25. Awakening Amidst Suffering and Difficulty
—A 17-Year-Old Christian’s True Experience of Persecution
By Wang Tao, Shandong Province
I am a Christian in The Church of Almighty God. I was the most fortunate among children of the same age, because I followed my parents in accepting Almighty God’s work of the last days at the age of eight. Although I was young at that time, I was quite happy to believe in God and read God’s word. By continuing to read God’s word and fellowship with older members of the church, after several years, I came to understand some of the truth. Particularly when I saw my brothers and sisters all pursuing the truth and working to be honest people, and saw everyone getting along peacefully, I felt that these were the happiest, most joyful times. I later heard in a sermon, “In mainland China, believing in God, pursuing the truth, and following God is really putting your life on the line. This is hardly an exaggeration” (Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life). At the time I didn’t understand what this meant, but through the fellowship of my brothers and sisters, I learned that believers in God are arrested by the police, and that because China is an atheistic country, there is no freedom of religious belief. However, at the time I didn’t believe these words. I thought that because I was a child, even if I was arrested, the police wouldn’t do anything to me. That changed on the day I personally experienced arrest and cruelty at the hands of the police; I finally saw clearly that the police, who I had looked up to as if they were uncles, were actually a pack of vicious devils!
When I was 17, on the evening of March 5, 2009, an older brother and I were on our way home from preaching the gospel when suddenly our path was blocked by a police vehicle. Five police officers immediately leaped out of the car and without even a warning, grabbed our electric scooter away like bandits, shoved us to the ground, and forcibly handcuffed us. I was dazed by the suddenness of what had just happened. I had often heard my brothers and sisters talk about how believers in God were arrested, but I never imagined it would actually happen to me that day. I was seized with panic; my heart was beating so hard it felt like it would leap out of my chest. I called out continually to God in my heart, “Almighty God! The police have arrested me, and I am very afraid. I don’t know what I should do or what they plan to do to me, so I beg You to protect my heart.” I felt much calmer after praying. I thought that the police wouldn’t actually do anything to a child like me, so I didn’t feel very nervous. But the situation wasn’t nearly as simple as I expected. When the police found books about belief in God on us, they used this as evidence to justify taking us to the police station.
It was early spring in the north of China, and the weather was still very cold, getting down to negative 3–4 Celsius at night. The chief of the police station forcibly took away our coats and shoes and even our belts, and had our hands handcuffed tightly behind our backs. It was very painful. He ordered several officers to hold us down on the floor, after which our faces and heads were viciously whipped with leather straps, which immediately caused splitting pain in my head—it felt like it was about to explode and tears started to roll down my face involuntarily. I was furious at that moment, because the slogan “Be Civilized in Handling Cases” was written clearly on the wall, but they were treating us like savage highway robbers or murderers! It wasn’t civilized at all! In anger, I demanded, “What crime have we committed? Why are you arresting us and beating us?” As he continued to whip me, one of these evil police said maliciously, “You little bastard, don’t you take that tone with me! We’re here to catch believers in Almighty God! You’re a young man who could have done anything, why this? Who is your leader? Where did you get these books? Answer me! If you don’t answer, I’ll beat the life out of you!” I then noticed that my older brother was clenching his teeth and refusing to say a single word, so I swore an oath to myself: “I also refuse to be a Judas! Even if they beat me to death, I won’t talk! My life is in God’s hands, and Satan and devils have no power over me.” When he saw that neither of us were speaking, the station chief flew into a rage, and bellowed, pointing at us, “Alright then! You want to play tough? You’re not talking? Give them a good beating! Really show them what’s up and give them a taste of what tough is!” These evil police instantly pounced on us, grabbing us by the chins while viciously punching us in the face so hard that I saw stars and my face burned with stinging pain. I had been pampered and cared for by my parents since childhood; I had never experienced such violence. I was so humiliated I couldn’t help but cry, and I thought, “These police are so cruel, and so unreasonable! In school, our teachers always told us to go to the police if we were in trouble. They said the police ‘served the people’ and were ‘heroes who protected good people from violence,’ but now, just because we believe in Almighty God and walk the correct path in life, they arrest us arbitrarily and beat us mercilessly. How could these be the ‘People’s Police’? They’re nothing but a pack of devils! No wonder in a sermon it’s said, ‘Some say the great red dragon is an evil spirit, some say it is a pack of evildoers, but what is the great red dragon’s nature and essence? That of an evil demon. They are a pack of evil demons who resist and attack God! These people are a physical manifestation of Satan, Satan made flesh, the incarnation of evil