9. In Times of Trouble, God’s Word Provided Me With Encouragement
By Chen Hui, Jiangsu Province
I grew up in an ordinary family in China. My father was in the military and because I had been molded and influenced by him from an early age, I came to believe that a soldier’s calling and duty was to serve the motherland, follow orders and selflessly serve on behalf of the Communist Party and the people. I also became determined to become a soldier myself and follow in my father’s footsteps. However, as time went on and certain events transpired, the course of my life and the orientation of my pursuits were slowly altered. In 1983, I heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It was the special guidance of the Holy Spirit that allowed someone like me, who had been poisoned by atheism and Chinese Communist ideology from an early age, to be deeply moved by the Lord Jesus’ love. Having heard the gospel, I embarked on a life of belief in God—I began attending church, praying, and singing hymns in praise of the Lord. This new life brought me great serenity and peace. In 1999, I accepted the gospel of the last days of the returned Lord Jesus—Almighty God. Through ceaselessly reading God’s word and meeting and fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters, I came to understand many truths and learned of God’s urgent intention to save mankind. I felt that God had bestowed on each of us a great vocation and responsibility, and so I eagerly threw myself into the work of spreading the gospel. When I personally witnessed many people coming before God and receiving God’s blessings and salvation, my faith grew even stronger.
However, the cruel persecution of the CCP government shattered my serene and happy life. In August of 2002, I traveled to the northwest with my husband to spread the gospel to a few of our co-workers in Christ. One night, while I was meeting with two brothers and sisters who had only recently accepted God’s work in the last days, I suddenly heard a loud crash and saw the door being violently kicked down and six or seven fiendish-looking police wielding batons rush in. One of the policemen pointed at me and said with a vicious snarl, “Handcuff her!” Two policemen ordered us to stand by the wall and not to move, while they began to rummage through the boxes and chests in the house like a bunch of raiding bandits. They carefully searched anything that they suspected might be used to conceal things and, in no time, they had turned the whole place inside out and upside down. Finally, one of the policemen found a gospel pamphlet and a book of God’s word in my sister’s bag and glared at me with a fierce stare, yelling, “Damnit, are you looking to get yourself killed? Coming up here and spreading your gospel. Where did this come from?” I didn’t respond and so he barked at me saying, “Not gonna talk, eh? We’ll open that mouth of yours. Get moving! You’ll talk where we’re going!” With that he dragged me out of the house and threw me into the police car. At that time, I realized that they hadn’t just sent six or seven policemen—the road outside was lined on either side with many armed special police. When I saw how much manpower they had deployed to apprehend us, I became very frightened and, without thinking, began praying to God asking for His guidance and protection. Not long after, a passage of God’s word came clearly to my mind, “You know that all things in the environment that surrounds you are there by My permission, all planned by Me. See clearly and satisfy My heart in the environment I have given to you. Do not fear, the Almighty God of hosts will surely be with you; He stands behind you and He is your shield” (“Chapter 26” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “That’s right!” I thought. “God is my pillar; no matter what kind of situation I may encounter, God, the Ruler and Creator of all things, is always by my side. As long as my heart remains quiet before God, God will lead me to overcome whatever situation I may face. For, God is faithful and it is He who rules over and orchestrates all things.” Thinking these things, I regained my sense of calm.
