The young evangelist, Li De Xian, fills his backpack with Christian literature preparing to make his weekly trip to Hua Du Village. Over 100 new converts are anxiously awaiting his arrival to begin the home meeting. Within two hours the evangelist arrives, greets the Christians, and begins to deliver his sermon. He shows no sign of fear despite the fact he has been warned that an officer of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) has infiltrated the group and has more than likely informed his superiors of these secret meetings. Although he is not afraid of the authorities, Li is unprepared for what awaited him and the members of this home church.
Li had only been preaching a few minutes when a number of PSB officers charged into the small house and dragged him outside. After confiscating all religious materials, the officers note each attendee and assure them of reprisals. Li is brutally beaten. He is repeatedly kicked in the stomach and groin before the congregation. The young women who are present are grossly molested and loaded into police vans.
Upon arriving at security headquarters, Li is beaten with a heavy club by the superintendent. Seven officers drag him to an isolation cell, where he is thrown onto the concrete floor and again kicked until he vomits blood. The officers proceed with their cruelty by alternately beating him on the front and back of his neck. His head is smashed against his knees until he barely remains conscious. Li is finally beaten in the face with his Bible and left bleeding on the floor.
After seven hours of brutal treatment by the Public Security Bureau, Li was released. Recuperating for only a few weeks, he again travels to Hua Du Village to encourage the believers. On this trip he is accompanied by Western Christian friends. Li delivers his message and all seems to be peaceful until seven security officers storm the small home and shout accusations.
Upon spotting the foreigners, they quickly depart. Within fifteen minutes a larger number of officers push through the gathering and drag Li outdoors. They begin to smash his face against a stone wall. The uniformed officers show no remorse as they savagely beat the accused.
The foreigners begin to shout, “Why? What about religious freedom? Why must you beat him? Why? Why?”
The officers turn on the foreigners and they are arrested with Li. The owner of the home is also arrested. She later discovers that it was her son who turned them in.
1998 On May 8, Pastor Li De Xian’s church meeting was raided by the police as he preached in the open area in the center of a village. The authorities confiscated every Bible, songbook, and teaching aid at the service, and then confiscated even the chairs on which the people were sitting.
On May 12, police again raided a house church meeting where Brother Li was preaching. Eighty percent of the Christians in China regularly attend such illegal house churches. “We told you four days ago not to do this,” the policeman shouted. “Don’t you know what could happen?”
Li stood in front of his congregation and spoke directly into the loudspeaker for all to hear, “I will preach until I die!”
On June 2, the police were back at one of Brother Li’s meetings. This time they carefully photographed the pastor and the members of his congregation, implying that the Christians would be watched.
Brother Li was not intimidated. He continued to preach every week and regularly distributed Bibles to members of his flock.
On June 12, an official report about the activities of Pastor Li was sent to the Hua Du Municipal Party Headquarters. Parts of it read:
“Li De Xian is Guangzhou’s illegal religious organization’s leader Lin Xian Gao’s capable and active follower. His career as an illegal religion missionary and he has preached illegally in our town for nearly ten years. He has been arrested and educated many times, and yet his heart has not died and his nature has not changed. Ten years ago, in the illegal religious gathering spot in Yong Ming Village, there were generally about 150 people who took part in its activities. After these ten years, there are two activities a week in the gathering spot now and each time there are more than 500 people taking part. (The report also stated that more than a thousand others were gathering to similar meetings in the surrounding villages.) If only various units have unified understanding, enhanced education, carry out effective policies, we can then effectively crack down illegal religious activities and create favorable conditions for the stability and development of our town.”
On December 1, the PSB again interrupted one of Pastor Li’s Tuesday meetings. Without warning, twenty Public Security Bureau (PSB) vehicles swarmed into the neighborhood, blocking off streets in every direction. No one could come in or go out. It was obvious from such a show of force that they feared there would be a riot.
They headed for the illegal house church, just in time for the Tuesday meeting. Pushing their way into the service, they went straight for Brother Li and seized him. Immediately the police were surrounded by several of the older believers, who clamored, “Take me instead of Brother Li! Let him go. I will go with you!” But that day, no one else was arrested.
As the police led Brother Li to their waiting car, they noticed that he had a bag with him. “What is that?” They asked. His calmness amazed the PSB. He was obviously not afraid of going to prison. “It is a blanket and some clothes,” Li replied. “I have been expecting you. Three years ago, you told me you were going to take me. I am ready.”
As the officers led Brother Li off, the believers began praying blessings over the officers and telling them, “We do not hate you for what you are doing.” In the confusion, the officers misunderstood their prayers and thought the believers were putting a curse on them. “Say that again, and we will throw you into the river,” they threatened.
Before things got out of hand, Brother Li turned to the people and told them, “Only pray for me.” Immediately, six hundred people fell to their knees in prayer.
The Secretary of the PSB, a high-ranking officer, saw this and was amazed. He asked Li, “How is it that you have so much power? You simply say a word, and the people obey immediately!”
After Li was taken away, the believers went back into the house and finished their meeting. They have continued to meet ever since. Since they have no chairs, they sit on newspapers. At the police station, the PSB began to interrogate Pastor Li. But Li had other ideas.
“Define my crime,” he insisted. “We do not have to.” Li said, “I do not fear you.” The interrogator hit the table and shouted at Li, “You fear us!” Li quoted the Bible saying, “The fear of man brings a snare.” Again, the interrogator shouted, “You fear for your life!”
Li said, “Why? You already have me in bonds, what more can you do? Shoot me then – that is all you have left.” He went on to quote Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The police kept trying to get Li to sign a paper stating he accepted his charges. Li said, “You must be joking. You have not even told me what I am charged with! Name my crime!” Later on, the Secretary of the PSB shocked Brother Li by admitting to the declining power of Communism. “You have more power than I do,” he said. Then he went on to tell Li about how few people came to their Communist Party events, while so many came to Li’s meetings. He was amazed at how the believers listened so carefully to everything Li had to say.
During Brother Li’s stay in jail, the police shaved his head and placed him in a cell with twelve others. His boldness with the PSB won his cell-mates’ admiration, and he was able to share the Gospel with each of them. They told him, “We have noticed something different about you – you really aren’t afraid of the PSB.”
Li was finally charged with creating public disorder by illegal Gospel preaching and released. Back with his congregation, Brother Li and the believers rejoiced for this chance to share Jesus with the Communist authorities, knowing that when we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, our reward in heaven will be great.
Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds.
Matthew 5:11-12 (THE MESSAGE)
Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you – and me – a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words. Jesus
Matthew 10:17-20 (THE MESSAGE)