17. A Special Experience in Youth
By Zhengxin, China
In 2002, when I was 18 years old, I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days. In July of 2004, Brother Wang Cheng and I were arrested by the police while preaching the gospel in another province. At that time, I thought, “We’re just preaching the gospel, and haven’t broken any laws. Besides, I’m young, so the police probably won’t do anything to me. Maybe they’ll just question me, then let me go.” Little did I expect, after they brought us to the police station, an officer pounded on the table and interrogated me viciously: “What’s your name? Where do you live? Who asked you to come? Who did you preach the gospel to?” When I didn’t respond, he slapped me hard across the face twice, so hard that it made my ears ring, and said that by preaching the gospel we were disrupting social order and breaking the law. This made me furious, and I thought, “That’s ridiculous! We preach the gospel because we want others to be good people and follow the right path. How can you call that disrupting social order?” But seeing how vicious the police were, I knew it was useless to reason with them, so I said nothing at all. Later, they handcuffed Wang Cheng and me and put us in a police car. As they drove, I was really anxious. I was very afraid that they would beat and torture me when we arrived at our destination. If I couldn’t bear the hardship and ended up becoming a Judas, I would not only offend God’s disposition, I would also cause more brothers and sisters to be arrested and suffer the same torment as me. Silently, I prayed to God over and over: “God, I’m so scared. Please protect me, and give me confidence and strength.” After I prayed, I felt a little calmer.
They took us to the Municipal Criminal Investigation Office. When they searched us, one of the officers saw I had a pager on me and said I must be a leader. When I heard this, I thought, “If they think I’m a leader, I doubt they’ll let me go so easily.” Seeing that I didn’t say anything, a police officer surnamed Zhao said with an expressionless smile, “If you won’t tell us what you know, we’ll see how long you can hold out!” He kicked me a bunch of times, calling me names as he did so, and then punched me in the chest, hurting me really badly and knocking the wind out of me. He punched and kicked me some more, knocking me back more than 2 meters and nearly sending me tumbling over. I endured the pain in silence and didn’t say a word. He finally stopped when he was tired, then said fiercely, “If you don’t start talking, we’ll put you in the tiger chair and give you a taste of our electric baton!” I was really scared. I was already in pain from being kicked and punched. I didn’t know if I could handle being strapped to the tiger chair and electrocuted, so I silently prayed to God over and over, “Oh God, please protect my heart and give me confidence and courage. I want to rely on You to stand firm and I will never be a Judas.” Then, I remembered some of Almighty God’s words, “You should not be afraid of this and that; no matter how many difficulties and dangers you might face, you are capable of remaining steady before Me, unobstructed by any hindrance, so that My will may be carried out unimpeded. This is your duty…. Now is the time that I shall test you: Will you offer your loyalty to Me? Can you loyally follow Me to the end of the road? Be not afraid; with My support, who could ever block this road?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 10). Indeed, God is my staunch backup, and my life is in His hands. It had been with God’s permission that I was arrested. This was God’s test for me. No matter how much the police tortured me, I would absolutely stand firm in my testimony to God. One of the police officers asked me my name and address. I thought, “My family is currently hosting church leaders at home. If I say where I live, and the police go to search our house, then my family members and the leaders will be arrested, so I can’t tell them.” When he saw I wasn’t saying anything, he got really mad, and without a word, picked up the book of God’s word and struck me hard across the face with it, making my face hurt really bad, and then he kicked me viciously. Meanwhile, another police officer punched me hard in the chest. They didn’t stop until they were out of breath. Seeing I still wasn’t talking, one of them said, “He’s a real zealot. Lock him up in prison and make him suffer!” When I heard that I was going to be imprisoned, I felt a little scared. I’d heard that in prisons, it’s all prisoners beating prisoners. If I really were to be locked up, what kind of torture would I have to endure? Would they maim me? What if I couldn’t handle it? I thought at great length about this, but I knew, at the very least, I couldn’t become a Judas and betray God, no matter what. I swore an oath to God, “God! My stature is too small and I can’t stand strong on my own, but I’m ready to lean on You. Please be with me, and give me the will to endure suffering. I will never be a Judas, and I will not betray my brothers and sisters!” After I prayed, I felt a sense of strength and confidence.
