SAMUEL LEARNS THE POWER OF CHRISTMAS

                         True Story From China

  Samuel was a schoolmaster in a small city of central China. One day he
  needed to check his supplies and went to the basement with his
  flashlight. He was horrified to find six boxes of Bibles.

  Samuel was furious. Who could be storing them there? They were probably
  illegally printed, too. Someone must have placed the Bibles there for
  safekeeping, in the knowledge that hardly anyone came down.

  He believed all Christians were weak. Only the weak needed faith. Truly
  rational people could figure it out. After all, he had.

  Samuel had a son, now eight years old. At first he had been delighted to
  have a boy to carry on his name, and maybe become an important
  professor. But the doctors dashed his hopes: the boy was lame and
  mentally retarded. His son would never grow beyond a mental age of 10.
  Disappointed, Samuel had thrown himself into his work.

  He decided to lie in wait for the culprits to come and collect the
  Bibles. Night after night, he hid behind a pile of boxes.

  One night he wakened to hear voices in the dark. He was sure it was the
  Christians. He crept a little closer and began to listen to them. As he
  explained later, "I had three surprises, each worse than the one
  before." First, they were praying. Second, one of the voices was his
  head teacher, the most respected person in the school. Third, and most
  amazingly, they were praying about him and his son.

  "Lord, please help Samuel to love his son," the teacher was saying.
  "It's so sad the way he treats him, cutting him off, refusing to spend
  time at home. Lord, we don't know what goes on in the mind of his son,
  but we do know he is very sad. His wife says the boy weeps all the time
  when the father comes in and leaves. He may not know much, but he does
  know he's not loved, and doesn't know why."

  Samuel was thunderstruck. All at once he saw what a terrible father he
  had been, so cruel to a helpless crippled boy who only wanted love and
  understanding.

  He could not stop weeping. He stuffed a handkerchief into his mouth to
  muffle the sobs, but to no avail. Then he felt hands lift him up. Five
  men looked at him and began praying. At the end, he left them, saying,
  "I have to think about all this."

  Samuel went straight home and into his son's bedroom. It was two in the
  morning. He sat gently on the bedside and gazed down at the face of his
  son, serene in sleep. He stroked his hair softly, something he had not
  done for years, and whispered, "My poor little boy" time and again, his
  tears dropping onto his son's face.

  As morning dawned, he turned to see his wife in the doorway, looking
  anxious. Her words cut to his heart: "Have you been hurting him?"

  "No," he replied softly, "I've been stroking his hair and asking his
  forgiveness." It was then he noticed that his son's eyes were wide open.
  How long had he been like that, relishing his father's touch?

  Samuel gathered the boy into his arms and said, "Today, you are coming
  to school with me."

  SURPRISE CALLER

  That afternoon, however, a member of the Public Security Bureau came
  looking for him. His words struck fear into Samuel's heart. "Can I look
  in your basement?" he asked.

  "Certainly," Samuel replied. "I'll come down with you."

  The PSB man opened one of the boxes. "Do you have permission for these?"
  he asked. Samuel knew that if he wanted to save his job by denying all
  knowledge of the Bibles, now was the time. But instead he heard himself
  say, "Not yet. That's why they are down here; they are for a western
  civilization course."

  The policeman said sourly, "I'll have to report this."

  Samuel thought to himself, "Why should I turn in these Christians when
  it's clear they love me and pray for me, and have made reconciliation
  with my son possible? No, I will protect them. They deserve it."

  Two months later, he received a small reprimand for the oversight of not
  obtaining permission for the Bibles. He almost cried with relief, and
  took his son down to the basement. As he lifted one of the black books
  out of the box, the boy suddenly cried out the word "God" and pointed at
  the book.

  Samuel smiled at him and said, "You might be right, my son. We will read
  and see."

  And so every night Samuel stayed late at his son's bedside, reading him
  portions of Scripture. Soon his wife joined them for the readings, and
  the family grew closer and closer.

  Samuel experienced new feelings of love welling up inside him as he read
  the truths of the Bible. He felt a power to love his son more and more,
  and had more love for his wife, who was beginning to feel for him again
  also.

  TRAGIC LOSS

  Things seemed to be going so well when tragedy struck. His boy was hit
  by a truck and badly injured. There was nothing the doctors could do.
  The family took him home to nurse him through to the end. Christians
  came and prayed for his healing, but the boy continued to deteriorate.
  By this time Samuel was praying to God too, crying out for Him to spare
  his son's life. But around Christmas, the boy died.

  Samuel stared in disbelief at the small body. He held his son's hand,
  but felt the icy coolness of death. "How could you take my son?" he
  roared at God.

  The head teacher, who was there, said quietly, "He gave your son back to
  you." And so it was, Samuel thought. For a few months at least, he had
  felt the joy of forgiveness, of being a loving father. This moment of
  parting had been so painful because he had found love for his son at
  last.

  He asked the Christians to hold a service for the boy. A pastor came and
  prayed, saying, "Lord, you knew this boy was going to die. How kind of
  you to reconcile father and son before that. Thank you for your work of
  grace. And we thank you for your eternal work, too. You watched your
  Son, helpless in flesh, die and grow cold - all because you knew we
  could not love you otherwise, as we are so blind in our selfishness."

  Samuel pondered the meaning of this prayer. He didn't understand it all.
  But he did get this: God had lost a Son too. Unlike Samuel, God lost a
  Son He had always cherished, a Son who was perfect. How much harder for
  God.

  Samuel went to church the following Sunday and testified, "I see that I
  went through what God went through. He had a son He loved, and watched
  Him die that life may come to everyone.

  "I too had a son, but I did not love him. Then God broke my heart so
  that I could love him. I have life now, life that will last so long that
  one day I know I will be reunited with my son. And he will not be lame.
  He will be able to speak. And we will be together.

  "I can love again, and this is the joy of Christmas for me. Even in my
  grief, with my poor son gone, I can love again. We can all love again."
  ____________________________________________________________________

  Note: In 1981, Open Doors with Brother Andrew led an enormous Bible
  project for China: Project Pearl. A million Bibles were delivered in one
  night at a beach on the South China Sea.

  During 1999 Open Doors carried out Project Bamboo: a million Bibles,
  plus a million pieces of additional Christian literature for the Chinese
  house churches. Praise God, the Bibles have been delivered safely, and
  nearly all the literature as well. It wasn't done in one sweep this
  time, so it was less spectacular, but it was definitely not less
  difficult. The Chinese co-workers have taken enormous risks.

  Please contact Open Doors to learn more about having a part in this
  continuing miracle in China.  You can either write: Open Doors with
  Brother Andrew,
  PO Box 27001,
  Santa Ana, CA 92799
  Call: (949) 752-6600.
  The Open Doors website is at: