The Flaming Torch (1976-1983) – Persecutions against Christians in China
The Flaming Torch (1976-1983) – Persecutions against Christians in China
It was 1967 and the cultural Revolution had just begun. The following story was set in a small mountain village named ‘Lishan’. The cluster of a little more than 100 households nestled in the valley, 20 kilometers from the site where Daibuo was martyred. Every Friday evening, the sound of weeping and prayers could be heard from the upper room of a house deep in the bamboo forest. There, five brothers and sisters from several other small villages in that area gathered together.
Among them were two brothers who had recently been called to the ministry. They were greatly burdened that the atheistic rulers in China had tried to eliminate the Church by persecution, reducing it to a remnant. They shared the same vision and burden and the Spirit of the Lord had brought them together. They determined they would meet in this place every Friday to pray and fast for the nation, the one billion lost souls and the Church. Regardless of the circumstances, or how busy they were on the farm or the weather, not one of them ever missed this meeting.
In different cities and districts, God raised His army of prayer warriors. They faithfully prayed unceasingly, fervently, with great intensity and in one spirit. After several months the fires of the Holy Spirit began to burn in each district. In ‘H. city, the Holy Spirit came down upon a group of intercessors and filled them, and they began to speak in tongues, praising God.
Soon, the tiny upper room in which the five had their prayer meetings was no longer adequate as they were joined by more and more intercessors. The Lord worked through this group of people mightily and many were the miracles and signs and wonders as they preached in the neighbouring villages. Many sick people were also healed.
There was a small child who had smallpox in Lishan Village and his life hung in the balance. The doctor simply took one look at the boy, who was barely breathing, and shook his head hopelessly.
‘There is nothing I can do …’
Then he just walked away.
However, a young believer got up, laid his hands on the child and the boy immediately got up and began to play!
There were only a handful of Christians in this village at first. But eventually all the villagers believe in Jesus. After that, nobody was interested in taking part in commune plays or other entertainment. On the hillsides, the shepherd boys sang and danced before the Lord. In the fields, the labourers praised God aloud as they worked. The village women who usually gathered by the stream to do their laundry ceased arguing and sang from the depths of their hearts. The whole village was full of the harmony of praise. It truly was as if ‘the angels were singing with men and the harmony of heaven prevailed’. Superstition, evil spirits and sin in the village soon became a thing of the past.
The number of believers increased by leaps and bounds, as neighbouring villages turned to Jesus. Before long, there were more than 300 Christians and they quickly outgrew the meeting place. So from one meeting place the believers split into two then three, four, five meeting points. The Holy Spirit swept throughout ‘C’ district and ‘H’ city and soon revival broke out also in the other districts.
Persecution in Lishan Village
Before long, a wave of persecution began. The commune authorities, seeing the numbers of believers increase daily, were alarmed and did not know what to do. They commanded the brigade secretary of Lishan village to put a stop to all the activities of the church. For several consecutive weeks the brigade secretary would go to the meetings to break up the gathering by force.
How could the brothers and sisters ever agree to stop meeting together? The secretary was so furious that he smashed to pieces all the stools, tables, and windows as well as beat up the believers with his fists. But the Christians ignored him and continued to sing and pray.
Several times, the cadres from the commune accompanied the secretary on these missions. But the amazing thing was that instead of suppressing the Christians’ activities, they only served to incite the believers to become more fervent and zealous! Therefore, the number of believers increased even more!
The village authorities were rather helpless. All they could do was to report to the commune authorities and request them to send reinforcements to help suppress the Christians. The county government, therefore, whipped together a group of several dozen workers and sent them to the Lishan village commune. First, they sent a threatening letter to the church there. It said: ‘If you gather again for a meeting this Sunday, you are truly good Chinese’.
On Friday evening, a brother read the letter out loud before the fellowship of believers. Then in a low but firm voice he said: ‘Brothers and sisters, it is possible the Work Unit will come this Sunday. Should we stop meeting?’
Everyone responded without hesitation and in unison: ‘We cannot cease meeting’.
Several believers stood up and said: ‘If we don’t allow ourselves to be refined in these small storms, then how will we stand when great persecution comes?’’
