Primary Source — Shandong Revival

The following is copied and pasted directly from The Reynold’s Family Archives. I am posting this here since I have involved myself heavily in the research of The Shantung Revival.  I have written much on this event already and am in the process of preparing to write my dissertation on this as well. According to the Reynolds family, the following may be used for personal research purposes only. I hope you are encouraged by what you read:

Introduction

The following article was written by John Abernathy and  given to my mother Clara Sybil (Burns) Reynolds. During the period that John and Jewell Abernathy attended the First Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I was a member of the church at that time. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them and they became good friends of my family. My grandmother, Effie Ruth Burns, and Jacob and Aleene (Burns) King worshiped with them. The Abernathys visited their home many times. Recently my cousin, Carol Ann (Burns) Hartman, recalled that Jewell specialized in baking cookies and she can still remember how delicious they were.

The remarkable thing about the account of The Shantung Revival was that it was a spontaneous movement of the Holy Spirit that was not planned by man. I can remember when my first wife, Bonnie Sue Reynolds, first read the article. She was touched deeply by the Abernathy’s account of what took place in China and she became aware of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. As editor of Reynolds’ Archives, I feel the revival is an important part of Christian history that needs to be preserved so that others may have the opportunity to read about it in detail.

Robert Edward Reynolds

THE SHANTUNG REVIVAL

By John Arch Abernathy

You’ve asked today what is the most important event in the history of world missions. The an­swer of many would be the, Shantung Revival in North China that reached high tide in 1932 and 1933. It was our blessed privilege to be present and participate in the efforts that brought revival and to share in the blessings that followed.

This spiritual awakening was not an evangelistic conference or crusade, but an awakening in which Christian Chinese and missionaries alike were quickened by the Holy Spirit in the new life, vision and activity. Sinners came under ter­rible conviction of sin. Proud Chinese, always afraid of losing face were struck down with con­viction confessing under the reproof of the Holy Spirit. Unconverted church members, yes, and preachers became new creatures in Christ. Chris­tians were filled with the Holy Spirit and endued with power for living, and serving, yes, and for dying.

Before we left China in 1948, after the Com­munists had overrun nearly all of our part of the country, we had a memorial service at Ching-do at for fifty-one of our Baptist leaders who had been killed because they refused to give up their faith in God, take a course in communist doctrines, and then help the Communists establish their ungodly, atheistic regime. Some of those who died had been our personal co-workers. All of them were twentieth-century martyrs. I doubt that we would have seen or heard of many martyrs if this testing time had conic before the great revival.

The revival broke down the wall of partition between the Chinese and missionaries. There was no more feeling of superiority on either side. The term “foreign devil” was never heard again in places where revival had gone.

At an associational meeting in one of our sta­tions, one missionary, a professor in the Seminary, got up with tears on his face and said, “Brethren, and sisters, before I can go on I have to make a confession of sin. It must be made publicly because it concerns all present. During all the years that I have been in China, in my heart I have felt that a white face was superior to a yellow one. I never spoke this to anyone but I’m sure you have noticed in my actions. God has for­given me and I am asking you also to forgive me this sin and wrong.” He had no sooner sat down than a Chinese brother who had also been recent­ly blessed got up with tears in his eyes and said, “It’s mutual, brother, it’s mutual. I’d always felt that a yellow face was superior to a white one. I used to wonder why you people ever came to China. You were not as cultured as we. I thought of you as the scum of the earth. Now God has for­given me this wrong and I want you to also for­give me.” Americans and Chinese became one heart and soul.

As a result of revival churches, schools, hos­pitals, and other organizations became self-supporting financially and otherwise. Before revival it was difficult to get church members to evangel­ize their own people. After they were revived and anointed with the Holy Spirit they went every­where witnessing. Missionaries had to hurry to keep up with them. The Holy Spirit within im­pelled them to carry out Christ’s commission. They didn’t need our persuasion or urging to do what all Christians ought to do. Prayer was no longer just a habit or a duty to perform. It be­came a joyous outburst of a soul seeking com­munion with the Father. The Spirit within led to intercession, praise, and fellowship. In all the churches there were held daily an early morning meeting for prayer, and Bible study. Great things happened during many of these meetings.

