Search This Blog

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Garden

It was a warm October afternoon in Hong Kong, where I sat around a table with eleven other men. All of us were wiping tears from our eyes. Some of us had our head buried in our hands and were sobbing. The reason for our tears was because of a song being sung to us by a Chinese Christian named George Chen. Friends from The Bible League had encouraged this stopover on the way to Beijing so that we could meet with George and hear his story.

George began to preach immediately when he became a Christian. Over the next few years, he was arrested numerous times for preaching. As the cultural revolution in China intensified, houses were searched and Bibles were seized and burned. Many pastors died and the lives of the rest were in constant jeopardy. However, this didn’t stop George from proclaiming the gospel.

He continued to preach until the day came when he was arrested and thrown into prison. When the iron gate slammed shut behind him, it was to be eighteen years before he would know freedom again. His notoriety as a pastor didn’t serve George well in prison. To make Pastor Chen an example, the communist guards assigned him to work in the prison sewer. Pots filled with human waste from all the prison barracks were emptied into this giant cesspool.

George’s job was to spend every day in the cesspool, shoveling the human waste onto wagons, where it was taken to fields and used as fertilizer. Yet by the divine enablement of the life of Jesus Christ within George, he didn’t mind. In fact, he came to enjoy his time in the cesspool. George explained to us:

“In prison, you’re never alone. You work beside other prisoners all day, sleep close to them at night and the guards are always watching. This is why I came to enjoy my assignment in the prison cesspool. There I could be alone. The stench of the filth on my clothing and body kept everyone away from me. Nobody wanted to come near me. Not the prisoners, not the guards. Nobody! They all kept their distance.”

George continued, “Since working in the cesspool allowed me to be alone, I was able to pray, lifting up my voice loudly to the Lord. I was able to recite the Scripture verses I had memorized before they took away my Bible. Oh, I would sing! I would sing boldly to the Lord. God’s grace sustained me. The living presence and power of the Holy Spirit encouraged and blessed me.”

As we sat listening to George’s story, one of the men seated at the table asked, “George, what did you sing?”
He answered, “I’ll sing it for you now.” He closed his eyes, tilted his head toward heaven, opened his hands with palms facing upward, and with a smile on his face, George began to sing in Chinese a hymn we all recognized by the melody.

“I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me; and He talks with me; and tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

As George sang, God’s presence in the room became powerfully evident and grown men began to weep. It wasn’t difficult to imagine George in that cesspool, singing praises to God as he shoveled human excrement. George had come to know that when one has Jesus Christ, he has everything he needs. Our God can turn a cesspool into Paradise by His very presence.


  1. A double blessing to not be bothered and for the opportunity to conversate so near with God as well! Humbly George grew in God until sweetness sounded songbird like re: In The Garden! God be worshipped!

  2. A very moving story indeed! Praise be to the Triune God who is always with us, even in the midst of desperation.