Later, a middle-aged police officer pretended to be friendly with me, saying, “Look at you. You’re young, tall, and handsome. Why don’t you find a good girlfriend or a good job? Why bother believing in God?” Then he took out a letter of repentance for me to sign. I read it and realized signing it would mean I was betraying God. I couldn’t sign that letter! When I refused to sign it, the officer bashed the hard-cover book of God’s word across my temple, making my ears ring again, and a big welt suddenly appeared on my head. After being hit like that, my head was all numb and my face swollen, and my legs were sore and swollen after being kicked so hard. I felt as if I was paralyzed all over, and my body hurt so much that I could barely hold back my tears. I thought, “If I keep refusing to sign the letter of repentance, will they beat me even harder? Will they kill me? But I can’t sign it. To sign this is to betray God.” At that moment, I thought of a passage of Almighty God’s words: “When you face suffering, you must be able to lay aside concern for the flesh and to not make complaints against God. When God hides Himself from you, you must be able to have the faith to follow Him, to maintain your previous love without allowing it to falter or dissipate. No matter what God does, you must submit to His design and be prepared to curse your own flesh rather than make complaints against Him. When you are faced with trials, you must satisfy God, though you may weep bitterly or feel reluctant to part with some beloved object. Only this is true love and faith” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). I understood that hardship and tribulation was a test for me, to see whether I had genuine faith, and whether I could stand firm in my witness to God. God said that genuine faith means submitting to His arrangements in every environment and satisfying Him even if it means enduring torment and pain. I had to completely entrust myself to God, and no matter how much suffering I endured, I could not submit to Satan. I needed to lean on God and bear witness. With this in mind, I prayed, “God, no matter how they beat me, even if they beat me to death, I’ll never sign that letter of repentance.” That night, the police officers sent me and Wang Cheng to the detention house, where we were detained separately.
The officer on duty took me to a cell. There were over a dozen people inside, who all had fierce faces and expressions. The cell looked so eerie and terrifying that I was really scared. The officer said to the prisoners, “This is a believer in God. Take ‘good care’ of him.” The instant he finished talking, a couple prisoners came over to beat and kick me, then told me to strip naked. They brought over a hose and doused my body with cold water for over half an hour, at which point I was shivering from the cold. They kept asking me what my name was and who I preached the gospel to. I kept praying to God silently, asking Him to protect my heart. I didn’t say a word. The next day, they beat me again. An inmate grabbed my hair and slammed the back of my head against the wall so hard that my ears rang and my nose bled. Later, they “airplaned” me, meaning they made me bend over while two prisoners grabbed my arms and rammed me hard against the wall, causing my head to welt and making me dizzy and faint. Before I could recover my senses, they gave me a “pai gow,” meaning they held me on the ground with my arms behind me, while one person in front grabbed my hands and yanked me forward, while another sat on my back grabbing my arms and shoving me forward. My arms felt like they were being ripped out of their sockets. I screamed in pain. They tortured me for more than ten minutes before calling it quits, and when they finally let me go, I had no feeling in my arms. I thought, “Are my arms crippled now? If they are, I’m still young, so how will I survive in the future? I don’t know what they’ll do to torture me next. Will they beat me to death?” The more I thought about it, the more scared I felt. But then I thought of Almighty God’s words: “When people are ready to sacrifice their lives, everything becomes trifling, and no one can get the better of them. What could be more important than life? Thus, Satan becomes incapable of doing any more in people, there is nothing it can do with man” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Interpretations of the Mysteries of “God’s Words to the Entire Universe”, Chapter 36). I realized that Satan knows people love life and fear death, so it uses our weakness to attack us and force us to betray God. I couldn’t fall for Satan’s trick and live in disgrace for the sake of preserving my life. I thought of the saints of past eras, who suffered so much to preach the gospel. Some were arrested and imprisoned, and some even gave up their lives. It was an honor that I could hear the voice of God in the last days, preach the gospel, and testify for God’s appearance and work. Even if these people tortured me to death, I was being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This was a glorious thing, and it would mean I hadn’t lived my life in vain. Upon realizing this, I found strength in my heart. No matter how they persecuted me, I would stand firm and not betray God.
