My friend wrote me earlier this week:
"I guess you may have heard something from press about our family. We have no place to go and do not have ordinary Sunday meeting. Wish our situation will turn better soon. And because of that, my wedding may be held in a very simple way."
My heart breaks for her not only because her wedding plans may be ruined (and for any girl you can imagine what that might feel like) but mostly because her house church is being destroyed by the authorities. In past years her church's persecution caused the believers to be strengthened, encouraged, and through it they grew in numbers, but recently the persecution has become so intense that the church is weak, discouraged, and shrinking in numbers.
In the New York Times article I was struck by a short paragraph of an event that happened while I was living in Beijing:
"Shouwang's latest troubles began again three years ago, shortly after its application for official recognition was denied. Officers from the Beijing Public Security Bureau burst into Sunday services, pronounced the gathering illegal and wrote down the personal details of everyone in the room, one by one. In the days that followed, calls were made to congregants' employers or college administrators. Many congregants say they were threatened with dismissal from jobs or school if they did not switch to an official church."
My sweet sister was amongst those congregation members whose personal details were gathered. She came to my apartment that week and told me all about the raid. She could have given false information about herself, the officers would not have discovered the truth until later, but she chose to boldly tell the truth about herself. In the weeks that followed she was severely persecuted by her college principals for renouncing the Communist Party and was threatened to be expelled from college in her final year.
Amidst this persecution my sister and her church family have the most amazing attitudes. They pray for those persecuting them and count it a privilege to suffer for Jesus. Their boldness and positive attitudes shining for Jesus brings me to tears and challenges me!
So I ask – please join me in praying for our sister and her church family! Ask God to soften the Beijing officials hearts so that this wonderful group of believers can continue to grow and shine for Jesus! Ask God to give the believers strength amidst this persecution because they are so discouraged right now! Ask God to help the gospel spread in China even amidst persecution!