It was around ten o’clock that night when I was brought to the Criminal Police Brigade. My photo was taken, and I was then led into an interrogation room. To my surprise, there were already four or five brutish-looking thugs in there staring me down as I came in. As soon as I entered the room, they surrounded me like a pack of hungry wolves seemingly rearing for the kill. I was incredibly nervous and prayed desperately to God. At first, these police thugs didn’t lay a finger on me, but just ordered me to remain standing for three or four hours. I stood so long that my legs and feet started to ache with pain and go numb, and my whole body became extremely fatigued. At around one or two in the morning, the Criminal Police Brigade chief came in to interrogate me. I couldn’t help but shake with nerves. He stared at me and began to grill me saying, “Speak! Where are you from? Who is your contact here? Who is your superior? Where have you been meeting? How many people do you have working under you?” When I didn’t speak, he blew up in fury, grabbing me by the hair and raining down punches and kicks. Once I had been beaten to the ground, he continued to kick me even harder. Right away my ears started to ring so that I couldn’t hear a thing, and my head felt like it was going to explode with stabbing pain. I couldn’t help but cry out in pain. After a few more moments of struggle, I lay on the floor, unable to move. The chief grabbed me by the hair again and dragged me to a standing position, at which point four or five of those brutish thugs swarmed around me and began kicking and punching me; I fell to the ground, my hands covering my head, rolling and lashing around in pain. These police thugs weren’t holding anything back—every kick and every punch had deadly force. As they hit me, they yelled, “Are you gonna talk or not? I dare you not to talk! Talk or you’re dead!” When the chief saw that I still wasn’t talking, he kicked me viciously in the ankle. Every time he kicked me, it felt like someone had driven a nail into my bones, it was excruciatingly painful. After that, they continued to kick me all over until I felt like they had shattered every bone in my body, and the violent spasms that wracked my insides caused me so much pain that I could hardly draw breath. I lay on the ground gasping for air and crying tears of pure agony. In my heart, I called out to God saying, “Dear God! I can’t go on. Please protect me as I fear I won’t make it through this night. Dear God, grant me strength. …” I don’t know how long the torture went on. I just felt extremely dizzy and I was in such excruciating pain that I felt as if I had been rent limb for limb. The pain was so intense that I actually became numb all over. One of the police thugs said, “Looks like you still haven’t had enough. Oh, you’ll talk alright!” As he spoke, he picked up what looked like an electric hammer and slammed it against my forehead. I felt every strike deep down in my marrow, and each time he hit me my whole body would go numb, and then I would go limp and tremble ceaselessly. When the police thug saw how much I was suffering, he seemed pleased with his work and started to bellow with laughter. In the midst of my suffering, a passage of God’s word welled up within me and gave me guidance and enlightenment: “You must suffer hardship for the truth, you must give yourself to the truth, you must endure humiliation for the truth, and to gain more of the truth you must undergo more suffering. This is what you should do” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s word gave me incredible strength, and I repeated the passage over and over in my mind. I thought: “I cannot succumb to Satan and disappoint God. In order to obtain the truth, I vow to endure any suffering, and even if it means my death, it will still be worth it and I will not have lived in vain!” This gang of demons interrogated me all through the night until the following morning, but because I had God’s word to encourage me, I was able to withstand their torture! In the end, they had exhausted every last strategy they could think of and said helplessly, “You seem like an ordinary housewife with no particular talents, so how did your God give you such tremendous strength?” I knew that it wasn’t me these police thugs were relenting to, but instead were surrendering under the authority and power of God. I personally witnessed that God’s word is the truth, that it can imbue people with immense strength, and that by practicing in accordance with God’s word one can overcome their fear of death and vanquish Satan. As a result of all this, my faith in God grew even stronger.
On the morning of the second day at around seven, the chief came to interrogate me again. When he saw that I still wasn’t willing to speak, he tried to lure me in with yet another cunning trick. A balding, plainclothes policeman came in, helped me get up, and escorted me over to a sofa. He smoothed out my clothes, patted me on the shoulder and, feigning concern, said with a mirthless smile, “Look at you, there’s no point in suffering this way. Just talk to us and then you can go home. Why stay here and endure all this torment? Your children are waiting for you at home. Do you know how much it hurts me to see you suffer like this?” Listening to all his lies and looking at that detestable, shameless face, I ground my teeth in anger and thought to myself, “You’re just a demon who spouts all kinds of lies to deceive me. Don’t you think for one minute that I’m going to betray God. Don’t you even dream that I’m going to say one word about the church!” When the policeman saw that I remained unmoved, he fixed me with a lascivious stare and began to paw at me with his hand. I automatically moved away from him, but that scoundrel held me with one hand so that I couldn’t move and then he gripped my chest with his other hand. I cried out in pain and felt immense hatred for this man; I was so angry that my whole body shook and tears came streaming down my cheeks. I cast a rage-filled glare at him and, seeing the look in my eyes, he let go of me. I knew that God had taken pity on me in my weakened state and had made that monster shrink back. Through this personal experience, I truly witnessed the evil, reactionary and cruel nature of the CCP government. I saw how the “People’s Police” working for the institution of the CCP were really just despicable, shameless thugs and low-lifes without any conscience at all!
