A letter to Leyi (No. 11)

Translated by China Aid Association
shouwang-coupleEditor’s note:  Eleven days after Shouwang Church held its first outdoor Sunday worship service following its most recent eviction from an indoor meeting site, the child of a Shouwang couple fell to her death from an upper-story window of her family’s apartment building. She was less than three weeks shy of her second birthday.  Since her death, her father has written a series of letters to her.  This is his eleventh letter to Leyi.
He is pictured second from the left in this July 3 photo taken of four Shouwang members who managed to gain access to the elevated plaza that has been Shouwang’s designated outdoor meeting site since April 10. 
Translator’s note: Bracketed material in the translated text below was added for a smoother translation or as background information.
July 3, 2011
Leyi, are you missing Mommy and Daddy?  Daddy thinks about you every day.  Daddy thought of you especially this morning.  A very exciting thing happened to Daddy this morning, and in the process, Daddy remembered some things in your life.  So Daddy couldn’t resist writing another letter to you.
After Mommy and Daddy moved back to where we were living before, for three weeks in a row, some young men came every weekend to sit at our front door, not letting Daddy go out on Sundays.  For the past three weeks, Daddy has been longing for some future Sunday when he can go out again.  Daddy didn’t pray to God about this because it seemed like an extravagant request.  After all, Daddy had promised those uniformed young men that he would stay put at home that Saturday.
Today was Sunday again.  At a little after 1 a.m., when Daddy got up to go to the bathroom and was walking through the living room, he casually opened the front door.  To his surprise, there was no one outside.  (At the time, Daddy thought that maybe after three weeks, those young men had slacked off and had decided to stay downstairs instead.)  So Daddy quieted the joy in his heart and went back to bed, planning to seize the opportunity at first light to slip out.

Maybe he was too excited, because Daddy didn’t sleep a wink after that.  Though excited, Daddy tossed and turned in bed and then, because he started to miss you again, he had a good long cry.

Leyi, is Daddy overly emotional?  After you left us, Daddy has these constant mood swings:  excited one minute but in the next minute, Daddy will think of you and have tears pouring down his face.
At a little after 4 a.m., Daddy finished washing up and hurried out the door.  Exiting the elevator and walking to the front door of the apartment building, Daddy saw a police car parked nearby to the right (it was there to keep an eye on Daddy).  Daddy didn’t have time to give it much thought, and just walked out of the building in the direction of the police car because that was the way to the east gate, which is the closest one out of the apartment complex.  After walking about 10 meters [yards], Daddy heard the slam of a car door from behind, and out of the corner of his eye saw one of the young men in a red T-shirt coming after him.  So Daddy quickly lengthened his stride and ran toward the east gate.  Daddy ran as fast as the wind, out the east gate, out onto the main road.  About 500 – 600 meters [yards] from the apartment complex, Daddy looked back and saw that that young man had not followed, so Daddy slowed down.

Daddy was now free.  Free!  Daddy was going to go to worship God freely in that place [designated by Shouwang Church for its Sunday outdoor worship services].
Daddy was feeling ecstatic, and without realizing it, started to hum a song: “This is the day, that the Lord has made. We will rejoice, and be glad in it.”  Daddy recalled that a year and a half ago, on November 15, when Daddy broke through their barriers [he had also been prevented then from attending Shouwang’s meetings] and was on his way to the theater [where Shouwang was then meeting] to worship God, he also hummed this praise song the whole time.

There was hardly anyone out on the streets so early in the morning, and the buses and subway hadn’t started running yet.  There was only one freight truck after another, whizzing along the main roads.  At first, Daddy hung around the streets near the apartment complex.  Daddy took the battery out of his cellphone, to prevent them tracking him by following the cellphone signal.  Only when he needed to check the time did Daddy put the battery back in to the phone.

The early morning haze was very humid, making it feel even more hot and muggy.  After that mad dash, Daddy was sweating hard and his shirt was soaked through and sticking to his back, which was very uncomfortable.  Nevertheless Daddy felt elated and kept humming that praise song the whole way.

