24. Awake in the Tribulation of Persecution —A Seventeen-year-old Christian’s True Experience of Being Persecuted
Wang Tao Shandong Province
On the evening of March 5, 2009, the year when I was seventeen, an old brother and I were on our way back from preaching the gospel. Suddenly we were stopped by a police car. Then, five cops jumped out of the car. Without a word, they robbed us of our electric scooter like bandits, pressed us to the ground, and forcibly handcuffed us. I was struck dumb with terror by the sudden scene. At ordinary times, I often heard the brothers and sisters fellowship how the evil cops arrested believers in God. I didn’t expect that it would happen to me today. I was in fear and trepidation, and my heart almost flew into my mouth. At that time, I kept calling in my heart, “O Almighty God! The devils arrest me, and I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do or how they will treat me. May you keep me and save me.” After the prayer, I felt much calmer within. I thought that the police wouldn’t hurt me, a child, so I wasn’t so nervous. But the matter wasn’t so simple as I had imagined. The evil cops searched out the books on believing in God from us, and with these as the evidence, they took us to the police station.
In early spring in the north, it was very cold, and the temperature was 3 or 4 degrees below zero during the night. The chief of the police station forcibly stripped off our winter coats and winter shoes, pulled out our belts, and handcuffed our hands behind our backs so tightly, leaving us in pain. Then he ordered several evil cops to press us to the floor and whip our heads wildly with a belt. My head ached so much as if it would split, and my tears kept flowing down. At that time, I was very indignant. They clearly posted on the wall “handling cases with civility” but they treated us so savagely like bandits and killers without any civility! So, I retorted, “What law have we broken? Why do you arrest and beat us?” While beating me, an evil cop said venomously, “Little bastard! How dare you be sharp-lipped! We just arrest you believers in Almighty God! With your young age, can’t you do anything else? Who is your leader? Where are the books from? Speak quickly! If not, I’ll beat you to death!” At that time, I saw that the old brother clenched his teeth and said nothing, so I made a resolution inwardly, “I can’t be a Judas either! I won’t tell them even if I’m beaten to death! My life is in God’s hand, and satan the devil can’t control it.” As we didn’t speak, the chief was hopping mad and pointed at us, shouting abuse, “Bastards. You two pretend to be tough! You won’t tell, will you? Beat them! Fix them hard! Let them have it!” Immediately, the evil cops rushed to us, seized our chins, and slapped our faces wildly. I was beaten so badly that I saw stars and felt hot pain in the face. Pampered and cared by my parents from childhood, when had I been beaten like this? I felt so mistreated that I kept shedding tears, thinking: These cops are really rude and unreasonable! When I was at school, the teachers told us to ask the police for help if in trouble, saying that they were heroes “serving the people and suppressing the evil and pacifying the good,” but they willfully arrest and beat us now just because we believe in Almighty God and walk the right way. Are they the people’s police? They are simply a gang of devils! No wonder the words in Fellowship and Preaching About Life Entering In say, “Some people say that the great red dragon is an evil spirit, and some say that it’s a gang of wicked men. Then what on earth is its nature and substance? That is, what on earth is the nature and substance of this gang of people? They are simply a gang of devils, a gang of devils that resist and attack God! They are the appearing of satan’s being, and are the incarnations of satan and the devil. So they are indeed satan and the devil.” Before, I was blinded and thought that the cops were indeed “good people” doing things for the people. I never expected that all that was false. Today I see clearly that they are a gang of devils that resist God! I couldn’t help hating them from my heart. Seeing that we still refused to tell them, the devilish chief roared, “Beat them severely again!” Immediately two lackeys rushed to us again and forced us to sit on the floor with our legs stretched out. They kicked our legs hard with their feet in leather shoes, and also stood on our legs and stomped and trod and ground them hard. I felt a tearing pain in my legs and couldn’t help screaming loudly. But the more I screamed, the more severely they beat me. So I could only fight the pain and keep calling to Almighty God in my heart, “God, these devils are too malicious! I really can’t bear it. May you give me faith and keep me from betraying you.” Then, God’s words resounded in my ears, “Do you know that all the surrounding circumstances are permitted by me and arranged by me? See this clearly. Satisfy my heart in the circumstances that I have given you. Do not fear this or that. The Almighty God of hosts will surely be with you. He will be your rear guard and shield.” (from “The Twenty-sixth Piece of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh) God’s words gave me great faith and strength. I understood that today my encountering such an environment is out of the permission of God’s throne, and that it’s the time for me to stand testimony for God. Although I’m young, with God as my rear guard, I shall fear nothing! I must stand testimony for God and should never be a coward or yield to satan! Guided and led by God’s words, I had the faith and determination to endure all sufferings to stand testimony for God.
