Blind Chang

James and Marti Hefley's book, BY THEIR BLOOD (Baker Books, 1996)

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Of all the Chinese martyrs, none died with more courage than Chang Shen (Blind Chang), the most famous evangelist in Manchuria, homeland of the Manchu rulers of China.

Chang Shen had been converted after being stricken blind in mid-life.

Before his conversion he had been known as Wu so pu wei te, meaning "one without a particle of good in him." A gambler, woman-chaser and thief, he had driven his wife and only daughter from home. When he was stricken blind, neighbors said it was the judgment of the gods for his evil doing.

Chang heard of a missionary hospital where people were receiving sight. In 1886, he traveled overland for hundreds of miles to reach the hospital, only to be told every bed was full. The hospital evangelist took pity and gave up his own bed.

Chang’s eyesight was partially restored, and he heard about Christ for the first time. "Never had we a patient who received the gospel with such joy," reported the doctor. When Chang asked for baptism, missionary James Webster replied, "Go home and tell your neighbors that you have changed. I will visit you later, and if you are still following Jesus, then I will baptize you."

Five months later, Webster arrived in Chang’s area and found hundreds of inquirers. He baptized the new evangelist with great joy.

A clumsy native doctor robbed Chang of the little eye-sight the missionaries had restored. No matter—Chang continued his travels from village to village, winning hundreds more, praising God when cursed and spit upon, even when people turned loose ferocious dogs to drive him away.

He learned practically the whole New Testament by memory and could quote entire chapters from the Old Testament.

Missionaries followed him, baptizing converts and organizing churches.

When the Boxer fury arose, Chang was preaching at Tsengkow, Manchuria. Christians felt sure he would be one of the first targets and led him to a cave in the mountains.

The Boxers reached the nearby city called Ch’ao-yang-shan first and rounded up about fifty Christians for execution. "You’re fools to kill all these," a resident told them. "For every one you kill, ten will spring up while that man Chang Shen lives. Kill him, and you will crush the foreign religion."

The Boxers promised to spare the fifty if someone would take them to Chang.

No one volunteered.

Finally when it appeared the Boxers would kill the fifty, one man slipped away and found Chang to tell him what was happening. "I’ll gladly die for them," Chang offered. "Take me there."

When Chang arrived, the Boxer leaders were at another town.

Nevertheless, local authorities bound him and took him to the temple of the god of war and commanded him to worship. "I can only worship the One Living and True God," he declared.

"Then repent," they cried.

"I repented many years ago."

"Then believe in Buddha."

"I already believe in the one true Buddha, even Jesus Christ."

"You must at least bow to the gods."

"No. Turn my face toward the sun."

Chang knew that at this time of day the sun was shining toward the temple and his back would be to the idols. When they turned him around, he knelt and worshipped the God of the Bible.

Three days later the Boxer leaders arrived. They put the blind evangelist in an open cart and drove to the cemetery outside the city wall. As he passed through the crowds, he sang the first Christian song he had learned at the hospital.

Jesus loves me, He who died Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Jesus loves me, He will stay, Close beside me all the way; If I love Him when I die, He will take me home on high.

When they reached the cemetery, they shoved him into a kneeling position.

Three times he cried, "Heavenly Father, receive my Spirit."

Then the sword flashed, and his head tumbled to the ground. The Boxers refused to let the Christians bury his body. Instead, fearful of a report that Blind Chang would rise from the dead, they forced the believers to buy oil and burn the remains.

Even so, the Boxers became afraid and fled from the revenge that they believed Chang’s spirit would wreak upon them. The local Christians were thus spared persecution.

Before the year’s end 135 missionaries and their 53 children were martyred with hundreds of Chinese Christians who would not deny their Lord.

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