Encouragement from Ecclesiastes in Fear

Walter and Helen Jespersen, the parents of my wife, Margaret, served in China in the late 1930s and 40s. They were in China when the Communists took over in the early 50s and were essentially under house arrest.

On April 30, 1951, Helen’s birthday, Mom and Dad were very discouraged and under house arrest. They spent time reading the Word of God. They were prohibited from visiting their Chinese Christian friends.

That morning, Dad was reading through Ecclesiastes during his devotions but did not really think God would have a word for him through this particular book. However, he was struck by Ecclesiastes 5:8, “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they (kjv).”

Suddenly, the police came and escorted Dad to a schoolyard where a large crowd of people had gathered. Each family in the town was represented. Soldiers then marched 70 people from the town’s jail to face public trial.

All kinds of charges were brought against these individuals for such matters as having political connections with previous officials or owning land. People in the crowd also began to slander and accuse them. The judge, a Communist officer, finally said, “What should we do with these people?” Various people who had been planted in the crowd shouted in reply, “Take these people out and shoot them!” The crowd then began to chant, “Shoot them, shoot them!” The 70 were then taken down to the river and shot, but Dad did not have to witness this. He returned home shaken, but praising God for the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:8.

A few days later, Dad read Ecclesiastes 7:18, “It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all (kjv).” He interpreted this as a promise that he and his family would be able to leave China. He had previously doubted that this would ever happen. Communism was so powerful at this point that it had restricted their ministry of the Gospel and even forced them to face the possibility of death.

Shortly after this, a Communist officer arrived at their door and ordered them to leave China in two days. With difficulty they made arrangements to leave their town on a small riverboat. Dad, Mom, Margaret (5), Carol (4), Linda (2), and little David (only 7 months old) began their journey from Suyung to Hong Kong on May 26, 1951.

Upon arrival several weeks later in Hong Kong, they boarded a freighter and sailed to England and then on to Canada. The whole family finally arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, on Linda’s birthday, October 13, 1951. Their journey lasted nearly 5½ months.