The following is the first-hand account of a Chinese believer who was trained up in our ministry and experienced persecution earlier this year. The following is the English translation of the testimony he wrote in Chinese—with some editing of the original made by me or the other missionary who helped translate this document for readability, explanation or security.
The story that I want to tell everybody are things that happened at the beginning of 2019.
It begins on November 23, 2018, with the birth of my son [Emmanuel]. We live in D—, but he was born elsewhere, in Dandong. Dandong is my wife’s hometown and our son was born there.
Once our son reached one month old, we moved back to D—. In the beginning of January, my wife received a phone call from the local Public Security Bureau or the local police station (I was asleep at the time because I had gotten up during the night to feed the baby and was still in bed around nine o’clock). They called to inquire about Grace Baptist Church. My wife told them to get in touch with me, but because I was asleep I didn’t answer the call from the police. I finally answered when they called the fourth time. They asked me if I was still using the facilities [for the church]. I didn’t give a direct answer, and replied, “Is there something going on? I’ll certainly cooperate with the authorities.” (I knew they were wanting the disturb the church.) after speaking with them a few minutes, they said they couldn’t give details because it was a matter of national security. They asked me to cooperate at all times.
About half an hour later, the landlord (a friend) gave me a call saying the police want to know about the foreigners at the [church] facilities. He told the police to contact me because he was unsure of how to answer. The police then called me a second time telling me to go to the local police station. I told them I couldn’t come because there was no one else to care for our son at the time as my wife had gone to the hospital. They asked me to provide the name of someone who regularly was at the activities [there]. The name that I gave them was [Brother Fan], [a brother] from the church, saying he plays piano there and that there was no religious activity (because in China religion must be politicized). I said there is only Chinese language study and learning piano here. It was at this time that I got in touch with [Kanon] and [Mark] [foreign missionaries] telling them about the police situation.
That afternoon the police planned to come to my house and find me, but we met at the entrance of a nearby supermarket because my son was at home. One of the police officers informed me that the other officer was a comrade with the National Security Commission. (I don’t really know much about this department, but I’ve heard from friends and read on the internet that they are pretty serious, are based in Beijing, and are about protecting national security.) When they left, they told me that I shouldn’t leave town anytime soon and that I should cooperate with the police.
One Sunday afternoon, I got a call from [Kanon] saying the brother in charge of the church [Brother Fan] had been found by the police and asked me to join them in praying for him. I didn’t understand. Why would God let this happen? [My mind was in a state of confusion.] I didn’t know what I should do. I had been [attending church] here for more than four years. Will the brothers and sisters really going to suffer persecution? I hung up the phone and began to pray. I knew right then and there that God wanted to use me and I shouldn’t run and hide.
Then I called [Kanon] back and told him to not go home and advised him to wait until the police were off work to go home. I told him it was best to go to a bus/train station or airport. The next day, I was very concerned for the brothers from the church. But I actually knew that the police were really after the Americans—the American missionaries. At about this time, a friend told me that in Southern China the government had expelled some 200 American and Canadian missionaries in relation to politics and even threatened their wives and children. They used all sorts of lies, threats and saying they would imprison them before expelling them from China. But Because I knew Pastor [Mark] for 5 years, I knew he wasn’t an illegal religious leader like they described. I know he’s just someone that believes in God and wants to tell the truth to the people of China. At that time I kept praying for [Kanon], and they left D—. Jesus Christ teaches us, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23). That evening I got word that they would release [Brother Fan] if [Kanon] turned himself in. I have confidence in [Kanon], that he would rather suffer himself than let a friend suffer. But past experiences and patterns told us this was a trap. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith”. The trap was that the police were saying the situation had nothing to do with religion and that they just wanted to get information about a bad guy who had allegedly posted information harmful to Chinese national security online.
As we expected it was a trap. That evening they let [Brother Fan] return home.
At the end of January, I went to Japan to help my wife with some work responsibilities. While there, I received three calls: (1) The Public Safety Bureau of the City of D— called me saying that I was suspected of deceiving the police by secretly leaving D— and that I must report to the police station within 72 hours of returning to China. (2) The Public Safety Bureau of my hometown in Inner Mongolia (where I was born) called me telling me to cooperate with the D— police station or face arrest. (3) The landlord called saying the Public Safety Bureau of Liaoning Province and National Security Commission were building a case against me as a suspect of espionage and illegal missionary work. The case was already put on file for investigation and prosecution. They had a verbal confession and a report made to the authorities. (He hope that when they asked me that I would only say that the foreigners studied Chinese—there wasn’t any illegal missionary work and opposition to the government.)
On the third day after my return to China, I went to the Public Safety Bureau of the City of D— located at the People’s Square at Z— Road. I went to the police office. They had a good attitude. They made me tea, asked where I was born, asked where I went to college, what did I go to Japan to do, and why I left D—. After I answered their questions, they asked me to cooperate with the H— police station (near where the church is located) and stop renting the [church] facilities. They then took me by car to the church’s meeting place where some H— police officers went with me to [the church’s rented space] and I saw that the landlord was also there. They looked over the facilities, told me to pay in full the rest of the rent, [pay] to replace the torn down wall, and write a guarantee that I wouldn’t continue renting this facility. The landlord and I also had to sign a certificate showing we dissolved the contract. Then they began filming and taking pictures. Lastly, they had me pay off all of the fees and give the remainder of the rent to the landlord. [Note: the church had already moved out of the location previous to this meeting so the facility was empty.]
I thought I could go home. Since the church [recently] decided to no longer have services there, dissolving the contract made sense. But I wasn’t ready at all for what happened next. I got back in the police car and they handcuffed me. When I asked why, they said I’ll know when we arrive.
They took me somewhere. At first it was an office with a different police officer. They began asking a bunch of questions. How do you known [Mark] and [Kanon], how long the illegal [church] meetings had been taking place at H—. What do I do now? Then they asked me to get them in touch with [Mark] and [Kanon]. I replied that we are just friends and that there were no illegal meetings in H—. I explained that it was used for learning Chinese and at times to study the Bible, but that there were never any illegal meetings.
They probably took notes, but didn’t say. About two hours later they took me to an interrogation room. They said I was suspected of obstructing official duties and organizing illegal missionary work [or the illegal spread of religious propaganda], that I would go to jail, and that both, my child’s schooling, as well as, my future work opportunities would be affected. I would also lose Social Security. It would all be on file in my record. They said they wanted me to cooperate with the police and help them find [Mark] and [Kanon]. If so, I wouldn’t have to go to jail. They claimed [Mark] had lent money to a neighbor and that that person opposed the government. When they asked me to get in touch with [Mark], I told them I couldn’t. They grabbed my phone and asked me to sign stating they could check my phone. I wanted to refuse to sign, but they put my hand on the wall and forced me to sign. (Previously with the help of a brother in the Lord, I had already gone through my phone and deleted all of the records.) Then they asked me to call home and have a family member get them in touch with [Mark] and [Kanon]. I didn’t know what to do. In that moment, God, He helped me, He made me think of a friend to call (we played a lot as friends, we have a secret signal, whatever was said afterwards wouldn’t be a problem [because he would know I was in trouble]). At the time I was really concerned for my wife and child. He’s only two months old. I don’t want them to be worried about me. Half an hour later, my friend called me saying he didn’t know where they were and couldn’t find them. They kept asking me to call other friends, but I refused saying they would already be asleep and I didn’t want to disturb them. Then I suddenly realized the police weren’t simply looking for the American missionaries, they are seeking to persecute [Chinese] Christians, those that believe in God, and their families as well.
A few hours later, they asked me to admit to organizing illegal religious activity and obstructing police from investigating Americans. I thought that was pretty serious. I told them I don’t know how to respond because I don’t understand the law. I requested a lawyer. Then a really buff police officer picked me up (I’m kind of short) and hit me right in the chest. He told me I can get a lawyer after he finishes beating me, then he would let me find a lawyer and I can see what the lawyer will do about him.
Then they shined a very bright light on me and handcuffed me to a chair. At this point, I didn’t even know what time it was. After a while, they turned off all the lights and it was completely dark. I was terrified. I thought of a verse of Scripture. Joshua 1:5 says, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” I suddenly realized that all Christians are brothers and sisters. If an American missionary comes here, their family is worried about them and concerned that they will face this kind of suffering.
