Li Bangwu, a farmer in Yingfeng Village, Dianshui Town, Pengshui County, Chongqing municipality, died at the age of 36 on 11 October, 2002. How could he pass away at such a young age? Did a disease kill him? Yes, but not absolutely. “He shouldn’t have died. It was ‘The Disciples’ that made him die so young,” sighed his villagers.
Located in mountains, Yingfeng Village is hard to get to by transport. Local villagers have lived a simple and plain farming life for generations. The family of Li Bangwu is no exception. For generations, his family has lived on a farm. Though not wealthy, they have adequate food and clothing and life is stable. However, accidents always happen. After Li Bangwu became ill in 1996, his family was no longer stable.
One day in August, 1996, after working a whole day on the farm as usual, Li Bangwu fell to sleep immediately after a quick supper. At midnight, he dreamed of an “evil ghost” chasing him and he couldn’t get away from it no matter how hard he ran. He roused suddenly from sleep and was drenched in sweat. After that, he fell ill, lacking in strength and coughing without stop. Because his family was poor, he didn’t go to the hospital but had some herbal medicines. Over one month passed and his illness worsened. He often felt pain in his chest and coughed more often, sometimes with blood in the phlegm. His family was scared, raised some money and sent him to a county hospital. The diagnosis was tuberculosis. The doctor made a prescription and told him and his family that tuberculosis was nothing serious as long as he received regular treatment and had more rest.
After a period of treatment, Li Bangwu was less ill. However, because of a lack of labor force and the high price of fish, meat, and milk powder, the family felt great pressure and couldn’t afford this anymore. Li Bangwu was filled with hatred and worry. He hated himself for catching the disease. He worried about not being able to solve the difficulty. In low spirits, Li quarreled with his wife and parents about trivial matters now and then. The house was no longer calm. This continued for several months until the dawn of a new year when Li got a “surprise” which enriched his life with hope.
As usual, villagers working outside of the village came back home to unite with families during Spring Festival. Li was able to chat with some of his old friends. One day, when walking down the street, Li saw several villagers gathering and whispering to each other. He was curious and joined them. They were talking about a mysterious church called The Disciples. As long as you joined this church, you wouldn’t need medicine and treatment if you were ill. The illness would cure itself. What’s more, half a kilo of rice was enough to feed five strong men for one day. Those absurd theories aroused great interest in Li, who was trying to find ways to get rid of the difficulties caused by his tuberculosis. Therefore, he joined the group warmly and told them about his situation. The villagers persuaded him to join The Disciples, saying again and again that the “chance must be grasped”, “coincidence is better than luck”, etc. Li was persuaded into joining the cult.
Since then, The Disciples believers came to visit him now and then, bringing him books and teaching him how to pray. Li’s house gradually became a gathering point of local The Disciples believers.
In 1998, Li’s tuberculosis seemed to take a turn for the better (his family said later that it was just what he felt). He was very happy and had no doubt about the power of the “praying cure” advocated by The Disciples followers. He became crazy about attending the activities organized by the cult.
However, it was merely a false impression that his disease turned better and this didn’t last long. In 2000, Li’s tuberculosis started to deteriorate. He coughed all day and all night with more and more blood in his phlegm. His family worried about him and tried to persuade him to receive medical treatment, but he insisted that as long as he prayed devoutly, he would be protected by his “God” and all diseases and disasters would be eradicated. He quarreled with his family fiercely. At the same time, more and more believers came to pray for him. He felt like he was being looked after by “God”.
In 2002, as his disease worsened, Li’s body completely broke down. He became as thin as a skeleton and very fragile. Villagers often saw him sitting under the trees, relying on a walking stick, with glassy eyes, mumbling as if praying for something. But nobody could figure out what he was saying.
When autumn arrived, Li was close to death. He lay weakly on his bed and couldn’t say a word. He made a “cross” with his right hand while pointing to the wall with his left hand. His wife seemed to know what he meant and took the cross flag of The Disciples off the wall. She wanted to put it in his hand, but he suddenly grabbed the flag and threw it on the ground with all of his might. He forced a bitter smile and drew his last breath.
(Editor in chief: Lu Yuan)