By Chen Xu, China
In 1978, I believed in the Lord in the Three-Self Church. Since the state didn’t approve of our belief, we had to attend meetings cautiously and secretly. In 1980, I read from the newspaper that the policy of freedom of religious belief was introduced by the CCP. I felt very excited at this news, thinking: The policy of the state is good now and people can enjoy the freedom of religious belief. This is a good country that turns away from the evil way. Later, the CCP set up the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches (self-government, self-support, and self-propagation). I also began to take the path of loving the country and the church, and became the leader of the local Three-Self Church.
I Left the Church After Knowing the Inside Story
In 1988, when I was attending theology classes in the first semester in my province, Director Fan from the Provincial Party Committee, who was responsible for religious affairs, revealed a piece of information while giving a lesson to us. He said, “Why does China implement the policy on freedom of religious belief? Its doing so is completely because of the pressure of circumstances. First, without the freedom of religious belief, a nation is not qualified to attend the United Nations General Assembly, which means, if the Chinese government doesn’t allow freedom of religious belief, it won’t be able to win a seat in the UN. And in that case, all other countries will look down upon China, which will be a disgrace to the Chinese government. So the government has no alternative but to carry out the policy of freedom of religious belief. Second, before the liberation of China, the United States bought much land in Mainland China on which churches, schools, and hospitals were built. If the Chinese government doesn’t allow freedom of religious belief and forbids the Chinese people to believe in the Lord Jesus, the United States will reclaim all these properties, and at the same time the Chinese government will have to cover the full cost of them. Since the Chinese government can’t afford the compensation, it has to agree to allow freedom of religious belief.” I was astonished to hear this news and even couldn’t believe it. It turned out that allowing freedom of religious belief was not out of the CCP’s own will but for having a position in the world. Wasn’t this deceiving the Chinese people? Afterward, I saw that although the CCP claimed freedom of religious belief, there was a scope for it, and that the Three-Self Church had been completely under the control of the CCP. After seeing this through, I left the Three-Self Church and joined a house church in early 1994.
The Evil Cops Searched My House, and More Than 70 Christians Were Arrested
On April 16, 1996, I ran a seminary course in my house, intending to hold a seven-day Bible class. At that time, there were more than 100 brothers and sisters attending the class. On the evening of April 18, all the police of the Town Police Station were mobilized and surrounded my house. Then a group of evil cops broke into my house like bandits and rummaged through boxes and chests. In a short while, they ransacked all the rooms, turning my house into a mess. At last, they took away 800 yuan and two antiques which were handed down to me by my grandmother. My mother hid herself in the corner with fright, not daring to speak. My wife and some brothers and sisters managed to flee by the small side door. When she returned at about one o’clock in the morning, she dared not enter the house because the CCP cops were still there. In the end, the cops took me and more than 70 brothers and sisters, as well as 38 bicycles and over 40 quilts they confiscated, to the police station. Later, other brothers and sisters were released after paying a 2,000 yuan fine each, and three brothers and I were detained.
I Was Released From the Labor Camp After Being Fined 4,000 Yuan
In the detention house, they forcibly searched us and pocketed 300 yuan that they found on me. During that period, they interrogated me four times, and said, “You do not go to the church designated by the state but have gatherings secretly at home. You’re breaking the law and acting against the CCP!” I responded, “Doesn’t the state proclaim freedom of belief? I didn’t break the law by believing in the Lord Jesus. On what charges do you arrest me? Although I didn’t go to the Three-Self Church, I am also a Christian.” Then they asked me, “Do you know XX? He is a great leader of the Shouters. You’re in the same gang. You believe in a cult. You can’t deny it.” I knew that I couldn’t be a Judas to sell out brothers and sisters, so I didn’t say anything.
Afterward, they detained us for half a month on the charge of believing in a cult, and then put us into the labor camp for over twenty days. It was not until I was put into the prison did I come to know how the CCP treated the prisoners: For each meal, we were only given a small steamed bun and a spoon of soup. The prison guards and the heads of the cell were the kings here. If we did anything unsatisfactory to them, they would abuse or beat us as they wanted. One day, when we went downstairs for exercises, the head of the cell rushed to Brother Wang and beat him without any reason. I saw that instead of treating us as humans, the CCP just treated us as animals they could abuse and tools to alleviate their boredom. I was very resentful at this, thinking: We just practiced Christianity at home and didn’t violate the law. Why do you shut us here living a life worse than that of pigs and dogs? The more I thought, the more upset I became. How I wished I could leave this disgusting place at once. At this time, I remembered the Lord’s words, “And he that takes not his cross, and follows after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Through the enlightenment of the Lord, I came to realize: My being arrested today is permitted by the Lord. It is inevitable to be persecuted when believing in God in China, an atheistic country. If I want to believe in God and follow God, I must take up the cross and walk the way that the Lord has prepared for us. This is the way once walked by the Lord and personally opened up by Him. In order to save us mankind, even the Lord, with an innocent flesh, suffered a lot and was nailed to the cross. Shouldn’t I, a sinner, suffer more? While thinking of this, I had faith and was full of power, and I was determined to pledge my life to follow the Lord regardless of how much suffering I had to undergo. At last, failing to get anything from us, the CCP cops fined each of us 4,000 yuan on the charge of “disturbing the social order,” and released me twenty days later.
I Was Arrested at the Station
On the afternoon of October 28, 1998, I went out of town to attend a co-worker meeting. When I arrived at the station and was about to get on the bus, several cops rushed to me and dragged me down, and then took me to the police station. They took away several hundred yuan from me and impounded my bag, clothes and the Bible. After that, they shut me in a room. The sudden arrest reminded me of the miserable prison life last time, and I was somewhat nervous in my heart. Since it was the second time I got arrested, I knew they wouldn’t let me off easily. In such an environment, I kept praying to the Lord in my heart, “O Lord, there’s Your good purpose in my being arrested today. You’re my strong rock and my ever-present help. May You help me overcome the afflictions and tortures of the devil, and keep me from being a Judas and selling out brothers and sisters. I’m willing to give up my life to follow You and bear testimony for You. May You give me faith and power. In the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen!” After the prayer, I remembered a hymn that we often sang in our gatherings—I need Jesus, “I need Jesus, I need Jesus every day; Need Him in the sunshine hour, Need Him when the stormclouds low’r.…” With the Lord’s presence, I calmed down a lot.
Later, the police station reported the news of my being arrested to the Public Security Bureau, saying that they had caught a senior leader of the Shouters. Then the Public Security Bureau immediately went to search my house, taking away the Bible, various kinds of spiritual books, and the devotional notes I took when I studied theology. They also took away more than 2,000 yuan from my house. That night, two chiefs from the Political Protection Section of the Public Security Bureau went through the imprisonment process with me. After that, a prison guard led me to the cell and said to the head of the cell, “This is a great leader of a cult.” Saying this, the prison guard winked at the head of the cell, and then the head of the cell and other prisoners immediately abused me, “Why do you believe in a cult and act against the CCP? You’re looking for trouble, aren’t you?” In the face of the prisoners’ ridicule and insult, I could do nothing but pray to the Lord in my heart.
To Be Continued …
Part Two: Taking Up the Cross and Pledging My Life to Follow the Lord (II)