These brethren then led everyone in praise and prayer. They were all filled and encouraged in faith. The meeting continued until the early morning hours.
On Sunday, the brothers and sisters made their way to the meeting place, getting there earlier than usual. There was already a very large crowd and every inch of the house and the courtyard were crammed with people. Some four hundred and fifty people sang and prayed in one accord, their voices rising up to the clouds as they praised and worshipped for more than two hours.
After several hours of preaching, a lad of about seven or eight years old ran frantically through the crowd, his head drenched with sweat. He showed his way to the preacher and tugged urgently on his coat. He ran so hard that he lost his shoes, injured his toe and now blood was oozing out.
He shouted frenziedly: ‘Papa, run quickly! The People’s militia are coming ….’.
Three young co-workers shot up from their seats and comforted the crowd. ‘Brothers and sisters, be not afraid, for the Lord is in our midst. Let us first praise Him!’
Then they all stood up and sang: ‘Oh Lord who sits in the heavens, I lift my eyes up to you….’.
The Work Unit cadres looked smug, having brought with them a large group of the People’s militia armed with guns and real bullets. They immediately surrounded the meeting place. The brothers and sisters, however, were not afraid but continued to sing with even greater fervency. The shouts and curses of the soldiers were completely drowned out by their singing.
Now, we do not know if it was due to anger or fear, but the armed men turned pale. Under the command of their supervisor, a group of them rushed to the platform and tied up three of the brethren. Then they beat a hasty retreat.
The believers wept as the three brothers were taken away to the commune offices where a crowd had gathered at the gate. Their captors shaved their heads and painted a red cross on top. They also used red, blue and black ink to paint their faces and then forced them to sit on the edge of a bucket filled with human faeces.
The crowd of onlookers were entertained by the spectacle, and they clapped their hands and laughed scornfully: ‘Ha, ha! These are the leaders of the Jesus followers. Where is your God? Why doesn’t He come to save you?’
Some simply shook their heads and sighed: ‘How pitiful, how could these three young men be harmed by superstition to such a degree?’
Others hurled stones and orange peel, or spat on them. There were some, though, who commented: ‘They are a good example. I truly admire their courage as they hold steadfast to their faith. It is evident there is a God, otherwise how could they gladly suffer reproach like this!’
At night, they were put in a small room and for three days they were not allowed to eat or drink water. Many of the believers brought food and fruit when they visited them, but they were driven away by the soldiers. After three days, the Work Unit prepared a meal for them. When the three brothers had received their bowls of rice, one of the cadres glared at them and said: ‘This evening let’s see if you have the nerve to pray for your meal before me. If so, I will know you are true Christians’.
When the first brother held up his rice bowl with both hands to give thanks, he was slapped with such force that it knocked him to the ground and his rice spilled all over him. All eyes were then glued to the other two believers.
The second brother also lifted his rice bowl without hesitancy, to say grace. Suddenly, he was struck on the chest with a fist. Everything went black as he slumped on the table.
‘Lord, help me to glorify you’, was the third brother’s cry. He took up his bowl unflinchingly and prayed out loud.
The men from the local work brigade were furious and one of them prepared to pour hot water from the thermos flask on the table on that brother’s head. The commune secretary intervened, however, and said: ‘If you do this it will result in a loss of life. These three men are hard workers in the brigade, only they are too superstitious and too stubborn’.
The following week, there was no decline in the numbers meeting in Lishan village. The Work Unit, with the aid of the People’s militia, arrested three more brethren. And the week after, they arrested several believers. But this did not put out the fires of the Gospel. On the contrary, it burned all the more and spread quickly to ‘C’ district.
This alarmed the Work Unit but it was helpless to do anything. The Unit comprised cadres from several government units in that county. They include the Public Security Bureau, the United Front Department, Transportation Bureau and Taxation Bureau.
At first, they were confident that they could solve this ‘problem’ of the local church. They had thought that it would be very simple operation and that they could achieve their objectives within a week. In two months, however, not only did they fail to suppress the church, but they contributed to church growth!
