79. Just for 300,000 Yuan
By Li Ming, China
Around 9 p.m. on October 9, 2009 when my wife, daughter and I were having a gathering, we suddenly heard an urgent knocking on the door. I rushed to hide our books of God’s words, and just as my wife opened the door seven police officers burst in, one of them shouting, “We’re with the National Security Brigade. You’re coming with us!” They forced me into a police vehicle and three officers stayed behind to search our home. I found out later that about half an hour after they took me, they also brought my wife into custody.
In the car they threatened me: “Your leader has already been arrested. As long as you tell us everything you know, we won’t make things hard for you.” They also said some things slandering the church. I was so angry to hear all those lies from them, but I also felt some fear, not knowing how they were going to torture me. I said a prayer to God in my heart asking Him to watch over me so that no matter how I suffered, I wouldn’t become a Judas and betray God. They took me into the National Security Brigade, and two plainclothes officers pulled me into an upstairs room, then pushed me down onto a sofa. The captain asked me, “When did you become religious? Where do you have gatherings? Who is your leader? How many people are in your church?” I didn’t answer. He took a few photos out of a pocket and asked me if I recognized the people in them, to which I responded, “No.” Then he said, “The Almighty God you believe in is expressly forbidden in China. The Central Committee decreed a long time ago that any underground churches must be wiped out, so you’d better start talking right now!” He went on, demanding to know where 300,000 yuan (about $45,000) of the church’s money was. One of the officers smacked the table and yelled, eyes wide, “We’ve got the receipts and we know you have 300,000 yuan. Get that money to us right now!” Seeing that fierce look on his face made me angry and I responded, “That’s not your money. Why are you demanding it? Why do you want to seize it?” The two officers rushed at me and started hitting me right in the face, and kept beating me off and on from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. My face and head were entirely swollen, my ears were ringing, and my whole body was in pain. I lay on the floor, closed my eyes, and said a silent prayer to God, asking Him to give me strength and watch over my heart, so that even if I were beaten to death I would never give up the church’s money, never be a Judas. The police saw I wasn’t saying anything, so they took me to a detention center and left me handcuffed to an iron railing overnight.
They put me in a detention house after that. Over the next few days, the police brought me in for questioning three times to find out where the church’s money was kept, and I didn’t tell them a thing. A little after 8 a.m. on the morning of October 17, the police took me back to the National Security Brigade, cuffed my hands and feet to an iron chair in an interrogation room, and then demanded to know where that money was. I still didn’t say anything. An officer picked up a double layer of thinly cut bamboo and started whipping me in the head and upper body with it, and used it to try to force my mouth open. My head was being thrashed back and forth. When he wasn’t able to pry my mouth open, he twisted my ears forcefully while pulling upward on them really hard and yelling, “I asked you a damn question! Are you deaf or something? You think you’re going to ignore me? I’ll beat you if you act tough, and then we’ll see who’s really tough!” Saying this, he pulled on the hair by my ears, and then yanked the hair on the top of my head back and forth. I felt like my scalp was about to be ripped off and felt really dizzy. They tormented me nonstop until about 10 p.m. that night, and seeing I categorically refused to speak, they said viciously, “That’s it for today, but you’d better give it some good thought tonight and give us some answers tomorrow!” I had marks all over my body from them beating me and my back was burning with pain. Not knowing what they had in store for me the next day, I was feeling a little weak, so I silently prayed, “Almighty God! Please protect me and give me faith so that I won’t be a Judas or betray You, even if it means my death.”
The next evening, the captain of the National Security Brigade came to question me. He glowered at me and yelled, “The evidence is right in our faces but you won’t admit it. I suggest that you wise up and spit it out, or else you’ll pay the price!” Seeing I still wasn’t talking, he got so angry he stood up and clenched his fists with a demonic look on his face. I really didn’t know how I would take it if he started punching me with those fists! I quickly said a prayer, “Almighty God! Please stay with me and take my fear away. Guide me to stand witness.” After my prayer I remembered something God said: “Those in power may seem vicious from the outside, but do not be afraid, for this is because you have little faith. As long as your faith grows, nothing will be too difficult” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 75). No matter how fierce the police may be, they are also in God’s hands. They can’t do anything to me without God’s permission, so I knew I had to lean on God to stand witness. This thought strengthened my faith and I didn’t feel so afraid anymore. Just then, a bald officer looked at me and yelled, “We have some tricks up our sleeves if you don’t talk! We’ll take you to the provincial office and those guys can definitely open your mouth.” But I still didn’t say anything no matter how they threatened me.
