In the Midst of a Great Storm, Part Two

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Editor’s note: This article was written by Brother Fan, an intern evangelist at a church in southwest China. It is a devotional meant to be used by those in the midst of persecution. Brother Fan wrote this reflection after he was beaten while trying to visit Preacher Yang at the police station. Preacher Yang is a pastor at Brother Fan’s church who has recently been detained by police each weekend in order to prevent his participation in Sunday worship. 

You can find the first part of this devotional here.

 

The clock was still ticking. By about 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, the police officers entered the lobby and surrounded the eight of us: me and my wife, Preacher Yang’s wife, Sister Cao, and four children between us. An unnamed leader came to tell us that we had caused them great trouble. Then they took us, one by one, to an office on the second floor. As the only brother, I was the first to be taken up, still holding my little son, who had fallen asleep on my shoulder.

I was ordered to sit down. The leader, with a steely expression, ordered me to hand over my phone, delete the photos, and put the matter to rest. I looked at him with pity, sad that he was so afraid to see recorded proof of his law enforcement tactics. Since my purpose at the police station was not to take pictures, I turned on my phone and deleted the pictures of our family in the lobby, which I had taken as a souvenir. 


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But still, they confiscated the phone. Then another man came over, rushing toward me, punching me hard in the head, kicking me. Under his breath, he muttered: “You are pissing me off!” Fortunately, my three-year-old son stayed asleep on my shoulder through this whole time. I felt sorry for the man who beat me; he was overcome with anger and out of his mind. Did he not know that, when he struck the servant of God, he was incurring the judgment of God?

After that, I was taken downstairs and my wife was taken up. I gave her a slightly worried look, and she looked back at me as she left. My heart did not want my wife to suffer, and I imagined how I would react if she was beaten. But the police would not let me do anything, and I could only wait in silence. Afterwards, she came down safely. Preacher Yang’s wife was taken up then, and she came down safely as well, although they seized her cell phone.

Finally, Sister Cao was taken upstairs. She was holding her one-year-old child, and the child drifted between sleep and tears. They asked her to give the fussing child to someone else and she refused—but then the child was snatched by a plainclothes officer. The scene was chaotic. Later, they handed the baby off to Preacher Yang’s wife.

Even before they took her, I knew that Sister Cao would be beaten, because she could not silently assent to their oppression. This type of defiance is what annoys them the most. After a loud noise, we heard her upstairs, speaking loudly. (Later we found out that, after a group of people beat her, they sat quietly and listened to her pray and preach to them.) 

After some time, they brought her down. When she saw us, she raised her arms. Hymns seemed to descend from heaven and she burst out in song: “Sing hallelujah  and praise the Lord, sing hallelujah and praise…” Suddenly, many hands were raised to cover her mouth. She was again dragged out of our sight. 

My heart was torn, and I marveled at this sister’s energy and faith. What a coward I had been. As a brother, I could only watch my sister being bullied, but I could not do anything to help. I also had the opportunity to be beaten, but I wanted to pacify them and protect the other sisters and the children, instead of preaching the gospel like Sister Cao did. 

In the face of threats and violence and the proliferation of evil, I did not have the courage to make a greater struggle. I am not speaking of a physical confrontation, but of uncompromisingly rebuking sin and proclaiming the gospel. Prayer and praise are two of the treasures of a believer. In the face of threats and violence, Sister Cao responded with exactly these things.

I felt as though I saw Christians being torn apart by wild animals in the Roman Colosseum. In the midst of their great pain and fear, those believers still sang hymns and surrendered themselves to the risen Lord. At that moment, it was as if the Holy Spirit had come to the police station in the clarity of the hymns; it was as if heaven opened, and I witnessed the scene of Stephen’s martyrdom.

My heart no longer mourned for Sister Cao. I saw that the Lord stood at her right hand, and it was not she that suffered, but Christ who suffered on her behalf. During those moments outside of time, Preacher Yang’s wife again softly sang a hymn to the baby in her arms. The little one stopped fussing and quietly drifted off to sleep. When the policeman who was guarding us scolded her for daring to sing, she gently responded: “Don’t scare the child. You see, he fell asleep as soon as he heard the hymn.” In shame, the policeman shut his mouth. 

When Sister Cao finally came back to us, her face was alight, glowing as if nothing had gone wrong. There was no trace of cowardice. We were no longer hindered; those who beat us had wandered off to who-knows-where; the police no longer heckled and threatened; no one gestured as if they would beat us. How warm and quiet that scene would have been if only it had not taken place inside a police station. The four children were asleep, and their mothers all had joy and peace. That was when my youngest son finally woke from his sleep. He rubbed his little face on mine and said softly, “Daddy, I want to go home.” I could only comfort him and say, “We’ll go home soon.”

Next, the police asked me to make a statement, so they took me to their office area. When I entered the office, I saw Preacher Yang [the detained preacher who Brother Fan and the women had come to visit at the police station]. When I saw him my eyes lit up, and I shouted excitedly: “Preacher Yang, Jesus loves you!” He was stunned when he heard this; he looked up at me and shouted back, “God loves you.” Because the officers had used violence against me, I refused to answer their questions or sign any statements, so the law enforcement officers just went through the motions of their procedures. The process was over in a few minutes. When we walked back, the door to the room where Preacher Yang was held had been closed. Still, I said loudly, “Preacher Yang, we are leaving.” From behind the door came his voice: “Okay.” It was simultaneously a reunion and a farewell among us saints. 

The night was late, and everyone was tired. It was nearly 2 in the morning, and the police began to look gentle. Finally they were able speak to us with peace of mind and with respect. I think the shock of the scene tonight will stay in their minds for a long time, and I am sure that some of those officers will be converted to the gospel as a result. On that night, I saw real spiritual warfare. I saw the hand of God stirring up the earth, and all of us were caught up in the storm. The officers were angry when they heard the gospel and our hymns. They had a hatred of the truth. Their continual persecution of the church had hardened their hearts and created a fear of God’s judgment. 

It is good for the souls of those officers that, when they used force to suppress faith, they were met with resistance from another kingdom. What normal people would be able to resist that kind of intimidation and pressure? I think those officers had probably never seen such people. God is real; the one we trust in is truly God; and we hold within us the power of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, there is no explanation for all of this.

 

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

The Chinese church who first shared this devotional with Christians in China, wrote this prayer to accompany the piece:

“May the Lord keep our hearts. May we always rely on him, not on ourselves. May the resurrected life of the Lord Jesus be manifested through us. May the Kingdom of Heaven—which will last longer than all earthly nations—come, through our weak church, to the people who sit in darkness.”

-Pray for the officers involved in the episode at the police station. Pray those officers will be convicted of their sin and will turn to Christ, the source of righteousness, peace, and joy.

Our blog exists, not just to share information, but to resource the global church to share the joys and burdens of the Chinese church. Our hope is that everything you read here will lead you to intentional, knowledgeable prayer for the Chinese church. 

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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