Later, when the police brought me for interrogation, they threatened me, saying, “You still have a chance to confess. You’re a political prisoner, and if you don’t confess, you’ll be sentenced. The people you’ll meet in prison are vicious. You’ll be sorry! It’s hard to say if you’ll come out alive.” As soon as I heard I was going to be sentenced, and had been designated as a political prisoner, I realized this was a serious crime. How many years would I have to serve? Would I have to spend my entire youth in prison? I heard from the other prisoners that many people in prison were beaten to death. I was feeling even more worried. I didn’t know what methods the prisoners might use to torture me, or if I would survive. The more I thought about it, the more miserable I felt. I really didn’t want to be sentenced, and I was dying to get out of that place. I prayed over and over to God, saying, “God! I am very weak right now, and I don’t understand Your will, but I know this environment has come to me with Your permission. Please enlighten and guide me so that I can stand firm.” After praying, I recalled Almighty God’s words: “Perhaps you all remember these words: ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ You have all heard these words before, yet none of you understood their true meaning. Today, you are profoundly aware of their true significance. These words shall be fulfilled by God during the last days, and they shall be fulfilled in those who have been brutally persecuted by the great red dragon in the land where it lies coiled. The great red dragon persecutes God and is the enemy of God, and so, in this land, those who believe in God are thus subjected to humiliation and oppression, and these words are fulfilled in you, this group of people, as a result. Because it is embarked upon in a land that opposes God, all of God’s work faces tremendous obstacles, and accomplishing many of His words takes time; thus, people are refined as a result of God’s words, which is also part of suffering. It is tremendously difficult for God to carry out His work in the land of the great red dragon—but it is through this difficulty that God does one stage of His work, making manifest His wisdom and His wondrous deeds, and using this opportunity to make this group of people complete” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Is the Work of God As Simple As Man Imagines?). After contemplating God’s words, I understood that my persecution and tribulation today was something I had been meant to suffer. This was persecution for righteousness’ sake and suffering alongside Christ. It was meaningful. Being arrested and persecuted this way allowed me to clearly see the evil essence of the great red dragon. The great red dragon is an enemy of God and a devil that resists Him. This situation also showed me how the incarnate God works and saves people in the country of the great red dragon. Indeed, it is very difficult work. With this in mind, I felt greatly inspired. I felt like I couldn’t let God down. Even if they beat me to death, I was ready to stand firm and satisfy God.
Fourteen days later, the police escorted me and a few other brothers and sisters into a police car, saying our sentence to reeducation through labor had been issued, and that they were taking us to the labor center. On the way there, I thought, “I don’t know how many years I will be at the labor center. I hope it’s not too long, so I can leave, have gatherings with my brothers and sisters soon, and continue fulfilling my duty. In the past, I was too frivolous, and didn’t perform my duty properly. When I get out, I promise to pursue the truth and perform my duty well.” When we arrived at the Municipal Public Security Bureau, the police went in and got the sentences of reeducation through labor, and read them to us in the car. Several brothers and sisters were sentenced to a year or a year and a half, but my sentence was three years. Upon hearing this, I felt paralyzed. I thought, “Three years? Why is my sentence longer than others’? How can I survive that long?” I was agonized beyond words, and couldn’t accept it. I was full of despair. But then, I remembered Almighty God’s words: “While undergoing trials, it is normal for people to be weak, or to have negativity within them, or to lack clarity on God’s will or their path for practice. But in any case, you must have faith in God’s work…. God does the work of perfection on people, and they cannot see it, cannot feel it; under such circumstances, your faith is required. People’s faith is required when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you do not have clarity about God’s work, what is required of you is to have faith and to take a firm stance and stand witness. When Job reached this point, God appeared to him and spoke to him. That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you. Without faith, He cannot do this” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). After I contemplated God’s words, I understood that no matter what kind of miserable circumstances I encountered, or how abhorrent they were, I could only stand if I had faith in God. But I lacked faith in God. As soon as I heard I was to be sent to reeducation through labor for three years, I couldn’t accept it, so I tried to reason with God, and complained to Him. I wished that the sentence would be lighter, and I could suffer less. In the past, I had sworn before God that I would follow Him no matter how difficult things became, but now, faced with this environment that was not in line with my notions, I became negative and complained. I was so rebellious. I couldn’t carry on this way. I had to rely on God to experience the next environment.
At the labor center, I didn’t get enough to eat every day, and I was overworked on an empty stomach. Sometimes I’d even have to work until two or three in the morning, and if I said the wrong thing while working or made a mistake, then they’d beat me. Every time I got back from work, I was tormented and locked in the water room for about an hour. This was the case all year round. The water room was very humid, and over time, many people got sick. Some got scabies, some got rheumatoid arthritis, and I had a rash all over my body. Every night I was so itchy that I couldn’t fall asleep, and I scratched myself so much that I started bleeding, opening the recently formed scabs, and some of my skin came right off my body. I told the head guard that I needed a doctor, but he said nonchalantly, “It’s just a rash. You’re fine. It won’t get in the way of your work.” At this point, I felt especially miserable. I thought, “I got this condition at such a young age. What will I do if it doesn’t go away? I’m overworked every day, and I have to endure beatings and humiliation from the prisoners. When will this pain end?” Dwelling on just made me more and more miserable. I felt particularly aggrieved when I saw other brothers were locked up together, and could fellowship and support each other, while I was alone with unbelievers, and there was no one around who I could talk to. I often curled up in my bed at night and shed tears in silence. I prayed to God, “God, I feel so weak here. Please enlighten me so that I can understand Your will.”
