It is impossible to read Red Ink, by Kathi Macias without praying for China. Yang Zhen-Li, imprisoned for telling children about Zhu Yesu (Jesus), is brutalized by a guard determined to prove her god is an illusion.
I remember one of my daughters asking in grade school, “If someone said they would kill me if I said I was a Christian, would it be OK to lie and say I wasn’t, but not to mean it?” In a small Minnesota town she wasn’t likely to ever face that choice, but many do every day—in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Columbia and many other places. This book brings us face to face with that reality and what we can do about it.
Alternating with Zhen-Li’s story are scenes in an American nursing home where a little old lady who once visited China on a missions trip is burdened to pray for a Chinese woman in need. A little old lady in a nursing home is not the character you expect in a page-turner of a book like this one. While I expect Julia was added to Zhen-Li’s story because you can’t sell books to an American audience without American characters, her side of the story highlights the impact of prayer even when we never learn its outcome. Alternating between the two locations increases the tension in both stories, and we find that characters around the nursing home face evil just as surely as a Chinese prisoner.
This week I heard Mary Stauffer speak at a women’s luncheon. Thirty years ago Mary and her family were preparing to return to their missionary work in the Philippines when a former student kidnapped Mary and her eight-year-old daughter. They were held in a closet for 53 days. Mary was repeatedly taken out and raped and humiliated. (Her abductor, who also murdered a six-year-old boy who witnessed the abduction, will soon be up for parole, but the courts have decided he should be committed to an institution for incorrigible sex offenders.)
Mary told us:
Faith matters more than feelings.
Trust matters more than understanding.
God’s glory matters more than my desires.
My godly reaction matters more than the other person’s evil.
And God’s strength is greater than my weakness.
I have never had to face the challenges that Mary Stauffer or Kathi’s characters encounter. Would I have the courage to hold to my faith under such conditions? I don’t know. But maybe I can pray Mary’s points for believers like Zhen-Li.
Red Ink is part of a series called Extreme Devotion that shows believers facing overwhelming challenges to their faith. I confess that I am a little disappointed that No Greater Love set in South Africa, is an historical about apartheid rather than taking on the challenges of HIV and AIDS today. More than Conquerors looks at Mexico’s clash of cultures. I can’t wait to see the fourth book—set in Saudi Arabia.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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