Epilogue: Our Ironic Ending on the Run

What’s to become of Paula and me? Well, we are on the run, hiding out under the cover of the foothills of the Strange Uncharted Mountains, outside of Nibbling, Minnesota. We’re not sure how our stories will turn out, or where to go from here.

Paula and I have lost everything. We have lost our country, we are outlaws in your country, and I may have put my Uncle’s very life in danger for publishing this material. Shih Tzu wouldn’t think twice about poisoning him.

Our very lives are in danger too, for if Shih Tzu may someday mysteriously show up and find us, make no mistake, he’ll kill us too.

My best friend, Hector Klumpp, is in jail. And while my friends in Nibbling do care about Paula and me, there’s nothing they can do to solve our lonely predicament.

But, that’s okay, because remember back in the introduction when I first began telling you my story I said

And the meta question, ‘Which story are we in?’, along with the personal question ‘How will my story turn out in the end?’ only turned up the internal heat. I am anguishing still over these questions.

Chow Non Phat

It’s true. We are in anguish over these haunting questions.

As we contemplated putting our research up on this web site to show you, Paula showed me something from Shawn Coyne which so fits with our experience…

Now the last thing in a big idea book is it has to have some sort of ironic ending. An ironic ending meaning it’s good and it’s bad.

Shawn Coyne, Non-fiction Conventions and Obligatory Scenes

You see, we now believe we have fulfilled my Uncle’s assignment and have also come to see how the Party can stifle the growth of Christianity in China.

We just need to lure them into the minimalist corner.

It’s so satisfying because my Uncle will be so pleased.

But as you can imagine, my insomnia came marching back in after I meditated on Shih Tz’s declaration of his “need for speed” in that memo he sent to the Central Military Commission.

I was afraid he will get what he wants. And that I will lose Paula. And my Uncle.

So that is why I made this crazy move to reveal to you our undefended space in the United States.

And what Coyne wrote here describes the experience Paula and I have had because of that risky move…

Lastly, there is INTEGRATION, which I would call the very end of a Story — INTEGRATION dramatizes resolution. We’ve found a new stability, one that is vastly different than where we began. We’ve got a whole new outlook on life and we’re not the same person we once were. At INTEGRATION, we have come full circle and have recovered from the SHOCK of a big Inciting Incident in our life, no matter what, by the end of the Story we will never go back to where or who we were before. 

Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

But, you give me hope. Because the more I reflect on your love crisis with your God, the more my hope increases that you will simply push it all away. Not even explore it. Because it would require you to listen to that Greatest Commandment.

And that is clearly not your focus.

So, though I wanted to be careful that Shih Tzu would not see it, I felt compelled to tell my Uncle about this discovery–a way Paula and I believed we could successfully stifle the growth of Christianity in China.

In encrypted code that I’ve translated here for you, I sent this note to my Uncle about Operation Trump Study Bible…

Dear Uncle,

Shih Tzu wants revenge. On you. On me. On Paula.

And I can hear that train of death, grinding towards our station.

So I made a best-bad choice.

I revealed to the Christians in America the undefended space of the Party in the United States.

It is a risk.

Because if China’s Christians ever come to see their God is the Great Storyteller, who has given humanity the very kind of story they deeply desire, then they will begin to connect the dots.

They will come to understand the astonishing power of the simple question, “Who are we, here in the story?”

And they will come to see their God as the Empathetic Protagonist in the story.

China’s Christians will see that, if Christianity is the story we are in, then as persons made in the image and likeness of God, they are both worthy and capable of governing themselves.

They’ll see that human freedom ultimately flows from foundational human identity.

And their desire for freedom will deepen as never before.

And you know, Uncle, that it is already deep. Keep in mind what the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Prize, wrote…

It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme.


I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views … can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views.

I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement, Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Lecture in Absentia, December 10, 2010

And you know what that Minxin Pei man wrote…

At some point, probably within the next two decades, the combination of internal rot and external pressure from a population demanding freedom will bring down one-party rule in China – and, one hopes, usher in the kind of open society that Liu fought for all his life.

Did Liu Xiaobo Die for Nothing? By Minxin Pei, Project Syndicate, July 16, 2017

But that’s not all.

They will also come to see how that simple, but astonishingly powerful question — “Who are we, here in the human story?” – reveals our undefended space.

As we’ve explained to you, since our version of the story we are in begins and ends in nothingness, then here in the middle of the story we are nothing more than animals or dust in the wind.

And since our version of the story begins and ends in nothingness, then, here in the middle of the story, everything is ultimately meaningless. It’s ultimately absurd.

We have an undefended space in the story war.

And because China’s Christians are familiar with Sun Tzu, that will enable them to see how his common sense advice…

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

… applies to how we brilliantly use our China Dream as a substitute archplot which distracts the Chinese people from our undefended space.

But since China’s Christians are familiar with Sun Tzu, they will also see they don’t have to directly attack the Party.

All they have to do is to begin to engage Chinese society by crossing a story bridge with two simple story questions…

Which story are we in?