At past 7 p.m., the devilish chief interrogated me again. He ordered me to sit on the cold concrete floor to freeze me purposefully. It was not until my legs became numb and I shivered all over with cold that he ordered his lackeys to carry me up and have me lean against the wall. Then, he jabbed my hands and chin fiercely with an electric baton. My hands were shocked and had many big blisters, and my teeth were numb and painful from the shock. (They still ache now when I eat.) Even so, this frenzied devil still didn’t slake his hatred. Then he jabbed my private parts with the electric baton…. I felt terribly painful from the torture, but he laughed himself into convulsions. I bitterly hated this inhuman devil. Then, no matter how those evil cops interrogated and tortured me, I clenched my teeth and said nothing. At 2 or 3 a.m., I already became numb all over from the torture, without any feeling. In the end, as they were tired from beating, they dragged me back to the small room and handcuffed me with the old brother. And they ordered us to sit on the cold floor and had two lackeys watch us, not allowing us to sleep. As long as we closed our eyes, they would punch or kick us. At midnight, I asked to go to the washroom, but the evil cops didn’t allow me and roared at me, “Little bastard. If you don’t confess, you can’t go! Just pee in your pants!” In the end, I really couldn’t hold it and had to relieve myself in my pants. The day was so cold, and my cotton pants were soaked in the urine, so I shivered with cold.
After the cruel torture by the devils, I felt unbearable pain all over, and was somewhat weak and depressed in my heart: What cruel tortures will they use on me tomorrow? Can I hold on? … At that time, the old brother was afraid that I would become passive because of being unable to endure the suffering, so he lowered his voice and asked me with concern, “Xiaotao, today we fall into the hands of the devils and suffer such cruel tortures; what do you consider it? Do you regret believing in Almighty God and coming out to perform duty?” I said, “No. I just feel so mistreated from being beaten by the devils. I thought they wouldn’t hurt me, a child, but I didn’t expect that they would actually try to beat me to death.” The old brother fellowshipped with me in earnest, “Today the way of believing in God we walk is the right way of human life God leads us to walk. Satan doesn’t allow us to follow God and be saved by God. So, at any time, we should stand the ground and can by no means yield to satan or grieve God….” The old brother’s words encouraged me greatly. I got some comfort in my heart and spontaneously thought of God’s words, “What are the overcomers? The good soldiers of Christ should be brave, get strong in spirit by relying on me, strive to be valiant warriors, and fight satan to the death.” (from “The Twelfth Piece of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh) Then, I understood God’s will and felt that I had strength in my heart, no longer feeling mistreated or distressed, and I was willing to face this trial bravely. No matter what cruel tortures satan the devil may use on me, I’ll rely on God to overcome satan and let satan see that believers in Almighty God are all good soldiers and tough men of iron.
The next morning, the evil cops took me to the interrogation room again. The devilish chief again interrogated me by cruel tortures. He pounded the table and pointed at my nose, swearing, “You bastard. Have you thought it over during the night? How long have you believed in Almighty God? How many people have you preached to? Confess everything quickly, lest you suffer physically!” At that time, I thought: I should no longer fear satan; I should have the backbone of a man-child! So I said resolutely, “I know nothing!” The devilish chief became furious and swore, “Little bastard. Are you courting death? I must put you to death! How dare you be tight-lipped!” While swearing, he rushed to me and frenziedly grabbed my hair and forcefully bumped my head against the wall. My head buzzed from hitting. It was so painful that I couldn’t help screaming and my tears flowed down. In the end, those devils didn’t get anything they wanted from me, so they could only send me back to the small room. Then, they took the old brother away for interrogation. After a while, I heard the old brother’s screams. I knew that those devils were laying their violent hands on him. At that time, I huddled in the small room, so sad and helpless like a lamb bitten by a vicious wolf. Then I prayed to God in tears, asking him to keep the old brother so that he could overcome the devils’ cruel tortures. Just like that, those devils interrogated us for three days and nights. They didn’t give us anything to eat or drink. I was cold and hungry and fell into a trance and my head swelled and ached severely. Afraid of causing death, the evil cops had to stop interrogating us by tortures.
Having suffered the CCP government’s inhuman tortures, I truly experienced these words in Fellowship and Preaching About Life Entering In, “In the prison of the great red dragon, it doesn’t care whether you are a man or a woman. It just tramples you as it wants. Those people are like gangsters and beasts, trampling you willfully with electric batons. It just uses the means you are most afraid of. Under the domain of the great red dragon, man is not man, even poorer than an animal. The great red dragon is just so atrocious, without any humanity. It’s like a beast and devil. It’s unreasonable. You have no way to reason with it. It’s impervious to reason.” Then, I finally saw clearly the CCP government’s reactionary substance of being hostile to God. It is indeed the incarnation of satan and is the devil that kills without blinking an eye! They are inhuman, even not letting off a minor like me. Just because I believe in God and walk the right way, they try to torture me to death. They are simply a gang of conscienceless and inhuman wolves and beasts! Then, I no longer expected those evil cops to pull their punches for me, a child, but only asked Almighty God to keep and lead me to overcome the cruel tortures of satan the devil, undergo all sufferings to the end, and bear a resounding testimony for God.
On the afternoon of March 9, failing to get any result from the interrogation, the evil cops forcibly grabbed our hands to sign on the trumped-up confession, and on the charge of “destroying the law of the state, disturbing the social order, and subverting the state power,” they took us to the detention house. On getting there, the evil cops shaved our heads bald, stripped our clothes, and returned them to us after cutting them. As we had no belts for our pants, we could only twist plastic bags into ropes to tie them. In cold weather, the evil cops instigated the prisoners to pour basin after basin of cold water from our heads to give us a cold shower. I shivered all over with cold and couldn’t stand, only feeling as if my blood congealed. In the cell were locked rapists, thieves, robbers, and murderers…. They all had a dangerous glint in their eyes. I shuddered, feeling as if entering hell. When sleeping at night, we over thirty prisoners were crammed on a hard concrete platform, and our quilts stank, so I simply couldn’t fall asleep. There, the evil cops didn’t give us enough food. For each meal, we had only a small steamed bun and a little thin corn soup. But we were forced to overwork in the daytime. If I couldn’t finish the task, they would make me stand watch and stay up as punishment. I had to stand for four hours and could only sleep two hours a night. Sometimes I was so sleepy that I fell asleep while standing. Incited by the evil cops, the head of the cell specially found excuses to bully me, increasing my work quota or making me stand and stay up as punishment…. I felt I was going to break down. So many times, facing the devils’ affliction and mistreatment, I felt that I even lived less freely than a wandering dog on the street and ate worse than pigs and dogs. Thinking of this, I missed my home and my parents so much. And I always felt it was not a place for people to stay and that I was unwilling to stay there for one more second. How I wished I could leave that disgusting place at once. When I was most miserable and weak, I could only urgently pray to God. It was Almighty God’s words that inspired and led me, “Don’t be disheartened. Don’t be weak. I will reveal to you. It is not so smooth on the way to the kingdom. There is not so easy a thing to gain blessings in a breeze, is there? Today, everyone will have painful trials. Otherwise, your hearts of loving me will not be strengthened…. Whoever has a part with my suffering will surely have a part with my sweetness. This is my promise and is my blessing to you.” (from “The Forty-first Piece of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh) God’s words gave me great comfort and encouragement. They made me realize this: What these sufferings I undergo today accomplish is God’s blessing. God wants to temper me and build me up through this environment of suffering, so that I can become a person who loves God and is faithful to God to inherit his promises. I have been pampered from childhood, and can neither suffer nor be mistreated a little. If I want to gain the truth and life, I must have the will to suffer and a firm faith. Today these sufferings I undergo are just arranged by God to temper my will to suffer. Without the environment of suffering, these corruptions in me can’t be cleansed away. This suffering is indeed God’s blessing, and I should have faith to cooperate with God and let God work the truth into me. After understanding God’s will, I couldn’t help praying to God, “O God, I’ll no longer be weak or passive. I’ll hold myself upright and resolutely rely on you to fight satan to the end, and pursue to love and satisfy you. May you give me faith and perseverance.” The days when I was maltreated and humiliated in the detention house was the time I prayed and relied on God most and the time I was closest to God since I believed in Almighty God. At that time, I dared not leave God in my heart for a single moment and always felt God was with me, so I didn’t feel miserable no matter how hard it was. I was clear that it was all because God was caring for and keeping me at any time.
