“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream…its leaves are always green…” Jeremiah 17:7-8b
Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream whose leaves never die but are always green.
Aunty Esther was the first Christian I met inside China thirty years ago. She was a diminutive elderly Chinese medical doctor with a soft, kind voice that masks the many years of suffering through which she has passed.
“During the Cultural Revolution,” she says, “I was called in by my superior one day. At that time I was in charge of eight large pediatric wards in my hospital. “The communists were cracking down on people who did not toe the current party line. My superior warned me that I should deny my faith and join the communist party or I may have to face the serious consequences of job demotion and salary reduction.
“A few days later, I was rudely awakened by four nurses who roughly pulled me from my bed and marched me to the hospital. En route they stopped at a barbershop and shaved off half of my hair. In front of the rest of the staff, I was confronted to renounce my faith in Christ and join the communist party.
“I responded, ‘I can’t deny Jesus. I love Jesus!’ At the mention of his name they threw me down on the ground and cursed. Later, the communist cadre at my hospital tore the stethoscope from my neck and said, ‘You are no longer Esther; you are now The Fool.’
Esther continues. For the next eleven years she lived in the basement of the hospital and obediently submitted to her new task—cleaning the floors and toilets of the hospital wards that she previously headed. Her already meagre salary of 50 dollars per month was reduced to 15 dollars. And she had to buy the cleaning materials from it. The rest was used up on food.
But Esther practised the presence of Jesus in her job. She sang as she toiled. With a twinkle in her eyes she adds, “My hospital had the cleanest floors and cleanest toilets in all of China!” Hospital staff would come to her and with great envy question her source of joy in spite of her troubles. Esther responded, “When you have Jesus in your heart, it doesn’t matter what job you do or what position you have. It only matters that you love Him and are faithful and loyal to Him!”
When the Cultural Revolution period ended, Aunty Esther was reinstated in her original job and given back pay for all that she had been deprived during those eleven years. This amount enabled her to send one of her children to the USA for higher education. She faithfully carried on her public witness for Jesus until the day she died in her late nineties.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), Open Doors International.
Lord, thank You for the example of faithful Aunty Esther whose life reflected Your love.