Many people ask us how the revival came. The revival came about as a result of earnest prayer by groups and individuals, faith in God, Bible study, teaching, and much preaching on sin and

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kindred subjects. God is the institutor of every step upward in spiritual development. A deep hunger for God and power to witness more effec­tively to the lost multitudes around, came to the missionaries first and then to the Chinese Chris­tians. Our eyes were opened to our spiritual poverty, the lack of power in our own lives and the coldness of the churches. God poured upon the leaders and the churches the spirit of grace and supplication. There was a thirst after God such as we have never known before. Like the Psalmist we could say, “As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks so panteth

my soul after Thee, oh God,” In the Shantung Revival God brought us down to zero, before we were willing to despair of self and our own conditions for obtaining this power that all felt the need of so badly.

Missionaries came together in Nigh-jo-foo, one of our northern cities, to discuss the spiritual situation confronting them in the churches. Some were so discouraged they talked of resigning and going home. One of our finest missionaries said, “The sixty dead churches on the Ping-too field have had their chance “, (that’s Lottie Moon’s field) If after people like Lottie Moon and Dr. Sears and others have given their lives in witness­ing to the Gospel all these years, the churches are still not able to stand up and go forward on their own, perhaps they ought to be left alone, and the missionaries should go home or to some other field. I for one am so serious I’ll be the first to go.’ He resigned soon after this meeting. This writer, this speaker, was present at that meeting and was terribly discouraged.

I had been in China over ten years already as missionary. Fruit? Yes. There had been some. Many had come into the churches. Some were really saved but it seemed the majority had no life. We saw little difference in their everyday living. Very few people who, before they con­fessed Christ, seemed to have any conviction for sin. And then after being converted, or professed to be converted, very little joy. Many went to church Sunday morning and to fields or other

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work in the afternoon. Often an unannounced visit into the homes would find the old fatten god on the table in the living room, the pot of burn­ing incense in front, and down on the floor, bow­ing to the god, a member of the church. They had not destroyed their family gods.

When we preached on the importance of wit­nessing to the lost and urged Chinese to go out after the lost there was little interest. Some even seemed ashamed to have friends know they had accepted this `Jesus Way’. When we preached or taught stewardship, giving of their means to help make the church self-supporting, many would say `woi–ta-chunk;,’ `I’m too poor.’ And they really were desperately poor.

The discussion among missionaries continued. Though greatly discouraged one of us spoke up and said, “I know God called me to China to preach. He has helped me to learn the language and, in measure, has blessed me. He had not with­drawn that call. It is true we need revival in the Chinese churches but somehow I feel that if we had the power as missionaries that He promised in Matthew 28:18 (“And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth … “) and then in Acts 1:8 (“But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in :Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth . . . “), the whole situation would be dif­ferent. Giving up, going home, or elsewhere is not the solution to our problem. Praying and holding meetings in the churches have not changed things much. I’m convinced that what is needed is mis­sionaries to humble themselves, confess their sins, and let. the Holy Spirit fill them (see Second Chronicles 7:14). Revival ought to begin with us.”

We soon found that many others present felt the same way. Prayer groups were started in sev­eral mission stations. Individuals agreed to pray for revival. We prayed that God would “send

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revival and let it begin with me,” that whatever the cost, He would make us willing to pay the price … That we would pray ’til revival came.