At that moment, Daddy thought of you.  Daddy remembered how every day, when you finished breakfast, you would excitedly ask Mommy and Daddy to take you downstairs to play.  In the winter, the heat was too warm indoors and Mommy and Daddy would open the front door to let the room cool down so that you could put on your snow pants and down coat.  Sometimes, when Mommy and Daddy went to get your coat or boots, we would turn around and find that you had run out the door in your bare feet.  Each time, Daddy would race after you down the corridor and sometimes all the way to the elevator.  Mommy and Daddy would always be very worried, mainly because we were afraid you’d go down the stairs by yourself, which would have been very unsafe.  Catching up to you, Daddy would scoop you up from behind and carry you, struggling, back to the sofa in our living room.  It would take Mommy and Daddy great effort to get you dressed to go out, then to get your snacks and water ready, and then to put you into your stroller.  Whenever we went out, you’d shrug your little shoulders and grin, and hum that little ditty you came up with yourself, “Put on my snow suit, carry the panda on my back.”

Leyi, for you, there was nothing that brought you more happiness than going out to play every day.  A yearning for freedom, that was what you, little child that you were, were born with.  That’s why Daddy thinks that in heaven you must have been able to feel the joy Daddy felt when he broke out of the cage in which he had been imprisoned.  Leyi, how Daddy envies you now!  In the two years that you were on this earth, you were so carefree.  Now, in heaven, you are surely even more free than when you were in this world.  That’s because the God we believe in gives freedom to his people and liberates them from their bondage.

Sometimes, Mommy and Daddy pushed you in your stroller out on the streets. When there weren’t too many people on the sidewalk, Mommy and Daddy would push the stroller a little faster and you would fling open your little arms and shout excitedly, “Ah, ah…”  Without fail, whenever you did this, passersby would notice, and Mommy and Daddy would often notice that passersby would be smiling back at you while pointing you out to other people.  At those times, Daddy felt especially blessed.

As Daddy walked that hot and muggy road, recalling these little tidbits from your life, Daddy felt compelled to do what you used to do and spread his arms into that damp haze, while tears started to roll silently down his face.  Walking past a bus stop, Daddy had his arms in the air as three or four young people walked towards them.  Acting as if no one was there, Daddy brushed past their shoulders, not bothered by the weird looks they gave him.

Wanting to get out of the intense heat, Daddy went into a KFC restaurant to cool down.  By 5:30, the buses outside had started running and Daddy got on a bus bound for that place [the Shouwang outdoor worship site].  That’s when Daddy discovered he’d forgotten his bus pass when leaving home this morning.  So Daddy had to pay 2 yuan for a ticket.

“So expensive!” Daddy murmured as he took the ticket from the bus conductor’s hand. 

Daddy remembered that when we used to catch the bus with you, using the bus pass it cost us only 0.80 yuan for a family of three, plus your stroller.

When we used to take you on the bus, we would usually lock the wheels of your stroller and then put you in it.  You were always so excited when you first got on the bus, and sometimes you would make funny faces at the other passengers.  Once, Mommy and Daddy noticed an old man who kept smiling at you.  A little later, he suddenly happily pointed at you, indicating that we should look.  Mom and Daddy turned around and saw you winking at him and wrinkling up your nose.

Sitting on the bus, Daddy looked out the window and saw flags of all different colors and remembered that whenever you were taking the bus, you’d get restless after a few stops.  Then Mommy would take you out of the stroller and into her arms and had you look for the colored flags out the bus window.

“Colored flags!” you would shout in your baby voice, and you’d point them out to Mommy.

