21. God’s Light Guides Me Through Adversity
By Zhao Xin, Sichuan Province
When I was a child, I lived in the mountains. I’d never seen much of the world and I didn’t really have any greater aspirations. I got married and had children, my two sons grew up to be sensible and obedient, and my husband was a hard worker. Although we never had much money, we lived together in harmony as a family, and I felt very happy and content. In 1996, I suddenly developed a serious illness which led to me gaining faith in the Lord Jesus. From then on, I read the Bible frequently and actively attended church gatherings. To my surprise, my illness gradually began to get better, and so my faith to follow the Lord Jesus grew even stronger.
Something I really couldn’t have foreseen happened in 1999, however, when I was arrested by the police for my faith in the Lord Jesus. I was locked up for a whole day and fined 240 yuan. Although this may not sound like a lot of money, to us poor farmers living in an impoverished mountainous region, that’s no small sum! In order to get enough money together, I sold all of the peanuts I had painstakingly planted in my plot of land. What I really couldn’t understand was why the CCP government labeled me as a criminal who “took part in counter-revolutionary organizations.” They also menaced my whole family, saying that even if my sons were to graduate from college, they still wouldn’t be able to get a job. Therefore, my husband, my parents, my relatives and friends all began to put pressure on me, they tried to suppress and stand in the way of my faith. They made me do all the hard, exhausting work, and all I could do was endure it in silence.
In 2003, I was fortunate enough to accept Almighty God’s work of the last days. Through reading the words of God, I became certain that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned. I was absolutely thrilled, and I felt that to be able to be reunited with God in my own lifetime was indeed the greatest blessing ever! From then on, however, the pressure exerted on me both by the CCP government and by my own family became even greater. Faced with this kind of environment, I made a resolution to God: “No matter how hard it gets or how much I suffer, I will follow You till the very end!” The CCP police later came to my home and threatened me, saying, “Did you know that your belief in God is illegal, that it’s not allowed in this country? If you keep your faith you’ll end up doing time!” When my husband heard this, he began to heap more and more pressure on me. He would often beat and scold me, and he wouldn’t even let me stay in our home. With no other option, all I could do was suppress the pain I felt inside and leave home to avoid persecution and arrest by the CCP government. At that time, although I had been forced out of my hometown and into a life of vagrancy by the CCP government’s persecution, I still had no discernment regarding the sinister hand behind it that had caused the breakup of my family. Only when I personally experienced life in prison and the unbridled attacks and false charges laid against me by the CCP government did I come to have some true understanding of its perverse and reactionary essence, and I realized that the CCP government is the chief culprit that destroys people’s happy families and wreaks terrible disasters upon people!
On December 16, 2012, five brothers and sisters and I were preaching the gospel when suddenly four policemen raced up to us in a car and arrested us. They took us to the police station and, after they’d put me in handcuffs, one of them yelled, “Let me tell you people, you can go steal and rob things, you can commit murder and arson, and you can go sell your bodies, we don’t care. But believing in God is the one thing you cannot do! By believing in God, you are setting yourselves against the Communist Party, and you need to be punished!” He slapped me hard and viciously kicked me while he spoke. I felt I wouldn’t be able to take much more after that beating, so I called out to God in my heart over and over: “O God! I have no idea how long these evil policemen will torture me for, and I feel like I can’t hold on much longer. But I’d rather die than become a Judas—I will not betray You. Please watch over me, protect me and guide me.” After I’d prayed, I silently resolved in my heart: “I’ll stay loyal to God to my last breath, I’ll fight with Satan to the very end, and I’ll stand witness to satisfy God!” Afterward, one of the police searched me and found 230 yuan I had in cash. Grinning wickedly, he said, “This money is stolen goods and should be confiscated.” As he was speaking he stuffed the cash into his own pocket and kept it for himself. They then began to question us. “Where are you people from? What are your names? Who sent you here?” After I told them my name and address, they quickly found the details of my entire family on their computer. I just gave them my basic personal information, but refused to answer a single question about the church.
The police then played one of their tricks. They found over ten people on the street who didn’t believe in God and had them testify that I had been preaching Almighty God’s kingdom gospel. Then they told those people a bunch of lies and false accusations of me. All those people mocked me, slandered me and insulted me; I felt really wronged. I had no idea how I was supposed to get through this situation, so I just continued to call out to God in my heart to give me faith and strength. Just then, part of a hymn of God’s words floated into my mind: “The incarnate God undergoes all kinds of sneering, reviling, judgment, and condemnation. He is also pursued by the devil and is rejected and opposed by religious circles. No one can make up for this hurt in His heart! He saves corrupt mankind through extreme patience; He loves people with a bruised heart. This is the most painful work. Mankind’s ferocious resistance, condemnations and slanders, false accusations, persecutions and their hunting and slaughtering cause God’s flesh to face extreme dangers in doing this work. He suffers these pains, yet who can understand Him and who can comfort Him?” (“God Loves Man With Wounds” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Before, I only ever understood in theory the pain God suffers in order to save mankind, and only then, finding myself in an actual situation like that, did I finally begin to appreciate how great God’s suffering must be! God, righteous and holy, has become flesh in order to live alongside us, filthy and corrupt people; He has endured all manner of ridicule and insults, condemnation and slander, persecution and pursuit in order to save us. Even those of us who do believe in God often don’t understand Him, and we even misunderstand Him and blame Him. All these blows are very painful for God, and yet He still bears His scars and loves mankind—His disposition is so great, so honorable! Though I’d read this in the Bible in the past: “For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17:24–25). Only today did I see that these words had indeed come to pass! This made me really sad, and I regretted never having shown consideration to God’s will before…. Before I was able to regain my composure, the police hung a sign saying “XIE JIAO MEMBER” around my neck and took my picture. They then ordered me to squat down and point at some gospel materials while they took several more photos. My legs hurt so much that I could hardly stay squatting. Just at that moment, my cell phone began to ring, and startled, I thought: “It must be a brother or sister from the church calling. I absolutely cannot implicate them!” I quickly grabbed hold of my cell phone and smashed it hard down onto the floor, breaking it into pieces. This incensed the police immediately. They seemed to have lost their minds—they lifted me up by my collar, then hit me hard several times across the face. My face started burning like fire right away and my ears were buzzing so much that I couldn’t hear a thing. They then proceeded to kick my legs with all their might and, still not done venting their rage, those evil police dragged me into a dark room and made me stand with my back against a wall as they hit me across the face. They then gave me another good beating. I managed to hold back the tears while this was going on, and I silently prayed to God: “O Almighty God, I believe that Your good will is behind everything that is happening to me now. No matter how these evil policemen torment me, I will always stand witness for You and I will not surrender to Satan!” To my surprise, when I said this prayer, I suddenly regained hearing in my ears, and all I could hear was one of the evil police saying, “This woman’s really stubborn. She hasn’t shed a tear or made a peep. Maybe we just haven’t laid into her enough. Get the electric baton and then we’ll see if she makes some noise!” Another policeman grabbed an electric baton and jammed it hard down onto my thigh. Intense pain ripped through me right away, hurting so much that I immediately fell to the floor. My head hit the wall and blood started to pour from it. The policemen pointed at me and hollered, “Stop pretending. Get up! We’ll give you three minutes. If you don’t stand up, we’ll beat you again. Don’t even think about playing dead!” But no matter how they shouted, I really couldn’t move, and so in the end they gave me another vicious kicking before they stopped.
I really couldn’t hold out any longer against the brutal and inhuman torture meted out by those police. I prayed to God in earnest: “O Almighty God! I can’t hold out much longer. Please give me faith and strength!” In the midst of my intense suffering, a hymn of God’s words came to mind: “Since you believe in God, you must hand over your heart before God. If you offer up and lay your heart before God, then during refinement it will be impossible for you to deny God, or leave God. … When the day comes and God’s trials suddenly befall you, you will not only be able to stand by God’s side, but will also be able to bear testimony to God. At that time, you will be like Job, and Peter. Having borne testimony to God you will truly love Him, and will gladly lay down your life for Him; you will be God’s witness, and one who is beloved by God. Love that has experienced refinement is strong, and not weak. Regardless of when or how God subjects you to His trials, you are able to care not whether you live or die, to gladly cast aside everything for God, and to happily endure anything for God—and thus your love will be pure, and your faith real. Only then will you be someone who is truly loved by God, and who has truly been made perfect by God” (“Give Your Heart Before God If You Believe in Him” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). God’s enlightenment enabled me to understand His will, and it also gave me inexhaustible faith and strength. I prayed to God again: “O God! I believe that everything that is happening to me today is happening with Your consent, and Your good will is behind it all. Through the performance put on by these devils, I finally see that the law enforcement agencies working under the CCP government are violent organizations and I cannot surrender to them. I just wish to give You my heart and stand on Your side. O God! I know that it is only through experiencing such trials and refinement that my love for You can be strengthened. If Satan takes my life today, I still won’t utter a word of complaint. To be able to bear witness for You is my honor as a created being. In the past I haven’t fulfilled my duty well and I owe You so much. Having the chance to die for You today is the most meaningful thing. I wish to obey You.” I felt very moved after this prayer, and I felt that to suffer this pain for the sake of following God was an incredibly meaningful thing, and that it was worth it even if I were to die!
It was perhaps more than 10 minutes later that a female police officer came and helped me up and, feigning kindness, said, “Look at you at your age, with your children both at college. Is it really worth it to suffer all this? Just tell us what we want to know and then you can go right away.” She saw that I made no response, and so she continued, “You’re a mother, so you should think of your sons. We live now in the domain of the Communist Party, and the CCP government opposes and suppresses all religious belief. It especially hates those of you who believe in Almighty God. If you insist on going up against the government, aren’t you worried about incriminating your entire family? At some point, your parents and your husband will all be implicated, and your sons and grandsons can forget about ever joining the army, becoming a cadre or becoming a civil servant. No one would even hire them to be security guards. Do you want your sons to be just laborers when they grow up, and just do odd jobs like you and be poor all their lives?” Just as Satan was carrying out its cunning scheme against me, God’s words flashed through my mind: “Of everything that occurs in the universe, there is nothing that I do not have the final say in. What exists that is not in My hands? All that I say goes, and among men, who is there who can change My mind?” (“Chapter 1” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words allowed me to see through Satan’s cunning scheme, and I realized that they were trying to coerce me into talking by using my children’s futures as leverage. I knew, however, that our fates as human beings are not in our own hands, nor are they in the hands of the police, but are held in the hands of God. Whatever jobs my children would have in the future and whether they would be rich or poor was all up to God. Thinking through this, I didn’t feel constrained by the police one little bit. The guidance of God’s words allowed me to truly perceive that God was by my side, protecting me, and I began to trust in God even more steadfastly. And so, I turned my head to one side and remained silent. The officer gave me a good scolding and then stalked off.
Evening was drawing on. Seeing that they couldn’t get anything out of me or my church sisters, all they could do was send us to the County Detention Center. But the police there said that our case was very serious, and that we had to go to the Municipal Detention House. By the time we got there, it was already past 1 a.m. and all I could see was row after row of large gates made of metal bars—it all looked so gloomy and terrifying. At the first gate, we had to remove every item of clothing and submit to having our bodies searched. They then cut off all my buttons and zippers and I had to wear the shredded clothes; I felt like a beggar. At the second gate, we had to undergo a physical examination. They saw the bruises on my legs from being beaten by the police and that I was finding it hard to walk, but they just stared and told lies, saying, “This is all perfectly normal. Nothing to worry about.” It clearly states in the prison regulations that treatment should be prescribed if any illness or injury is discovered during the physical examination, but in reality, they don’t care whether the prisoners live or die. They said to me sarcastically, “You believers in Almighty God have God to protect you. You can handle it.” I was taken to a cell, and a prisoner poked her head from under her sheets and yelled at me, “Strip off all your clothes!” I implored her not to make me take off my underwear, but she just grinned maliciously at me and said, “If you come to this place then you have to follow the rules.” All the other prisoners then popped their heads up from under their bedsheets and began to make all sorts of terrible noises. There were 18 prisoners locked up in that cell of just over 20 square meters: They were drug dealers, murderers, embezzlers and thieves. The work of the “boss” of the place, the shot caller, was to punish people in all manner of ways every single day—she just tormented people for fun. In the morning, her second-in-command taught me the rules and told me that I had to mop the floor twice every day. She was constantly finding things for me to do, and she told me that I always had to meet my production quota, and that I had to speed up, otherwise I would be punished. The prison guards acted like wild beasts and would often punish the prisoners for no reason as well. One of them threatened me, saying, “What I say goes. I don’t care if you report me. Go make a report if you want, and I’ll give you more than you bargained for! …” These evil prison officers were utterly without restraint and totally rampant. In there, money made the world go round, and as long as one gave the prison officers money, they were not subject to the “law.” One prisoner was an official’s wife who had embezzled a large sum of money. She often gave the prison guards money, and every day she would buy the “boss” some small fried snacks. By doing that, she didn’t have to do any work for the whole day, and she would get others to wash her dishes and fold her bedsheets. Although I was living in this hellish prison cell, with no money and no rights, and I had to put up with all kinds of bullying and torment every day, the only thing that comforted me was that two church sisters were in there with me. We were like family. Through this difficult time we would fellowship with each other whenever we had the chance; we supported and helped each other. We relied on God all the time, asking Him to give us faith and strength. We each helped and supported the others, and together we got through this terrible time.
I was questioned by the police four more times while I was in the detention house. One of those times, the men who came to question me introduced themselves as being from the Municipal Public Security Bureau and from the National Security Team. I thought to myself: “Someone from the Municipal Public Security Bureau will surely be of higher caliber and more educated than the police at my local police station. They must enforce the law in a just way.” But the reality was not as I had imagined. No sooner had the man from the Municipal Public Security Bureau entered the room than he lay flat on a chair with his feet on the table. His whole body emanated pride, and he swept his eyes over me with a look of contempt. He then stood up and walked over to me. He took a deep drag on his cigarette and then spat the smoke into my face. Seeing this, I finally realized that the CCP police were all alike, and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for thinking this man would be any different. I didn’t know what ploys they would try on me next, so I silently said a prayer to God: “O Almighty God. Please give me the wisdom to defeat Satan and enable me to glorify You and stand witness for You!” Just then, the policeman from the National Security Team said, “We already know all about you. Cooperate with us and we will let you go.” I glanced at him and gave a mirthless laugh. Thinking I was willing to make a compromise, they said, “You’re willing to cooperate now?” I replied, “I said everything I need to say a long time ago.” This instantly set evil police into a frenzy of rage, and they started yelling obscenities at me. “We try to give you a dignified way out, and you refuse! If you’re not going to talk today, I have all the time in the world to spend with you. I’ll pull your sons out of school and make sure they can’t finish their educations.” They then brought out my cell phone and threatened me, saying, “Whose numbers are those on your SIM card? If you don’t tell us today you’ll get a seven-or eight-year prison sentence. We’ll have the other prisoners torment you constantly, and you’ll wish you were dead!” No matter how he pressed me for answers, I made no response. I didn’t even feel afraid, for God’s words were enlightening me deep inside: “Because you must withstand such suffering in order to be saved and survive; moreover, this is predestined by God. Thus, for this suffering to befall you is your blessing. … The meaning behind it is so profound, and extremely significant” (“Those Who Have Lost the Work of the Holy Spirit Are Most at Risk” in Records of Christ’s Talks). That round of interrogation lasted for two and a half hours. Seeing that they’d gotten nothing out of me, they leveled more threats at me and then left looking dejected.
On January 6, 2013, the police played a different hand and said they were going to take me home. They made me wear a prisoner’s uniform and handcuffs, and I was taken back to my local police station in a prison van. When I got there, I was told that those evil police had found my sons and my parents-in-law, had searched our home, and had asked around and gotten a good understanding of what I’d been doing over the past few years. One of the policemen there said, “We’d been hunting this woman for years and never caught her. When her husband died, she only stayed one night at home. We wasted days at her house waiting for her. When her son had heart surgery, we went to the hospital to catch her, but she never showed. She believes so strongly in God that she’s abandoned her whole family. Now that we have her, we have to sort her out once and for all!” When I heard him say this, my heart began to cry out: “When did I ever not want to go home? My husband’s death was devastating, and I was so terribly worried when my son had heart surgery. I wanted to be by my son’s side so much. It wasn’t that I’d abandoned them, it was that the CCP government was relentlessly persecuting me and hunting me, making it impossible for me to go home!” The van sped along the highway toward my home, and I wept silently in my heart. I prayed to God nonstop: “O God! I’ve been away from my home for years because of the CCP government’s persecution. I will soon see my family, and I’m afraid that I will weaken when I see them and that I will fall prey to Satan’s cunning scheme. Please help me and enable me to live with the dignity and backbone of one of God’s faithful even in the face of Satan. Let me not be fooled by them. I ask only to stand witness for You to satisfy You!” When my prayer was finished, I felt much more relaxed and I felt a sense of release. I knew that this was God accompanying me and giving me strength. When we were almost to my house, the police pulled over to the side of the highway. Wearing my prisoner’s uniform and handcuffs, I was made to lead them on foot to my home. All my neighbors stood at a distance gazing at me and gesturing in my direction; I could hear them insulting me and mocking me behind my back. When we entered the gate that led into the courtyard, I immediately saw my son there washing clothes. He heard me come in but didn’t raise his head, and I knew then that he hated me. My parents-in-law’s hair had gone gray, and my mother-in-law came out and greeted those evil officers, but then remained silent. An evil policeman asked, “Is this woman your daughter-in-law?” She gave a slight nod. He then began to threaten my parents-in-law, saying, “If she doesn’t cooperate with us, we will have to call the school and pretty soon her sons will be kicked out. We will even cancel your social security payments along with every other benefit you receive.” The faces of my two elderly parents-in-law turned ashen as he was threatening them, and their voices trembled as they spoke. They hurriedly acknowledged that I had been away for six or seven years and that I had been practicing my faith elsewhere. The police then bellowed at them, “The Party and the people have taken care of you so well all these years. Tell us, is the Communist Party good?” My mother-in-law was so frightened, she replied straight away, “Yes, it’s good.” The police then asked, “And are its current policies good?” She replied, “Yes, they’re good.” “And all the catastrophes that have occurred in your family,” the policeman went on, “and your son’s death, was it not all brought about by your daughter-in-law? Has she not been the bearer of ill-fortune to your family?” My mother-in-law lowered her head and gave a slight nod. Seeing that their scheme had worked, the police dragged me inside and made me look at all the awards my son had won that were affixed to the wall. One of them then put on airs and pointed at me, scolding me and saying, “Never in my life have I come across anyone as lacking in humanity as you. Such a good son and you just abandon him and run off to believe in God! What do you gain by doing that?” Looking at all the awards my son had won covering the wall, I thought about how my faith was now affecting his studies, and about how my parents-in-law were being intimidated and threatened—my family had been torn apart! But who was the cause of it all? Was it just because of my faith? My belief in God is pursuing the truth and walking the right path in life. What’s wrong with that? If it hadn’t been for the CCP government hunting me and persecuting me, would I have had to stay away from my own home and go into hiding for all those years? And yet they were falsely accusing me of not caring about my family and not living my life. By doing this, weren’t they clearly distorting the facts and turning the truth upside down? Right at that moment, the hatred I felt inside for these demons of Satan rose up and was about to burst out of me like an erupting volcano—I wanted to cry out: “Demons of Satan! I hate you! I hate you down to the very marrow of my bones! Hasn’t it been the CCP government’s persecution that has kept me away from my own home all these years? Didn’t I want to be by my son’s side to give him a mother’s love and warmth? Didn’t I want to live in peace and happiness with my own family? And yet you devils of Satan now suddenly transform and pretend to be good people, remonstrating with us and laying the blame for everything bad that’s happened to our family at God’s door, and pushing the responsibility for it all onto my shoulders. You really do turn the truth on its head and spout utter nonsense! You evil spirits are so perverse, and you play the innocent when you are the worst criminals of all. You are the real bad luck charms, the evil omens, the bearers of ill-fortune! The CCP government is the chief culprit responsible for destroying my family! What happiness is there to speak of for the people living in this country?” Once they had finished their charade, they shouted “Move it!” at me, and ordered me out of the house. I give thanks to Almighty God for protecting me and enabling me to see through Satan’s cunning schemes, to clearly see the reactionary wickedness of the evil CCP, and to stand firm in my testimony!
On January 12, the police questioned me for the final time. Two policemen once again tried to force me to sell out my brothers and sisters, but no matter how they threatened and coerced me, I just said I didn’t know. When they heard me say that I knew nothing, they instantly grew enraged and began to slap my face hard, and they pulled on my hair as if they’d gone crazy. They stood on either side of me, pushing me this way and that and kicking my legs as hard as they could. They then hit me over the head with a copper pipe, shouting, “Do you think I won’t hit you? What are you going to do about it anyway? Let’s see how tough you are!” Thank Almighty God for protecting me. Although they put me through such torture, all I could feel was my body going numb; I felt very little pain. Those two evil policemen tortured me for four hours until they were utterly spent and sweating profusely, and only then did they stop. They sat on a couch, gasping for breath and saying, “Fine, you just wait until you’re spending the rest of your life in prison. Then you will never be free again, even if you die!” I felt nothing when I heard them say this, as I had already hardened my heart and vowed never to capitulate to these devils even at the cost of my own life. I said a silent prayer to God: “O God, I wish to give myself to You. Even if the evil police lock me away for the rest of my life, I will still follow You till the very end. I’ll praise You even if I’m put in hell!” When I got back to my cell, I fully expected to be sent to prison for the rest of my life, so it came as a surprise when God opened up a way out for me. On the afternoon of January 16, the police unexpectedly let me go without any charges.
This heart-rending experience was like a bad dream that I can’t bear to look back on. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that such an ordinary woman as me would become an “object of interest” by the police simply for believing in God, or that I would be regarded as an enemy by the CCP government and exposed to such mortal danger. Once, during an interrogation, I asked them, “What have I done wrong? What law have I broken? What things have I said against the Party or against the people? Why have I been arrested?” The police were unable to answer my questions, and so they just yelled at me, “You can go steal and rob things, you can commit murder and arson, and you can go sell your body, we don’t care. By believing in God, you are setting yourself against the Communist Party, and you must be punished!” Such high-handed, tyrannical, truth-distorting words came straight from the mouth of the devil! Believing in God and worshiping God is an unalterable principle; it is in line with the will of Heaven and in accord with the people’s hearts. The CCP government resists God and forbids people from following the right path. Instead, it puts the blame on its victims and shamelessly claims that we are its enemies, thus completely exposing its demonic essence! The CCP government not only frantically resists God’s work and arrests the faithful, but it also fabricates rumors to deceive the people so that everyone believes its lies and denies God, resists God; it also destroys people’s chances to attain true salvation. The evil things the CCP government has done truly are too numerous to list, and it has incurred the wrath of both man and God! After undergoing the suffering caused by those demons, I came to see with absolute clarity the God-opposing, reactionary essence of the CCP government that runs counter to the will of Heaven, and I truly came to appreciate God’s love and care. I saw that the essence of God is beauty and goodness; each time I was in the most pain or I found my suffering hardest to endure, God’s words were within me, guiding me and enlightening me, granting me strength and giving me faith, and they enabled me to see through Satan’s cunning schemes and to take a firm stand. I truly felt God’s presence and guidance, and only then was I able to overcome every difficulty and stand firm in my testimony—God’s love is so great! From this day forth, I shall dedicate my all to repay God’s love, and I shall seek to gain the truth and live out a meaningful life.