Introduction: “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:1–3).
Drenched in the Lord’s Love
Memories become gradually dim with the passing of time. But every time I hear the familiar verses “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:1–2), it will stir the memories deep in my heart. …
My grandma told me that my father was a village cadre when I was still an infant and Chinese peasants got their share of food by earning work points. Every time the food was to be dispensed among the villagers, my father would do it according to their work points and never gave short measure, no matter whether they are rich or poor; therefore, villagers all gave my father a thumbs up and regarded him as a good man. At that time, my grandma asked him to believe in the Lord, but he always fobbed her off with words like “I’m busy and have no time,” “I’m still young, you can believe in the Lord diligently and I support you.” Later on, I had a serious illness. My father took me to see doctors in many large hospitals looking for a cure but it was in vain. The elder people in our village discussed, “This kid is hopeless. …” My mother could only cuddle me and keep shedding tears. Then, my grandma told my parents to ask for the Lord Jesus to cure me and so my father said earnestly, “If the Lord Jesus can really save my kid, I will give up my job. I will believe in the Lord and preach for the Lord all my life.” As soon as my father finished his words, I cried loudly and then miraculously recovered only after several days. This let my father witness the great power of the Lord Jesus, and he confirmed that the Lord Jesus was the real and living God. From then on, my father began to read the Bible and attend meetings, testified about the Lord’s great power to whoever he met, and preached the Lord’s name everywhere.
In the beginning, there were only three or five people attending meetings in my home. But in 1983, not only the five rooms of my home but even the courtyard was crowded with people. During the gatherings, my father led us to sing hymns. The lilting tune gave us faith, arousing many loud and excited cries of “Amen!” Every time this happened, children would teem outside the gate and we chased each other gaily. After meetings, my elder brother and sister would still stand before the blackboard continuing to learn spiritual songs that praised the Lord; my father would hold my younger brother and me in his arms and repeatedly taught us to sing spiritual songs till my mother came to call us to have our meal. Then my father would take us in his arms to the dinner table and lead us to pray to the Lord. At that time, our family were all immersed in the Lord’s love and enjoyed the bountiful grace and peace and joy the Lord bestowed upon us. However, good times didn’t last long. The sudden persecution and arrest from the Chinese Communist Party broke our happy and peaceful life.
Happy Life Was Broken
In 1985, as the Lord Jesus’ gospel was widely spread in our generation, the number of people coming to my home for meetings was increasing and this aroused the CPP’s attention. One day, a stranger came to my home. He took my father to the township government to ask him some questions. Several days had passed, but my father still hadn’t returned home. Not until later did I know that the police accused my father of illegal gatherings and put him into the detention house. Without my father’s singing, my home was very bleak and dreary. Half a month later, my mother paid the fine of five hundred yuan to the police and only then was my father released. Seeing him, we were so happy. My younger brother and I nestled up to him, listening to him tell my mother what had happened the day he was arrested: A policeman questioned him, saying, “You are a member of the Shouters and have shouted at all others to come before you. What are you plotting to do?” My father replied calmly, “I do not do it for my personal goal. The Lord gave us life and was crucified for us, so it’s justified that I spread the Lord’s holy name to repay His love for me. I’m not so capable as to call many people to my home. It’s because of the Lord’s choice and great love that the hometown people are willing to believe in the Lord and follow the Lord.” My father’s reply dissatisfied the police and they put my father into the detention house. In this arrest, my father personally tasted that following the Lord was walking a path full of persecutions and tribulations, the path of the cross that the Lord Jesus had walked. He said, “We shouldn’t fall down but should care for the Lord’s will and help more people gain the Lord’s salvation.”
Later, because of the CCP’s surveillance, brothers and sisters couldn’t come to my home to have meetings, so my father began to go out to preach the gospel. Soon, there were several meeting places in each village forty miles around our village. Thus, the gospel of the Lord Jesus was spread in my hometown and my father became a locally famous preacher. Seeing that my father had ever greater influence and that more and more people believed in the Lord with my father, the local government branded my father as being anti-Party and counter-revolutionary, monitored him, tried to arrest him, and sealed off meeting places everywhere. Many brothers and sisters had their homes raided and were fined; some were even cruelly tortured after being arrested, and then sentenced.
The Horrifying Days
One evening in 1986, when my father had just arrived home after the meeting, a brother came hurriedly and breathlessly, saying, “The members of the township government are searching the meeting place on the east side of our village and the police are coming to arrest you. You must go out to escape. …” Having finished his words, he went off hurriedly. Hearing the brother’s words, my father snatched his clothes and left home immediately. And our hearts went to our throats. A short while later, several police officers came in. Since they didn’t find my father, they fiercely questioned my mother. My mother, holding us four children close to her, told them that my father hadn’t returned home. But they didn’t believe my mother at all, so they began to search and then messed up my home: They opened all the cases and the cabinets, threw the clothes and quilts all over the ground, and even examined the chimney and barn. In an instant, they searched through my home and at last, they took away our Holy Bible, book of hymn, tape recorder, and the notes my father had taken when reading the Bible. I looked at our house, feeling as if it had been robbed by bandits. Being young, I thought: I heard that the police only caught villains, but why do I get the impression that they are more like bad people?