They took me into another National Security Brigade interrogation room a few days later. All four walls were covered with really thick sponges and there was an iron chair placed in the middle of the room. An officer sat me down in the chair, secured my hands and feet to it, and then went on to interrogate me about the whereabouts of the church’s money. He asked me fiercely, “Are you going to hand over that 300,000 or not? You think it’ll be fine if you don’t say anything? I’ve got nothing but time for you!” He picked up one of those cuts of bamboo and started whipping me really hard on my upper body while yelling, “Are you deaf or something? Did you hear me?” Then he yanked my ears upward forcefully and pulled hard on the hair on my temples. He grabbed the hair on the top of my head and shook it back and forth as hard as he could. It was unbearably painful, as if my scalp was about to split open. They started whipping me with the bamboo again after that and I got swollen, bloody marks all over my body. The pain was really hard to bear. I deeply hated those police and also felt kind of afraid, not knowing how much they would keep torturing me or if I could withstand it. I prayed to God, “Oh God, Satan is relentlessly torturing me, trying to break down my resolve so that I’ll betray You and they can steal the money of the church. God, I’m afraid I won’t be able to physically take it. Please protect me and give me faith.” I thought of a hymn of God’s words after my prayer, called “The Pain of Trials Is a Blessing From God”: “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. Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me. Even if these trials consist merely of minor circumstances, everyone must pass through them; it’s just that the difficulty of the trials will vary from one person to another. Trials are a blessing from Me, and how many of you come often before Me and beg on your knees for My blessings? You always think that a few auspicious words count as My blessing, yet you do not recognize that bitterness is one of My blessings” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Considering God’s words, I realized that experiencing oppression and hardship is God perfecting our faith. God was hoping that I could bear witness for Him before Satan. No matter how much I might suffer in the flesh, I couldn’t give in to Satan, but I had to stand witness for God and satisfy Him. Thinking about it that way, I didn’t feel like it was so difficult, but I just gritted my teeth and withstood their torture. They threatened me when they saw I still wasn’t talking after they’d been beating me for 10 or 15 minutes: “You’re not saying a word—you’re not afraid of prison? If you’re locked up it’ll be a permanent stain. Your kids will never get into the civil service or be able to join the Party. You’ll be ruining their futures!” I wasn’t affected by what they said because I knew in my heart that people’s fates are entirely in God’s hands. My kids’ futures were subject to God’s rule and arrangements, and the police had no say over that. Just then, one of the officers called my daughter, and I heard her voice from the other end: “Dad! Are you and Mom okay in there?” I told her, “We’re fine, don’t worry. Just stay home and take care of your brother.” The police tried another tactic when they saw that one hadn’t worked, saying, “I’ll be straight with you. Your brother-in-law and I are from the same town and we work in the same unit. Your village secretary and I served in the military together, too. I asked around about you and everyone says you’re a good guy, so just tell us what you know and we’ll let you off the hook.” Certain this was a trick of Satan, I silently prayed to God, asking Him to guard my heart. When I didn’t respond, he went on: “Your wife has already talked, so just tell us what we want to know. Where’s that 300,000?” I said, “I have nothing to say.” They started torturing me again when they saw that enticements weren’t working.
One night they wouldn’t let me eat or sleep, and the second I closed my eyes, they’d start tapping me in the head with the bamboo. If my back was slightly hunched, they would whip it really hard. It was October, so the nights were very cold and I was wearing nothing but a shirt with a business suit. By the wee hours of the morning I got so cold I had full-body shivers. One of the officers yelled, “Don’t think you’ll have it easy if you don’t talk. You’ll die in misery!” Hearing this did weaken me somewhat. I didn’t know how long they were going to torture me or if I would be able to keep taking it. I was praying to God nonstop, asking Him to guide me and watch over me. I also resolved that no matter what I might face, I could never betray God. The police officers on rotating shifts at the time were dressed really warmly and they all got colds, but though I just had my thin shirt and was tortured by them all night, I was completely fine. I thanked God for His care. An officer grumbled at me, coughing, “This cold I’ve got is all your fault!” Then one of them came and smacked me on the left side of my face so hard that I was seeing stars. I felt like the whole room was spinning. Another one was off to the side laughing and laughing, then he came up and smacked me really hard on the right side of my face, yelling, “Are you gonna talk or what? Where’s that money? We’ve all gotten sick thanks to this interrogation. We’ll just beat you to death and call it a deal!” While saying this he pushed the handcuffs really hard into my wrists, then elbowed the handcuffs really vigorously several times until they were deeply embedded into my flesh. I felt like my hands were about to break off. They got black and blue before long—I was in agonizing pain, my entire body was shaking, and I was sweating profusely. That sort of pain defies description. In that moment I felt like I was at the very end of what I could handle, so I was praying to God over and over, asking Him to protect me so I could stand firm. Seeing my pained look, an officer standing off to the side mocked me, “You believe in God, so have your God come save you!” I knew Satan was testing me. I was thinking that the Communist Party wanted to use torture to get me to betray and deny God, but the more it persecuted me, the more clearly I saw its evil face of hating and opposing God, and the more resolute I was to have faith and follow God. Then I prayed, “God! The Communist Party’s brutal torture of me today is something that You’re allowing to happen so that I can see that it’s the devil Satan, that it’s Your enemy. I’m ready to forsake it and reject it from my heart, and I’m firmly resolved to follow You!”