Because I hadn’t had a drop of water for 24 hours, my body was dangerously exhausted and depleted and I really wasn’t sure if I could go on any longer. I was suddenly struck by a feeling of profound misery and hopelessness. At that moment, I thought of a church hymn. “With steadfast will I stand against the demonic legions’ roar. Through the hard slog my heart becomes more resolute. Corrupt mankind is so savage and cruel, how can there be room for God? Now that I’ve seen the appearance of the true light, how can I give up before I’ve gained God? I forsake Satan, with an unshakable heart I follow God. In the land ruled by the king of devils, arduous is the path of believing in God. Satan snaps at my heels, I have nowhere to lay my head. Believing in and worshiping God is Heaven’s law and earth’s principle. The tricks of the king of devils are savage, vicious, and truly contemptible. Having clearly seen Satan’s face, I love Christ even more. I will never give in to Satan or eke out a worthless existence. I will suffer all torment, hardship and pain, and endure through the darkest of nights. I will bear victorious witness, to comfort God’s heart, and to win God’s praise. I have espied righteousness emerging; it’s the black night before the dawn. The devils are in their dying throes, and they render service for God. God has made a group of overcomers and gained His glory. I see God’s wisdom and I praise God’s righteousness. Even more I want to be considerate to His will, and do all I can in God’s family to repay Him with service. Using my heart that loves God, I will emit light and heat. I will be faithful to the very end, and bear witness to glorify God. No matter how God tries me or refines me, I am resolved to stand witness for God and satisfy Him. Using my heart that loves God, I will emit light and heat. I will be faithful to the very end, and bear witness to glorify God, to satisfy God’s will” (“Rising Up Amidst Darkness and Oppression” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). This sonorous and forceful hymn was great motivation for me: These demons were persecuting the believers of God in this way because they hate God. Their dastardly and evil goal is to stop us from believing in and following God and thus disrupt and destroy God’s work and ruin mankind’s chance to be saved. In this key moment of this spiritual battle, I couldn’t lay down and let myself be the butt of Satan’s joke. The more Satan tormented me, the more clearly I saw its demonic face and the more I wanted to forsake it and stand on the side of God. I believe that God shall overcome, and that Satan is doomed to fall in defeat. I couldn’t give up, and I wished to rely upon God and bear a strong and resounding testimony for Him.
When the police realized that they wouldn’t be getting any information of value from me, they gave up on the interrogation and, that evening, they transported me to a detention house. At that point, I had been beaten beyond recognition—my face was swollen, I couldn’t open my eyes and my lips were covered in sores. The detention house people took one look at me and, seeing that I had nearly been beaten to death, they didn’t want any responsibility for what had happened and refused to accept me. However, after some negotiation, I was finally let in at around seven that evening and I was escorted to a cell.