Daddy put the battery back in the cellphone to check the time.  As soon as it was in, that Mr. Policeman called.  Daddy hesitated but finally still took the call.  That’s because Daddy had once promised them not to hang up on them when they called.
“Are you in the subway or on a bus?” the voice on the line asked anxiously.
“On a bus.”
“What bus number?” he asked.
“Sorry, I can’t tell you.”
“Where are you now?  Don’t you know that we can go to that place where you are going and bring you right back?”
Daddy saw two police cars speeding past the bus outside.  “Maybe those are their vehicles,” Daddy thought to himself.  “Or maybe they are from other jurisdictions – can’t be sure,” Daddy thought again.

“Sorry, I still can’t tell you.  If you want to come, just go ahead.  That place is very big; if you can find me there, then so be it.”

“Just where are you now?” he asked, not giving up.

“I’m almost there anyway.”  Looking out the window, Daddy saw the three big Chinese characters for “The Vista Building.”

“OK, when you get there, be a good boy and call us, alright?” he spat these words at me and hung up.

Daddy thought angrily to himself, “I would never call you on my own initiative!” then turned off the cellphone and took the battery out.

Daddy looked out of the window and saw three other big Chinese characters:  “Old Story Club.”

“Old Story Club” – what a familiar place!  Mommy and Daddy’s church met there for more than a year.  And last year, you and Mommy and Daddy went there many, many times.

That restaurant and bar saw you go from sitting in your baby stroller and sucking your thumb as you looked at other people, to when you started to learn to walk, holding on to Daddy’s hand, and then to when Daddy chased after you as you ran all around the restaurant.

Daddy also remembers the giant mulberry tree outside the restaurant.  You’d bend down under that tree and pick mulberry fruit from the ground, one by one, and eat them.  Time and again, Daddy would wash the dirt from your hands under the faucet near the tree.  And Daddy sat with you on that wooden swing, swinging to and fro.

Leyi, do you still remember that skinny, dark-skinned security guard you called uncle?  Each time he saw you in Daddy’s arms, he’d take you from Daddy’s arms and bring you with him out to where he was directing restaurant guests where to park their cars.  Do you still remember that he once put his old and somewhat dirty broad-brimmed hat on your head?  Do you still remember that every time he saw you from a distance, he would always call to you in a loud voice: “Sweet little girl!”

In the twinkling of an eye, it was winter.  The weather got cold, so we didn’t take you to the restaurant any more.  Then later, Mommy and Daddy’s church left the restaurant.  And not long after that, you had your accident.

Today, that “Old Story Club” has been torn down and there is nothing but flat ground.  Soon new buildings will be built there.  But Mommy and Daddy’s church is still wandering about outdoors.  And that little security guard quit his job last year and is long gone back to his hometown.  We don’t know if, in his far-away hometown, he knows that the cute little girl that he loved and that he used to hold in his arms while directing traffic left this world more than two months ago.

Thinking of all this, tears filled Daddy’s eyes again.

The bus slowly brought Daddy close to that place and Daddy got off at a bus stop.

Then Daddy began walking the perimeter of that place and, not knowing why, started to feel strangely nervous, and then a little terrified.

Daddy just walked around and around like this, stopping occasionally fully alert, then darting to hide behind some building to avoid being seen by the police vehicles that were driving all over the streets looking for the people they were supposed to be keeping tabs on.

Walking to a certain spot, Daddy noticed that his foot seemed to be dragging a long, long shadow.  Daddy suddenly remembered last year when we went to our church small group campout and you chased after Mommy’s shadow, laughing as you ran.  You were so cute.

Leyi, at that moment, Daddy thought that you were there walking beside him, just like Daddy’s long shadow.  You were right there, at Daddy’s side.

Thinking of this, Daddy smiled.  And all the fears in his heart instantly vanished. 

The air was still hazy, and it was still very muggy and very hot.

Daddy knew that in a little while the rays of the sun would disperse the humid haze.  And with a heart leaping with joy, Daddy would climb up one step at a time to that place [the elevated plaza that Shouwang had designated as its outdoor worship site].

Our God is there.
Daddy’s comrades are there.
There is the place where we worship God together.

Your Daddy who loves you.

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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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