Who are we, here in the story?

And because China’s Christians have been on desperate ground, they are far more courageous and dynamic than the American Christians.

You realize that, Uncle. We’re not boasting about them, it’s just reality…

The government believes that it must above all continue its authoritarian rule, and to them Christian beliefs appear to be at odds with the heavily nationalist China Dream narrative. So they started demolishing crosses to deter and contain the growth of churches. But obviously they are not familiar with the history of churches in Wenzhou. The 1958 campaign drove the Christian communities underground, and 30 years later in the 1980s, they emerged like a miracle and have since experienced a spectacular renaissance. One thing is certain: Suppression will not destroy Christianity.

Second Interview With the Wenzhou Pastor: After the Demolition Comes the “Transformations”, By Yaxue Cao and Pastor L, China Change, December 15, 2015

An internal government document obtained by the New York Times in May 2014 shows that the church demolitions are part of a larger campaign to curb Christianity’s influence on the public. According to the nine-page provincial policy statement, the Xi administration wants to put an end to “excessive” religious sites and “overly popular” religious activities, but it names one religion in particular, Christianity, and one symbol, the cross. The strategy is easy to discern: first Wenzhou, then the rest of China.

However, Chinese Christians have refused to give in. One of the phrases I have heard most often among them is: “The greater the persecution, the greater the revival.” For Christian dissidents, cross removals and church demolitions are only the prelude in a story that repeats the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. They talk about how during the Cultural Revolution, the Christian population in Wenzhou actually grew many times over.

CHINA’S CHRISTIAN FUTURE, by Yu Jie, First Things, August 2016

So, unlike the American Christians, they will not be afraid to engage our undefended space. And as that simple question spreads, China’s people will begin to see how fragile our version of the story we are in actually is.

And they might end up thinking like this Colson guy did…

We are not going to win in a toe-to-toe, head-to-head confrontation with radical Islam. All you can do is undermine it from within. In other words, offer an alternative that is so attractive that the masses of Muslims begin to demand it and moderate governments begin to embrace it.


Remember that this very strategy did succeed with the Soviet Union and Communism. So be an optimist.

Charles Colson, My Final Word

And if the Party foolishly chooses to attack those who raise that simple, but astonishingly powerful question, it will seriously undermine us even more. We are in a story war, after all. 

This means we need to do consequence thinking. Because if we just continue to do what we’ve been doing, what if the Christians in China begin to look through the lens of story and seriously consider our undefended space?

China has become a more capitalist than communist nation in the last decade, with the rapidly expanding economy attracting more attention from global communities. In the midst of this rapid economic development and advancement, Chinese society and its people are searching for the meaning of life. Many Chinese actively affirm the spiritual dimensions of their own lives by confronting the deeper questions of personal meaning and the search for meaning and purpose in life through different traditions and disciplines, primarily through Christianity. The search for meaning and purpose through Christianity is a lively subject in Chinese social, political and educational discourse. Economic development and advancement does not drive away spiritual needs. Faith and spirituality contribute significantly to understanding human beings, their values and their aspirations.

Chinese society and people are now encountering not only a moral crisis but also, and more so, a spiritual or trust crisis. Life in all sectors has become too materialistic and utilitarian and has lured many people away from their moral and spiritual traditions and culture. Chinese society also faces a serious dilemma: on the one hand, many Chinese are searching for the meaning and the ultimate goal of their life in the midst of economic development. On the other hand, they are also much attracted by materialism. Thus, the search for meaning in life and their own identity are expressed widely and intensely in different groups.

Many Chinese parents, families and schools are focused only on the academic performance and the material needs of students, neglecting the spiritual and faith dimensions that are integral parts of their lives and growth. The thinking and behavior of many contemporary Chinese are contrary to traditional Chinese mores and spiritual values, and to common standards as well. Has the Chinese Catholic Church thought of new strategies of evangelization and service for these people who are constantly searching for meaning? Is the Chinese Catholic Church ready to face this challenge?

Catholicism in 21st Century China, By Joseph You Guo Jiang, S.J., La Civilta Cattolica, May 2017

So, we need an alternative strategy.

This alternative strategy centers on employing a negation of the negation on China’s Christians. We have to pretend that we are their friends. That we have their best interests in mind.

Just like we have been doing with the Americans.

And the first move we must make in this regard is to take China’s Christians off desperate ground.

If we do that, we’ll be able to frame ourselves as the good guys in the story. And that will position us for the next move.

We can then trick China’s Christians into migrating into the minimalist corner of the story triangle.

The American Christians have shown us a way…

Master storytellers know how to squeeze life out of the least of things, while poor storytellers reduce the profound to the banal.

Robert McKee, Story

So, we can invite certain ones of their teachers and preachers to come tour China.

And we’ll treat them like celebrities and stars – driving them around in limousines, letting them stay in five star hotels – and going on cruise ships, showing off the expensive shoes we give them.

And we’ll pay them through the nose via our rich businessmen who will present themselves as “great Christians”.

