There are two people we have been especially worried about for the past five months or so. Almost daily these two people have been in our prayers. One is a relative with a world of potential who had fallen into old ways with bad people and drugs. The other was our part-time maid, part of the famous Chinese institution of the “ayi,” a diligent, trustworthy woman living in Shanghai as an often unwelcome migrant from Anhui Province. Both were in deep trouble, one in the depths of addiction and one in a Chinese jail. And both just received a glorious shot at lasting freedom in the same week. One due to the kindness of a Utah relative who took on the risk and expense of rescuing a young lady in trouble, and one due to the kindness and diligence of several people, perhaps, plus a legal system that proved to be fair in the end.
Our maid has had a lot of trouble in Shanghai. “Anhui people are just bad” a friendly cabbie told my wife and our maid as the two were taking a cab together one day. He said that to her face. Others would say similar things right to her face. Most people in Shanghai are decent and polite, but there are some ugly biases that can crop up, as in anyplace with humans. Locals can often tell by looking or certainly from the accent that someone is from Anhui. This foreign land of Anhui, source of so many unwelcome and often illegal migrants in Shanghai, are not exactly foreigners. They are the province next door, about an hour or two by train from Shanghai. Anhui is to Shanghai like Idaho or Nevada is to Utah — geographically, that is. Hope you Idahoans get treated well in Utah. I once made the move from Boise to Salt Lake, and it seemed OK, but perhaps I was too young and naive.
The story of our maid is one I’ve shared here before (see “An ‘Ayi’ for an Eye“) while hopeful for an early release. A brawl in a mahjong parlor resulted in a man being blinded. Our maid tried to stop the fight, as we understand, but ended up getting blamed for being part of a group crime. After one month, we were hopeful that bail would be offered, but it was not. But after 5 months, as the case was about to be scheduled for trial, an officer in charge of reviewing evidence ruled that there was no evidence against her and issued a certificate of innocence and allowed her to go. The Chinese legal system worked in the end, and we are so grateful. Perhaps all our gratitude should be directed to the diligent officer who made that determination. But there are three other people who went the extra mile to help, and their influence may have made a difference as well, especially since the three other people accused in the fight will be serving from 3 to five years in jail. Ouch.
But now she is free! With her kind permission, I can include a few photos from the reunion we had shortly after her release. The setting, a plush mall next to where I work, is not the kind of place she frequents, for the record, but it was a good choice for the delicious Yunnan-style restaurant we took the family to for a celebratory dinner. When she saw my wife enter the mall, she rushed toward her and gave her one of the most heart-warming embraces I have seen. Two friends, long separated, back together. Such a relief.
Today in a board meeting for one of the best charities I’ve seen, the Huang Yi Cong Foundation of China, a major and carefully run charity funded by my employer and fellow employees (I am so excited to have just started this new role today, though I’ve been a fan
and supporter of this incredible organization even since coming to
China — they have some expertise and experience that ought to be studied by the Church, IMHO), I got to publicly express my gratitude to one of the best Chinese leaders I’ve seen in the business world, the head of our legal department, for his kind action to help rescue our maid. When peers of mine told him about our maid’s plight in jail, on his own he took the initiative of bringing in and introducing me to an excellent lawyer and old friend of his who was willing to charge less than half of the normal fee to help the family. Before we connected the lawyer to them, they didn’t even know they could get the help of a lawyer (!), and through his help, they were able to finally visit their wife and mother and get a sense of hope. Having a good lawyer may have been key. Actually, I think a fair result would have occurred in any case, but the lawyer helped the family a great deal in the process, I think, and gave us vital information about what was happening.
I am also deeply grateful to two other Chinese men, one a highly honored Party member with a great deal of practical wisdom, and one now living in America but very influential in some major Shanghai circles. Both agreed to make an effort to inquire about the case to learn more. My hope was that by at least asking questions, it would encourage good but often overworked people to do their job well and not let things fall through the cracks. I really don’t know if that could possibly do any good, but it was something I felt I should try. I am so grateful for their response and concern for a stranger. That really moves me when I think about it. There’s a lot of goodness among Chinese people.
In the end, though, I think the lawyer and the other efforts people made might not have made any difference — I trust that and hope that the system would have released her in any case — but it made a difference to her and to the family, for it let them know that they were not forgotten. Sometimes that’s the best we can do in our trials and afflictions, to let others know that they are not forgotten, and sometimes that’s the most valuable revelation we can get from the Lord in coping with our afflictions: that He knows, that He has not forgotten us, that we are not forgotten by Him who descended below all things, and that in the end, there will be justice, mercy, and His abundant love to embrace us and welcome us home, free at last.
Two wonderful women and friends, both given new hope through the kindness of others. What wonderful Christmas news! Thanks to all who helped our friends in these trials, and thanks to all of you who help others in so many ways to have a shot at freedom, to have joy, or to know that they are not forgotten in their darkest days.
By the way, one of the advantages of China’s Great Firewall, as much as I dislike it, is that this blog and all almost all things Google are blocked, so I don’t have to worry too much about Chinese people seeing this site. This lets me praise people close to me without the awkwardness of being an overt brownnoser. But you would be genuinely surprised at how much brownnosing some people in my life deserve! I love the goodness that I often find in this grand country.