demons! These people are none other than Satan and evil demons’ (Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life). In the past, I was deceived by their lies, believing that the police were ‘good people’ who worked on behalf of ordinary people. I didn’t realize that was a false image, but today I finally see they really are a pack of evil devils who resist God!” I couldn’t help but begin to hate them from the bottom of my heart. When the station chief saw that we still weren’t talking, he shouted, “Give them another good beating!” Two of his lackeys rushed over to us. They ordered us to sit on the floor with our legs outstretched, and then kicked our legs viciously with their leather shoes, as well as stood on our legs and stomped as hard as they could. My legs were in such pain it felt as if they were about to break, and I couldn’t stop myself from screaming, but the more I screamed, the more viciously they beat me. I had no choice but to endure the pain as I called out to Almighty God in my heart, “God! These devils are too cruel! I really can’t bear this. Please, give me faith and protect me so that I don’t betray You.” Just then, this passage of God’s words flashed through my mind, “You should know that all things in the environment around you are there by My permission, I arrange it all. See clearly and satisfy My heart in the environment I have given to you. Do not fear, Almighty God of hosts will surely be with you; He has your back and He is your shield” (“Chapter 26” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words were a source of great faith and strength for me. I understood that the circumstances I was experiencing were happening with approval from God’s throne, and that this was the time I was required to stand firm and testify for God. Although I was young, I had God as my strong support, so I had nothing to fear! I was determined to stand firm and testify for God, to absolutely not be a coward, and not submit to Satan! Through the instruction and guidance in God’s word, I found the confidence and determination to bear suffering and stand firm and testify for God.
That evening after 7 p.m., the station chief came to interrogate me again. He ordered me to sit on the ice-cold cement floor in a deliberate attempt to freeze me. Only when I became so cold that both of my legs had gone numb and I was shaking all over did he order his lackeys to pick me up and lean me against the wall, after which he mercilessly administered shocks to my hands and chin with an electric baton. The shocks covered my hands with blisters and made all my teeth numb with pain (even today it still hurts my teeth to chew). But even then, this devil, still frantic with rage, hadn’t had enough; he just started using his electric baton on my groin. The torment left me in unspeakable pain, but he threw his head back and laughed. At that moment, I hated this demon, completely lacking in humanity, to my core. But no matter how these evil police questioned or tortured me, I clenched my teeth and refused to say a word. It continued until two or three in the morning, by which point my entire body was numb—I had no sensation anywhere. Finally, after they had tired themselves out beating me, they dragged me back to a small room and handcuffed me to the older brother who had been arrested along with me. They ordered us to sit on the icy floor, and then two of them were assigned to watch us to ensure we didn’t sleep. The moment one of us closed our eyes they would punch and kick us. Later that night I had to go to the bathroom, but these evil police bellowed at me, “You little shit, until you tell us what we want to know, you aren’t going anywhere! You get to pee in your pants!” In the end, I really couldn’t hold it any longer, and I had to relieve myself in my pants. In that freezing weather, my padded pants were soaked through with urine, leaving me so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering.
After enduring such cruel torture by these devils, I was in unbearable pain all over, and I couldn’t help but begin feeling weak and negative, “I really don’t know what tortures they’ll use on me tomorrow. Will I be able to withstand it?” But at that moment, the older brother, concerned that I wouldn’t be able to withstand the suffering and was feeling negative, whispered to me with concern, “Tao, how are you feeling about those evil devils torturing us like this today? Do you regret believing in Almighty God and doing your duty?” I said, “No, I just feel humiliated for being beaten by these devils. I thought they wouldn’t do anything to me because I’m just a child. I had no idea they would actually be willing to kill me.” My older brother fellowshiped earnestly, “We have taken the path of belief in God, and we walk the correct path in life thanks to God’s guidance, but Satan doesn’t want us to follow God or be fully saved. No matter what happens, we need to stand firm in our faith. We must never submit to Satan; we cannot break God’s heart.” This brother’s words were very encouraging. I felt consoled, and couldn’t help but think of God’s words, “What is an overcomer? The good soldiers of Christ must be brave and rely on Me to be spiritually strong; they must fight to become warriors and battle Satan to the death” (“Chapter 12” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). At that moment, I understood God’s will and felt strength within my heart. I no longer felt humiliated or miserable, but became willing to face this trial bravely. No matter how Satan the devil tortured me, I would rely on God to overcome Satan; I would show Satan that all believers in Almighty God are His elite soldiers, unbreakable warriors to the last.
