410) “In Chains for Christ”

     A previous meditation (#395) described the tremendous growth of the Christian church in China.  Under Mao ZeDong persecution of the church was widespread and brutal, and today Christians in many areas are far freer to practice their faith than 30 years ago.  But many restrictions continue to exist, and persecution, even severe, is quite common.  It is sporadic and it may be at the whim of local leaders, but it is a reality for many Chinese believers.  The following reports tell of just one of these instances of persecution, and what it describes is typical of the faith, courage, and resilience of the Chinese Christians.  These men were arrested and imprisoned for attempting to open a Christian bookstore for which they had already received the required license.  Yet their reaction is not to despair, but to see it as an opportunity for evangelism, as are proclaiming the Gospel to their fellow prisoners.  

     These stories are from the Voice of the Martyrs website at http://www.persecution.com .  VOM is an organization that helps to support and aid persecuted Christians around the world, along with working to make their plight known.  For a good report on the persecution of Christians in China to go:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/february-web-only/persecution-in-china-is-very-real.html?paging=off

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Photo - Wenxi Li

     A Christian bookstore employee, Wenxi Li, and another man associated with the bookstore, Lacheng Ren, were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for their role in the Enyu Bookstore in Taiyuan.  On June 17, 2013, Wenxi Li was sentenced to two years in prison by the court of Xiaodian district of Taiyuan in central China.

     In 2012, Wenxi Li, a book store worker in Beijing, traveled to Shanxi province to help local Christians there open a new book store in the capital city of Taiyuan.  But police raided the new business and confiscated hundreds of books that Wenxi had brought with him from Beijing.

     According to the South China Morning Post, one security worker allegedly shouted at Wenxi and his co-workers, “Don’t you dare bring Christian culture here.  This is our turf.”

     On Dec. 19, 2012, Wenxi was asked to come to a police station to retrieve the $6,000 worth of books that police had seized.  But when he arrived at the police station, he was immediately arrested and sent to prison.  Police were quoted as saying Wenxi was denied bail because of the seriousness of his “crime.”

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     Wenxi Li’s wife, Cai Hong Li, said police told her that her husband was arrested because he was involved in an “illegal business.”  However, Cai Hong said the bookstore had a legal license to operate and that her husband was not involved with managing the business.  He was “just sent to find a rental place for a new store,” Cai Hong said.

     Since her husband’s arrest, Cai Hong’s only visit with her husband occurred in January 2014.  She said, “He is doing well and is able to read the Bible in jail, which is amazing.”

China

     Although he is in prison, Wenxi is still able to do the very thing authorities tried to prevent him from doing — share the Gospel.  While awaiting trial, he led three prisoners to Christ.  When Cai Hong visited in January, he excitedly told the family that several more prisoners had committed their lives to the Lord as a result of his prison evangelism.

     Cai Hong told our partners that she is content that God is using a bad situation for His good purposes, even though the family has faced a lot of hardship as a result of her husband’s imprisonment.  “I don’t think my husband being in prison is a miserable thing,” she said, “I have already come through the hardest time.”

     Last year, the couple’s daughter was in an accident and had to be hospitalized.  “At that time, I cried out to God and ask him why all these things were happening to our family.  He spoke to me through the verse:  ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

     When VOM partners asked if she had specific practical needs, Cai Hong said that her church is providing an allowance that meets the family’s requirements.  The support not only relieves worry about meeting her daily needs, but it also reassures her children about their father.  “My children know that their father is in prison, but I tell them that he has done nothing wrong.  The church takes good care of us.”

     “We have never lacked anything,” she said, because God’s grace has been sufficient.  The one thing Cai Hong desires most is that her Christian brothers and sisters support her family through prayer.  “Prayer is the most precious thing.”

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Photo - Lacheng Ren

     Lacheng Ren is the other man jailed in connection with the opening of a Christian bookstore in Taiyuan.  Shortly after Wenxi was arrested, Lancheng Ren was arrested at his home.  Lancheng Ren is not an employee of the bookstore, but is one of the founders.   On June 17, 2013, Lacheng Ren was sentenced to five years in prison.

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Philippians 1:12-14…29-30  —  (Paul, writing from a prison cell):  Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear…  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Romans 8:18  — I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

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We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.  Deliver the oppressed, have compassion on the despised, raise the fallen, reveal yourself to the needy, heal the sick, bring back those who have strayed from you, feed the hungry, lift up the weak, remove the prisoners’ chains.  May every nation come to know that you are God alone, that Jesus is your Son, that we are your people, the sheep of your pasture.

–Clement of Rome (??-99 A. D.)