When this was done, they told me someone from the National Security Commission was coming in. They gave me paper and pen and asked me to write down the names and contact information for those that regularly come by [the church’s rented space]; both Chinese and American. I wrote [Mark] and [Kanon’s] Chinese names because that is how they had referred to them. They wanted me to keep writing. I told them I wasn’t sure of any more because they all used English names and nicknames. I didn’t know. Then one officer told me: you should know the consequences of lying to police. I didn’t speak any further.
They said they’d put me in jail, and they put some pictures and WeChat screenshots up on their screen. The lights were too bright and I couldn’t see clearly. They said the pictures were of me and [Mark] with some other people. They said [Mark] and I weren’t just casual friends. They also said they know I called [Kanon] when they called looking for him because, at the time, I was the first one from there [the church] to meet with the National Security Commission comrade. They also told me that if I only write a few peoples names and phone numbers, I could go home.
I didn’t know what type of consequences I was facing. But I knew that Jesus looked out for the interests of others even unto death. [Now I am still not sure, they scare me.] I finally decided to tell them, “I know some things, but I don’t want to tell you; what I can say, I have already said. If you think I broke the law, I hope there’s an explanation they can give. I have a new plan now, and haven’t been there recently.” [Note: He hadn’t been at this specific church recently because he was attending and helping another one in town.] They weren’t happy. They stood me up and someone angrily told me, “You are a traitor!” and punched me once. “Everyone says they were not there [church location], but your company’s signature and guarantee are there. You must come to bear it [the responsibility and consequences].” Then they said, “Christianity is brainwashing!” and told me to think on all this for a moment and give an honest account. They left the room.
Much later, one male officer and one female officer came to ask if I had finished thinking and to give an honest account. I said my response is the same as before. They had me sign and give finger prints on a written record. Then they put me in a car and took me to a detention center (I didn’t realize it was a detention center at the time). The inside was extremely gloomy with an iron door and lock. They took me to a bed, there were no covers, it was really cold, daylight soon began to break. Everyone was called to eat, but they didn’t give me anything. They made me register.
They forced me to do manual labor all morning. But because I didn’t sleep last night, I was exhausted and had no energy to mop the floors and move things around, so the prison guard kept screaming and cursing at me. That afternoon, they had me come alone to a room. It was warm. There was one man and one woman who said they were with the Religion Bureau and the Three-Self Church. They told me China itself has its own church and that 100% of American missionaries all have political motivations. They said the church should obey the leaders of the party and the government (the Communist Party of China), should be eager to cooperate with government investigations of suspected foreigners, and that this is the obligation of all nationals of the People’s Republic of China, as well as, the obligation of Chinese Christians. They kept going on and on but I’ve forgotten the rest. They said Christians should cooperate with the government. But in my heart, I knew this was wrong, although most Christians in China believe that this is right, the people in charge of the churches also thinks this is right, but I think it is wrong because no authority is greater than Jesus’ authority. Acts 5:29 says, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” The Bible never said American Christians coming to China is unbiblical.
At that point, I thought I would really have to stay in jail and couldn’t go home. I kept praying and asking God to change my circumstances. The second day was the same as the first with the exception that in the afternoon we had to watch videos teaching laws and regulations. After we watched the videos, we had to write our thoughts. I didn’t know what to write or what would happen after writing, so I asked if I could eat since I was very hungry. They ended up giving me some steamed buns and some porridge. On the third day, they sent for me and told me my wife paid a fine. Then they put me in a car and took me to the first Public Safety Bureau we started at. They gave me two documents each stamped with the seal of the Public Safety Bureau stating that I broke the law.
They returned my phone and backpack to me, and let me go home—until they get in touch with me again. They emphasized that I must cooperate with police. [After I was released], I was starving. I ate a bunch of steamed dumplings, and charged my phone. God blessed me. He got me out of there. I was so happy to get home and be with my wife and son. But I was so exhausted that I immediately went to sleep. Later some friends came to see me.
I know this is a bad situation, but I firmly believe that God is sovereign, and the Bible is right. The Chinese Three-Self Church is wrong to think the party and the government are greater than Jesus.