Reading Kevin and Julia Garratt’s experiences in Chinese captivity left me feeling nauseous. The story of their arrest, captivity, grueling interrogations, and intense suffering over 775 days is chronicled in such a way as to create a vicarious experience.
This is one book you will need to read in 2019. Whatever your circumstance, the Garratt’s vulnerability, honesty, faith, and humor will resonate with your spirit.
“Tears formed. Not from exhaustion, loneliness or plaguing physical pain. These were good tears. Tears of release. I’d waited 775 days for these wonderful tears!” (p. 266)
Kevin and Julia worked in China for 30 years and raised their family there. They loved the Chinese. Assisting with education, humanitarian work, Christian social enterprises and a popular coffee house was their heart passion.
Then They Disappeared
After dinner at a local Chinese restaurant they were forcibly separated and taken to a secret Chinese compound. They woke up as prisoners, charged with espionage – a crime punishable by execution.
Freedom and privacy were gone.
They would need to survive every day and every night with watching eyes and no escape from the lights.
Surviving Takes Every Breath
Kevin and Julia alternate their storytelling throughout the book. They pace the book with entire pages describing a few hours of their agony and then month-long experiences described in a paragraph.
Their freedom gone, they shared with Chinese guards how they could find freedom through faith in Jesus.
Julia – My inner strength puzzled them. Although fear and threats affected me, friendliness and baffling inner peace made intimidation difficult. (p. 116)
Our work as Christians is to give an answer to everyone who asks for the hope we have. Our life manual is the stories of other people who’ve lived with God as a supernatural partner. The Bible is God’s resume.” (p. 117)
Kevin – I stretched out my hands with nothing to offer God but suffering. He didn’t remove it but peace came. I felt him close. The more I offered him the more he filled my nightmare with himself. He entered my fear, despair and loneliness. In his presence, the size of my suffering was incomparable to the size of his love. (p. 120)
Two Tears On The Window
Julia – Something moved on the wall beside me. The sun had cast a shadow of two raindrops trickling down one after the other. I turned to find their origin. Outside my plastic-covered window two drops of water followed a slow and steady pathway down the glass pane.
Why only two? How can this be, it’s a sunny day? Then I heard a whisper. Julia. I’m sorry. My eyes followed until the drops reached the ledge out of my sight. My miracle wasn’t release. It was seeing God’s sorrow.
Two tears on the window. I took my pencil and scribbled the image in the back of my Bible. Day 182. I saw God cry. (p. 145)
Will Anyone Save Me?
Kevin – At times the Bible seemed to say everything. Now. Wait. Persevere. Trust. Sometimes my longing for the miraculous deliverance created deep disappointment and I wondered if prison was my final earthly destination.
I cried to God many times a day, often many times a minute. Every time peace came. Words, phrases or timely passages connected me to aspects of God’s character and his larger story, helping me trust and manage the debilitating pain. Sometimes pain gripped so tight my whole body radiated pain in an all-encompassing ache as if my body would one day have enough and collapse. One evening, deep despair set in. Overcome with constant waves of pain and unable to sleep, I hummed an old hymn and stopped after the first phrase. Take my life and let it be… I wanted heaven to rescue me.
Hard To See Goodness
For days my eyes couldn’t focus. The varicose veins on my legs protruded and I avoided looking at them, afraid they would burst and I’d watch myself bleed to death. My hands lacked strength and after pacing, hung limp and numb at my side. If I held a book, they tingled until they lost all feeling. Will anyone save me? Does Canada care? My head throbbed and pain pierced my chest. My irregular heart rate spiked high and low. The prison doctor kept trying new medicines but nothing helped. The pain intensified until I couldn’t walk or stand. It was hard to see goodness in the waiting. (p. 118)
Where Are You God?
Kevin – I couldn’t call anyone in prison a friend at first. In this community of criminals, I felt dirty, embarrassed and ashamed. It terrified me that everyone looked so normal. After staring at the ceiling for an hour, I put my face in the pillow and cried hoping no one would see me. (p. 167)
At times I did not feel God for days. Has He abandoned me? I know he answers prayers. Why not mine? I begged and pleaded. Not prison. But he was silent. I knew he was there but wanted more. I wanted the wind and the earthquake and the fire. I wanted the kind of God who would write things on the wall and miraculously open prison doors to set his captive free. I read the Bible stopping at every miraculous deed. I underlined all the amazing things in Psalms. I didn’t want to read or see things like “why have you forsaken me?” because I felt it. Has God left me? Where are his whispers? (p. 185)
The doctors, nurses, guards and warden watched my deterioration but prison rules were hard to bend without bribes or power. My 400-day wait lacked focus. Disappointments stacked up and each minute was a battle. (p. 219)
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