Dear Reading Friends and New Subscribers, This is David Telbat with a new short story for you, “Codename Yalu.” Printing Bibles in China is still illegal—for common civilian use. Not long ago, I received a report from a Chinese contact who shared news that a Chinese Christian in China had been stabbed to death by North Korean agents—because the Christian was helping North Koreans who had crossed into China. Thus, the following short story is inspired by that man’s sacrifice and devotion.
Codename Yalu: Printing Bibles in China
by D.I. Telbat
Yalu pedaled his bike faster, the smell of gun smoke and blood still in his nostrils. He clenched his teeth as his brake-less bike bounced down a deer trail in Eastern China. If he were a younger man, he might have been more experienced at such breakneck speeds, but Yalu was now in his fifties. Normally, there was no reason to rush downhill faster than his narrow eyes could focus on the blurred objects.
The next turn through the sparse trees came too quickly. Yalu tried to make the curve to the left where the trail angled eastward, but his momentum was too great. Rather than fight the inevitable crash, Yalu launched himself over his handlebars as the front wheel collided with an ancient stump.
Airborne, Yalu gasped aloud, knowing the landing would be painful, but not as painful as realizing everyone he knew and loved was dead.
The ground was softer than Yalu expected. He landed on his shoulder in dead leaves, then rolled until he stopped to lay on his back.
The sky was blue and the air was cool that fall morning. It was thirty seconds before he caught his breath and forced himself to sit up. Looking around, he noticed the silence of the forest. What a contrast to the gunshots and murderous evil he’d just fled—which could still be chasing him.
Standing, Yalu checked his limbs. Nothing was broken, only bruised. But his bike was finished. The stump had done a good job of turning his front tire into a twisted piece of metal. Even without the bike, he might still beat the killers to the safe house. If he hurried.
He ran away from his bike, remembering the years it had provided transportation and service in smuggling small packages of Bibles around the region. But Yalu was a believer. He couldn’t become too attached to the things of this world. Jesus Christ had given His all for him, so Yalu was content to surrender everything for Jesus, if necessary.
Sacrifice was uncomfortable, but Yalu wasn’t afraid of discomfort. He was a Christian in China, where unsanctioned churches were illegal, and undocumented pastors were imprisoned, sometimes executed under false charges.
At a small stream, Yalu splashed through the water without stopping. His legs burned as he charged uphill. Panting, he reached the top of the ridge and listened to the wind. A truck engine was near. The killers were on the High Road, trying to beat Yalu to the safe house. However, the High Road paralleled the river, and Yalu could beat them through the woods. Maybe.
Before he was fully recovered, Yalu trudged and staggered as fast as he could along the ridge. His enemies were North Korean agents. They’d been crossing into China for months, hunting for him and the other Christians, most of whom had fled North Korea in years past. It was illegal for the North Korean agents to operate in China, but China hadn’t lifted a hand to protect Yalu or his friends, who were illegals and refugees themselves.
Illegal or not, Yalu had built a small network of believers who helped other refugees fleeing from North Korea. They were all orphans, as they were called—people without family or fatherland. The wicked agents of a vicious regime thought the orphans were fair game, since they were cut off from the communist country of their birth. The common Christian was imprisoned, but ringleaders were often tortured and killed.
Yalu fell to his knees. The safe house was in sight. He traced the road with his eyes. Two trucks were approaching!
Crying out, he pushed himself to his feet. The pain would pass, he told himself. If he hadn’t worked at the safe house all night, he wouldn’t even be alive now. He needed to be thankful he’d worked until morning and arrived late to interrupt the massacre. Now, he was alive to carry on the work of Christ.
Reaching the safe house, he fell against the thin wall and threw open the door. The flimsy cabin had been built in the woods years earlier, barely weathering winter storms. It had been a transition point for refugees. Now, it housed Yalu’s most valued asset: a printing press.
It was a simple printing press by modern standards of technology. All he had was a printer and a laptop. There was no binding machinery, no cover graphics, and no fancy lettering on the Bibles he printed, one page at a time. The underground church in Shanghai had provided the laptop and printer, and they smuggled ink cartridges and paper to him every few weeks, enabling him to print three full Bibles a week. His loose pages of the Bible were treasured by North Korean refugees, many of whom returned to their homeland to share the Word with family and friends. Usually, returning meant imprisonment, but they went anyway.
Yalu unplugged the laptop from the extension cord, powered by a solar panel on the roof. It was all he could carry away. He tucked it under his jacket and returned to the doorway. The vehicles had arrived. Car doors slammed.
“Father,” Yalu prayed, “give my feet wings!”
Tears streaked his face as he ran away. He was leaving everything else behind. The people he’d served with were dead, but he would see them again. The Bible told him so. Yalu would set up a new printing press. More refugees would come. He would discourage them from staying and working with him in the dangerous work, but some would insist on joining him. The danger was worth it, they would say. The risk was small, in comparison to the reward.
After all, they were sharing the eternal Truth with others. Nothing was more important, not even their lives!
Author Fact Note: I gave this character the fictional code name Yalu in reference to the actual Yalu River across which some North Koreans escape in their flights from North Korea.—DIT
Distant Front, Book Two of The COIL Legacy, is based primarily in China. Knowing the context of this repressive country, and of its neighbor North Korea, will help us to better appreciate the Persecuted Church in that area. Let’s support their work with prayer and/or in other ways. Visit Voice of the Martyrs here, and Open Doors here.
COMING UP: Join us next time for a review of one of David’s favorite Christian Fiction Novels, Book Review on Soul Defenders, by Carol Van Atta. And in the following post, we have another new short story for you by D.I. Telbat called, “We Can Share.”