Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: God's Double Agent

God's Double Agent: The True Story of A Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom. Bob Fu. Baker Books. 2013. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
It was midnight. I placed my fingers on the bottom of the window and gently, quietly tried to pull it open. But years of paint had cemented it shut, so I held my breath and gave it a sharp yank. It opened at last—but not as silently as I’d hoped. I prayed that none of the police officers stationed by my building’s door had decided to take a cigarette walk around the block and that none of my neighbors were awake. If I was going to do this—and survive—there could be no witnesses...My chances of survival would increase with every floor I could safely descend without being detected. I quietly slipped out of the restroom and back into the stairwell, watching the numbers decrease. Fourth floor. Third floor. Second floor. That’s where I stopped. The agents were on the first floor, and at this point there was no turning back...After our experience of prison and house arrest, death wasn’t the worst option, but now Heidi and I had reason to fight for life. She was pregnant.
I loved, loved, loved God's Double Agent. This autobiography is compelling, fascinating, and inspirational. It was a very absorbing read. The autobiography begins intensely. He throws you into the heart of the action that's for sure. But that's just to pull you in. Soon enough he's gone back to the beginning, retracing his life. He tells of his mother and his father and his family life. He tells of his education, of learning English, of studying to become and English teacher, of his early years teaching in university. He tells of his courtship and marriage. He tells of his political struggles. His struggles with wanting to join and reform the Communist party. At one time he was both drawn to it and repelled by it. He had dreams of fixing what needed fixing and keeping what he saw as good. A time of disillusionment came,  of course, and his hope of life of a good life was crushed. The autobiography also focuses on his conversion experience, on his becoming a Christian, on his enthusiasm for evangelism, on his joy in telling everyone around him about Jesus, of the risks he took and the precautions he took as well. He tells of his time in prison. Of his fleeing his country and becoming a refugee. Of his work in America to help Chinese Christians. 

To be honest, I found this one interesting and informative throughout. It gives you plenty of context for understanding and appreciating his story. This is very much a history of China over half a century. It's a story that makes you think and consider. It's a story that makes you thankful. 

In 1958, Mao performed a gigantic cultural and social experiment called the Great Leap Forward—so named because it was the “great leap” into communism. For close to four years, she [his mother] walked from one village to another, asking for food from people who couldn’t spare it. Millions of people were dying in the Great Leap Forward, some say close to thirty million. That is double the number of people killed in the holocaust. Although my mom and siblings were fighting for life each day, others had it worse. Some people boiled leather to soften it into edible strips. Many of them died as they tried to swallow the leather, and the ones who didn’t choke had to ask for help to pry the solid waste from their bodies. People ate mud. Even more shocking, some ate their elderly relatives and children who’d passed away, either from natural causes or murder. In Chinese history textbooks, this time period was known as “Three Years of Natural Disaster,” which, of course, hid the government’s role in starving its own people. My mother did everything she could to make sure she and her children didn’t become just another statistic, a number lost to history.
Why did people have to treat us with so little respect? We were already poor and without social status. Why, on top of that, did we also have to deal with such mockery? Poverty, I decided, was the reason we suffered. As long as I didn’t have money, people were going to bully me. On that walk home from the mobile movie, I made a decision. I needed to become a millionaire. The fact that I was a urine-soaked peasant didn’t deter me. Education was highly prized in China, and after Mao’s reign, could be a road out of poverty.
As I was leaving, I noticed one of my American teachers, a guy named Dan from San Francisco, sitting in the courtyard. “What are you doing?” I asked, sensing he was listless from being so far from home and without students to teach. “Just watching everyone skip town,” he said, smiling. “Why don’t you come with me? I can show you around my hometown and we can think about setting up a summer English camp for high school students there.” It didn’t take much to convince him. He threw some clothes in a bag and we jumped on a train. When we arrived, however, he caused quite a commotion. “Yang guizi!” the villagers called out, using the sarcastic and affectionate nickname Chinese people call all foreigners. It meant “foreign devil.” Dan was tall, had brown hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, and was very obviously not from around there. Because he was the first yang guizi to come to our peasant village, he was treated like a panda in the zoo. No matter where he went, he was encircled with villagers asking him the same three questions: Where are you from, how old are you, and are you married? “Let’s have some fun,” I said, pulling him aside after detecting this pattern. “Oh,” Dan said. “Suddenly, the student has become the teacher!” After a little coaching, Dan dazzled the villagers by preemptively telling everyone he met three pertinent facts. Every time someone came up to him, he said, “Wo shi meiguo ren” (I am an American), “San shi sui” (I’m thirty years old), and “Guang gun” (I am a bachelor). Actually, the last was a local saying that means, literally, “I am a piece of single stick,” but the notion was communicated: he was available. This caused quite a stir, because the villagers were amazed at the single foreign devil who could speak fluent Chinese and also read their minds! In spite of the grievous circumstances of our return home, his presence in my village was a fun—if temporary—distraction.
Welcome to my new life as a counterrevolutionary, I said to myself the next morning as I walked slowly through the campus to start yet another day of forced confessions. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting in that room again. I’d already written all that needed to be said. They were simply trying to wear me down, to get me to confess to things I didn’t do, to incriminate friends who weren’t guilty.
Because I wasn’t familiar with Christianity, I didn’t understand the inherent dangers that came with being a Christian in China. I simply knew I’d been bitter, sad, and ready to commit murder. Then, after I believed in Jesus, I wasn’t.
“Quit delaying, and get in there to write your confession.” “Sure!” The deputy tilted his head, completely baffled at my quick agreement. I slipped into the room, got out my stack of paper, and began writing. I would have plenty of time to write my so-called apology for my time as a student protestor. But first, I had to write something else. “Last night, while reading a book, I believed in God,” I wrote. Even as I wrote the sentence, my heart felt like it was going to leap out of my chest. My pencil flew over the paper, recording all of my many thoughts about my whole world, now that it had become more vibrant. Suddenly I had become aware there was a supernatural power, and that knowledge had miraculously replaced the hatred and anger I’d previously harbored against so many people. I smiled as I thought of the Communist special agent standing outside my door. He just doesn’t know about Jesus, I thought, as I continued to write. Even the animosity I had for President Ming disappeared. And I even felt compassion for my former friend Joseph, who had publicly advocated that I be killed. As I finished my first page, I realized I was humming. The guard knocked on my door and barked, “What are you doing in there?” “Sorry!” I said, and continued scrawling out my spiritual thoughts. Pretty soon, I’d need to continue my forced confession so my agent would have something to grade. I’d been under surveillance for three months now, but a joy bubbled in my soul that couldn’t be quenched by any government guard.
During the Cultural Revolution, the government destroyed any Bibles they could find, and imprisoned, tortured, or even killed the owners. Even after Mao died in 1976, Bibles were hard to find. And that was still true when I was in college and graduate school. Though it was legal to own one, Bibles couldn’t be purchased. Most Bibles and religious materials were smuggled over the border in suitcases by courageous Americans and Brits, and then passed secretly to house church leaders, who distributed them sparingly.
I made a pledge to God. “Before graduation,” I prayed, “I want every one of my seventeen classmates in my program to hear the gospel.” After two years, I’d not been able to pull off this endeavor. I needed an opportunity to have all of my friends in one place. What better way than to have a wedding? Frequently, people plan their weddings around the seasons, or meaningful dates, or commencement ceremonies. What about having a wedding ceremony that could not only marry us but also introduce the guests to their Savior?
“If you want to be a faithful minister and follower of Jesus in China,” he said, “you should learn prison theology.” I nodded, though I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. “In prison,” he explained, “you find out more about God and His faithfulness than anywhere else. Jail is where God prepares His church in China.”
During the day, I taught future Communist leaders. During the night, I trained the illegal house church. “I’m a double agent,” I said, and laughed. “It’s quite possible the people you teach during the day will one day arrest you and those you teach during the evenings,” she said.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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