Had some of us known just what the cost would be for us we might not have had the cour­age to go on. Many precious lessons were learned during these weeks, months and years of waiting and praying for revival, but when the price was paid in full, revival came to individuals and churches. It was more like the days following Pentecost than anything else or in any other way I could describe it. Often the best church mem­bers and missionaries were first to come under deep conviction of sin. The first missionary to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost was ‘Miss Pearl Calwell of Mississippi—in the summer of 1931. All who knew her would agree that she was one of our most dedicated, fruitful missionaries. From September, 1930 to June, 1932 twenty-four missionaries received the baptism of the Holy-Spirit. Others had similar experiences as revival continued through the years.

Before revival came there was deep conviction of sin. No relief came until the last known sin was confessed to God and to people who had been sinned against. In the same order full relief came with the fullness of the Holy Spirit only after proper restitution had been made. Restitution was not only required of Chinese Christians but of missionaries who were waiting and praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the power needed so badly. For we missionaries found that we, too, were unclean vessels. We learned that until revealed sins were confessed and restitu­tion promised there was no use continuing to wait

and pray. We found that God takes us at our word. Sins committed years ago, some we thought very small, when brought into the light of the Holly Spirit became mountains. It was not so hard to confess to God but some sins demanded resti­tutions.

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How well do I remember the cold sweat and goosebumps that came at the thought of having to go to Chinese and missionaries who had been wronged and confess and ask forgiveness. It was worse still when it meant writing letters back home, sending money to pay up old debts we had tried to forget. Repaying money or restoring things gotten dishonestly. Some were convicted of cheating on college or seminary examinations and were faced with the necessity of having to return diplomas with letters of confession to presidents and faculties.

We learned at terrible cost that you simply cannot pray around sin in your heart of which you are aware and which is unconfessed. If you want the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the power accompanying this experience you will have to deal directly with it in the light of Calvary or your prayers will not be heard. The Psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” Revival is not only prayed down, but paid down as well. Experience? Yes! But, oh, how worth it all. Expensive? Yes! But, oh, how worth it all.

When the last sin revealed was confessed the precious Holy Spirit carne in like a flood filling our very being. During the quiet series of meet­ings held in Shantung, in Gie-nan, my home town, the capital of Shantung province, large numbers were led to examine their hearts. The searching question of the leader was, “Are you saved? Have you been born again?” This simple question was asked publicly and privately all over North China, ‘Manchuria, and the other provinces. It caused many thousands to think and take stock. Many church members and numbers of leaders,  pastors, teachers and others, apparently unsaved, confessed their sins and were regenerated.

All classes were affected by the revival. There was no respect of persons. Educated university professors, medical doctors, students, along with farmers, factory workers, merchants, and many

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other groups in the areas where the revival came were brought under conviction for sin, and all who were willing to confess, forsake and believe were saved.

In Shantung Christian University, near our home, a doctor, who was a professor, a very hum­ble man, became deeply aware that he was only a nominal Christian, living on the edge of what God had provided for him in a spiritual way. The burden of several thousand unsaved students at the University was laid on his heart. He and his wife became members of a prayer group of mis­sionaries and Chinese who were meeting regu­larly in our home. I remember one night he came and said he wanted to remain and pray until the Lord blessed him. We prayed all night. He and his wife were both cleansed and blessed. He went back to his classes and the students soon saw he was a different man. Before long he had led over one hundred students in the medical school to the Lord. These, in turn, were on fire for the Lord, going among their fellows and witnessing to the mighty power of God.

During the week of prayer in (Ching-dow, the church, clearly tested when it was being given by one of our Chinese leaders, Mr. Chauda Sangh. He was a civil engineer. He was one of the bright­est pupils our early schools ever knew, who had spent his life in government service, building railroads and motor roads. And in his sixtieth year, after forty years in the wilderness, he confessed and put away his sins. He then began visiting cities where he had worked and sinned, testifying to the saving power of Christ. And upon receiving Christ as Lord, he had put away his concubine — giving her support to be educated in the school, and had made confession and resti­tution as far as possible in other details of his busy and varied life. He then became concerned about the souls of his immediate family and old friends in business and had begun a series of travels up and down the railroads to find his old companions in sin that he might do direct

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personal work—win them to Christ. It was my privilege to know and love this dear man and to have fellowship and servile with him many times and in many ways before he went borne to glory.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was when I won my first Chinese soul to the Lord. He was a student in the Chong-jun High School where I was principal. He was unusually bright in his studies and talented in music. Not long after he was saved he dedicated his life to preach the Gospel. All of this made me very happy. We aided him financially to go to the seminary, and then had the privilege of working with him upon his graduation. He could prepare and deliver beau­tiful sermons but I was disappointed often in the little or no response of the people to these mes­sages. Mr. Fe, for that was his name, was only one of many Chinese co-workers. Others could preach well, too. Somehow I had expected more of Mr. Pe. What was the matter? Things such as this added no little to the discouragement I felt before the revival came.

One Saturday morning in the First Church of Ge-nan, at the early morning prayer meeting, Mr. Pe, along with this missionary and another Chinese pastor, was filled with the Holy Spirit and endued with power from on high. A few days after this experience, I went with Mr. Pe to his church, in a nearby country village. There was a market held on the main street just in front of the church every five days. Sometimes it came on Sunday. And pagans, attending the market, hear­ing the singing and preaching, would stick their heads into the door of the church, listen a few minutes, and then go on their way. Many carne and went this way.

On this particular Sunday, after Mr. Pe’s ex­perience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, it was market day. I shall never forget. When the pastor got up that morning to bring his sermon he was wiping the tears from his eyes. Then lie said, “Brethren and sisters, I have a confession

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to make to you before I can preach. I have to tell you that hitherto your pastor has, been a thief, a robber, and a hypocrite.” (You could have heard a pin drop.) “You will remember that the times I have preached to you on stewardship and tith­ing, saying that this was God’s method of carry­ing on His work. I have to tell you that although I preached this precious doctrine, I, myself have never practiced tithing. You thought I had but I was convicted a few days ago by the Holy Spirit practicing hypocrisy, which is the same as lying. of robbing God of tithes and offerings, and now God has forgiven me all these sins. I have spent most of one night trying to figure up the amount of money I had robbed God of in tithes. I couldn’t be quite sure just how much it was, so at the end I added a certain amount so I would be sure of paying up in full. I didn’t have the money, but I promised God I would pay to the last cent, even if it took the rest of my life. Also, I promised that from that day I would really and truly begin to tithe.”

No wonder he was so happy. Then be began to preach. Oh, how different was the spirit. I had heard him use this same subject once before but nothing had happened. It was so different now. Church members were soon broken up and in tears. They confessed their own sins to God. As before, pagans who had come to market, stuck their heads into the door to see what was going’ on. Instead of their going out as before, they gradually came in and in a short time there was a line standing all the way across the back of the church. It was most significant to see how many of these poor men, who were hearing the Gospel for the first time in their lives, became so deeply convicted of sin that they fell on the floor crying for mercy. Some thought they were sick and go-

ing to die. It was our privilege to help the pastor and many others, who had been cleansed and filled, to point these men to the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.

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You ask what made the difference in this man’s preaching? Revival, of course, made the difference. This was not an isolated instance.

We saw the same thing happen in the lives of large numbers of our preachers and mission­aries and others as they went everywhere testify­ing of the marvelous works of God. On our Ge­nan field, consisting of the capital city and five counties around, we used to have a big Gospel tent that we took from village to village, preach­ing and teaching the Gospel. Large numbers came to see the excitement, but when the time came for decisions, most of them would leave. There were decisions, yes, some were saved, but few.

When the depression came in America and our funds for Foreign Missions around the world had to be cut, we had to curtail our work on the field in many ways. One was to roll up the big tent and pack it away. -Money could not be spared to keep it operating. After revival came, our people not only overflowed the churches but went on into new towns and villages preaching the Gospel on street corners, in homes, and at the market. They remembered the old tent that had been resting for several years and decided among themselves this would be a good way to witness. Without asking missionaries or Foreign Mission Board for money, they put the tent on an oxcart and kept it going until almost worn out.

The same thing happened in the Ping-to-field. Before the revival, the student body at our semi­nary had dropped to three men. During those spiritually lean years missionaries in the different stations picked out nice-looking, bright young church members and talked to them about dedi­cating their lives to preach the Gospel. At first, many decided to go to the seminary because it was a good opportunity to get a cheap education (without any call at all we know now). The Mis­sion would pay all expenses. Not strange was it under these conditions, however, that most of the ministerial students graduated and returned with

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little or no ability to preach and with nothing happening when they did preach. One missionary said to Dr. W. B. Glass, then president of the seminary, “Why don’t we get better preachers from the seminary?” The president replied, “Well, we do the best we can with the material you send us. Send us better men and we will re­turn you better preachers.” This was before the revival came.

As the revival swept over the country it looked as though everyone was a preacher. They were definitely God’s witnesses. But, along with this, large numbers of fine young people were called to’ preach and go to the seminary for preparation. Before long, living quarters and class rooms were overflowing. More room had to be made for the many God-called, Spirit-filled young people who care for training to preach to their own people. These came paying all expenses, too. What made the difference? Revival!

Accompanying the baptisim of the Holy Spirit, in many instances, there were definite manifesta­tions. One of these manifestations was speaking in tongues. Some missionaries received this gift others didn’t. More Chinese did, but not all by any means received the gift of tongues. During times when the Spirit was working in hearts and when all were praying it was not unusual to hear someone break out singing in the Spirit. It was usually iii an unknown tongue but no one could doubt that it was directly from the Lord and all received a blessing. It was the sweetest music that one could ever hear. Some were given the gift of discernment between true and counterfeit mani­festations. We soon found that the devil was hard at work to bring reproach on these things of God. We learned that most of what we were seeing and experiencing were genuine.

Laughing was one of the most common mani­festations of the Spirit accompanying the baptism of the Spirit. “Then shall your mouths he filled with holy laughter,” the Psalmist said. Some of

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you will ask, “What about people falling to the ground, jumping, or rolling up and down.” Yes, there was some of that. But when the Holy Spirit is in it one ceases to feel that it is out of place. The Holy Spirit does not call people to do things that are wrong or that would bring reproach. Of course, the devil tried to counterfeit some of these things, and when the counterfeit was used, it did bring reproach. That was his purpose.

Some missionaries and Chinese leaders were delayed in being filled with the Spirit because they wanted the infilling without any manifesta­tions. I, myself, had to come to the place that I could say, “Lord, I must have this power no mat­ter what the cost. If you want me to speak in tongues, or if you want me to do anything else that I have despised in others, if it can be for your glory, let me do it. I must have this power without which I cannot go on.” When I came to this position, to this decision, He didn’t require all of this of me, but I had to be willing to do it. Many simi-hungry Christians and missionaries only saw the effervescence that accompanied re­vival without seeing the main thing and thereby they missed the blessing for themselves.

Reports were sent back to the Foreign Mission Board that Southern Baptists in the North China Convention had literally gone Pentecostal. Now, let me say right here, this was a Baptist revival, or rather it was a New Testament revival and to be that would be Baptist. And the Pentecosts had nothing to do with it. Of course, as this revival spread throughout the area other denominations became part of it and were blessed through the revival. But it was distinctly kept in Southern Baptist areas and held and carried on as a New Testament revival. And so people who criticized and refused to get in and pitch for revival—they were not given the blessing—they missed it.

