The Lin Family Murders took place on 2-28, 1980 shortly after the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 (December 1979). Lin I-hsiung was a dissident politician from Yilan County who was imprisoned after the Kaohsiung Incident. The murders of his daughters and mother have never been solved. Well worth reading because it reminds us of what kind place Taiwan was under Chiang Ching-kuo’s dictatorship. While I do not share the author’s faith, I found her account of how she emerged from this tragedy very moving.
Come, Take a Walk With Me: Out of Darkness into the Light
by Judy Huan-Chun Linton
I am the eldest child of Mr. Lin I-Hsiung and Mrs. Fang Su-Min Lin. I was born on December 22, 1971, and my mom called me her “Christmas baby.”
We lived on Hsin-Yi Road in Taipei, the capitol city of the nation of Taiwan. My paternal grandmother, A-Ma, lived with us. My paternal grandfather died when my father was only ten. A-Ma took care of me from the day I was born, and we enjoyed a special relationship. Since both of my parents worked, she was the one there to take care of me throughout the day. She was a devout Buddhist, and she would often take me to temples to burn incense and bow down to idols.
Three years after my birth, my twin sisters were born on February 2, 1974. That was a “double-double” day, two baby girls born on the second day of the second month of the year. Their arrival was a sweet blessing to our family. Our home became ever more lively. My mom has a sweet voice and taught us how to enjoy music. Most of my childhood memories consist of my sisters and me singing, dancing and giving performances for the family. It seems that my sisters and I inherited my mom’s musical genes.
Overall, I spent my childhood days within a loving and secure home. Whenever my father returned home from his law practice, all three of us little girls would rush and crowd around to hug his knees. My mom was always gentle, good tempered and kindhearted. I have memories of walking with her on busy Taipei streets and seeing her stop to give money to poor begging children. Such was my childhood: carefree and happy with memories of chocolate milk and cartoons.
I was eight years old, and Taiwan was still under martial law. It was a very different time from now. There was no freedom of press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of petition, no freedom of assembly. It was the time known as White Terror in Taiwan. People often “disappeared” if they were suspected to hold different views from that of the Kuomintang, the one-party dictatorship government.
My dad was hated by the government because he was outspoken about democratic ideals and human rights. He was further marked by the government because the people of Taiwan loved him and looked to him as a champion of their cause. In 1979, the police arrested my dad in the middle of the night shortly after the Kaohsiung Incident. I didn’t know anything was wrong, until the next morning when I awoke to a roomful of strangers in our house. Everyone talked in low voices with worried faces, trying to comfort my mom and A-Ma. When I asked about my dad, people told me that he had enlisted in the army. I didn’t pursue the question anymore. But I knew that something was really wrong.
Two months later, on February 28, 1980, the event happened that would forever change our lives. It was a school day and I was in the third grade. I walked home from school as usual and rang the doorbell. It was strange that no one answered the door. Even if my mom wasn’t home, my A-Ma or sisters surely would be. So I rang and rang and then in futility sat down on our front doorstep to wait for someone to get home. After a long while, a stranger answered the door from the inside. I didn’t recognize him but I was used to having guests at our house, so I thought nothing of it. I went inside, headed straight for my room, thinking only of laying down my heavy yellow backpack.
Once I entered my bedroom, before I even had a chance to put down my backpack, I suddenly felt like there was danger and I needed to swerve out of the way. And as I swerved, I saw the stranger who answered the door coming at me with a knife. And because I had swerved, my backpack caught the first initial thrust of the knife. Otherwise, that first stab might have been fatal.
The man continued to stab me seven, eight times as I tried to defend myself and to hide under my desk. I pleaded with the man to stop hurting me. Just then, A-Ma came home. When the man heard A-Ma, he went out to meet her and locked me in my room. I heard the man and A-Ma struggling in a fight. And I heard A-Ma screaming my name, “Huan-Chun, Huan-Chun!” I instinctively tried to answer her, but I was too weak from loss of blood. I could not even utter a single sound. I didn’t know it then, but A-Ma died that day with 13 stabs on her body. Before she died, she continued to call out my name. A-Ma loved me very much. Even while she was dying, she was thinking of me. My name were her last words.
On that day, at that time, my mom was at her regular weekly visit to my dad at jail. She had been calling home to check on us and was getting very worried because no one was answering the phone. She finally called my dad’s former secretary and asked her to go to our house to check on us. My dad’s secretary arrived and found me lying face down. I told her that a thief had been to our house and I asked her for water because I was very thirsty. She called the hospital for an ambulance and let me sip from a handkerchief dipped in water. While we were waiting for the ambulance, I heard her trying to break down locked doors throughout the house, trying to find my A-Ma and two sisters.