We’ll also cultivate a celebrity Christian culture in China, which will end up effectively sidelining so very many of the other Christians, just as it has in America.

And we can persuade the Christians that, if they pursue our China Dream, they can become rich.

And the more we lure them down that path, the more their faith will stagnate.

I know that is hard to believe, but our team has now come to see that we need to pay attention to the Chosen Ones…

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

James 2:5

You see, Uncle, the more we suppress the Christians in China, the more we multiply their faith.

Look at this, from the famous American pastor, Francis Chan…

I remember later speaking to a man who leads a whole network of churches in China. He told me about how there was a period when there was a little more religious freedom. He decided to test the waters and build a church above ground, just to see how well it would go. His church grew to a couple thousand people. Then the government went in and, sure enough, shut it down and hauled him and the other pastors away. In hindsight, he told me he was actually really grateful because it brought them back to their DNA again. He told me they had started to lose it with the change of structure. By having a large service, people began coming just to listen to a sermon. Once they grew accustomed to merely sitting and listening, he had a hard time stirring the people to action. It was almost as if the Lord used them being torn down again to rebuild even stronger.

Francis Chan, Letters to the Church

And Paula helped us see this in an unusual way…

Many who resisted the tyrants of our era turned nihilism inside out. In the nothingness they found inner light. Many came to call the light they found there God. The relation some gradually assumed toward this inner light, whose Source, they knew, was not themselves, was that of wordless conversation or communion. They addressed their God in conversation, under the name of Truth. In the twentieth century, prisons and torture chambers have often been better places to encounter God than universities.

Awakening from Nihilism: The Templeton Prize Address, Michael Novak, First Things, August/September 1994

Paradoxically, however, the Communist system of imprisonment, torture, and public confession constituted, despite itself, a via negativa that led a great many of its victims to God, and to a fresh sense of being an individual who possesses dignity. For under torture they discovered evidence for the presence of God at the core of their own being. The prison literature of our time is full of such instances.


In the act of fidelity to the light-the resolve not willingly to be complicit in a lie- a man has become aware of a dimension of his being he had never glimpsed before in such stark clarity. In this awareness, he is aware of a powerful personal dignity. What impresses him is its inalienability. Unless he is simply destroyed, it cannot be taken away from him without his consent. It is true that later he may weaken and give in. But he does not have to fight later, only now. He needs only to concentrate during this staccato second, one second at a time, on the dark light within.

The fall of communism forces us to confront one of the deepest lessons to be gleaned from a seventy-year plague upon the human race. Even in the emptiness, the sheer willingness not to turn away from the light, not to be complicit in a lie, leads to an experience of the emptiness in which God darkly dwells. Receptivity is all. It is as though our inquiring hearts are already God-shaped, formed in His image, so that when we try to be honest and brave, try to be true to ourselves, that effort is already a form of participation.

The Godlessness that Failed, by Michael Novak, First Things (June/July 2000)

We need to change, Uncle. And since we’re in a story, that shouldn’t surprise us. Because story is about change.

The Party needs to open their eyes to the reality that the minimalist corner which most Christians in America now occupy is far more powerful than the Christians realize.

And Donald Trump helped us to see that what most Christians in America really want is not what their God wants them to want the most.

Instead, they want the good life, the American dream, the wealth, the prosperity, and the status.

So, we’ll be forever grateful to Donald Trump.

He has helped reveal to us how very powerful that minimalist corner of the story triangle really is.

It is powerful enough to stagnate the growth of Christianity in China.

It worked in America and it can work here in China.

So, to honor the Donald, we should call this effort…

Operation Trump Study Bible

This, dear Uncle, is likely to be our last memo to you.

We wait eagerly for your reply.

Your Devoted Nephew,

Chow Non Phat

Since sending that memo to my Uncle, we haven’t heard a peep from him, or our Government, which made me nervous.

And last night, sitting under that stars, Paula could see I was anxious. And as only Paula can do, she asked me a wonderful question:

“Chow. Would you take the same action and publish this research, if you could have a ‘do over’?”

I looked at this beautiful woman by my side, who stuck with me through all this. And I felt my anxiety melt away like chocolate in the hot sun, for I knew the answer immediately.

I smiled and replied, “Undoubtedly, yes, Paula Wong. I would certainly publish this research if I had a ‘do over’.”

Then I took up her hand and said, “Paula, we have lost everything. But while we’ve lost everything, we don’t have “nothing left to lose”… we still are alive, we still have each other, we still have our souls… And it’s time to roll up our sleeves and find a new way, to form new beliefs. Maybe our story will change, for we still have that mysterious ability to choose.”

She returned my contented smile with a peaceful smile of her own. “…ability to choose,” she whispered.  

And we both turned a curious gaze to the resplendent heavens, dripping with stars, giving way to its silent mystery.

So, don’t worry about us. We are content in our isolation.

Because it’s time. Time to turn our attention to the question which remains when all else is stripped away…

Which Story

Are We In?

Your Humble Refugees,

Chow Non Phat and Paula Wong