One morning, a month later, a prison guard suddenly called the old brother and me out. Hearing that, I felt a flush of excitement: Perhaps they will release us. I needn’t suffer in this “hell.” However, the fact was totally beyond my expectation. The chief of the police station held the judgments and said to us with a sinister smile, “You two are sentenced to one year of hard labor for believing in Almighty God. Even if you say nothing, we can sentence you all the same. This is the CCP’s world, and it’ll be in vain even if you sue us!” Looking at his gloating look, I couldn’t help burning with anger: The CCP government is really lawless, not only cruelly torturing me, a minor, but sentencing me who is innocent! On that very day, the old brother and I were taken to the provincial labor camp. When having the medical examination, the old brother was diagnosed with many diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Being afraid that he might die there and they would take the blame, the prison guards refused to take him in, so the evil cops had to take him back and left me in the labor camp. Then, I cried, and cried very bitterly. I missed my home and my parents. Without the old brother fellowshipping with me, how would I pass through the one lengthy year? During the one month, although I suffered many afflictions and tortures of the devils, every time I couldn’t bear it and was passive and weak, the old brother would fellowship about God’s word with me to encourage and comfort me and let me understand God’s will and thus become strong. Moreover, seeing that he was so strong-willed, I also had the strength and faith to unite in a concerted effort with him to overcome the devils. But now I’m left fighting alone; can I stand firm? … The more I thought, the more distressed and passive I became. Loneliness, desolation, and grievance all welled up in my heart. In misery and hopelessness, I urgently called to God, “O God, I’m so small in stature; how can I withstand such a great trial? How should I pass through the one long year of hard labor? God, may you lead and help me and give me faith and strength….” I shed tears and choked with sobs. In my prayer, I suddenly remembered Joseph’s experience of being sold to Egypt at the age of 17. Alone in Egypt, though he suffered all kinds of insults and hardships, he never forsook the true God or yielded to satan. Today I’m imprisoned by satan the devil and suffer here, and it is out of God’s permission. As long as I truly rely on God and don’t yield to satan, God will lead me to overcome satan and walk out of the devils’ den all the same. At that time, I thought of these words of God, “Do not belittle yourself for being young. You should offer up yourself for me. I do not look at a person’s outward appearance or how old he is. I only look at whether he loves me with a true heart and whether he walks in my ways and practices the truth at any cost. Do not worry about what tomorrow will be or what the future will be. As long as you live by me every day, I will surely lead you.” (from “The Twenty-eighth Piece of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh) God’s words, like a warm flow, warmed my heart. I realized this: God never shows partiality to anyone; although I’m young, as long as I have the will of truly loving God and can live by God’s word, I can surely gain God’s leading. Ever since I was arrested, God has been accompanying me all the time, helping me pass through the difficulties one after another, so that I can stand firm. Without God’s presence and leading, how could I stand such cruel beating and torment from satan the devil? I have passed through such great difficulty by relying on God; now, how come I have no faith in the face of the one year of hard labor? Isn’t God my only reliance? With God’s presence and leading at any time, why shall I feel lonely and fear? This environment is exactly an opportunity for me to exercise to live independently and grow in life. I can’t always regard myself as a child, always depending on others instead of looking to God. I should grow up and should rely on God to walk the way by myself. I believe that I can surely walk to the end by relying on God, because satan can never overcome men who rely on God and have the will of loving God! I will be a backboned man-child and let God gain glory and testimony from me. After understanding God’s will, I felt a strong power supporting me and had the courage to face the prison life.