Owing to the Lord’s care, my father wasn’t arrested by the police, but he could no longer freely come and go. To avoid being reported to the government, my father could only hide in the forest in the daytime and return home until it was dark. One midnight, while we were in sound sleep, the barks of dogs woke us up. My father immediately got up, snatched his clothes, and slipped through the backdoor. Right after my father left, several police officers broke into my home. They failed to find my father, but to vent their anger, they kicked our door loudly and shouted at my weak and sickly mother, “Where is your husband? Someone clearly saw him come back. Where is he? Hand him over to us quickly!” My mother was too scared to speak any word. And my siblings and I were all frightened and huddled up under the quilts.
That time, they didn’t succeed in catching my father and we knew it was the Lord that had kept my father from the misfortune. From then on, the CCP often suddenly came to my home at midnight in order to capture my father. As a result, my whole family were afraid of the falling of the night—once we heard the bark of a dog, we would subconsciously hold our breath and listen carefully to what was going on outside, and we dared neither move nor talk. My family all lived with fear every day, and what concerned us most was that my father would be captured, tortured, and imprisoned.
But it wasn’t long before our concern became a reality: The police arrested my father in the house of brothers and sisters. Three months later, my mother paid the fine and my father was released and returned home with wounds. Lying on the brick bed, he told us that a policeman threatened and tempted him, saying, “You mustn’t believe in the Lord or preach around. If you continue to preach you will be put in prison. But as long as you stop preaching, you can still work as a village cadre. If you don’t like being a cadre, then you can become a teacher in the school. In this case, you can take care of your family meanwhile—isn’t it far better than preaching? If you agree, write a letter guaranteeing that you will no longer believe in the Lord, and then you can go home.” My father answered, “In the eyes of nonbelievers, you are pointing out a good way for me. While in my eyes, the fleshly enjoyment is but temporary. I believe in the Lord because He can save me and give me life. I can’t gain life but will end up in destruction if I become a cadre or a teacher. You want me to forsake believing in the Lord? No way!” Hearing my father’s words, they fell into a rage, hanging my father and then beating him wildly. My father thought of the Lord’s words, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Inspired by these words, my father would prefer to die rather than betray the Lord or deny the Lord’s name.
After my father was released and returned home, he continued to believe in the Lord and preach the gospel. But in order to escape the arrest of the CCP, he hid outside for a long time, thoroughly living a homeless life. From then on, I could no longer lean on his chest and listen to him teaching me to sing hymns.
The Lord Accompanied My Family in Misery
My family had been well off. But ever since my father left home to begin his life on the run, the police, in order to arrest my father, often plundered my home, expropriating almost all the valuable things. Gradually, my family became as poor as a church mouse. In the days when my father was absent, the burden of my family fell upon my frail mother. She had to support not only our life, but also the schooling of us four siblings. Since the only source of our life was the crops from the land, my mother had to labor in the land every day. Before long, the heavy farm work tired her out and she fell ill. With no money to buy medicine, she couldn’t even get out of bed at her worst. A neighbor said maybe my mother couldn’t live long. Hearing such words, we four siblings held each other and burst into tears together, thinking: Our father is unable to return home. If our mother died, how could we survive? I began to become angry: Those police officers should take the blame for this all. My father preaches the gospel to save people and doesn’t do bad things, but why do they persecute us so much? After some time, my mother, without taking any medicine, could gradually be out and about and work the land again. She said it was the Lord Jesus that had cared for and healed her.
During those years when my father was on the run, the police often drove to my home to catch my father: My father, once given thumbs up by the villagers, became a loafer and bad man in their eyes; we siblings were often discriminated against by them and even bullied by our classmates. Once, a gang of classmates blocked me on my way home. One of them said, “The police often come for her father, so her father must be a bad man, all her family are bad people, and she is bad, too. Let’s beat her! She deserves it.” Listening to their words, I refuted them in my heart: My father is preaching the gospel to save others; he is definitely not a bad man. At the same time, with tears standing in my eyes, I ran to another path. However, they dispersed to block all the paths to my home. I was cornered. They pushed me to the ground and beat me. Although I was bullied, I didn’t want to increase my mother’s concerns, so I had to endure all this silently, and after I returned home, I only cried secretly when no family members noticed me. And at every moment like this, I would think of the happy time, when my father first believed in the Lord and the village children always came to my home and we listened to my father teaching us to sing hymns. … At that time, we felt safe and peaceful as if living in heaven. Because of missing my father, how many times I woke up from my dream in tears and thought: If only my father could return home early and we never got separated forever! But, such a life was nowhere to be regained.
