I am submitting the following article written by my sister, Elizabeth Chu Domahidy, to relate my father’s conversion experience and he subsequently was attending Hamma Divinity School at Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio from August 1948 – December 1950 while the Communists ousted Chang Kai Shek and the Kuomintang and overtook all of China in 1949.
God’s Guiding Hand by Elizabeth Chu Domahidy
Do you believe in God’s guiding hand? If you are skeptical that God pushes us in our life’s direction then perhaps this story may change your mind. And by the way, God may not make it a gentle push as you’ll come to see in this experience!
This event is one of many stories in the life of my father, Daniel. Daniel was a retired Lutheran minister (died 11/21/2013) living in a retirement community. He was born in China on March 25, 1917. One may assume that Daniel had spent his entire life dedicated to serving the Lord, looking after His flock and ministering to the needs of those looking for mercy and comfort. But Daniel’s life wasn’t always about serving mankind. In fact, during Daniel’s earlier years, he was more focused on how best to serve himself.
The setting of what I’m about to relay is post WW II China, year 1948. China’s roads and railroad network had been bombed and destroyed. Chinese family members living overseas anxious to care for their family members in China were sending remittances to their relatives living in China to help get them through the hardships resulting from the war. Meanwhile, China was also desperately trying to boost its economy. The currency presses in Shanghai were running day and night trying to keep up with the demand for the yuan (Chinese currency) to honor the demands. But without passable roads and functional railroads, it was very difficult to transport the yuan from Shanghai to the cities throughout China.
Almost anyone with good credits traveling by air or sea could go to a bank in Shanghai and offer their services to help transport yuan. The banks advertised that they would pay the traveler 15% of whatever amount of yuan the traveler could carry. Daniel saw this as an opportunity to make fast money! He decided to start small. He carried a handbag of yuan from Shanghai to Amoy, a city on China’s southern coast, on an airplane. The whole process went smoothly and sure enough he made a quick 15% profit.
After doing this several times, Daniel became greedy. He decided to involve his wife, Shirley, and their three small sons. The five of them would travel by ship to visit Gong Gong in Swatow. Daniel’s reasoning was that a family of 5 would be entitled 5 pieces of luggage on a ship; with that number of suitcases, Daniel could transport a lot of yuan – 150 million in yuan! For that amount of yuan, the banks will pay 25% to the courier. What an opportunity! There is a downside to every “too good to be true opportunity”. If Daniel loses the yuan, he would still be responsible to the bank for all the borrowed sum. 150 million is more money than Daniel could ever make in his lifetime, so if he loses the money, Daniel would lose everything.
Not to be deterred. Daniel bought passage for his family on a ship traveling from Shanghai to Swatow (now known as Shàntóu) and make the exchange there with a Swatow bank. But if anyone asked why they were going to Swatow, it would be to visit Shirley’s father. Shirley and Daniel packed 1 suitcase with clothes for themselves and their sons and filled 4 suitcases full of yuan in large bills. As someone once said to Daniel, “To win big, you have to think big!” And that’s what Daniel was determined to do.
On a spring day in March, 1948, Daniel and his family boarded the ship. Everything was going very smoothly. Daniel carefully watched the ship hands load luggage onto the ship. He kept a very close eye on his 5 suitcases. He dogged the porters to make sure all 5 suitcases were safely delivered to his cabin. Once the suitcases were in his cabin, Daniel finally was able to breathe. The ship blew its departure horn and they were on their way.
Later that evening at bedtime, the little family of five knelt down and prayed to God. They thanked God for giving them this profitable opportunity and asked for God’s safe keeping to Swatow. As Shirley and the boys slumbered, Daniel mused about how easy it is to make money! “Other guys just aren’t as smart as I am!” he thought. His mother kept appearing in his mind saying, “Daniel, remember, you belong to God. Your calling is to become a minister to serve His people.” Daniel’s father was the first ordained Chinese Lutheran Minister in China. Daniel’s parents never let Daniel forget that he was to follow in his father’s footsteps. Daniel’s friend, Dr. Nelson, the China Director for the Lutheran World Federation, also encouraged Daniel to enter seminary. But Daniel also remembered how his parents were always struggling financially to make ends meet. Now Daniel couldn’t help thinking that his parents and Dr. Nelson were wrong and that making easy money was Daniel’s destiny!