The next morning, those evil police brought me back to the interrogation room and that devil of a station chief again tried to force a confession out of me. He pounded on the table as he pointed straight at my nose and cursed at me, saying, “Did you reconsider last night, boy? How long have you believed in Almighty God? How many people have you preached to? Answer our questions, or you’ll feel a lot more pain!” I thought, “I can’t be afraid of Satan anymore. I need to be a man and have courage!” So, I said resolutely, “I don’t know anything!” The evil station chief flew into a rage and shouted, “Boy, do you want to die? Because I’ll kill you before we’re done, and then you’ll really clam up!” While shouting this he charged toward me, then viciously grabbed my hair and bashed my head against the wall. My ears immediately began to ring, and the pain was so intense I couldn’t help but cry out and tears rolled down my face. Finally, after those devils realized they wouldn’t get what they wanted from me, they had no choice but to send me back to the little room. They then took the older brother to be interrogated. Before long, I heard him scream in pain, and I knew they had done something horrible to him. I was curled up in the little room like a lamb surrounded by vicious wolves feeling heartbroken and helpless, and as tears streamed down my face, I prayed to God to ask Him to protect this brother from those evil devils as they tried to force him to confess through torture. They interrogated us this way for three days and nights, not even giving us a single bite of food or a drop of water. I was cold and hungry, I was in a daze, and my head was swollen and incredibly painful. Afraid they would kill us, they had no choice but to stop their torture.
After the CCP government’s brutal and inhumane torture, I genuinely experienced what I had heard about in a sermon: “In the prisons of the great red dragon, no matter if you are a man or woman, they can abuse you any way they like. They are scoundrels and beasts. They capriciously abuse people with electric batons, and do to you whatever it is you fear most. Under the dominion of the great red dragon, people cease to be human and are even less than animals. The great red dragon is precisely this cruel and inhumane. They are beasts, devils, completely devoid of reason. There is no way to reason with them, because they have no reason” (“The True Significance of Forsaking the Great Red Dragon to Receiving Salvation” in Sermons and Fellowship III). At that moment, I finally saw clearly the CCP government’s reactionary essence as an enemy of God. It truly is a manifestation of Satan, a demon that murders without blinking an eye! They are without morals or scruples, not even sparing me, an underage child. They are all the more ready to murder me purely because I believe in God and walk the correct path in life. They are nothing but cruel monsters without principles, ethics, or humanity. I no longer entertained any false hopes that the police would treat me mercifully because of my age; I only begged that Almighty God would protect me and lead me to overcome the cruel torture of Satan and demons, that I could endure all the suffering, and that I could be a resounding witness for God.
On the afternoon of March 9, when the evil police saw that they really wouldn’t get anything out of us, they physically grabbed our hands and forced us to sign forged confessions, charging us with the crimes of “damaging national law, disturbing social order, and subverting state power,” and then sent us to the detention house. As soon as we arrived they shaved our heads completely bald, stripped our clothes from us, and then returned them to us after cutting them nearly to ribbons. I didn’t have my belt anymore, so I had to tie plastic bags into a rope to hold my pants up. Even in that freezing weather, the police ordered other detainees to wash us by pouring basin after basin of cold water over our heads. I felt frozen to the point that I was shaking from head to toe, and my blood felt as if it had solidified in my veins. I couldn’t even stand after that. The prisoners held in that jail were all rapists, thieves, robbers, and murderers…. Each appeared more malicious than the last, and the thought of being trapped in that hellish place with them made me tremble with fear. At night, more than 30 of us slept together on a hard concrete platform, and the blankets stank with a vile odor that made it nearly impossible to sleep. The meals given to us by those evil police were nothing but a small steamed bun and a bit of thin corn gruel, far from enough to feed us sufficiently, and during the day we were overloaded with grueling physical labor. If we didn’t finish our tasks for the day, they punished us by making us stand overnight on the night cell watch shift, meaning we had to stand for four hours and only got two hours of sleep. Sometimes I was so tired that I fell asleep while standing. Those evil police also told the cell’s head prisoner to find ways to torment me, such as giving me workloads over my quota or making me stand sentry duty overnight. I felt as though I was about to collapse. So many times I had been tormented and abused by those demons, it felt as though I had less freedom than a stray dog in the street, and I wasn’t even eating as well as a pig or a dog. Thinking of these things, I missed my home and parents terribly and felt that the detention house was no place for people to live. I didn’t want to stay there for another single moment. I wanted nothing more than to leave that horrible place immediately. At the height of my misery and weakness, I could only pray earnestly to God, and this is when Almighty God’s words enlightened me and provided guidance: “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily, do you not? Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger…. Those who share in My bitterness will certainly share in My sweetness. That is My promise and My blessing to you” (“Chapter 41” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words were a great source of consolation and encouragement. They helped me understand the suffering and difficulties I was enduring were a blessing from God. God was using these difficult circumstances to refine and perfect me, and to make me someone whose love of and loyalty to God are worthy of God’s promise. Thinking of how I had been pampered since childhood and had never been able to bear suffering or even the slightest insult, I saw that if I wanted to gain the truth and life, I needed to have the determination to bear suffering and I needed resolute faith. Without experiencing this suffering, the corruption within me could never be purified. My suffering was indeed a blessing from God, and so I ought to have faith, cooperate with God, and allow God to work His truth within me. Once I understood God’s will, a prayer to God spontaneously arose within me, “God! I no longer feel weak and negative. I will stand strong, resolutely rely on You, battle Satan to the end, and seek to love and satisfy You. I ask that You give me faith and fortitude.” In the days I suffered abuse and humiliation at the detention house, I prayed and relied on God more than at any time since I had gained my faith in Almighty God, and it was the closest I had ever been with God. During that time, my heart didn’t leave God even for a moment, and I always felt Him with me. No matter how much I suffered, it didn’t feel like suffering at all, and I clearly understood that all of this was God caring for me and protecting me.