After that an officer stomped really hard a few times on my handcuffs with the heel of his shoe, getting them stuck deep in the flesh of my wrists. It was such an intense pain I couldn’t even breathe. An hour later my hands started turning black and the veins all over my body were distended. My head felt like it was about to burst and even my heart hurt. I had full-body pain that I can’t even describe. I was afraid that I’d end up losing use of my hands if that went on. I thought of my aging father that needed care and my daughter and son that we were still raising. How would I care for them, young and old, if I lost my hands? Maybe I could just tell them some inconsequential things? But then I knew that selling out would mean I’d become a sinner through all the ages. Yet, I truly couldn’t withstand that torture anymore, and just wanted to die to put an end to the suffering, and that way I wouldn’t betray God either. I wanted to impale myself on the corner of the table to die and get it over with. In tears, I made my last prayer to God: “Almighty God! It was through Your grace that I could experience Your work of the last days. I don’t want to die this soon, but I really can’t handle Satan’s torture anymore and I’m afraid I’ll end up betraying You. I don’t want to hurt You.” During my prayer some of God’s words came to mind: “During these last days you must bear testimony to God. No matter how great your suffering, you should walk until the very end, and even at your last breath, still you must be faithful to God and at the mercy of God; only this is truly loving God, and only this is the strong and resounding testimony” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). God’s words bolstered my faith. God was allowing me to go through that pain to perfect my faith, but not understanding God’s will, I wasn’t thinking of how to stand witness for God before Satan. I was just thinking of how to escape that situation. How selfish of me! I knew I couldn’t die that way—as long as I had a single breath left in me, I had to stand witness for God! I prayed, “God, my life is in Your hands and I want to submit to what You plan for me. Please give me faith and protect me so I can stay strong.” The police saw they weren’t going to get anything out of me and said threateningly, “Go give it some good thought tonight, and we’ll be back to ask you some questions tomorrow.”
At that point I’d gone three days and two nights without any sleep. I was at my brink with exhaustion, my heart was in pain, and my whole body hurt too much to bear. The thought of the police further interrogating me the next day kept me up all night, praying to God nonstop, “Oh God! I’m afraid the police will keep torturing me tomorrow and I won’t be able to physically withstand it. God, please protect me and give me faith and strength. I want to stand witness and humiliate Satan.” I remembered something from God’s words after my prayer: “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 thought over God’s words and could see that He was allowing that to happen to me to test whether I had true faith or not, and to give me a chance to stand witness for God. I thought of Job being tested by Satan, losing all his possessions, his children, and having his whole body break out in boils. Even so, Job didn’t blame God, but praised His name, bearing resounding witness for God. Peter also suffered persecution and was perfectly willing to be crucified upside down for God’s sake, loving God and submitting to Him to the point of giving up his life. But after some cruel torture by some police officers, all I thought of was my own flesh and I wanted to escape after just a bit of suffering. I didn’t have true faith and obedience for God, much less any testimony. I felt more ashamed the more I thought about it and said a prayer, “God, my life is worthless. No matter what the police do to me after this, no matter how much physical suffering I have to go through, I don’t want to just think of myself anymore. I want to put myself in Your hands, and submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements.” After that prayer something amazing happened—all the pain in my body just disappeared and I felt as if I was suddenly a lot lighter. I gave heartfelt thanks to God. The next day around 8 a.m. the police came back to interrogate me, demanding to know where the money was, but no matter how they questioned me I just said I didn’t know. They went through several more rounds of interrogation, and when they still couldn’t get any useful information out of me, they left me with a parting shot, “Look forward to prison!” I thought to myself that even if I stayed in prison until the end of my days, I’d never betray God.
