Huang Detang's Contract with God
On April 15, 1981, an elderly man of God named Huang Detang was lowered into a grave in Xiangshan County near Ningbo City. Huang had never been an ordained pastor, but had lived out his faith as an uneducated farmer. The surrounding communities had such respect for Huang that more than 400 people paid their final respects at his funeral, even though it had not been advertised.
Huang first believed the gospel when he was in his forties. Years later, he developed painful boils on his feet which caused him great agony and prevented him from working. Locals gave him the nickname, 'Lame Huang'.
In his desperation, Huang cried out to Jesus for healing. A short time later he received a vivid dream, in which the Lord told him, "You must truly believe in Me, and I will heal you. You must witness for Me."
In his dream, Huang thanked Jesus for the help he would receive and promised that once he could walk again he would share the gospel widely. Huang said the Lord told him, "A verbal promise is not enough. You must write a contract of indenture by which you offer yourself up as My servant."
Huang had only a primary school education and didn't know what a contract of indenture was or how to write one. He again cried out for God's mercy and help, and received another dream, in which the Lord showed him how to word the contract. Huang composed the following:
"I, Huang Detang, sign this indenture by which I offer myself up forever.
Because of my own uselessness, I have boils on my feet. They are very painful and I have nowhere to turn. I can only ask my gracious Savior, my Lord Jesus, to be merciful to me, a great sinner.
I now receive the precious Blood of the Lord as the ransom price which has redeemed me from death to life, and I know that the Lord will heal my feet, take my soul to the heavenly kingdom forever, and I will become a child of God with honor and glory.
Because I have nothing to repay the grace of God, I will most gladly dedicate my body and soul to Him. After my dedication, I am totally at the disposal of the Lord. No matter where I am sent, even without any address, I will go. Whether it is to the east, south, west or north, whether it is climbing mountains or crossing seas, cold or hot, whether I am hungry or thirsty, or if I suffer want and persecution, I will follow the Lord to the end and not be disheartened. No one in my family or among relatives and friends will be able to pose any obstacles or cause me to go back on my promise.
This indenture is the common wish of both parties and neither of them raises any objection. I sign it as evidence of my willingness.
A short time after signing his unique contract with God, the boils on Huang's feet disappeared and he was able to walk freely again.
Over the years, each of the points in Huang's solemn contract was sorely tested, as God took Huang at his word and stretched his faith by sending him on dangerous adventures that resulted in thousands of people hearing the gospel. From the 1950s to the 1970s he ministered during the darkest days of Communist persecution, and was arrested and tortured by the authorities on several occasions.
Huang's ministry was characterized by many instances of God prompting him to do things that made no rational sense, but with his indenture in mind, Huang obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and remained true to his pledge, even when it resulted in great personal hardship. On one occasion when Huang was preaching he heard the inner voice of the Spirit of God tell him, "Love the one in the last row!"
That night he was unable to sleep, and at dawn he met with the pastor and enquired who the person was who sat on the last row of the church. Huang was taken to a tiny shack, where he saw a bedridden man with only a tattered blanket on his bed and dirt covering every inch of the room. The man's limbs were pale, and only when Huang saw the man in the light did he realize he was a leper.
Brother Huang asked the man how many years he had believed in Jesus, but he just shook his head to indicate he was not a Christian. He asked the leper why he had gone to the church the previous night, and he replied that he had received a dream instructing him to go to the meeting because Jesus wanted to save him. On the day of the meeting he was able to get out of bed for the first time in months, and a neighbor helped him to the church.
Huang Detang didn't know how he could help the man's dire situation, as he was impoverished himself. Then the Lord told him, "Take off your jacket and give it to him." Huang was afraid. His padded jacket was the only one he owned. It kept him warm as he walked through the mountains in winter, and he slept in it while on his preaching journeys. "Surely not, Lord. I have great need of it," Huang argued. The Holy Spirit said to him:
"'If you do not give it to him, what you preach is like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If you have not love, what use is it? If you have not love, you are not serving Me.'
Brother Huang had to obey in tears, but as soon as he had given his jacket away he felt immensely relieved.... He was without a jacket for many years and yet was not frostbitten."2
Sometimes the demands God placed on Huang were too difficult for other Christians to cope with, and they refused to be involved. One of those times was when the Lord directed him to share the gospel and demonstrate God's love to a dishevelled prostitute, who was near death from syphilis. Huang shared the gospel and provided her with food and clothing. The ladies in the local church, however, did not want to stoop so low as to help such a wretched person, but due to God's love shown through Huang, the woman died a short time later as a follower of Jesus.
Huang continued witnessing for his Lord and Savior right up to his death in 1981, at the age of 96. Few people outside his home region in Zhejiang have ever heard of Huang Detang, but in heaven he is known as the man who kept his contract with God.
1. Alan Hunter & Kim-Kwong Chan, Protestantism in Contemporary China: Cambridge Studies in Ideology and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 211.
2. Hunter & Chan, Protestantism in Contemporary China, p. 214.
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Zhejiang: The Jerusalem of China'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.