That night, I ate my first meal since being arrested: a hard, black, and gritty steamed bun that was hard to chew and difficult to swallow, and a bowl of soup of wilted vegetables with dead worms floating in it and a layer of dirt at the bottom of the bowl. None of that stopped me from scarfing down that meal as fast as I could. Because I was a believer, in the days that followed, the correctional officer would often goad the other inmates to make my life hell. One time, the head prisoner of our cell issued a command and her underlings grabbed me by the hair and slammed my head against the wall. They slammed my head so hard that I felt dizzy and couldn’t see straight. Also, at night they wouldn’t allow me to sleep on the bed and so I had to sleep on the cold concrete floor next to the toilet. What’s more, they made me recite the rules of the detention house and, if I recited them wrong or forgot them, they whipped me with a leather belt. Faced with this nearly constant inhuman torture and humiliation, I became weak, and thought that it would be better to just die than suffer like a caged animal day in and day out. On many occasions, just as I was on the verge of slamming my head against a wall and ending it, God’s voice would well up inside me and guide me, saying, “Thus, 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” (“Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words provided me with encouragement and warmed my heart. As I pondered God’s words, tears poured from my eyes. I thought of how when I was being viciously beaten by the police thugs, it was God’s love that had cared for me all the while, He had guided me with His words, and He had given me faith and strength, and allowed me to obstinately survive through that awful torture. After having been abused and bullied by the head prisoner of our cell and tortured by the other inmates to the point where I nearly had a nervous breakdown and was contemplating ending my own life, God’s words once again gave me the faith and courage to rise up anew. If God hadn’t been by my side, watching over me, I would have been tormented to death by those villainous fiends long ago. In the face of God’s great love and mercy, I could no longer passively resist and cause grief to God’s heart. I had to stand firm with God and repay God’s love with loyalty. Once I had remedied my state of mind, I began to observe God’s wondrous works: When the head prisoner tormented me by not allowing me to sleep on the bed, God caused another inmate to rise up and protest on my behalf and the two got into a big fight. Ultimately, the head prisoner relented. Thanks be to God. Were it not for God’s mercy, sleeping long-term on the wet, cold concrete floor would have killed me or left me paralyzed, given my weak constitution. In this way, I managed to survive through two grueling months in the detention house. During that time, police thugs questioned me twice more using the same good cop, bad cop strategy. Yet, with God’s protection, I was able to see through Satan’s cunning plot and foil their wicked scheme. In the end, they simply ran out of strategies and, after all their failed interrogations, they finally sentenced me to three years imprisonment and sent me to the Second Women’s Prison to serve out my sentence.
From the first day I arrived at the prison, I was forced to perform exhausting physical labor. I had to work over ten hours a day, and I had to knit one sweater, or make thirty to forty articles of clothing, or package ten-thousand pairs of chopsticks every single day. If I was unable to complete these tasks, my prison term would be extended. As if the extreme physical labor was not exhausting enough, at night we were forced to partake in a kind of political brainwashing intended to break our spirits, in which we were made to study prison rules, the law, Marxism-Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought. Whenever I heard the correctional officers propounding their atheist absurdities I would feel sick to my stomach and feel pure hatred for their despicable, shameless ways. The entire time I was in prison, I never had a single night of sound sleep—we would often be startled from our sleep in the middle of the night by the whistles of the prison guards. They would either make us get up and stand in the corridor for no apparent reason or assign us tasks like hauling potatoes, corn and feed. Each bag weighed over 50 kilograms. During winter nights, we had to contend with howling, bone-chilling winds. We’d creep and hobble our way along, one foot at a time, sometimes even collapsing under the weight of our loads. Often, I would drag my weary body back to my cell at two or three in the morning, exhausted and teary eyed. On such nights, a mixture of fatigue, cold and anger would keep me from falling back to sleep. Whenever I thought about how I still had to endure three long years of imprisonment, I would fall even deeper into despair and my whole body would feel paralyzed with exhaustion. God was well aware of my suffering, and at my lowest points, He guided me to remember this passage of His words, “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily, do you not? Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me” (“Chapter 41” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words were a deep comfort for my aggrieved and suffering heart and they allowed me to understand His will. The situation I now found myself in was a real test. God wanted to see if I would remain loyal to Him in the midst of such suffering and whether or not I truly loved Him. Though three years in jail was a very long time, with God’s word to guide me and God’s love to support me, I knew I wasn’t alone. I would rely upon God to endure all of the pain and suffering and overcome Satan. I couldn’t allow myself to become timid; I had to have the resolve and the courage to pursue the truth, and I had to make a stand for righteousness and seek to be a person with truth and humanity.