After holding me for a month, they ultimately gave me a year of reeducation through labor, slapping me with a charge of “using a cult organization to undermine the enforcement of the law.” Seeing how much the Communist Party hates people of faith reminded me of something God said: “Small wonder, then, that God incarnate remains completely hidden: In a dark society such as this, where the demons are merciless and inhumane, how could the king of devils, who kills people without batting an eye, tolerate the existence of a God who is lovely, kind, and also holy? How could it applaud and cheer the arrival of God? These lackeys! They repay kindness with hate, they began treating God as an enemy long ago, they abuse God, they are savage in the extreme, they have not the slightest regard for God, they plunder and pillage, they have lost all conscience, they go against all conscience, and they tempt the innocent into senselessness. Forefathers of the ancient? Beloved leaders? They all oppose God! Their meddling has left all beneath heaven in a state of darkness and chaos! Religious freedom? The legitimate rights and interests of citizens? They are all tricks for covering up sin! … Why put up such an impenetrable obstacle to the work of God? Why employ various tricks to deceive God’s folk? Where is the true freedom and the legitimate rights and interests? Where is the fairness? Where is the comfort? Where is the warmth? Why use deceitful schemes to trick God’s people? Why use force to suppress the coming of God? Why not allow God to freely roam upon the earth that He created? Why hound God until He has nowhere to rest His head? Where is the warmth among men?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (8)). The Communist Party tries to look like it’s full of virtue and morality, bloviating about religious freedom all the while secretly employing tactics to arrest and persecute God’s chosen people, vainly thinking they can make a clean sweep of believers. Mankind was created by God and our having faith and worshiping God is right and natural, but the Communist Party is madly arresting and oppressing us, trying to get us to deny and betray God. I could see that having the Communist Party in power was having Satan in power—the Party hates the truth and hates God. It is, in essence, Satan the devil that is hostile to God. Before I never could see the Communist Party’s demonic essence, but that arrest gave me some discernment and I became able to forsake and reject it from the heart. I also became more resolute in my confidence to follow God.
I was taken to a labor camp on November 9, 2009 where the police got two other prisoners to keep an eye on me. They never left my side, and I had to report to them just to use the restroom. The prison guards wouldn’t let me speak to anyone, afraid I’d share the gospel with someone, and I had to recite the prison rules every single day. If I made mistakes with my recital, I had to stand as punishment. I was doing extremely hard labor from morning till night day in and day out, and if I couldn’t finish my tasks I’d be cursed, beaten, and have to do the standing punishment. What they fed me was worse than the slop you’d feed a pig. For each meal I just got a small steamed bun and some watery soup that only had a piece of carrot the size of a little finger in it. I was always doing labor on an empty stomach. Whenever I felt miserable and depressed, I’d pray to God or quietly hum some hymns of God’s words to myself. That was how I got through that year of prison life.
After getting out of prison the police warned me, “You can’t be far away from home for an entire year. You have to be ready to show up the moment we call you.” I learned after getting home that after my wife was arrested, the police had also been questioning her nonstop about where the church’s money was kept. She didn’t tell them a thing and was released from a detention house after being held for 23 days. When the police couldn’t get any information on where the money was, they went to our house to search it twice, even prying open our ceilings and grilling our two children about our faith. They even went to our son’s school to harass him. Our kids got so scared they were constantly living on edge and never had a sense of safety. Seeing how those officers wouldn’t even let a couple of children be just to get their hands on some money filled me with hatred for those Communist Party demons. After I got out, police surveillance prevented me from reading God’s words or attending gatherings. I had no choice but to go out of town to share the gospel and do my duty. The police are still after me to this day, and they keep pressing my relatives and brothers and sisters I used to be in contact with for information on my whereabouts.
I went through some physical suffering through this persecution and hardship, but I truly experienced God’s love. When I was being tortured, every time I was at my utter limit, it was God’s words that gave me faith and strength and showed me the way to stand strong. It was also God’s words that led me to see through Satan’s tricks and overcome Satan’s temptations one after another. Through all this, I was able to see the power and authority of God’s words and that only God can save mankind. My faith in God grew. I also clearly saw the Communist Party’s evil face, that it hates God and works against Him. I was able to forsake it and reject it from the bottom of my heart. No matter how much persecution and hardship I might suffer in the future, I will absolutely do my duty to satisfy God!