The winter sunshine in a mining area knows the way of harmony best, without exaggerated heat, also without stingy warmth. The women in the mining area sit in groups of threes and fours in the sun, knitting, chatting, and playing with their own dogs or the dogs next door. They are lethargic, doing little, as if exposing the inactivity of women in a mining area. But in their hearts, worry lingers all day long, even a sense of desperation. Because at the bottom of the mine shaft, 800 meters down, are their husbands. The husband -- her sweetheart, the father of the children, the breadwinner of the family -- is gambling with his life every day.
Underground, the sense of security wanes day by day, because the mining area has entered the old age. The underground facilities are like a sick old man who may die suddenly. Workers who work in the mine have repeatedly complained to their leaders about the problems and have sent letters to the municipality. But all their efforts are to no avail. The leaders are still pocketing piles and piles of money, and the matter of buying new equipment and repairing the machinery is mentioned by no one. The safety, lives, and rights of the workers are almost negligible in this failing mine.
Everything is depressive, and the voice of protest is too weak. The only thing we can hear is the workers' complaints: "The wages are too low, and the work is too laborious." These words always begin with passion, then end with a sigh.
Then there are the women' endless prayers at night, because of the unending worry in their hearts. On the west side of the mining area, there is a small church where women usually pray at night, and some of them cry or shout when they pray. These women can only bow their heads and whisper prayers for their husbands, for the situations their husbands are in. Originally, they did not believe in God, and they just want to find some comfort for their worried hearts. After years of being emotionally entangled with faith, God silently planted the seeds of hope and comfort in these women's hearts. Now they have the power of confidence due to their faith in God.
Perhaps God has listened carefully to the hardships of the workers and the prayers of the women, but he chooses to answer them with silence. The mining area is also a land of silence. From their red-blooded youth to their greying twilight, the workers who have accompanied the mine for decades have learned to tolerate everything with silence. The strenuous work has made them look haggard and old; the dust and underground chill have left many workers suffering from pneumoconiosis, silicosis, and arthritis. Some old men who had been working in the mines for 30 years went back to their hometowns with only decrepit bodies and meager salaries.
In the old and broken houses in the mining community, there is a group of old people. Mining has already deprived them of their right to live happy lives and their health. But, they maintain even temperaments and do not care about the love and hatred within the mining community. In their old age, they choose to spend the rest of their lives there. They don’t fill their lives with feasting and revelry, and they don’t live extravagantly. It is the solitude of the community that has tempered their emotions. No hate, and no sorrow. They just enjoy the laziness and leisure of old age.
The church still exists, and there are still preachers explaining the Bible. The old men and their wives who remain in the mining community still go to pray. Once in the dangerous mine, with their lives hanging by a thread, the miners embraced the power of faith, and beg for protection and blessing. Today, in the land which is safe and peaceful, there is no fear of death anymore, but these people still go to church.
In these 30 years of struggling with faith, they have established a deep friendship with God. They are like old friends now, and cannot be separated. Perhaps the loving call of faith has already been heard by some people among the faithful long ago. To see the true meaning of faith, you need to carefully observe the sincere and urgent calling which has lasted for many years.
My father has worked in this mine for more than thirty years. He devoted all his youth and passion for the cause of coal mining. Now he has retired to his hometown. In his hometown, my father is still working in the fields, doing the hardest work with sweat and diligence. Every weekend, my father goes to church in his hometown. I know my father's prayers still consist of memories and blessings for his fellow workers, and may God comfort the underclass workers who toil in the world. This is the faith belonging to the people in the mining area. It’s simple, but also so sincere; there are no great ambitions, but there is always a boundless supply of confidence.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao