temper. Her behavior tried my patience, and I realized my inability to be Christ-like under all circumstances.
But God did not forsake Eva. She found work in a factory, and faithfully observed the Sabbath by relinquishing the bonus paid to workers who put in full hours. It meant a drastic reduction on her paycheck. The management saw that she was truly conscientious, so arranged for her to finish her weekly quota in five days if she could improve productivity. The Lord gave her hands celerity of motion, so that she became the only worker paid a full bonus for working five days a week. After she was married, she urged her husband to pay a faithful tithe. In many ways she had proven to be honest in heart, generous to friends, and responsive to the love of God, who has shown more patience toward her than her parents have shown toward her. Yet she still needs our prayers to help her overcome a hot temper.
In 1976, after the deaths of Mao and Chou, a power struggle over the leadership occurred. A nationwide purge of Orthodox Maoists was carried out, and the Gang of Four (led by Mao's widow, Chiang Ching) was arrested.
The new leaders freed over 100,000 political prisoners, and expanded trade ties with the U.S., Europe, and Japan. From 1980 to mid-1989, under Deng Xiaoping, many additional changes were made which brought the nation closer to the modern industrial world and market forces. Then came the April 1989 Tiananmen Square disaster in Beijing. Since then, progress toward Westernization has continued.
On March 28, 1991, I was fully
exonerated. As I review the past, the most precious remembrance is the
example of Mothers prayer life. It was her prayers which dedicated my
life to God. After that, when in Peking, she spent time on the porch
praying and singing praises to God. One day, her sister invited her to a
movie. Mother sensed in prayer that the scenes in the movies were
sinful, so she declined. Since then her example has also taught me to
keep close to God in prayer and praise. Yes, we all
need to pray more fervently as the end draws near. God wants me
to be a man of prayer. Only thus can I finish my task. It was on his
knees that Enoch walked with God. On his knees Jacob prevailed with God
and with men. And on His knees the Son of Man overcame the world and
prevailed in the garden of prayer. If we ever receive the latter
rain, we must pray as never before.
Teach me the secret of
prevailing with God;
Teach me the secret of
prevailing with men;
Teach me the secret of
oercoming the world
Of fervent, effective
Many are concerned for Gods cause in China, being worried over the matter of religious liberty. Their attention needs to be directed to the greatest need of Gods people today—to overcome the flood of worldliness which engulfs them. And this danger is most real in countries which boast of their freedoms, among which the freedom to sin has become a plague. And the church is not exempted. insensibly the church has yielded to the spirit of the age, and adapted its forms of worship to modern wants . . All things, indeed, that help to make religion attractive, the church now employs as its instruments (Great Controversy, 386). One visitor from the West remarked that the Chinese TV programs are more decent than those in the U.S. That is because the authorities here stand for high social standards, so imported TV programs and movies are screened by a committee to cut out the obscenity and violence. Imagine! A Communist government rejecting the filth from Christian countries!
One great aim must be to possess and exalt Christ. He promises that the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee (Isaiah 60:2). The magnificence of the crucified Christ will bring home the truth that God will actually dwell in a man wholly given to Him. Christ prayed, Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee. So today when God dwells in man, man is glorified by His presence, and then only can a man glorify God.
David Lin, March 29, 1991.