By the time I got to the hospital, my chances of survival were minimal. The doctors were actually fearful to tend to me because they knew the government had just imprisoned my father and they knew the significance of this date, February 28. Thirty-three years before, February 28, 1947 saw the beginning of several months of atrocities by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Party, The Kuomingtang. They had seized power in Taiwan, a former Japanese colony, following the Japanese surrender to the U.S. in 1945. Their extreme corruption and discriminatory treatment towards the Taiwanese population led to nationwide protests beginning February 28, 1947. In response, the KMT began to murder any potential Taiwanese leadership who could object to their rule. The KMT military and police fired on protesting crowds in many towns throughout Taiwan. Ultimately tens of thousands died. Since that day, in order to keep their grip on power through terror, Chiang Kai-shek’s party had periodically carried out atrocities on its anniversary as a reminder that all dissent would be ruthlessly suppressed.
As news spread of what had happened to my family on Feb. 28, 1980, many caring friends rushed to the hospital. Lots of Christian friends began calling pastors and church members to pray for my family. Grown men were weeping on the phone as they relayed the news to one another. While I was undergoing an emergency operation, a pastor friend arrived at the hospital. When he saw the gathered friends all looking so lost and helpless, he kneeled down and led everyone in prayer. Though most of the people present were not even Christians, they all joined with one heart beseeching the Heavenly Father for mercy. They prayed for God’s almighty hand to heal me, the sole surviving child of my family, and they prayed for God’s loving-kindness to comfort and strengthen my parents. Who knows how many people tearfully prayed for me that day! God answered their prayers. And by God’s grace, I lived.
Even my doctor was surprised at my recovery and exclaimed, “Judy’s recovery is an incredible miracle!” Following are his recollections:
"When Judy first arrived at the hospital, all the doctors were gathered together. The heart specialist, the pediatrician, we were all there. During the initial examination, we discovered that Judy had knife wounds on both sides of her lungs. From what I remember, four stabs on her right side and two stabs on her left. Both lungs had been punctured and were bleeding. But her right side was more serious. One stab had nearly punctured her main artery. If that had happened, her life would have been nearly impossible to save.
During the initial stage of emergency rescue, the doctor had inserted tubes into both lungs to drain fluid and blood. Her left lung soon stopped bleeding and began to recover normal function. The right side also temporarily stopped bleeding.
Since Judy was so young, I wanted to avoid an operation. So I asked Dr. Lee to carefully monitor Judy’s blood pressure and to place her tubes inside a basin of water to see if there is any excessive bleeding.
By 4:30 PM, the water level in the basin became increasingly higher and she was bleeding excessively again. When Dr. Lee notified me around five, I was shocked to find that the water level had risen so high. Judy’s breathing was also becoming weaker. So I decided we had no choice but to operate on her. Dr. Lee, along with two other doctors, assisted me." While I was at the hospital and even during the recovery months, my parents tried not to tell me of the horrible things that had happened to our family. During that time, there was a frequent TV announcement which asked people to call a certain number if they had any information connected to my family’s murder case. Whenever this announcement would come on, one of my relatives would get up and change the channel. I could read the announcement and I knew something was wrong. But I also knew that I shouldn’t ask too many questions. Nevertheless, sometimes I just couldn’t contain my curiosity and I would ask just where were my sisters and A-Ma. My relatives would give me some vague answer about them having gone on vacation somewhere. Now when I think about it, I realize that those questions must have been heartbreaking for everyone, especially to my mom.
Four months later, my mom finally brought me into a bedroom and told me that my sisters and A-Ma had all passed away. Oh, that afternoon, I wept and wept. I simply could not stop crying. I regretted so much that I never really treasured the time that I spent with them. I wished so much that I could have had just a little more time, even five minutes, just to hug them and tell them that I loved them so much. I cried for hours, until I had no more tears left. And right then and there, I made a vow to myself: I was never going to cry again. For my parents’ sake, I was going to be strong. I was only 8 years old, but I had made up my mind.
And for several years, I really never cried. I sealed off my heart and became self-reliant. My heart began to fill up with bitterness. Though I was so young, I was capable of vengeful thoughts. I would lie awake in bed and try to memorize the murderer’s face. I wanted to remember his face so that one day, when I grew up, I would find him and kill him with my own hands and revenge my family.
Most native Taiwanese knew that the assassinations upon my family were ordered by someone in the Kuomingtang. There are many reasons to substantiate our belief, especially since the assassinations took place when my home was under 24-hour government police surveillance. The murders served as a warning from the government to all who might desire to pursue deliverance from the oppressive regime of the KMT.
After the assassinations, my home became labeled a murder site. Nobody wanted to get close to the place and even neighbors wanted to move out. My father was being tortured in jail at the time along with mourning for the loss of his own mother and two daughters. My mother was left all alone to deal with her grief of losing her daughters. My mom and I were also accompanied by police women everywhere we went. Several policewomen lived with us, robbing us of freedom and privacy. Although the government officially stated that these policewomen were for our protection, we knew they were there to serve as spies and to monitor our activities. They often ill-treated my mom.
My dad wanted me to have a normal childhood. So he insisted that my mom take me to America so I could have a new start in a brand new place. But my mom’s applications to leave the country were continually rejected by the government. Furthermore, we did not have the finances to go abroad. With my dad in jail, we had no source of income.
