The plane noise would die away and our conversation would continue.
"Huh, one day I expect you'll get into one of those and fly back to where you came from."
"No, there's no danger of that," I would reply honestly, "because I haven't got enough money to get on one."
"Well, your parents can send you the money anyway - there is plenty of money where you came from - we've seen how all those English people live it up."
"No," I said, " you're wrong about that - my parents haven't got any money, either." ...Ah Ping thought more than the others; his remarks were always more to the point, more understanding and more desperate.
"Maybe you haven't got any money now, but you could always get away from here if you had to get away. We can't. There is nowhere else for us to go; we're stuck on the edge of the sea, and the only escape is into it. But you Westerners - you can fly away when you want to, and then you can forget all about us."
"No, Ah Ping. I'm not planning to fly away and forget all about you.
Ah Ping could really talk when he got warmed up. I respected his honesty, for few Chinese ever tell Westerners what they really feel about them. "You Westerners - you come here and tell us about Jesus. You can stay for a year or two, and your conscience will feel good, and then you can go away. Your Jesus will call you to other work back home. It's true that some of you can raise a lot of money on behalf of us underprivileged people. But you'll still be living in your nice houses with your refrigerators and servants, and we will still be living here. What you are doing really has nothing to do with us. You'll go home anyhow, sooner or later."
"Fine, " said Ah Ping to me savagely one day. "Fine for them, fine for us too, we wouldn't mind believing in Jesus too if we could get into a plane and fly away around the world like them. They can sing about love very nicely, but what do they know about us? They don't touch us - they know nothing."
One night when he was hanging around in the street outside, I came to the Youth Club room feeling very depressed and needing a kind word. He sensed that I was feeling a bit down and said, "You'd better go - you'd better leave this place, Poon Siu Jeh [Jackie]. You'd better go, because it's no good you working here. you should find a nice group of nice students to work with; you find some well-behaved school kids to preach to; they'll make nice Christians. We're no good - we never do what you want us to do." I listened without replying.
"Don't know why you stay here - you find us school places, and we don't want to go to school. You find us houses, and muck them up. You find us jobs, and we lose them; we won't ever change. All we do is take - we take you for every penny you've got, and we kick you around. So why do you stick at it? What's the point?"
"Well, I stick around because that's what Jesus did for me," I replied. "I didn't want Jesus, but He didn't wait until I wanted Him. He didn't wait until I had promised to reform. He didn't wait until I got good. He died for me anyway. He died for me when I hated Him, and He never ever told me off on the cross; He just said He loved me and forgave me. This is the Jesus that came into the world and made dead people rise; this is the Jesus who came into the world and did miracles. This is the Jesus who only ever did good, and He died for me. They said He was the Son of God, and He loves you, too, in the same way."
Ah Ping did not answer at first; then he said, "It couldn't be....nobody would love us like that. I mean, we..." his voice faltered, and then he continued, " I mean we have to rape and we fight, and we steal, and we stab. Nobody could love us like this."
"Well, Jesus did. He doesn't love the things you've don, but He loves you. Really, it doesn't make sense; but all the wrong things that you've done He said were His. When He died on the cross, Jesus pleaded guilty to your crimes. That's really unfair, isn't it? He said that your stealing and your stabbing were His; if you give Him all the bad things you've done, He'll give you His new life, His righteousness. It's sort of like giving Him your dirty clothes and getting back His clean ones."
Ah Ping was shattered. He could hardly believe that there was a God like that. He sat down there on the stone steps to the street and told Jesus that although he could not understand why He loved him, he was grateful. He asked Jesus to forgive him and change him.
Ah Ping was the first gangster from the fully initiated Triads to join the Christians...
His [Ah Ping] reply was an indictment and a confirmation. "I know," he said. "We've been watching you. Many missionaries come to Hong Kong to help us poor people. They put us in sociological boxes and analyze us. Then they take our pictures to shock the Westerners by our living conditions. Some men get famous because they've been here. But inside the Walled City, we usually get rid of them within six months. He spoke maliciously, "We find ways to discourage them until they have no heart to continue - had you been a man, we would have had you beaten long ago."
He added, "We couldn't careless if you have big buildings or small ones. You can be offering free rice, free school, judo classes or needlework to us. It doesn't matter if you have a daily program or hymn-singing once a week. These things don't touch us because the people who run them have nothing to do with us. What we want to know is if you are concerned with us. Now you have been here for four years, and we have decided that maybe you mean what you say."