Once, when we went out for exercise, a brother from another team secretly handed me a small packet. I took it to the workshop and opened it, and there was a note inside, with God’s words copied onto it. I hadn’t expected to see God’s words in prison, and I was very moved and inspired. The passage read as follows: “Man will be fully made complete in the Age of Kingdom. After the work of conquest, man will be subjected to refinement and tribulation. Those who can overcome and stand testimony during this tribulation are the ones who will ultimately be made complete; they are the overcomers. During this tribulation, man is required to accept this refinement, and this refinement is the last instance of God’s work. It is the last time that man will be refined prior to the conclusion of all the work of God’s management, and all those who follow God must accept this final test, and they must accept this last refinement. Those who are beset by tribulation are without the work of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of God, but those who have been truly conquered and who truly seek after God will ultimately stand fast; they are the ones who are possessed of humanity, and who truly love God. No matter what God does, these victorious ones will not be bereft of the visions and will still put the truth into practice without failing in their testimony. They are the ones who will finally emerge from the great tribulation” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Practice). Reading God’s words made me feel touched. I saw that in the midst of adversity, I needed to have faith in God and rely on God to stand firm in my testimony to Him. I was in a team by myself, there were no brothers around me, and there were many struggles and hardships. This was a test for me. It allowed me to see my own shortcomings and my true stature. It also allowed me to be independent, experience this environment by relying on God, and overcome hardship and pain. When I was weak, my brother helped me, passing on God’s words to me, which really inspired me. I knew that this was God’s love, and that God was always by my side watching over and protecting me. With this in mind, I found the strength to go on, and I had the confidence to endure this environment.
In 2006, I got severe athlete’s foot. My toes were so raw that I couldn’t walk. The police didn’t let me have any medical treatment, and just gave me some ointment, but it not only didn’t heal my feet, it actually made them worse. This greatly saddened me, and I felt like this place was too miserable and dark to bear. No one should have to endure this. But then, I remembered a hymn of God’s words: “Have you ever accepted the blessings that you were given? Have you ever sought the promises that were made for you? You will surely, under the guidance of My light, break through the stranglehold of the forces of darkness. You will surely not, in the midst of darkness, lose the light guiding you. You will surely be the master of all creation. You will surely be an overcomer before Satan. You will surely, at the downfall of the kingdom of the great red dragon, stand up amid the myriad throngs to bear witness to My victory. You will surely stand firm and unwavering in the land of Sinim. Through the sufferings you endure, you will inherit My blessings, and will surely radiate My glory throughout the entire universe” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, Song of the Overcomers). After I contemplated this hymn of God’s words, I understood God’s good intentions. His intention is to perfect a group of people into overcomers in the country of the great red dragon who are able to escape Satan’s dark dominion and be saved by God, and who are qualified to enter the kingdom of God and receive God’s promises. As I thought about this carefully, I realized that if I hadn’t experienced the cruel torture of the Communist Party and the inhuman treatment at the labor center, I wouldn’t have been able to clearly see the evil essence of the Communist Party’s hatred of God and hostility toward God, much less completely reject it from the bottom of my heart. Without the torment of this miserable environment and being exposed by the facts, I wouldn’t have realized that I was still making demands of God, or that when God’s deeds weren’t in line with my notions, I could still complain and reason with God, or that my stature was so small and that I had so little faith in God. Hadn’t I received all of this knowledge and benefit from this miserable environment? This was God’s grace to me! Thinking of God’s love and salvation for me gave me confidence. I also thought of how Job had lost his children, grew sores all over his body, and endured so much fleshly suffering, yet still worshiped God without complaint. The minor sickness and little suffering I had endured wasn’t worthy of mention compared to Job. I should obey and rely on God to stand firm in my testimony to Him. As I thought about this, I prayed to God, “God, no matter how bad this place is or how my body suffers, I am willing to submit. I don’t want to be negative anymore, I have to grow up, so that You won’t worry about me.”
In the days that followed, the one thing I couldn’t be without was praying. Whenever I was tired from work or the pain became unbearable and I felt negative and weak, I quickly prayed to God. Gradually I became stronger, I felt negative and weak less frequently, and I was able to properly face this environment that God had set up for me. Thank God! During those three years, by praying to God, relying on God, and relying on the guidance of God’s words, I was able to make it through that difficult time.
After experiencing all this, I clearly saw that the great red dragon is Satan, the devil that hates God and harms and corrupts people. Only God is love, and only He can save people. When I was being tortured, it was God’s word that guided me, gave me confidence and strength, and enabled me to overcome the devil’s cruelty. It was this miserable environment that made my young, ignorant and vulnerable self become strong, mature and stable, and I learned to rely on God and look up to Him when I was in trouble. It also allowed me to see God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, and that God was always there for me, by my side to watch over and protect me, and ready to supply and help me at any time. No matter how great the persecution and tribulation I might face in the future, I am resolute to follow God!