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[Feature] Is There Only Despair or Still Hope Living in a Wooden Cage?

[Feature] Is There Only Despair or Still Hope Living in a Wooden Cage?

The picture of a wooden cage in which two male Christians with mental illness were locked The picture of a wooden cage in which two male Christians with mental illness were locked
ByJosiah Li January 12, 2022
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There are two male Christians who have been locked in a wooden cage on the high mountains of the Nujiang River Grand Canyon in Yunnan Province for almost a decade. They both suffer from aggressive psychosis and their family has no other option but to lock them up. The wooden cage is made of thick tree trunks, of only four to five square meters. It’s divided into two rooms with no windows or doors.

One morning in late December 2021, the author and several Christian believers drove from the county town to the wooden house located in the remote mountains at an altitude of more than 2,200 meters.

In front of the house, a thin old man who looked even-tempered shook hands with us one by one and said: "Huahua" ("Hello" in Lisu language).

Passing the wooden cage where the two patients lived, these Christians looked in through the cracks between the wood slabs. One of them was sleeping under a quilt, and the other was wandering in the cage.

With wild honey as one source of family income, the old man began to share what had happened to his family.

The old man himself as the father is 72 years old, two years older than his wife. They have four sons and two daughters. The eldest son (47 years old) and the second son (45 years old) live in the wooden cage. The two daughters are married, while the two younger sons are still single. 

Different factors caused the mental illness of the two sons. When the eldest son was building their family house, his head was hit by a stone, which affected his mental health. Later, when working out of his hometown, he killed someone accidentally. With the hospital assessment, he was considered mentally ill when committing the murder, then he was released. However, this incident aggravated his condition. The second son started suffering from epilepsy when he was fourteen or fifteen years old. With seizures all day long, he ran around in a grave.

Since 2010, the two sons have been locked in this wooden cage. Their parents deliver meals to them through gaps between wood planks, mixing drugs for mental illness into their food. Outside the wooden cage, there is a TV set and a DVD player with which the parents sometimes allow them to watch programs.

In the past ten years, the two sons have lived outside of the cage a couple of times. Once it was about two to three months, and the other time was for between one to two years. Becoming aggressive again, they had to be locked up. After that, they never came out of the cage.

"Did your son believe in Jesus before?" a female Christian surnamed Li asked when the old man paused during his sharing.

He said that the whole family believed in Jesus. The eldest son received the communion before he fell ill. Now, the father is still the head of worship (a similar position as “the person in charge”) of the church near his home. His third son preaches on Sundays in the same church.

After a short silence, we began to sing the hymns The Sun Above the Clouds, Amazing Grace, Lord When I Say I Love You, and prayed aloud. Chen, who was praying for them, cried to God. She did not understand why this family was infected with such suffering, but she knew that God is good and in control of everything. She asked God to comfort and heal this family.

They tried to talk to their second son. Some prayed for him, asking God to heal and release him. Someone told him "Jesus loves you"... While they were talking to him, he started to get down on one knee, holding his hands together. He seemed to be praying.

A male believer with the surname of Lin said that this was a spiritual battle in which the family was attacked. Even so, their family was still able to hold on to their faith and even served in the church, so he believed that this family would receive great grace.

Li, who specializes in visiting people who are mentally ill, said that the local government gave the brothers a monthly subsidy of 900 yuan RMB each, providing psychotropic drugs for free. So far, their living expenses were entirely covered. 

Li added that the two elderly parents needed more emotional support. For taking care of such children every day, they would seek companionship, care, encouragement and understanding. They would need to chat with people about their feelings. But very few people could climb such high mountains to accompany them.

Li and the church staff once came to visit on foot. It would take a whole day for the trip. Sometimes they chartered a car which was too expensive and cost 600 yuan RMB.

This ministry is very difficult. Nevertheless, Li considers it meaningful, for which she perseveres in doing it.

Li has visited a total of 35 patients with mental heath issues. Some of them are seriously ill, and some can take care of themselves. She was pleased that two of them had basically recovered, hoping that they could join the serving team in the future.

"Although I can't do something as important as Pastor Fu Nengren, I will do my best to serve," said Li. In addition to visiting the people with mental illness, she also hoped to have a small studio in the county town to accommodate those in need. She could talk with them and bring them to Jesus. Nowadays, people are not short of material things but spiritual companionship.

- Translated by Shuya Wang

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