In the end, they devised a method in which they moved to Lishan village to visit each family and break them up with Marxist propaganda. But on entering the village, they heard the sound of singing everywhere. When they got down to work, many children would follow them closely, singing songs of praise. No amount of scolding or threats could stop them. They continued singing boldly without ceasing. The communists were so frustrated they did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Their plans thwarted, they had no choice but to leave the village.
Persecution spreads throughout the province
The authorities issued similar notices to another village in ‘C’ district ordering them to stop their meetings, but the believers refused to comply. One Sunday morning, while the Christians were praying, the commune cadres arrived with the People’s militia. The armed soldiers fired several shots into the air before rushing into the meeting place.
They tied up the sister who was leading prayer. But another sister would stand up to lead the believers in prayer, and they would arrest her as well. But more sisters would take the lead until the soldiers had them all bound one by one. The sisters were then taken to the commune where they were meted different punishment.
The old ‘aunty’ of the family hosting the prayer meeting was forced to kneel on a heap of broken ceramic tiles with a bamboo pole placed on the back of her legs. Two men would then stand on each end of the pole. It was too much for the old lady, who soon passed out.
The next day, old ‘aunty’ sent back a message through the believer who brought her food that the meetings must go on, regardless of what had happened.
In another case, a young brother was about to graduate from a teacher’s college, but the night before his graduation he was found preaching in a meeting. He was duly expelled. When he returned home he was arrested, cruelly beaten and suspended from the ceiling of the bathroom for the entire night.
Prayer causes an earthquake
In the fall of 1973, the church in Lishan had a baptismal service. There was a large number who were to receive baptism. The brethren, realising that such a gathering was not like their usual meetings, was acutely aware of the need to be cautious lest the authorities find out about it and came to break it up. Therefore, they notified the baptismal candidates to gather in Lishan village at different places after dark to rest and they would begin the meeting and baptism at midnight.
Now, the commune authorities got wind of this baptism service and had already organized several dozen people to hide in a house behind the meeting place. They had prepared a lot of animal manure which they would begin to dump into the small stream upstream from where the baptism was to be held, once the Christians began their meeting. They had also prepared a store of stones to throw at the believers.
But the brethren knew of their plan, and they immediately rounded up the co-workers and brethren who had a real burden for the church to kneel and pray fervently unto the Lord.
‘Lord, have you not been given all power in heaven and earth? You blinded the eyes of those wicked people in Sodom. Lord, we ask you today to use your unlimited power to perform miracles and deliver us’.
As they were praying, the power of the Lord came upon them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and praising the greatness of God. All the believers felt that they should immediately begin the service so they started singing and praising God. There were about 400 to 500 people gathered there, and they sang with much exuberance, making a joyful sound that could be heard everywhere.
The Holy Spirit fell as the latter rain, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and everyone felt as if they were on the mountains and in the clouds! They were before the very throne of the Lord worshipping Him face to face. It was truly heaven on earth!
‘Be faithful, be faithful, proclaim this message everywhere; be faithful in that which has been committed to you, be faithful to your glorious King ….’.
The brothers and sisters sang this majestic battle song over and over. Suddenly, the place began to shake and dust began to fall from the ceiling. Then the houses in the village all began to rattle and even the hills rumbled and shook.
Several sisters were in their homes washing bowls when they felt the ground beneath them shake. Windows and doors shuddered and crockery rattled. Their hearts also shook! They immediately sped to the meeting place where they ‘ascended to the mountains and entered the clouds’ in worship.
The worship went on for another two hours. Then a brother was asked to speak, but he declined saying: ‘I have believed in the Lord for more than 50 years, but never have I seen a meeting like this. How can I stand up to speak?’
Finally, a local brother was moved to speak for over 40 minutes and then he led the crowd to a deep pool beside a small stream where 78 brothers and sisters were baptized.
What about the 90 workers hired by the authorities to break up this baptismal service? When they heard the sound of singing that shook heaven and earth and which reverberated throughout the whole village, shaking the very ground they were standing on, they took off in fright! How amazing! What a wonderful work of God!
From: Danyun, Lilies amongst thorns, Sovereign World Ltd. England, 1991, pages 297-304