Remembering my father

By Daniel Jiao

In the eyes of the people, my father was a gentle and kind pastor. But I grew up thinking that my father was strict, especially when I did wrong, and that he cared about whether I recognized my mistake and how to correct it. As I became older, I understood that my father’s strictness was a result of his dedication to the Bible truth and an attitude of not giving in to sin.

When I was a child in a labor camp, I once made a slingshot, picked it up and wrapped a small stone and slung it forward, surprisingly hitting a female classmate in the forehead and there was a big lump. When my father found out, he took me to my classmate’s house to apologize, and when I got home, he made me hold out my hand and hit it a few times with a ruler. The pain in my palm taught me the lesson to always act responsibly.

My father told me that when he was young he disliked been treated wrongly. When he was five years old, someone bullied my grandfather in his workplace. My father was furious. One day he stood in front of the man’s house with a stick, waiting for him to come out so he can avenge my grandfather.

As he grew older, he recognized his need for repentance. At the age of twelve he went alone to an Adventist church school in Xi’an. He began to recognize the close relationship between faith and life. He often remembered the Bible saying, ” Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) He determined not to be pride to avoid the pain of falling. The words of the Bible were deeply rooted in his thoughts.

My father gave me this scripture in my early age.  When I graduated from elementary school, I was number one in the school.  The entire elementary school test ranking was prominently posted in red letters outside the open-air movie theater in the camp, I became very happy and very proud, and my father said to me, don’t have the haughty spirit, don’t be proud, remember the words of the Bible.

During his college years, my father attended the Second Medical University in Shanghai, where he received top grades.  He insisted on keeping the Sabbath, and a year before he graduated, the university announced that he would not be allowed to continuing his study unless he came to school on Sabbath. He dropped out the university and started worked full time in the Shanghai Huzhong Church for evangelistic outreach. Together, at that time, there were five or six young people who spend most of their time in the church, just like the early disciples, sharing the names of Jesus with people. The newly translated writings of Ellen G. White were engraved on steel plates and printed on wax paper, and then bound and distributed to brothers and sisters who needed them.

In the same church, my father met my mother, a sister who had graduated from nursing school and was envied by people, both in terms of salary and work. She was invited by a sister to sing in the choir. She loved hymns so much that she went to sing regularly. At that time she had a boyfriend who was studying at the Second Military Medical University and had become a resident doctor.  They were planning to get married, but he was very much against to my mother’s observance of the Sabbath. So my mother chose to break up with him. After the breakup, she prayed before the Lord, saying: In the future I will devote myself to the Lord, and if the Lord thinks it would be better for me to have a husband, please prepare for me.

Once my mother gave the matter to the Lord, she became very much involved in ministry at the church.  She kept her faith and prayer, and brothers and sisters in the church all gave her encouragement. From 1954 to 1958, mother and father worked together and got to know each other and fell in love.  Therefore by 1958, they decided to get married. But that year Pastor Lin, Elder Yang, and many other young people were arrested and lost their freedom. Seeing that my father might also be arrested, many people advised my mother, Why do you want to marry such a person? My mother said, “We are not married for the sake of marriage, but for the work of the Lord and to devote ourselves to Him, so we are determined to follow this path.”  No matter what happened in the future, this was the path she chose. They were married that very year.

My mother was a very gentle person, and whenever my father was anxious about something our brothers had done wrong, she was always quietly on the side, defusing his anger with her gentleness. Because of this, I never heard the two of them quarrel, and my mother’s kindness was always such that my father was able to take his anger off and not continue to be upset by our two boys being naughty or getting into trouble.

One day, three months after my parents’ marriage, mother was cooking at home when she saw people coming from outside. She walked out the door and asked who they were looking for, and they said they were looking for Jiao Hongzhi. The mother politely asked them to come and sit, and they said they would just wait outside. An uneasy feeling came in my mother’s mind, and when she saw my father returning from a distance on his bicycle, she went out to greet him when the men outside took him away. The verdict came down a few days later, and it was twelve years of reform through labor in Qinghai. Before being sent to Qinghai, my mother said to my father, “Don’t worry about going there. Now that you have been sentenced to twelve years, even if you are sentenced to twenty years, I will wait for you.” When my father heard such words, he was greatly comforted to know that he had such a wife who loved and encouraged him.

Conditions in the labor camp were poor, and every winter when the rivers froze over, the power would go out. My father took out the kerosene lamps and lit them, and at night, it felt especially dim. To heat the house in winter, we used dry firewood and cow and sheep dung that we collected in the summer. Once I went alone to collect firewood on a hill and my feet slipped, and I started slid down the steep hill.  I shouted and the people in the fields at the bottom of the hill looked at me. I thought I was going to die, but a crop of hyssop held me back, and my life was spared, thank the Lord for saving me!

Another time, my father took my brother and me to the Yellow River to catch fish. When we arrived at the river, there was a layer of ice on the water with a few open holes. My father brought a nylon net and placed it in the river where there was a hole where many fish gathered. Just as my father was looking at how the net was moving, the ice broke under his feet and he fell into the river. I watched from the bank, unable to do anything.  So I just shouted, “Papa! Papa! What do I do?”

Father believed that the Lord would save him, and suddenly he felt a force turned his head and he was above the water; he did not know how to swim but was able to came to shore. Because the temperature was so low, his clothes were soon frozen stiff from top to bottom, and he started shivering. He had to lead us and carry us home across the creek. He thought a serious illness was inevitable, but amazingly after a good night’s sleep, he was fine the next day and went to work at the hospital as usual.

How my father became an official labor camp doctor was also a miracle.  After he went to the camp, he started working in a cement factory. But natural disaster struck in China, the factory stopped production and began a major agricultural effort to grow food. After the camp official knew that my father was a doctor, they transferred him to work in the clinic. My father always said that God had given him a medical residency in the labor camp.  When the natural disasters happened many people fainted when they were working. Having medical knowledge, my father knew they fainted because of low blood sugar. He gave all those who fainted immediate injections of glucose, and they revive quickly. Because there were no deaths on the farm where my father worked, he was praised and he received a three-year reduction in his sentence so that he could be set free after serving nine years.

Although freed, he still could not return to Shanghai, so after my brother was born, my mother decided to come to Qinghai and reunite with my father. I was born and raised in Qinghai.  My father brought us up to memorize Bible verses, Bible became our first reading material even when we could not fully read.

By the time we were in elementary school, my father had started having worship in the house every Sabbath.  At first it was just us singing together, and my mother would tell us Bible stories. Slowly, the neighbors heard us singing the hymns and they came to our home. The officers of camp heard this and they came to talk to my father and warn him. But my father said that all these people liked to sing and come on their own.

Then the wife of one of the officers suffered from depression, and no amount of medical treatment was good enough. Whenever the family spent the New Year together, the family became unhappy because of the wife’s condition. The officer asked my father to see his wife, and he told her, “Your illness is in your mind, too many worries and burdens all day long. You need to accept Jesus and really believe in Him and you will be healed.” It happened to be the night of New Year’s Eve and the next day was the first day of the New Year. After presenting the gospel to her, she half-heartedly asked, “Is that really true? I’m willing to believe in Jesus.” The father then asked the couple to pray together, asking the Lord to bless them and heal her. After the holidays, father went to visit again. Once they entered, they were so happy to see father and said it was great that she has been well! After this, this officer always protected my father.  He would block any compliant about my father , and the number of Sabbath gatherings in our house grew to 30 to 40 people.

By the early 1980s, my father sentence was overturned. in 1984, the school he had originally attended told my father that he was wrongly treated in the past.  So they issued him an official diploma.

After his sentence was overturned, my father was allowed to return to Shanghai, but the camp hospital asked him to stay because he was a well-known local doctor. The hospital converted my father’s status to an officer and issued him a military medical uniform.  His service record would start from the day he was sentenced. The Lord’s grace is so amazing in turning sufferings into blessings.

My father retired from the camp and came back to Shanghai in 1987.  He then began serving the Lord full time. His 30 years in Qinghai laid a stable foundation for his 35 years of service to the Lord that followed. When he was in the camp, he made a concordence of scriptures for the entire Bible.  He read over and over the writings of Ellen G White that he had on hand. He also studied Daniel and Revelation carefully and made an outline of questions and answers for the two books, with easy-to-understand textual explanations.  This became the basis for his sharing of spiritual messages in Shanghai and around the country.

My father was ahead of his time in the spread of the gospel. When cassette recorders first became popular, he bought the best double cassette recorders imported from Japan and began producing radio dramas, Bible study lessons, and sermons on Daniel and Revelation. When it was late at night in Qinghai, he would call our whole family to participate in the recordings and add background music and sound effects. The scene I remember most is the one in the hospital where the patient is being resuscitated, and until this day, whenever listened to it, I felt I was just there.

The tapes my father made were spread all over the country, and when DVDs began to be widely used, his Bible studies and Daniel and Revelation expositions were reaching churches large and small all over the country. When I visited churches around the country, I would often hear brothers and sisters say, “We were converted by listening to your father’s tapes and watching your father’s DVDs.” He often stayed up all night to make these tapes and DVDs, listening to the recorded audio over and over again, correcting mistakes and various minor flaws in the video. When I saw how sleep-deprived he was, I often reminded him to get more rest, but he always said, “I’ll rest when I’m done.” But he never seemed to finish. Every time he spoke on the same subject, he would re-record it, replacing the previously recorded one. What an example in attention to details!

Separated by the pandemic, I had not seen my father for over two years, and when we met this August, I notice he had become very thin. My father said he had no appetite and could not eat much. When I left, I gave him a hug and felt his slim body in my arms, tears well up and I quickly turned away, not wanting my father to see my teary eyes. Little did I know, that would be the last time I saw my father.

Two weeks before my father passed away, I spoke to him through video call every morning and evening.  He was very weak so I talked to him using scriptures he was familiar with, encouraging him to thank the Lord for His grace and for every day he lived. After each call, he always shout, Great! Thank you Lord!

My father had given a testimony a few months ago that God had touched his back in the evening and he could stand up straight. He also recorded a video of the Lord’s healing and shared it with people.

This time when my father was very sick and I prayed to the Lord for healing, but he rested in the Lord! I understood that he could finally lay aside his labors and rest. I knew that the Lord wanted him to rest and wait in sleep for the return of the Lord.

Paul’s words were also my father’s last words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” ( 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Dear Daddy, I love you very very much!  You are blessed! We’ll see you again when the Lord comes!