The darkness and evil of the CCP government were apparent in every aspect of this prison that they oversaw, but God’s love was always with me. One time, a prison guard ordered me to haul a bag of chopsticks up to the fifth floor. Because the stairs were covered in ice, I had to walk very slowly due to the weight of the bag. However, the guard kept telling me to hurry up and, fearing that I would be badly beaten if I didn’t complete my assignment, I became anxious and slipped in my haste, falling down the stairs and breaking my heel bone. I lay sprawled out on the floor, unable to move my leg and in a cold sweat due to the shooting pain from the break. The guard showed not the least bit of interest, however. He said I was faking it and ordered me to get up and keep working, but I was physically unable to stand. A sister from the church, who was serving time in the same prison as me, saw what had happened and immediately carried me over to the prison clinic. At the clinic, the attending doctor just simply bandaged up my foot, gave me a few pills of some cheap medicine and sent me on my way. Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to meet my work quota, the prison guard refused to allow me any treatment, so I had to keep working with my broken foot. Whatever work we were doing, the sister would help me around. Because the love of God had bound our hearts together, whenever she had the opportunity, the sister would fellowship on God’s word with me to encourage me. This was an immense comfort to me at my lowest and most difficult moments. During that period, I don’t know how many times I felt so pained and weak that I could hardly get up, and barely had the energy to breathe, and so many times I would hide in the quilt tearfully praying to God, but these two hymns always provided me with encouragement and solace: “That you are able to accept the judgment, chastisement, smiting, and refinement of God’s words, and, moreover, are able to accept God’s commissions, was predestined by God before the ages, and thus you must not be too distressed when you are chastised. No one can take away the work that has been done in you, and the blessings that have been bestowed upon you, and no one can take away all that has been given to you. People of religion brook no comparison with you. You are not possessed of great expertise in the Bible, and are not equipped with religious theory, but because God has worked within you, you have gained more than anyone throughout the ages—and so this is your greatest blessing” (“You Cannot Disappoint God’s Will” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). “The road to the kingdom is a rocky one with many ups and downs. From death to life amid countless tortures and tears. Without God’s guidance and protection, who could make it to today? Born in the last days, I’m fortunate to follow Christ, which is God’s ruling and arrangement. God humbles Himself to become the Son of man, and He suffers enormous humiliation. God has suffered so much, how can I be called human if I do not love Him? … Having stepped onto the path of loving God, I will never regret following Him and testifying to Him. Although I can be weak and negative, with tears my heart still loves God. I endure suffering and give my love to God, never again to cause Him grief. Being tempered in tribulation is as good as gold being tried by fire; how could I not dedicate my heart? The road to heaven is a hard and rocky one. There will be tears, but I shall love God ever deeper and shall have no regrets” (“Song of Loving God Without Regrets” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). God’s words and God’s love saved me from the depths of hopelessness and, time and again, gave me the courage to keep on living. In this cold, dark, hell on earth, I experienced the warmth and protection of God’s love, and I was determined to keep on living so that I could repay God’s love. No matter how greatly I suffered, I had to continue on; even if I had only one breath remaining, I had to remain loyal to God. In my three years in prison, I was most deeply moved when my sister gave me some handwritten pages of God’s word. That I was able to read God’s word in a prison run by devils that was clamped down tighter than Fort Knox was truly a testament to the immense love and mercy God was showing to me. It was these words of God that encouraged and guided me, allowing me to endure those most trying of times.
In September of 2005, my term came to an end and I could finally put the dark days of prison behind me. As I walked out of jail, I took a deep breath and thanked God from the bottom of my heart for His love and protection, which had allowed me to survive through my prison term. Because of my personal experience of being arrested and persecuted by the CCP government, I now know what is righteous and what is evil, what is good and what is wicked, and what is positive and what is negative. I know what I should abandon everything to pursue and what I should reject with hatred and curses. Through this experience, I truly came to know that God’s word is God’s own life and is invested with supernatural powers that can be the driving motivation behind man’s life. As long as man lives by God’s word, he is capable of overcoming all of Satan’s forces and can prevail even in the most adverse of circumstances. Just as Almighty God says, “My words are the forever unchanging truth. I am the supply of life for man and the only guide for mankind” (“You Ought to Consider Your Deeds” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From now on, no matter what obstacles or difficulties I face, I am willing to do my utmost to pursue the truth, to seek to live truly by God’s word, and to live out a meaningful life!