Daniel finally fell asleep counting his money in his head. While he was sleeping a storm developed. The ship encountered high winds and seas. Daniel woke up in a start as all the alarms on the ship were sounding. The boys woke up crying and Shirley was scared. Daniel rushed out into the hallway and people were running in all directions. He stopped a steward and asked, “What is going on?” The steward said, “The storm has pushed the ship aground and everyone needs to abandon ship!” “Abandon ship! What about our luggage?” Daniel cried. The steward said, “Leave everything in your cabin. We will take care of your luggage when we can. But first, you and your family need to go topside and board the lifeboats!”
Daniel returned to his cabin. Shirley was trying to calm the boys. Daniel told her what the steward said about needing to go to the lifeboats. Shirley said, “But what about our luggage?” Daniel swallowed hard and told Shirley not to worry and that the luggage would be OK.
Luckily the ship was caught on an outcropping of rock and was not in any immediate danger of sinking. But to be safe, the captain issued the abandon ship order and sent out an SOS. The ship was very close to an island in the Quemoy island group. So it was decided to transport the passengers to the island.
Daniel and Shirley dressed themselves and the boys, and packed a small handbag of supplies and personal valuables. They threw one last worried look at their 5 packed suitcases and left their cabin. They went to the deck of the ship and entered the pandemonium. Women and children were being loaded down to the lifeboats. When it was Shirley and the boys’ turn to board the lifeboats, Shirley went down first. The wind was fiercely blowing as she climbed down the rope ladder to the lifeboat. Then the ship hands made a make shift rope seat and tied baby Daniel to it and lowered him down to the lifeboat. Next, came the twins, Franklin and Winston. Baby Daniel watched as his brothers were precariously lowered to the lifeboat. He was so terrified and screamed so loudly that he stopped talking for two months afterwards. But the twins were safely placed into the lifeboat. Once Daniel knew Shirley and the boys were on their way to the island, he went to his cabin and made five trips carrying his luggage onto the deck. Daniel instructed the deck hands to make sure they didn’t miss his luggage when they got around to transporting the luggage.
When the lifeboats returned to the ship, the men boarded and were transported to the island. Once on shore, Daniel could see the ship and he closely watched the activities. Nearby was a man wringing his hands and muttering to himself. Daniel went to him and asked if he was alright. The man’s eyes were wild with fear. He cried, “All my life’s savings are on that ship!” Just as Daniel was about to reassure the man, Daniel saw a sight that struck terror in his heart. The ship hands were throwing suitcases over the deck railing. The larger heavier ones seemed to land into the lifeboats, but most of the suitcases were blown by the wind and splashed into the dark ocean. Daniel looked at the frightened man and saw his own panic reflected in the man’s eyes. Daniel quickly grabbed the man’s arm pulling him down to kneel. Daniel said, “Let’s pray together and beg for God’s mercy and help.” Daniel fervently prayed with the man and in that pray, Daniel said, “Lord, please let my suitcases be safe. If you find it in your heart to forgive my arrogance and see me through this calamity, I will commit myself to you. You have my word and promise that I shall immediately enter seminary and be a minister and be your faithful servant.”
The man and Daniel helplessly watched the suitcases fall from the ship and after what seemed like an eternity, the lifeboats began making their way to shore. When the lifeboats reached shore, they ran to the boats, along with many other passengers. Daniel frantically checked each suitcase. He spotted one of his suitcases and grabbed it. Then two, then three, then four! After looking through again, he could not find the fifth suitcase. But to Daniel’s great relief, he recovered the four suitcases of money and only lost the suitcase with clothes! The man Daniel met also found his suitcases. The Lord is indeed merciful!
At daybreak, a rescue ship arrived to take the passengers and luggage to Amoy. While in Amoy, Daniel delivered the money to a bank and collected his 25%. The family then continued onto Swatow to visit Shirley’s father and to tell him about Daniel’s plan to enter seminary. Once hearing the whole story, Shirley’s father agreed that entering seminary was the right thing to do. Daniel returned to Shanghai shortly to finalize his affairs, and returned his loan. Shirley and the boys stayed in Swatow for a month. After the family reunited in Shanghai, Daniel contacted Dr. Nelson, and told him that he was ready to go abroad to attend seminary. He left China in August, 1948 began Daniel’s life in His ministry.
My father went on to serve mission congregations in Hong Kong and Malaysia where I was born. We then immigrated to United States in 1955 where Daniel served congregations in Ohio, Michigan and Washington until he retired in 1984. Of course he has many more stories to tell, but this particular one is my favorite. Through God’s guiding hand, this was the turning point in Daniel’s life and the life of our family.