Editor’s note: According to an ancient Chinese calendar system, every sixty years marks the Year of Gengzi. Traditionally, a Gengzi Year presages disaster. In 2020, a Gengzi Year, churches in Shanxi Province decided to mark the year by commemorating missionaries who died in the Boxer Rebellion during the Gengzi Year of 1900.
A house church pastor wrote and shared the following reflection in a private group with other house church Christians. To the author’s surprise, he discovers that the horrors of the Boxer Rebellion are perhaps not quite so far in the rearview mirror as he had hoped. This is a catalog, in two parts, of what he knows about persecution in Shanxi Province in 2020 and 2021. Check back on Thursday to read the rest.
In China, it has become somewhat of a new hobby, after dinner and tea, to explore the blood-drenched history of Christian martyrs in China. It has been exactly twelve decades since the late Qing Dynasty reforms in the 1900s. I had supposed that time had changed the soil in China.
The Spiritual Battle Is Raging Today
However, to my surprise I have discovered that the Boxer Rebellion is present in China today, and that it has evolved to be more and more sophisticated. The seeds cast by missionaries of the gospel of sacrificial love have taken only shallow root in the hard soil of Shanxi Province—both in the traditional past and the modern present.
In the spiritual battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, the former strikes the latter. This feud has lasted for millennia; we are complacent about our qualifications—a record of service of a mere ten years. This is where the temptation lies for many preachers, Christians, and churches. If we do not draw our life of resurrection from the gospel of the Lord, if we do not receive the Great Commission and the power of the Holy Spirit that accompanies it from the ascended Lord, we will never be able to confront the schemes of evil spirits and the cunning deceptions of Satan.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
During the pandemic in 2020, our local church in Shanxi seized the moment to commemorate missionaries who served in our province. We did this lest we forget our foundation, and miss the redoubling move of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of scarcity and powerlessness, the brothers and sisters of this land were thirsting for revival. Sure enough, our century-spanning spiritual fellowship with those missionaries healed many wounds at once. We all become excited, and decided, in this Year of Gengzi, to echo “that person, that event, that time, and that place.” After we took just a few small steps to commemorate these missionaries, great grace and joy appeared in our midst!
A Litany of 2020 Persecutions
But on August 15th, the day that brothers and sisters of a church in Fenyang commemorated the blood of the martyrs in their area, three families (nine people and a baby in the mother’s womb) were swarmed by officials and bandits. Like lambs to the slaughter, they manifested to the world and to history the living and eternal life that they participated in in Jesus Christ. Immediately after this, churches in the local villages of Fenyang were threatened and forced to cease gathering, followed by a series of intense persecutions.
At 8 p.m. on September 12, police deployed hundreds of people and three excavators to Yuncheng in Yanhu District to demolish the hundred-year-old tombstone of a missionary to the Ruihua Church. They also razed the room where the photos were displayed. Overnight, they transplanted plants to cover the destruction they had caused.
On November 15, Taiyuan Xuncheng Church was raided during Sunday worship, and eight members were detained until 10 that night.
On December 3 in Xinzhou, the tombstones of eight missionaries were demolished. Forty Chinese Christians were also buried there. Just one month earlier, brothers and sisters had restored this deserted area, which had been abandoned for many years.
On December 28, the Daning gravestones of five missionaries from China Inland Mission, three of whom were killed in 1900, were forcibly removed. We do not know when, but in the village of Xiayuan, a tombstone under which were the faithful bones of thirteen martyrs, was leveled.
On the evening of December 30, the Thursday night Bible study of Taiyuan Xuncheng Church was again raided, and six of its members were arrested on the spot. After twenty-four hours of arrest, the preacher, An Yankui, was placed in administrative detention for fifteen days. The water and electricity of the church building were cut off, and the locks were forcibly changed.
A Worsening Situation in 2021
As we entered 2021, the situation did not relax, but intensified.
On January 7, 2021, the Wenshui church gathering was raided. They were later raided two more times.
On March 1, numerous law enforcement officials burst into a staff meeting for Fenyang Chengguan Church and seized the church’s financial books. Officials also took the personal books and belongings of the family who hosted the staff meeting. When questioned, they said, “Yes, we are breaking and entering. So what?”
On March 21, Xiying Church in Jiaocheng was raided. The congregation, consisting mostly of elderly people, were taken away until the early hours of the next morning.
This is an incomplete list of what has happened. Many more churches have endured persecution during this period and have chosen to remain silent. Even more horrendous than these incidents is the escalation of tactics that followed, when not only congregations were targeted, but individuals and families were afflicted and accused by any means possible.
Preacher Huang is a pseudonym for a pastor serving a Chinese house church in northern China.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for believers in Shanxi Province, who have been facing difficult times of late. Pray for them to have sweet fellowship with the risen and reigning Christ.