Just before we left Florida last Friday, someone recommended a novel called Red Runs the River by Anthony Bollback. I started reading it on the flight back to Chicago and found myself engrossed in the story of Meiling and Anching, two young people caught in the chaos that engulfed China in the late 1940s as Mao-Tse-Tung and the Communist Party came to power. The story rings true because Anthony Bollback and his wife Evelyn served as missionaries to China during that very turbulent period. They were among the thousands of missionaries forced out of the country when the communists took over. This book tells in fictional format how the communists began their brutal campaign to destroy the Christian movement in China. For a long time, it looked as if they might succeed. We now know that in spite of (some would say because of) fierce persecution, the church grew from several million in 1949 to 80-100 million Chinese Christians today.
Mr. Bollback says that many episodes in this book represent true stories of believers he personally knew. But the book is also a love story of Meiling, daughter of a high school principal, and Anching, son of a poor factory worker. How they meet and both come to faith in Christ forms the first part of the book. Later the Nationalist Army conscripts Anching, and he is taken to fight against the communists. After a crucial battle, he finds himself behind enemy lines, helping a wounded friend. Meiling lives in fear for her family's fate when the communists take over. Her fears prove to be well-founded as both she and her father end up in "re-education" camps. As the book ends, Meiling and Anching are separated by hundreds of miles, neither one knowing if the other is still alive.
The title refers to the river of blood shed by Chinese Christians when the communists came to power. Anthony Bollback's website says that this is Vol. 1 of "The Story of China's Persecuted Church." Volume 2, "Exiles of Hope," should be released later this year. Like all good novels, "Red Runs the River" may be fiction but it speaks the truth.
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