What Goes Behind the Word “Love”? Hardship!
By: Victor Yang
“This Is The Way We Grew Up”
My Chinese name is composed of the word “love” because my mother said that all the teachings of Jesus could be summarized in one word —love. I didn’t understand what it meant until I became a Christian myself. This name given by my mother means so much to me. Not only does it remind me of her unconditional and unreserved love, but also the loss of my beloved mother at my very young age — 13. When I was still in great need of motherly care and guidance, I lost my mother due to the traumatic persecutions from unprecedented historical changes. Like a terrifying earthquake, my mother’s underserved death was a true shock of my young life. The word “love” in my Chinese name has become an acute irony to me!
Without exaggeration, I have gone through what human beings experienced in 3,000 years! My father was a public service worker and my mother was a teacher and a principal during the beginning era of the Republic of China. Drastic changes took place when I was born in the 1950s… My father was exiled to a far-away labor farm since he refused to cooperate with the new government. My mother, on the other hand, was forced to leave her education career and to start from scratch as a farmer in my father’s long-deserted home village in the northwest. That’s how I grew up in this “Stone Age” village, being very skillful in using hoes, spades, sickles, axes, stone pestles, and other tools.
During the Cultural Revolution, I just graduated from middle school. Like all the other “educated youths”, I was sent to a farm in a Tibetan nomadic tribe to be “re-educated”. I had stayed with this tribe for almost 3 years, moving at least 3 times a year wherever the water flew. Our homes were tents made of black cow hair which caused light rain inside when it rained heavily outside. Our cooking fuels were incredible — dried cow manures!
I have experienced the “Great Leap Forward”, “People’s Commune”, “Anti-Rightists”, “Great Famine” in the early 1960s, “Cultural Revolution”… and eventually, the“June Fourth Movement” in 1989.
When I was only 3 or 4 years old my mother was locked up in a county for “study classes” and “ideological reform” while my father was sentenced to serve in a labor farm. So I became an “orphan” for a whole year but I luckily survived due to the care from my older siblings.
Since the year of the Great Famine in 1959, we didn’t go home for food when we were hungry but went out to the grasslands to search for edible plants. So my friends from the Mission Center called me “Shennong”, the Farmer Expert.
My mother died in 1968 due to the Cultural Revolution’s terrible tortures of her body and mind. Hatred was the focus of the whole society on this land of 9,600,000 square kilometers in China. Anybody could be turned into a super public enemy overnight! The persecution and discrimination that my family and I suffered during those years are beyond description.
At the beginning of China’s Economic Reform, I finally got the chance to attend high school, college, and graduated with a PhD, and started teaching in university. I seemed to regain some faith in my country and was getting ready to teach the younger generation. Without the June Fourth Movement in 1989, I wouldn’t have left China to become an “overseas nomad”. In my opinion, I feel that violence should not be applied no matter what your political ideologies are.
As the whole world is facing this pandemic, people do feel helpless and upset. It reminds me of how my mother has led our family to overcome hardships in the past. During the “Tough Three Years” of natural and man-made disasters, thousands of people were starved to death. In the 1960s, we had to pick wild plants for food for many months. Some even picked the wrong plants and died of poisoning. Yet my mother never ceased praying and brought us through by faith. She was even singing hymns during those tough times. Her favorite song came from the book of Habakkuk 3:17-18 in the Bible:
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
This is my prayer:
May our people, including the national leaders, humble themselves and seek the God of heaven and earth. The only true God understands our weaknesses and will provide what we need to get through the hardships ahead of us!