The Silent Bell Speaks

The Silent Bell Speaks

Wu Chang and his sister Perfect Flower saw a crowd in the market place. A notice was posted on the wall of the village jail. Curiously the two Chinese children edged their way to the front of the crowd.

"Whoever shall possess any part of a Christian Bible from this day and thereafter," Wu Chang read, "shall be guilty of high crimes and shall be sentenced to a long jail term."

"And it's signed by Mayor Tuan himself," Perfect Flower gasped. "Our fat, evil Mayor Tuan hopes to gain with the new government," said Wu Chang.

"Our new government is godless. They would be glad if we forgot all the Randolphs taught us about Jesus."

It had been almost three years since the American missionaries had had to leave their village. The mission house had been boarded up and a guard posted to make sure no one tried to enter it. Never since then had the mission church bell rung, calling the people to services.

But the children's father, the merchant Wu Lien, had still conducted secret meetings of the village Christians in the back of his shop.

Wu Chang entered his father's shop and told him about the mayor's decree.

That very night two of Mayor Tuan's soldiers burst into their house in the middle of the night and dragged Wu Lien out of bed. They took him off to jail, because they had found a Christian Bible in his room.

The next evening was the regular night for the prayer meeting in the back of Wu Lien's shop. Wu Chang was going to conduct the meeting in his father's absence.

"I am glad to see so many here in spite of the mayor's decree," Wu Chang said. "I am sure you will make protests when you hear that my father has been unjustly imprisoned because he possessed a Christian Bible."

There were murmurs of sympathy for Wu Lien, but it was clear the villagers were frightened and would not help.

"It will take a miracle, a ringing of a tongueless bell, to help us," a wrinkled old woman declared. This was an old Chinese expression for a miracle.

The next morning Wu Chang went to the metal worker's shop where bells were made.

"Do you know why the mission church bell does not ring even when the wind moves it?" he asked Fang, the metal worker.

"The tongue was taken out of the mission bell so it would not ring," he answered.

Wu Chang told Perfect Flower what he intended to do. The next day he went by the mission with some brass tongs hidden under his clothing. The guard told him to move on. Then the guard sat down on the mission steps to take a nap in the afternoon sun.

Wu Chang walked around in back of the mission and found a boarded-up window. He had to work quickly. He pried away the boards. He found the stairway to the cupola where the bell was. Then, after climbing the stairs, he began striking the bell with the brass tongs. It made a magnificent noise.

In a few minutes Wu Chang heard the guard breaking into the building and running up the stairs. "Stop that, you evil boy!" he shouted, dragging Wu Chang from the bell.

But it was too late. Already the Christian people were streaming from their houses. Many had their Bibles or New Testaments in their hands. For three years the bell had been silent. This was surely a miracle!

"The tongueless bell speaks," one Christian neighbor declared to the next. "The tongueless bell speaks for Jesus!"

Up the hill to the mission the people walked.

Mayor Tuan had recognized the sound of the bell. He had gone to the mission to see what had happened to make the bell ring. Now he was shaking his fat fist at Wu Chang. "You will suffer the same fate as your father for this!" Mayor Tuan shouted.

The crowd had reached the mission now.

"You must arrest the others, too," Wu Chang told the mayor. "Many have Bibles or New Testaments."

"But the jail is not big enough to hold all of them," the mayor protested. "Besides if all these people are in jail, how will I collect enough taxes to pay my salary?"

The crowd stirred uneasily. They were waiting for what the mayor would do now.

"Very well," Mayor Tuan fumed, stamping his foot. "You may keep your Bibles!"

"What of Wu Lien?" some brave person asked. "Are you going to keep him in jail for something that is no longer a crime?"

"Very well, Wu Lien will go free," said the mayor, stamping his foot again.

That night Wu Lien and his children were reunited. "Every night I prayed that God would help me, as Jesus had taught me to believe," he said. "And with Wu Chang's help, he did!"—Adapted from a story by Morton Green, in Juniors

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