by Jan Silvious
An unforgettable moment for me occurred on a hydrofoil between mainland China and Hong Kong, during a trip to visit with believers on the mainland.
The small group I was with was accompanied by a Chinese pastor who joined us at the dock. On the trip over he was very quiet. I knew that he had been imprisoned for fifteen years for preaching the gospel and that he now went in and out of China to preach to his people, for awhile enjoying the freedom of an open door.
On the way back, he asked, “May I share my story with you? In wonder and deep humility, I listened as he quietly related the following:
“When I was arrested and sent to prison, we were assigned to work details. I worked many places, always under the watchful eye of a guard. Eventually I noticed that the guards carefully avoided the ‘night-soil’ pits—the place where the human excrement was kept to be used as fertilizer on the fields. The stench was so horrible and the maggots and worms so plentiful that the guards stayed away from anyone who worked there. So I asked if I could be transferred there. Since the other prisoners didn’t want that job, I was immediately given the assignment.
“I was thrilled! There I could meet with my Lord every morning without interruption. Every day I would start by singing:
‘I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own….’
“That night-soil pit became my garden.”
The pastor showed me his hands, which were gnarled and broken from the beatings he had received. It was the meetings in the garden with his Lord that had kept him sane.
Whenever I become dissatisfied with my time with God and begin to make excuses about why it’s not convenient, or why there just isn’t enough quality time, the serene face of that dear man comes back to remind me that no excuse will do. Jesus will make a garden out of any place I choose to meet Him!
Another face and another garden came to mind: Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, Jesus sweated great drops of blood in the dread anticipation of His death and burial. But He must have taken comfort in fellowship with the Father, for “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43).
My friend, you and I will probably never be called upon to spend time in a prison camp or a night-soil pit, nor will we suffer for the sins of the world, but because we are often harried, stressed out, overworked, and strung tight, we do need to slow down and make a garden of wherever we happen to be. Jesus will meet us there!
From The 5-Minute Devotional
Zondervan, c. 1991 by Jan Silvious