One morning a month later, the prison guards suddenly called the older brother and me out. I felt a surge of excitement when I heard the call, thinking that they might be releasing us and that I wouldn’t need to suffer in that hell anymore. The truth couldn’t have been further from my hopes. The police station chief greeted us with a sinister smile and written judgments, saying, “You two have been sentenced to a year of reeducation through labor for believing in Almighty God. Even though you wouldn’t talk, we can sentence you all the same. The Communist Party rules this nation, and even a lawsuit will get you nowhere!” Seeing how happy he was at our misfortune made me furious: The CCP government follows no law or ethics, and beyond just cruelly torturing an underage child like me, it was giving me a sentence for no crime at all! The other brother and I were brought to the provincial labor camp that day. During our health checkup, the doctor found that the brother suffered from high blood pressure, a heart condition, and other health issues. The labor camp guards feared being held responsible if he died at their facility, so they refused to accept him; the police had no choice but to take him back, which meant I was left there alone. I started crying then—I cried bitterly. I missed my home and my parents, and considering that I was left without my brother to fellowship with, how was I going to make it through such a long year? In the previous month of being tormented and brutalized by those devils, whenever I felt negative and weak because I couldn’t bear their cruelty, he would fellowship with me on God’s word to encourage and comfort me, helping me gain strength through understanding God’s will. Also, seeing his determination gave me the faith and strength to fight and overcome those demons alongside him. But at that point, I was left to fight that battle alone. Could I really stand strong? … The more I thought, the more miserable I felt, and the more negativity, loneliness, bitterness, and humiliation took root in my heart. When my misery pushed me to the brink of hopelessness, I urgently called out to God, “God! My stature is too small. How will I be able to withstand such an immense trial? How should I get through this long year of reeducation through labor? God! I beg You to guide and aid me, give me faith and strength….” Tears streamed down my face as I cried without a sound. As I prayed, I suddenly remembered Joseph’s experience of being sold into Egypt at the age of seventeen. Although he was alone in Egypt and he endured humiliation and suffering, he never abandoned the true God or surrendered to Satan. Although I was then being made to suffer by the demons in prison, it was happening with God’s permission, and as long as I truly relied on God and refused to give in to Satan, God would also lead me in overcoming Satan and leaving the demons’ lair. At that moment, I again recalled God’s words, “Don’t belittle yourself because you’re young; you should offer up yourself to Me. I don’t see what people are like on the surface or how old they are. I see only whether or not they love Me sincerely, and whether or not they follow My way and practice the truth disregarding all other things. Don’t worry about what tomorrow will be like or how the future will be. So long as you rely on Me to live every day, then I will surely lead you” (“Chapter 28” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words warmed my heart like the summer sun. They allowed me to see that God favors no one, and even though I was young, as long as I had a heart of sincere love for God and could live by God’s word, I would always receive God’s guidance. I thought of how, since the moment of my arrest, God had been with me at every moment, helping me get through every difficulty and making it possible for me to stand strong. Without God’s presence and guidance, how could I have endured the vicious beatings and brutal torment of those demons? I had survived such great difficulty by relying on God, and I was facing a year of reeducation through labor, so why did I lack faith? Wasn’t God all I needed to rely on? God was with me, and would provide me with guidance at every moment, so why should I feel alone or afraid? Those circumstances were an opportunity for me to practice living independently and becoming mature in life. I could no longer see myself as a child, nor could always I rely on other people while not looking up to God. I ought to grow up, rely on God to walk my own path, and trust that I would certainly be able to continue down that path, leaning on God. Satan is never able to defeat people who have the determination to rely on God and love Him! It was time for me to have a man’s courage, and to allow God to gain glory through my actions. Once I understood God’s will I felt as though there was a powerful force supporting me, and deep in my heart I had the resolve to face my life in prison.
