Editor’s note: Pastor Li Jie was detained in Linfen, Shanxi Province, in August of 2022. On the date of their 10th wedding anniversary, his wife, Li Shanshan, wrote and publicly shared a letter commemorating their experiences. We published the first half of that letter here in English; this is the remainder of her letter.
The Beginning of Our Persecution
We haven’t quarreled since 2018. We stopped, after we heard about more and more preachers being arrested around the country. We haven’t done anything illegal, but we knew we faced the risk of being arrested at any moment. We understand that evil often comes in the form of “false and unjust accusations.” Because of that, we cherished every day we had together. Neither of us could bear to argue. Now, our day has arrived.
On August 18, 2022, we went to a mountain in central Shanxi Province with friends. The night of the 19th, we had a party in the conference room. We decided to act out the story of Job, and you were Job. That night, Job’s story became reality. As soon as the police burst in, I immediately realized: this was the beginning of our persecution. I prayed incessantly in my heart, knowing the Lord would help us.
As others were taken away by the police one by one, our family of four was the last to leave. Police officers accompanied us back to our room to retrieve our luggage. I was holding our younger child; you held the older one. He fell asleep, and you held him tightly. The police saw you were tired and wanted to help you hold him, but you wouldn’t let him. That day was the last time you held our son – how could you bear to let the police have him?
After we returned to Linfen that night, they took me to the police station. I was so happy when I saw you there. I cried out, “Li Jie, peace be with you!” You responded the same way. We stayed in the station for three days and nights, unable to talk or sleep, only allowed to gaze at each other through the wall. I softly hummed hymns, one after another, trying to tell you not to be afraid, but that the Lord’s presence is our comfort and guarantee.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
While we were at the station, the police let the kids go home with their grandmother for the night. They took the opportunity to search our house, and took away many things. We had one electronic photo album, which police also took and have yet to return. Our wedding photos and the pictures of our children throughout their lives were in that album. I asked the investigators for the album, but they did not give it to me. I am really sad about that!
Later, the three of us – you, Han Xiaodong, and I – were held in a “designated surveillance residence.” The first night there, they didn’t allow us to sleep; we had to sit in the hallway. Although everything was a blur without my glasses, I was satisfied just being able to look at you. We were not allowed to talk to one another, but we could talk to the officers.
That night, it was like an evangelism conference, and the interrogation team and the other criminal suspects were the audience. Even though I was handcuffed and my ankles were shackled, I could still sing. Xiaodong shared his testimony, how he became a believer and later a full-time minister; you talked about the history of the church. The people were very curious about the gospel, and asked us many questions. We had a lively and enjoyable discussion all night, but it was very tiring. The second night, we were still not allowed to sleep. It was three days later before we were finally allowed to sleep – the most restful night of my life.
While we were detained, my right ankle was rubbed raw and infected. I had to wear shackles all the time, which did not allow it to heal. Every step was excruciatingly painful. It became infected and developed abscesses, bleeding and oozing pus. Then I finally understood the extent to which Jesus loves us. As I stumbled toward the detention room, I tasted a little bit of the pain Jesus endured when he was nailed to the cross. Jesus did not say a word when he was interrogated, and I finally understand why, because now I have been interrogated too…
Tears streaming down my face, I prayed to Jesus, asking him to continue to give me strength. Although I have read the Bible many times, I never felt any emotion. I never fell in love with Jesus’s words. It was not until I was detained that I realized how irreverent I had been. I had memorized so little Scripture. After I was bailed out, I cherished and memorized the Bible more than before.
I Am Honored To Be Your Wife
During detention, I was weak at times. I even thought, “Why are we doing this? If we all kept normal jobs, we could have had a comfortable life.” But later, I realized this was not true. Those who devote their lives to Jesus will face persecution, and this persecution never stops.
In the detention room, the clothes of each suspect were placed in front of their seats. I knew which clothes were yours, and I secretly washed your underwear and socks. When the officers found out, they scolded me. I said, “Officer, I love my husband very much. At home, I wash his clothes every day. But here, I don’t know what I can do for him. Forgive me.” I washed your clothes because I wanted to tell you that, even though we were arrested and detained, we must face life positively. We still need to bear witness for the Lord.
We were a pair of lovebirds detained in the same station, in the same “designated surveillance residence.” We slept on the same floor of the hallway. Even after all this hardship, we still need to love the Lord together, and suffer together.
Sleeping on the floor, we were very cold. I asked the room attendant for more blankets and pillows. They were all for you. During the day, your pillow and blanket were put on the interrogation chair next to me. At night, you took them to your room. One morning you brought me my pillow, but I was still half asleep. When I saw you, I thought we were at home. I said, “You got up early!” You put the pillow down and left, but I said, “Don’t go.” That was when I realized we were not home, but in jail, because I still had on handcuffs and shackles.
Once you said to me, “Shanshan, no matter how much humiliation I suffer, as long as you tell me that you love me, I will dismiss this humiliation. If you don’t abandon me, this persecution cannot break me.”
My dear husband: even though you wear handcuffs and shackles, you are just as handsome to me as before. I am honored to be your wife. “Our love is as strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”
Soon, we all knew you and Xiaodong would be sent to the normal prison. The night before you left, I shouted loudly in the hallway, “Li Jie, I love you! I will never regret marrying you!” After I said those words, I saw you shedding many tears. Did you know I was crying too? We have never been separated this long before.
I have not seen you since the day you went to the detention center. I want to tell you, firmly, that my love for you is unwavering. I will be loyal to you forever.
Jesus Will Judge Us
In January, the prosecutor called me for questioning. I told him that we live very modestly; our family’s clothes are given us by others. I am not ashamed, because I do not care about these things. My husband and I pursue what is true, good, and beautiful. We will never swindle another’s wealth.
But hey! Our hope is not in prosecutors, judges, or those in power. Jesus will judge us. The Lord will seek justice for us. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, and we hope that through us, Jesus will reveal justice, spread the gospel, and connect us with the universal church. I hope that, small as we are, we can shine for him. We are the city on the hill. All glory belongs to the Heavenly Father.
Always waiting for you to come home,
Your wife, Shanshan
Li Shanshan is married to Li Jie, a house church pastor who is currently in jail.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Li Jie, Li Shanshan, and others in jail for Jesus’s name.