zhi yuang and the lights of christmas

The name of Pastor Zhi Yuang on a card in my coat pocket is supposed to remind me to pray for a man who suffers for believing in Jesus. I have a hard time comprehending he exists until I remember what I was told last year about the duties of imprisoned Chinese pastors like Zhi Yuang…

A blister bursts on Zhi’s finger as he inserts another bulb into its socket. How many hundreds more must he assemble before the day is over? For all the tiny bulbs strung out in front of him, the prison cell is dim.
A man sharing his cell told him that these were called Christmas lights, and that they’d be shipped to America after leaving the prison. Americans would buy them to decorate trees in winter. The man said he had seen twinkling trees in a picture book once.
Zhi feels like he has assembled enough bulbs to light a tree for every person in the entire world.
Another blister breaks open and blood spills across his fingers. Zhi is quick to wipe it away before it damages his work. He isn’t allowed to make errors.
For a moment, the pain tempts Zhi to feel hatred toward the Americans that will wind these Christmas lights around their trees, oblivious to the hands that have cracked and bled and throbbed with pain over the strings upon strings upon strings of miniature light bulbs. Zhi feels the Spirit of God, then, prompting him to love instead. If there were not Christmas lights, there would be something else to assemble.
So Zhi decides pray — for Americans, for any eyes that see the world brightened by these Christmas lights — that they would have their hearts brightened by the true Light of Christmas.

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