Blind Chang:  Martyr Of Manchuria (Part 1) 

    Chang Shen was born in the village of Taipingkow in Manchuria.  He probably would have lived and died in that region, quite unknown to the outside world, had it not been for rumors which in the winter of 1886 came floating in concerning a foreign doctor in Mukden (some 120 miles away) who could cure all kinds of diseases.  Even blind men were known to have gone into the hospital and returned seeing.

    Blind Chang, as he was called, was then thirty-six years of age.  He listened with intense interest to these tales and hope gradually dawned within him that he too might receive sight.  One morning in May he set forth on his long tramp without even a guide, only a stout stick with which to feel his way. 

    All went well for the first part of the journey, but when still more than a day’s journey from Mukden he was suddenly set upon by robbers who took from him his little hoard of money, stripped him of his warm clothing and left him bruised and well-nigh helpless, by the roadside.  That night his only resting place was the cold brick floor of an open wayside temple.

    On reaching the hospital gateway, sick with dysentery and too exhausted to stand any longer, he threw himself down beside the gate.  He sent word in asking for his admittance.  Soon a message came that the hospital was full, not a bed vacant and therefore not room for him.  When this was told him, the blind man seemed not to hear and continued to lie there.   The hospital evangelist happened at this time to go out to the gate.  As he looked upon the cold, hungry, suffering blind man, his heart stirred within him.  Stepping quickly into the hospital, he went directly to Dr. Christie and volunteered his own bed to be given to the man at the gate.   

Spiritual Eyes Opened

    For one month Blind Chang remained in the hospital where relief and healing came to his suffering body, but only very partial sight to the blind eyes.  At best he could but grope his way about with difficulty.  Sad to say, even this dim but still precious sight given him in the hospital was totally and permanently destroyed when not long after he returned home he was persuaded by a native doctor to under­­go another procedure on his eyes.

    The bitter disappointment Blind Chang must have felt at the failure to get back his sight was more than made up to him, however, by the great joy with which he received the story of Redemption as it was unfolded to him in the hospital.  Dr. Christie later wrote:  “Never had we a patient in our hospital who received the Gospel with such joy as Blind Chang.  The rapidity with which he grasped the leading truths of Christianity was remarkable.”

    Blind Chang had been an inveterate gambler.  He made his living by acting as a sort of Official and using his self-­assumed power to prey upon the people who feared him.  His only child, a daughter, he turned out of doors, to be forced into beggary and a life of shame.  Not long after, he drove his wife from home.  Seventeen days after the wife had gone he became totally blind.  He had lived such an immoral life, the people spoke of him as a “Wu soa pu wei te,” meaning “one without a particle of good in him.” 

    This miracle of the New Birth has been seen in evidence again and again as slaves of sin and habit, bound with chains as real and strong as any forged in a furnace, have had their fetters snapped by the grace of God through faith making the soul a free man in Christ.  “Ah Lord God!...there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jer. 32:17).     Before leaving the hospital for home, the blind man went to the Rev. James Webster and asked for baptism.  He was anxious to get rid of all his sins and be cleansed from his black past.  Mr. Webster saw that Blind Chang needed further instruction. The missionary made it plain that Chang must return home, then later he would visit him and if he still wished to follow the Lord he would be baptized.      

His Ministry Begins

    As Blind Chang faced the homeward journey his heart was filled with intense joy.  Along the road were open wayside drinking places where wayfarers sat, rested, drank hot water and chatted.  On reaching such a place, Blind Chang would seat himself at a table and at once begin to tell the Old, Old Story which never grows old.  Thus before reaching home his ministry had begun.

    Five months passed before Mr. Webster was able to pay his promised visit to the blind man.  Following is his telling of the meeting with Blind Chang:

    “At the entrance to the village two men were standing.  Addressing one, I found him to be a Mr. Li who knew all about the blind man.  He led me into his home and while we drank tea together, he told me a story which caused me to forget all hunger and weariness.  He told how when Blind Chang returned home from Mukden he began at once to tell the people the story of Jesus.  He went from village to village, and into as many homes as would receive him.  Then in the evenings he would preach to hundreds gathered under the shade of the willow trees.  At first everybody laughed at him or thought him crazed and pitied him.  But when he kept on preaching, and giving practical proofs of having undergone a change, people became divided about him.  Some cursed him, some blessed him.  In short the whole countryside was in an uproar.  Week after week passed, the blind man daily praying his prayer for help from on high and singing the one hymn he learned in Mukden, ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ then sallying forth to tell the story of Redeeming Love.”  Would that every newborn child of God at home and abroad could have such told of them! 

    Blind Chang was in the village but had missed the missionary, and on hearing of his arrival started out with great joy to find him.  They met on the road and as the blind man came within hailing distance, Mr. Webster called him by name.  Blind Chang stood stock still for a moment resting on his staff, and then with his face radiant with joy, and great tears dropping from his eyes, he exclaimed, “Oh, Pastor!  I always said you would come.  You promised!”

    The following two days was a never-­to-be-forgotten experience for the missionary.  The first day was spent in examining candidates for baptism, each one given a private interview.  Nine men, along with Blind Chang, were baptized and partook of the Lord’s Supper.  Mr. Webster wrote of this occasion:  “I have seldom had more satisfaction with candidates than with these men.  I have never joined in a more solemn and joyful sacramental service.  The nine men were headed by their blind guide, who had to be led by the hand to receive the sacred rite.  Professing to come to Christ and to believe in Him, and to venture their all in thus believing, they declared their intention to forsake the idolatry of their fathers and their desire through grace to turn from evil and serve the living God – and all this with a warmth of purpose impossible to describe.”

    (To be continued) 

    – Adapted from the book Blind Chang:  Missionary Martyr of Manchuria by Rosalind Goforth.