Editor’s note: Elder Li Yingqiang was arrested in the December 2018 crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church and spent about eight months in jail in 2018 and 2019. After his release, he and his family returned to Southwest China. Several of those who helped him in that time have now been imprisoned themselves. In this reflection, he mourns their arrest and remembers their faithfulness.
Today is March 16, 2022. My friend, brother, and dear brother in the Lord, Elder Zhang Chunlei, was arrested a year ago today. It has been a whole year.
My Brother, Chunlei
On November 15, 2020, our family had to leave Leshan after only two weeks due to heavy pressure to evict us. Chunlei helped us settle in Guiyang and repeatedly urged us to stay for longer. We stayed in Guiyang for four months , leaving on the night of March 15, 2021. Chun Lei was arrested the next day. Initially, he was arrested on charges of “fraud”, but later “incitement to subversion” was added to his charges.
During my stay in Guiyang, Chunlei cared for our family, visiting almost every week, bringing brothers and sisters to my place for fellowship and communication, and many times he took our family to various places in Guizhou to visit missionaries’ footsteps. He gave me a lot of comfort and help during a very difficult period.
When I was in Guiyang, Chunlei often told me optimistically, “I believed Pastor Wang Yi will not serve the full nine years. He should be released from prison soon.” My response was, “Maybe we are not waiting for Pastor Wang Yi to be released soon – we have to prepare ourselves, and many others, to go to prison with him before he is released.”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Chunlei regarded going to prison with Pastor Wang Yi as a glory from the Lord. Sure enough, the Lord has given him this glory.
In fact, in 2018, after the 12-9 Church Case [the December 9th, 2018 arrest of Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi] , Chunlei sent a message on WeChat that he was willing to go to jail with Pastor Wang Yi. No one else in China was so vocal.
My Friend, Hao Ming
On March 16, 2021, our family returned to Sichuan from Guiyang and stayed in Deyang. Here was another one of my brothers, Elder Hao Ming.
In August 2020, Elder Hao Ming, his wife, and Chunlei visited me in Hubei, when I had just been released from bail and was preparing to return to Chengdu. When I returned to Chengdu in early September, I was forcefully evicted by Chengdu police and had no choice but to leave. Before I left Chengdu, I borrowed money from a friend and asked Elder Hao Ming to help me buy a property in Deyang (so I could live close to Chengdu and continue to serve the church). At that time, Elder Hao Ming responded that even if he had to go to jail for this in the future, he would do his best to make this happen.
I thought he was being a bit dramatic. I thought, “I am buying a house with money borrowed from a friend, it is not that complicated. I am only asking him to help me find a house and do paperwork. It shouldn’t get him into so much trouble, right?”
Elder Hao Ming took a two-month leave of absence from his church to avoid implicating them, and went specifically to purchase the house for me. My hope at that time was to go back to live in Deyang in mid-December 2020 and live in my own house.
But something happened which kept me in Guiyang longer than planned; it was March 16, 2021 before I was able to return to Deyang. Before I left for Deyang, Hao Ming had retired from Green Meadow Reformed Church, where he had served for many years.
After returning to Deyang, Hao Ming took great care of our family, inviting us to his house almost every week for dinner and fellowship. Since late March of last year, Hao Ming’s family has also become part of Early Rain Covenant Church. Unexpectedly, on November 17, 2021, Hao Ming was arrested at his home only half an hour after we went home from lunch together. The initial charge was “fraud,” but shortly afterwards I heard that “incitement to subversion” had been added to the charges.
Today, Hao Ming has been imprisoned for 4 months.
More Blessed Than Me
What can I say about all this? I am thankful for Chunlei and Hao Ming, and I know they are more blessed than me today as they sit in the presence of God himself.
Only on this spring night, when I think of them, there is still some sorrow in my heart. Lord, be gracious and strengthen Chunlei and Hao Ming. I know you keep them and are with them. Also keep my heart, and be with your weak children.
March 16, 2022 in Deyang
Elder Li Yingqiang is an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. He and his wife have two children.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Heb. 13:3