Many brothers and sisters in the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church had been praying earnestly for my family. It was during prayer that many of them were moved to purchase our old home and to turn it into a church. This would be the way to help my mom financially and to redeem what had been a place of tragedy.
So a few brave men took on the task of fundraising for the purchase and building of Gi-Kong Church. It was a brave act, because everyone was afraid of being associated with my family, lest they themselves be arrested or harmed by the government. Some people would show up in the middle of the night to give contributions so they wouldn’t be seen. No list of contributors were kept in case the police were to get a hold of such a list. And it was under such conditions that the funds came in and Gi-Kong Church was established 25 years ago on Easter Sunday.
The first pastor of Gi-Kong church was a pastor who had formerly been arrested by the government in the middle of his preaching a sermon. Following his release from prison, he bravely took on the role of being the first pastor of Gi-Kong Church. All succeeding pastors also took the position with courage, instructing their family members what to do in case they were arrested or taken away.
Gi means Righteousness and Kong means Light, testifying to how righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne, and how blessed are the people who walk in the light of His countenance (Psalm 89:14-15).
And as Gi-Kong Church was being built, my mom and I left Taiwan for America.
It was my first time on an airplane. I didn’t even know the ABCs. My cousin had taught me one phrase of English: “I don’t know.” The future was uncertain. I can’t imagine how my mom must have felt, leaving all of her family and friends.
Although my mom never uttered a single complaint, I know it must have been a very lonely and difficult time for my mom. The wife of our host family resented our presence. While I was busy adjusting to a whole new country and culture, my mom busied herself with sewing and knitting. I still remember every piece of clothing she made me, a cute purple corduroy overalls and a set of matching hat, scarf and gloves. For my birthday, my mom made a giant doll. Money cannot buy such gifts sewn and stitched with love.
We moved around quite a bit. During middle school, I began attending church more regularly. At first, I thought church services were quite boring. I would go to service and read a comic Bible in order to pass the time. But after a while, through faithful youth group leaders and Sunday school teachers, I began to be interested in the things of the Bible. God was starting to do a change in my heart.
As I studied the Bible, I started wondering whether or not what it said was true. I wanted to know for myself whether or not the Bible was the truth. And as I read, I was forced to admit that its description of the world and of man was incredibly accurate. Moreover, its description of me, Judy, was incredibly accurate. Through time, it seemed like I wasn’t reading the Bible so much as the Bible was “reading” me. God began to give me faith to believe that the Bible was the truth. I believed that Jesus was the only Savior of the world and I gave my life to Him. It was nothing emotional. I did not walk up front during a special church service. No, I simply decided in my mind to give my allegiance to Jesus as my Lord. This is how I became a Christian.
After I became a Christian, I began to experience God’s love. Slowly, God’s love began to heal my heart. Remember the vow I made when I was nine that I would never ever cry again? I kept that vow for many years. But after I believed in Christ, God began to melt my hardened heart. Whenever I would share about God and my new found faith, I would begin to shed tears. And through my tears, God healed me.
After a while, another amazing thing happened. I discovered that I actually had forgiveness in my heart. I no longer wanted to take revenge but I had forgiven the murderer who had hurt my family so much. God was starting to take away all my hatred and bitterness. I know without a shadow of a doubt that to forgive was impossible for me. This was God’s doing alone. When I discovered forgiveness in my once bitter heart, I knew indeed that there existed an omnipotent God.
People often tell me that I am so brave or that I am so good to have been able to forgive this murderer. I beg to differ. I am not brave nor good. No matter how hard I tried, I could not have forgiven this man on my own strength. All that I have become and all that has happened in my heart is God’s work and for His glory. As it says in Matthew 19:26, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Since I became a Christian in high school, God has continued to lead me and mature me. In due time, I married Joel Linton, who decided to dedicate his life to serving God and the people in the nation of Taiwan. And following God’s call, Joel and I moved back to Taiwan in 2002 to serve as full-time missionaries. God has blessed us with three little girls.
Two Sundays ago was Easter Sunday, 2007. At the afternoon service, my family and I celebrated with hundreds of others the 25th anniversary of Gi-Kong Church, the church that is built on the site of my old childhood home. Joel was given the great honor of preaching his very first Taiwanese-language sermon at such a special occasion.
I had never seen Joel prepare so hard for a sermon before. He was practicing his Taiwanese day and night. The sermon was a clear Gospel message: Are we still in Adam or are we in Christ (I Corinthians 15:21-22)? Joel’s Taiwanese was very good and I was very proud of him.
And isn’t it interesting that after 25 years, I, the sole surviving member of the assassination attempts, would be inside what used to be my childhood home, sitting in the pew with my own three little girls, listening to my American husband preaching his first Taiwanese sermon? Can anyone ever imagine the plans of God?
Genesis 50:20 says, “What men meant for evil, God meant for good.” Though I’ve had tragedies in my life, God intended it for good. I can look back on my life and honestly say,
“Thank you God for bringing me from darkness to light.”
My hope is that all who read my story may search and find that Jesus is real. He is the Truth which shall set you free. All who believe on Him will never perish but have eternal life.
This is my testimony to the greatness of God.