Note to the reader: This story is based on a true story that others shared with me. To the best of my knowledge, it is not an isolated incident, and things like this still happen today. May this story inspire you to pray with a new heart for China.
Ng Wei Lei paused before she got on her bicycle, looked down, and let herself smile for a bare second, hugging her secret to herself. Then, just as quickly placidity returned to her features and she mounted her bike, quickly gliding into the morning flow of traffic.
Honking horns, ringing bells, and vendors voices were sounds spun past her ears as she rode her bike to the factory where eight hours of her day were spent—eight hours where she bore the scrutiny of others and stood before her team leader. She knew the months ahead would not be easy but her Bible reading that morning had reassured her and given new courage. Her new found faith had given her a peace of heart that none of Mao’s teachings had brought—and so, Ng Wei Lei cycled to work, for this moment at peace; the test ahead was beyond imagination.
Ng Wei Lei (Lei her friends called her) lived in Tianjin, China. Through a chance encounter with a tourist a few years previously, she had become a Christian. She was of the new generation Chinese, born just after the cultural revolution and therefore painfully naive about the consequences of her faith. In a city like Tianjin, center of the secret police, and directly governed by the Communist Party, such naivete is hard to comprehend, but idealism and youth are slow to be disillusioned. Lei was no exception and had eagerly shared her faith with her parents and husband. All were horrified.
“We are Party members for years. After all we have done for you, this is how you repay us, by betraying our Party?”
“But Mamma, Pappa,” Lei had protested, her dark eyes sparkling with earnestness, “I too am still a Party member. I love China, but Yesu has given me peace of heart. He is the true secret of life.””
Her parents had not understood and begged her to be silent about her faith.
Likewise, Sau, her husband, had protested, but more gently, because Lei seemed different and the change in her stirred him. “MY love,” he had whispered one night, “believe what you want but be quiet to others. We are Party members. You do not know how hard it can be.”
“You worry too much,” she had laughed in reply and kissed his forehead playfully.
“No,” he held her firmly and spoke intensely, “I am older than you I remember too much.”
The look in his eyes almost frightened her. “What?” she whispered. Sau pulled her to himself. “Nothing worth repeating, only please, be careful.”
Had it been only four years ago, Lei wondered as she continued her 40 minute bike ride to work. Four years ago and a child born during that time and her parents, still hostile to her faith had been amazed when a year later, Sau too had become a Christian.
Somehow word got out. They never had known how. Sau’s group leader had been furious and warned him, “no promotions will come your way—not for a long time—if ever.”
Lei wondered how Sau would respond when he learned her secret, a secret too wonderful but too terrible to be considered. They had taken precautions, they had obeyed the law—but it had happened, and, deep in her heart Lei admitted to herself, she had wanted this to happen. No matter what, she would not have an abortion, she would trust God, He had helped them so far, and Sau was an even better husband than before. He was often reading the Bible and enjoyed telling Bible stories to their now two year old daughter.
Finances were tight, no promotions had come for either of them these past three years since Sau had believed on Yesu, rather, the occasional derogatory comment from other workers. Lei was not so naive anymore, but she did not know the running of her own city. People in the West knew more about what was ahead then Lei did. But all things considered, Lei was, if nothing else, a woman of integrity. Would she have chosen differently, even if she could have?
Arriving at the factory, parking her bike in the company bike lot, and looking at the formidable building in which she worked, Lei realized that her husband would be terribly pressured to do something with her if she announced her pregnancy, and so she prayed, “Dear Yesu, please forgive me if this is wrong, but help me to tell no one, not even Sau, that I am pregnant, until the last possible moment.”
Ng Wei Lei kept her secret for five months. She gave thanks for no morning sickness, she ate more, but in secret, her husband noticed she seemed happier, a glow to her face, and that she had gained a bit of weight, but it was finally, in her fifth month, that the secret could no longer be kept.
A coworker, Xi Ping, had been watching her. Standing in the cafeteria one day, Ping put out her food tray for her portion and turned her to Lei, as though to comment on the food. “You have not menstruated in at least three months,” Xi Ping said so softly that only Lei could hear.
Lei froze inside, but said nothing. Xi Ping was one grade above her in the Party.
The two moved silently to a table. As they sat, Ping moved closer and whispered, before sitting, “Your God will not protect you. The law is the law.”
Lei could hear the anger in Ping’s voice, so carefully masked by a placid, unemotional face. This could have been any conversation, about work, food, bringing up an only child.
Silence rang in Lei’s mind, as, suddenly without appetite, she forced herself to eat. Finishing her food, she numbly picked up her empty tray and moved from the table. Ping too arose and blocked her way. Still speaking carefully and softly she picked up where she had left off, was it only 20 minutes before? “I’ve been watching you Lei. You are already in bad standing because of your Christian God. Beware.” Ping’s eyes flashed a sudden flicker of hardness. “Look me in the eye and tell me you are not pregnant.”
Lei’s soft eyes met Xi Ping’s and she prayed for courage. “I am pregnant,” she whispered.
The nightmare began.
Sau mutely read the note Lei handed him. It was worse then he had feared; official notification that if Lei did not have an abortion, she would be out of a job and dismissed from the Party. In addition, since she would no longer be a Party member her housing rights would be decreased and a new apartment would be assigned for the two of them.
Sau sighed deeply. He had come to believe in God, but a man had to live. “Lei, look at me,” he said gently, pleadingly, “please….”
Lei finally, slowly raised her head, but the tears in her eyes did not deter his words.
“You must have an abortion. Don’t you understand? We will have to live in one room with two children. You will have no job, no Party rights. How will we pay the fine? You must.”
“Sau, how can I,” Lei answered with a meekness underlain by a strange surety, “You know I’ve long wanted to leave the Party. And I did not get pregnant on purpose, though God knows I longed for another child.” Lei paused and then took her husband’s hand and placed it on her swelling stomach. “This is a living child within me Sau. It already moves and feels. Can you not feel it within me? Can I kill our child for a job, for a house? Where is my honor before God? If God gives life, dare I take it away?”
Sau looked down, trying not to think or feel, trying to react correctly, but his fingers felt gentle movements flowing through Lei’s belly and he remembered the wonder of her first pregnancy, how they had marveled together at the growing life within. He thought of his daughter, curled up in silent sleep, but such an exciting creature, every day bringing new delight. Was this life flowing beneath his fingers any less important? He knew his faith was not as deep as Lei’s, but one room? No work? The fine…
He finally raised his face again and met Lei’s eyes. “I will not fight you on this, thought God knows how we will live…”
Lei’s face lit with joy and she embraced him. “Trust God my love. All will be well.”
But at Sau’s place of work he was faced with angry accusations. “She is your wife, force her. What right do you have to add to China’s burden? You have one child, it is enough…”
“Your God will not rescue you,” Xi Ping found a way to whisper, day after day.
And the Party decided to wait to take action.
In her seventh month, Lei was officially dismissed from the Party as a member, and yet, because she had been a member, she was compelled to attend meetings and lectures at work not compulsory for other employees. The General Manager called her into his office and informed her that once she left work to have her baby she would not be able to return.
“I am ashamed to have an employee who does not love China more than her own selfish desires. You have shamed our company, you have shamed me, you shame your family. Of course, if you were to decide even now to repent and have an abortion…”
The company doctor came by one day. “You should know, Lei, an abortion is still possible. We can use the fetus. Your mistake will not be wasted.”
Lei’s next months were filled with tears. Sau was increasingly irritable with her and despite their faith, tension was high.
“Mamma, why is Pappa upset with you for getting fatter?” her daughter asked. Lei could only hold her daughter tightly and weep.
“Dear God, let this child in me live,” Lei agonized in prayer, “Give me courage not to sin against you…” for as the pressure mounted she found herself assailed with thoughts, “get the abortion, this will destroy your life, your husband, your daughter… get an abortion.”
Lei woke from a heavy sleep feeling pain, pain she had forgotten could be borne. For a moment she allowed the pain to wash over her and thought, “at last, my little one, you will come forth, at last,” and then, as the pain passed she turned and woke Sau. “Its time.”
“You are taking up a labor bed that someone else may need,” the nurse said and threw a hospital gown at Lei. “Get undressed.”
“Please…” Lei started to speak but the nurse had walked out.
They had refused to let Sau come in with her. “Paper work,” he had said and kissed her. “I’ll join you as soon as I’m finished.”
Lei undressed, put on the hospital gown and lay in the bed. The pains were coming faster and the room was terribly cold.
“Nurse?”” she called, but no one answered, and then, her water broke and the pains increased, and still, no one answered.
“Nurse,” she cried out, “Sau, where are you? Why don’t you come?”
Lei tried to get up but the pain overwhelmed and she could feel her baby moving, “Yesu, help me,” she cried out.
Finally, a man entered. He stood impassively over her. “I am your doctor, under protest. I do not like helping you have a second child and I take no responsibility for anything that happens, do you understand?”
Lei nodded mutely and whispered, “Please, can my husband join me?”
The doctor turned away. “He is busy. When he can come we will let him come. You must sign some papers too…”
Lei groaned as the labor pains came closer and closer. She knew that soon she would want to push, she needed help. She looked at the doctor. “I don’t understand. I did not have to sign papers when I had my first child..”
“This is different, you must sign.”
Lei moaned. The pains were coming so regularly. Soon now, soon. She could not think as the pains washed over her and she rubbed her spasoming stomach. “Soon now, little one, soon,” she whispered.
“Sign,” the doctor shouted.
“Sign what?” Lei replied dazedly.
“These papers. You must sign if I’m to be your doctor.”
“Get my husband.” She groaned again and stretched out a hand. “Help me.”
“You must sign,” the doctor leaned over her. His voice sounded a bit warmer, but his eyes… Lei glanced at them and then turned her face away as he spoke. “I can not help you if you do not sign. I know you want help, but don’t you see, this is a second child, special circumstances. Much you do not understand. You must sign, then I will help you.”
The urge to push overwhelmed her and she felt only pain, pushing and pressure. The sweat poured down her face in the icy cold room. She tried to read the papers, but her vision was blurred by the sweat and the strain; she saw only isolated words. “Ng Wei Lei… abortion… nine months…. special case…. own free will.”
“No,” she screamed, “I won’t have an abortion, No NO!”
The doctor spoke soothingly. “It says you refuse an abortion, not that you will have one.”
“No, I know what I read,” Lei cried, tears falling unchecked. “Where is Sau? Oh God help me!” and she felt herself pushing, felt herself tearing, felt pain beyond anything she had ever felt. Her scream echoed in the room.
“Sign and I will help you.”
A pen was pushed into Lei’s hands. “Sign.”
Suddenly Sau appeared, looking stricken. “I must go, I can’t stay. Lei, do what the doctors say. They want to help you.”
Lei tried to reach out to Sau. “I don’t understand, stay, help me. Sau?” but her call ended in another scream as the pain again swept over her and she could feel the head surging forward. “Sau, our child is coming.”
Sau looked at her strangely. “I’ve just received word, Mei-Mei is sick. I must go to our child,” and he left.
The pen was pushed back into her hand. “Sign.”
Her body pushing to birth a new life, mind in turmoil, Lei’s hand signed the paper. Just as quickly, Lei felt the jab of a needle and then, darkness.
* * *
Ng Wei Lei still believes in Yesu. She felt His presence comfort and hold her when she heard the unbearable. “Congratulations for having a scientific abortion at nine months.” But she was told to never tell her story. Who would believe it?
Lei did not tell, but people saw and people talked. Lei still knows that Yesu is her Lord. She prays for justice and knows that someday she will see her loved son, taken from her at the age of minus one minute. She wonders if there are others and she weeps when she sees little children. Who will tell their story? Who will believe that these things still happen in China?