After several of these biased reports had been sent to the Foreign Mission Board, Dr. Maddry, then Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, decided to go to China and see for himself

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what was happening. He went, visiting all of our main stations. Wherever he went he saw overflow­ing congregations, people filled with zeal for the Lord and the lost around them. He saw people going everywhere preaching the Gospel without cost to the Foreign Mission Board. He saw many new churches that had been built by the people with their own hands and their own money. He heard whole congregations praying audibly in concert, many weeping as they prayed. He heard some speak in tongues and saw other manifesta­tions that he had never seen before. He heard many stores of the sick being healed, demons be­ing cast out in the name of Jesus, plus other signs and wonders. He was able to discern that this was not put on, not the works of men, but from God.

When we asked him what he thought, he re­plied, “I don’t understand it. I would do it dif­ferently. But I am convinced it is real.” In Shang-hi, when he and Mrs. ‘Maddry were waiting for their ship to sail back to America (Mrs. Aber­nathy and I were there, too. It was time for our regular furlough to come back to America), at a meeting of missionaries on the campus of Shanghi Baptist University, Dr. Maddry made a speech. He talked about the Shantung Revival mostly, some of which was beginning to reach that great city of Shanghi. At the close he said, “I came. I saw. I have been conquered.”

This is only a very brief story and testimony of the Shantung Revival. Eternity alone will re­veal the total number who have come to a saving knowledge of the Lord and Savior as a result of thls unusual experience. May God lead many of you into this deeper walk with Him.

There never was a time in the history of the world when there were as many lost people as we have now because there are more people in the world now than ever before. There never was a time when more God-called. Spirit-filled preach­ers and missionaries were needed. I am convinced that if we do not have revival in our time we will

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see revolutions throughout our world, including our own beloved, God-blessed United States of America.

May God lead every born-again child of His to realize the responsibility that is resting upon him or her of carrying this blessed news of the Gospel around the world. May we not forget those words of Jesus when He said that He made “full provision.” Before He calls us to any task He makes provision and equipment for us to carry out that commission that He commits to us.

When Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye, therefore,” He meant “as much of that power as you need to carry out this mission on which I am sending you, whether here or there, will be at your disposal.” And then in Acts 1:8, He said, “When the Holy Ghost is come upon you, ye shall receive power, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, in Jerusalem, anti in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Paul said, ‘Be not drunk with wine, but filled with the Holy Spirit.” Many people preach sermons on “be not drunk with wine,” and leave off the main part of that verse, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” It’s a com­mand just the same as any command to go or to do anything else for the Lord Jesus Christ and there’s no excuse in the world why every born-again child of His should not be filled and baptized with His Holy Spirit. And because we are not, we are not seeing the results that God wants us to see as He calls us into His service and sends us on these missions. Because the mission is not accomplished as it should be, the reason is that we don’t have the power. We have simply not appropriated the power that He has supplied, that He has appropriated for us.

We retired after spending thirty years in China, ten years in Korea, and three years in the Philippines. At sixty-five we retired, feeling that we would like to spend a few good years in our own country before we got too old to enjoy living

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in America. But we retired only in name, it seemed, because we have been going just as strong since we came back to America as we did on that mission field, although without the same responsibility.

But after we had been traveling up and down for several years, in 1963 and ’64, the Foreign Mission Board asked us if we would consider go­ing out to the Philippines again to Clark Field, Clark Air Force Base, to be interim pastor of an English-speaking Southern Baptist church for American airmen and their families. And so we soon found ourselves on a jet winging our way back across the Pacific to the Philippines where we spent a blessed year of service and saw God work in marvelous ways among our people.

When will we stop? Not until we’re too old to go. Not until doors are closed and as long as the need is as great as it is for more preachers, mis­sionaries, teachers, and God-filled people to carry on the work of God around the world, there’s no place to stop. In the words of the late Robert Frost, who said . . .

“The fields are lovely dark and deep

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep;

And miles to go before I sleep.”

That’s the way we feel about God’s work here in our world today. May God bless every one of you.

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2 Comments

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this important article with us! This is such a powerful recount of God’s work in China.

    May God Bless Your Work and Dissertation!

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