Years passed and my elder brother grew up. Because my mother was always in poor health, my brother dropped out of school to help her with the farm work. Nevertheless, the evil police wanted to take advantage of him. A village cadre who was on good terms with my father secretly told my mother that, in order to capture my father, the police prepared to capture my brother to tempt my father to return home. Hearing this news, my mother had to send my brother who just turned sixteen to earn a living in another place. However, he was always bullied by others due to being young and didn’t earn much money, so he couldn’t bear it and came home. Unexpectedly, hardly had my brother returned home when the police came to question him, “What do you do outside? Are you believing in the Lord like your father?” My brother was scared and kept shaking his head, and had to leave home the next day to make a living.
After my brother left, my family was too poor to pay our tuition fees, so my elder sister and I had to drop out. Being of a young age, we were unable to do the farm work. And we had no money to buy chemical fertilizer to fertilize the soil. So after we paid the annual taxes to the village, little was left of the harvest, so we didn’t have enough food and clothing. At the dead of night, when we all starved and thus couldn’t fall asleep, my mother would lead us to sing, “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me” (Psalms 23:1–4). Miraculously, as we sang, we didn’t feel hungry any longer and fell asleep before we realized it.
Having No Regret in Following the Lord
Later on, for the survival of the whole family, my elder sister stayed at home to look after my mother, and I went afar to earn money to help support my family. That year, I hadn’t turned fifteen. In April, 1994, I received a telegram from my family, saying that the police captured my father again. Reading this bad news, I was paralyzed and my mind went blank. I thought: The police have been hunting for my father all these years—how will they torture him this time? Can he come out of the jail alive this time? I haven’t seen my father for seven or eight years, so I must go home and find ways to meet him. Before I went home, I telegraphed my mother. She replied to me, “Don’t come back. You can’t see your father even if you return. The police said only by giving them ten thousand yuan would your father be released.” Holding the telegram, I wanted to cry but had no tears. In those days, for a family like us, ten thousand yuan was undoubtedly an enormous figure. Yet for the sake of my father, I must try hard to get the money. I went to renew the contract with my boss for another three years and mailed my mother the four thousand yuan my boss had advanced me. Later, in order to raise more money, my elder sister got married and my younger brother had to drop out. This way, we struggled hard to pool the money and handed it to the police, but they still sentenced my father to one year in jail.
In 1995, my father was released from jail and we four siblings came to receive him. I hadn’t seen my father for several years; when I saw him stagger out of the prison, his figure slim and weak, and his face weary, my heart was full of pain. Suddenly, I came to realize that my father was old and the memories of when he held my younger brother and me and taught us to sing hymns could only be cherished in my heart forever. I forced back my tears and held his arms, asking him, “Dad, have you suffered much in prison?” He smiled and said, “Can I not suffer there? In the CCP’s jail, people are not treated as humans and the cell head especially set his mind on how to fix us believers in the Lord. In winter, they made us bathe in cold water; at summer noon, they left us exposed to the sun; for all day long, they had us do hard physical labor and would beat us when we failed to finish our tasks. That I can come out alive is totally owing to the Lord’s great power, care, and protection for me. The Lord ever said, ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you’ (Matthew 5:10–12). In the time of my weakness, the Lord’s words encouraged me; otherwise, I wouldn’t live till today.” Hearing my father’s words, we were all moved by the Lord’s love. In the days of our separation from each other, the Lord had been accompanying each of us. The life in jail didn’t destroy my father’s will of expending for the Lord but rather encouraged and moved him, so that he didn’t stay home for long before he went out to preach the gospel again.
Over many years, the CCP government’s persecution of my father has caused my family to live a dark and painful life. Had it not been for the Lord’s care and protection, I don’t know what would have happened to my family. Now, these painful days have already become memories and we siblings have grown up. But living in China, a country where darkness and autocracy prevail, our faith in God must face up to the CCP’s persecution at any moment.
My father’s experience is an epitome of the hundreds of millions of Chinese Christians who have undergone the CCP’s persecution. Even though God’s work has always been persecuted by the CCP, yet the seed of the gospel still sprang up in the land of China. In the apostolic age, the Lord’s apostles, hunted and persecuted by those in power, still strived non-stop to preach God’s gospel regardless of their own safety, and so do the brothers and sisters in China nowadays. I remember James Hudson Taylor, an English missionary, ever said, “If I had a thousand pounds China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” His words speak out the inner voices of many Chinese Christians. In the bloody persecution, in the environment where we constantly face life-threatening risks, we have never stopped following the Lord to walk the path of the cross; this is not because we are selfless or noble, but merely because the Lord’s grace and great love are moving us forward. Maybe in the future, we will still meet with many hardships, but as long as we have God’s leading, we will never stop following the Lord to walk the bumpy road, and will never regret it all our life.