When the guards at the labor camp learned that I believed in Almighty God they started deliberately tormenting me. They assigned me to heavy physical labor, carrying heavy-duty bags weighing more than 50kg from the third floor to the first from five in the morning to past eleven in the evening, and if I didn’t finish my work quota, I would have to work overtime late into the night. I had never done physical labor before, and I could never eat my fill at the detention house, so I was always exhausted. At the beginning, I couldn’t lift the bags at all, but later on, through earnestly relying on God, I gradually became able to lift them. The heavy labor left me unspeakably exhausted every day, and left my waist and legs aching. The guards often ordered the other detainees to viciously beat me, frequently leaving me covered in wounds and bruises. Once the guards ordered the head prisoner to beat me because I returned late from fetching water. During the beating my eardrum was punctured and ruptured, it became infected, nearly leaving me deaf. I clenched my teeth in resentment at having to bear this kind of bullying and abuse, but I was helpless to resist. I was miserable and bore grievances, but I had no place to seek redress. I could only come before God and share my misery with Him in prayer. In that dark prison, I learned to be close to God, to rely on and look to God in all things—what brought me the most joy in life was praying to God to share my innermost thoughts. Every time I felt sad or weak, the hymn I most loved to sing was “I Am Determined to Love God”: “Oh God! I have seen that Your righteousness and holiness are so lovely. I resolve to pursue the truth, and I am determined to love You. I wish for You to open the eyes of my spirit, I wish for Your Spirit to touch my heart, so that before You I am divested of all passive states, and unconstrained by any person, matter, or thing; my heart I completely lay bare before You, such that my entire being is devoted before You, and You may test me however You wish. Now, I give no thought to my prospects, nor am I bound by death. Using my heart that loves You, I wish to seek the way of life. All things and events are in Your hands, my fate is in Your hands, and, moreover, my life is controlled by Your hands. Now, I pursue the love of You, and regardless of whether You let me love You, regardless of how Satan interferes, I am determined to love You” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Singing and singing, I would be moved to tears, and it would bring immense consolation and encouragement to my heart. Almighty God had time and again aided and supported me, allowing me to genuinely experience God’s true love for me. Like a merciful mother, God stood watch beside me, comforting me and supporting me at all times, giving me faith and strength, and guiding me through that year I’ll never be able to forget.
After experiencing the darkness of my time in prison, I became much more mature in life, and also gained much knowledge of the truth. I was no longer a naïve, innocent child. It was Almighty God’s words that guided me in overcoming the evil police’s torture and torment time after time, and time and again allowed me to emerge from weakness and negativity, rise up, and stand strong. It allowed me to understand how to be considerate of and comfort God’s heart, as well as how to rely on God and stand firm, and how to testify for God to repay God’s love. It also allowed me to see clearly the brutality and viciousness of Satan and demons as well as their evil reactionary essence as enemies of God. It gave me discernment over the false image of the “People’s Police who love the people.” I have never again been deceived by Satan’s lies. The persecution and suffering I endured not only failed to break me, but they became the foundation upon which I walk the path of faith. I am grateful to Almighty God for leading me through this arduous, rocky path and allowing me to learn to bear cruel torment at such a young age. Through this, I saw God’s almightiness and sovereignty, and that this was God’s special salvation for me! I felt deeply that in an evil world ruled by demons, only God can save people, only God can be our support and aid us whenever we need Him, and only God truly loves people. The persecution and difficulties I endured became a valuable treasure of growth in life for me, and were very beneficial to my attaining full salvation. Though I suffered during that time, that suffering was incredibly valuable and meaningful. It’s just as God’s word says, “If you are willing to be in this stream and enjoy this judgment and this immense salvation, enjoy all of this blessing that cannot be found anywhere in the human world, and enjoy this love, then stay submissively in this stream to accept the conquering work so you can become perfected. Though now you are suffering some pain and refinement because of the judgment, this pain is valuable and meaningful” (“The Inside Truth of the Work of Conquest (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).