After I was taken to the labor camp, the prison guards purposely tormented me after they knew that I was a believer in Almighty God. Every day they ordered me to do hard labor, which was to carry the packed-up sacks weighing over 50kg from the third floor to the first floor, from 5 a.m. until past 11 p.m. If I couldn’t finish the quota, I had to work overtime at night. As I had never done physical work before, plus I couldn’t eat my fill in the detention house and was feeble all over, at first, I simply couldn’t lift them up. Later, I urgently relied on God to carry them. Gradually, I could do it. I was dog-tired and my waist and legs ached from the heavy task every day. There, the prison guards often instigated the prisoners to beat me and I was often beaten black and blue. Once, as I came back a little late from fetching water, a prison guard instigated the head of the cell to beat me. I was beaten so badly that my eardrums perforated, split, and inflamed and I was almost deafened. Facing such bullying and maltreatment, I gnashed my teeth in hatred but was unable to resist, and had no place to pour out my miseries and grievances but could only come before God and pray and pour out to God. In the dark prison, I learned to draw near to God and rely on and look to God in everything, and felt that praying and speaking my mind to God was the happiest thing. Every time I was grieved and weak, I would sing the hymn of God’s word “How Should You Pray When You Have No Strength to Love God”: “O God! May you open, open my spiritual eyes, and may your Spirit move, move my heart, so that I can be free from my passive states before you and will not be restrained by any person, matter, or thing but open my heart, and so that my whole being can be completely consecrated before you. You can try me in any way. I will not consider my future, and I will not be bound by death. I am willing to seek the way of human life with a heart of loving you. All matters and all things are, are in your hand, my destiny is in your hand, and even more, my whole life is in the control of your hand, and even more, my whole life is in the control of your hand. Now I will pursue to love you. No matter whether you will let me love you and no matter how satan disturbs me, I am determined to love you. Now I will pursue to love you. No matter whether you will let me love you and no matter how satan disturbs me, I am determined to love you.” While singing it, I was moved to tears and was greatly comforted and encouraged in my heart. Almighty God helped and sustained me time and again, making me truly feel God’s genuine love to me. Like a loving mother, God had been watching by my side, comforting and sustaining me, giving me faith and strength, and leading me to pass through the one unforgettable year in my life.
After I experienced the dark prison life, my life became much more mature and my knowledge of the truth also increased a lot. I was no longer a naive and ignorant child. It was Almighty God’s words that led me to overcome the evil cops’ cruel tortures again and again and helped me stand up from passivity and weakness time and time. I came to know how to care for and comfort God’s heart and how to stand testimony for God by relying on God to repay God’s love. I also saw clearly satan the devil’s evil and reactionary substance of being savage, malicious, and hostile to God, had discernment of the false pretense that “people’s police love the people,” and no longer believed its lies and deception. That tribulation of persecution didn’t knock me down, but instead became the foundation on my way of believing in God. I thanked Almighty God for leading me to go through that difficult and rugged path of tribulation. At such a young age, I could withstand such cruel tortures, in which I saw God’s almightiness and sovereignty, and this was God’s special salvation for me! I deeply feel that in this evil world ruled by the devil, only God loves man most and only God can save man, and he is man’s ever-present support and help and can deliver man from the hell and abyss. This suffering of persecution and tribulation is beneficial to my growth in life and my being saved, and it is just a valuable treasure for my growing in life. It is so worthy and meaningful to undergo such suffering! Just as a hymn of God’s word goes, “If you are willing to enjoy this judgment, this extremely great salvation, in this stream, enjoy all these blessings which cannot be found in the world, and enjoy this love, you should stay in this stream submissively and accept the conquering work to be perfected. Although now you undergo some suffering and some refining because of the judgment, it is worthy and meaningful to undergo such suffering.” (from “It’s Worthy and Meaningful to Undergo Such Suffering” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs)