A group of Christians known as the Northwest Spiritual Movement that helped to rekindle Bian’s passion for spreading the gospel. To encourage himself to keep going, he wrote a long poem in memory of unsung Christians who had been preaching before him. He never planned to write 100 lines, but he could not put down his pen.
When, in 1943, Japanese soldiers occupied a rural area of the province of Hebei, China, eighteen-year-old Bian Yunbo walked over six hundred miles south-east to Yang County, where a high school accepted refugee students. There, he first heard the gospel from a missionary from the China Inland Mission (CIM), Doris E. Onion.
Onion impressed Bian with her concern for his soul and her fervent prayers for him, particularly at a time when he entertained thoughts of jumping into the Han River. She didn’t know about this temptation, but was awakened in the middle of the night by a voice that sounded like Bian’s, and prayed for him.
“She was quite thin,” Bian wrote, “wore the clothes of a Chinese peasant woman, did not speak Chinese well, but like an elderly mother she had a face full of kindness. She didn’t say a lot, but she left you with the feeling that you just had to listen to her counsel. I was led to put my faith in the Lord through her.”
This conversion took place after he understood the pervasiveness of sin and the “pain and bitterness” it produced. He was baptized in the same river where he had contemplated death. “Thanks to God,” he wrote, “that stretch of river did not become my grave, but rather became the place symbolizing my death, burial, and resurrection in the Lord.”
Keeping up his studies with limited resources was not easy, but Bian worked hard. In 1944, he was admitted into the largest university in China. Although he became a leader in the Christian Student Fellowship, his ultimate goal was to become a famous playwright. It took a bad case of pneumonia, at a time when no medications were available, to wake him up to his selfishness and pride.
A few months later, he decided to devote his life to spread the gospel. He returned to Yang County, where he discovered that Onion had left due to poor health. He then determined to continue her work, in spite of his worsening pneumonia. To his surprise, the hardships of his itinerant life didn’t impact his health. Instead, the pneumonia cleared up completely.
Following the advice of his church elders, in 1946 he went back to university to be better prepared to preach. He declined, however, an offer to study at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and another offer to co-author a research with a professor. His mind was, at that time, focused on the work in China.
But this local work was not without disappointments, particularly when he discovered that some Chinese were preaching for financial profit, and others liked to cause dissension. He tried to comfort himself by singing some hymns, “but some of the normally deeply moving verses became expressions of resentful, tear-filled complaint.”
A Life-Changing Poem
It was a group of Christians known as the Northwest Spiritual Movement that helped to rekindle Bian’s passion for spreading the gospel. To encourage himself to keep going, he wrote a long poem in memory of unsung Christians who had been preaching before him. He never planned to write 100 lines, but he could not put down his pen.
“The deeds and images of many, many nameless preachers seemed to appear before my eyes, and I wept with them, shared their past defeats and victories, giving thanks together, calling out to one another to run the race set before us. It was as if hand in hand with them, heart melded to heart, in mute communication, they detailed one after another testimony and experience.