“While the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it protects only what are considered “normal” religious activities. Religious groups and individuals thought to pose a threat to national security or social harmony face severe restrictions, harassment, detention, imprisonment and other abuses. Even churches of the state-supported Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) are sometimes shut down. The government also detained more than 700 Protestants from unregistered churches in 2012 and increased efforts to close “illegal” meeting points and public worship activities. . . . All house church meetings are illegal, but some officials overlook the offense in the interest of social harmony. Unregistered Bible schools are also illegal, and many have been closed over the past six months. . . . In the last year, the head of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) called on government officials to renew efforts to “guide” unregistered Protestants and Catholics into state-sanctioned churches. He also encouraged the break-up of large Protestant house churches into small groups. VOM provides Sunday school materials, supports Bible and Christian literature printing and helps families of prisoners in China.” Voice of the Martyrs1
Excerpt from Open Doors USA, One With Them Devotional
(Living history: a pastor’s journey from enduring persecution to battling secularism.)
Born in 1956, Chang (alias) had always enjoyed watching the stormy weather near the eastern coast of Dong Hai on the East China Sea. Never did he realize that his life, as a Christian, would also be filled with storms.
Growing up in a hard-working Chinese farming family, he diligently studied strict communist principles in school. Although raised in a Christian household, he did not really believe in God until one day, Jesus revealed his power to him.
“When I was twelve, I used to dream bad dreams. Each night a demon haunted me. He would always catch me during those nightmares. One time I decided to call on Jesus, so when the demon came, I shouted, ‘In the name of Jesus I have victory!’ The demon stopped. From that moment on I believed, went to church, and the nightmares left me.”
Chang, proud of his ancestry, identifies himself as fourth-generation Christian. At that time, the church he attended was a gathering of Christians in his parents’ home. Growing up, he watched them secretly maintain their humble house church, even throughout the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). It wasn’t always easy, and he discovered that being a Christian was also dangerous.
“Very dangerous,” he repeats. “Both government officials, and members of the state church, randomly searched the houses of those suspected of participating in ‘illegal meetings,’ looking for Christian materials. My parents would often instruct me to quickly pack as many Bibles as I could in plastic bags and bury them, knowing that if discovered, they would be burned. I will never forget the sad image of God’s Word going up in flames.”
In spite of the periodic harassments, Chang diligently helped his parents bury many Bibles. He also copied some of the burnt ones, character by character, faithfully restoring them.
As he grew up, Chang left his parents rural church to start one in a large city. Constantly on the move, his church had to change meeting locations to avoid detection. “The communists tried to track us down,” he shares. “Once we held a meeting in a place with a high stone fence; there were about 90 people present. The communists wanted to know what was going on inside, so some stood on their comrades shoulder’s to peer over the wall.”
What they saw enraged them. They could see an unexpected foreigner standing among the people. He had a grayish beard, long hair, and wore a red robe. That’s all it took. Within seconds the police officers burst through the door and stormed the premise. “Where is the foreigner?” they shouted as they pushed into the crowd.
“We replied there was no foreigner among us. However, we did smell a very strong fragrance. We knew that Jesus was there and had revealed Himself to the officers. An older lady argued with them and was arrested; another stood up for her and was also taken away. The entire group then followed the police protesting against the arrest of the Christians. Around midnight they gave in and released them.”
The Cultural Revolution ended. Mao Zedong died, and China slowly began to take steps towards reform. Though unregistered churches were still illegal, the church was growing at an unprecedented rate. The church in China, fueled by revival in the Holy Spirit, mushroomed to about 60-90 million after the death of Mao. As a result, the need for Bibles grew acute.
“I led a group of 100 Christians, and we had only two Bibles. Many of our church members had copied them by hand. Once, in the early 1980s, we received Bibles rescued from the sea by some fishermen. The pages were wet and torn, but still, we were grateful.”
Reference: Bring Bibles into the Open! Open Doors One With Them Devotional
Please visit Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs to learn more.
Sung Neng Yee’s (Nora Lam)
Nora Lam’s inspiring story of Christian persecution and her eventual escape to America is documented in her auto-biographical book, “China Cry”. The film, China Cry, is based on her life story and is available on ZionTube to watch online.