3. A Youth Without Regret
By Xiaowen, Chongqing City
“‘Love’ refers to an emotion that is pure and without blemish, where you use your heart to love, to feel, and to be thoughtful. In love there are no conditions, no barriers, and no distance. In love there is no suspicion, no deceit, and no cunning. In love there is no distance and nothing impure” (“Pure Love Without Blemish” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). This hymn of God’s words was once my companion as I lived through an interminable and painful seven years and four months of life in prison. Though the CCP government deprived me of the best years of my youth, I gained from Almighty God the truth that is most precious and most real. Therefore I have no regrets whatsoever!
In 1996, I accepted Almighty God’s salvation of the last days. Through reading God’s words, attending meetings and fellowshiping, I came to firmly believe that everything God says is the truth, and the highest of all life’s aphorisms, and that it is entirely at odds with any theories or knowledge of this wicked world. The thing that made me even happier was that I could simply be open with my brothers and sisters in the church, I could speak my mind freely and I didn’t have to be wary or engage in deception like when I came into contact with people in the outside world. I felt a happiness and joy I had never felt before, and I came to love this big family. But it wasn’t long before I heard that faith in God was persecuted in China and that Christians often being arrested and persecuted was a common occurrence. I was greatly puzzled by this because the words of Almighty God are all so that people worship God, walk the right path in life, and so that people conduct themselves with honesty. If everyone believed in Almighty God, the world would know such peace. I really didn’t understand: Believing in God is the most righteous undertaking. Why does the CCP government want to persecute and oppose those who believe in God, and even arrest them? In my heart, I thought: No matter how the CCP government may persecute me or how strong public opinion is, since I now firmly believe this to be the right path in life, I absolutely must follow it to the end!
After that, I began performing a duty in the church that involved delivering books of God’s words. I knew that doing this duty in such a God-defying country was extremely dangerous and that every moment carried the possibility of being arrested, but I knew even more strongly that expending myself for God and performing my duties as a created being was my vocation, and that it was my incumbent responsibility. Just when I had every faith in performing my duty, a day came in September 2003 when I was apprehended by the city’s National Security Bureau whilst on my way to deliver some books of God’s words to my brothers and sisters.
At the National Security Bureau, I was scared, and I didn’t know how to face the repeated interrogations of the CCP police, so I called out urgently to God in my heart: “Oh, Almighty God. I ask that You give me wisdom, bestow on me the words I should say, and keep me from betraying You. I ask that You give me faith and strength, and no matter how the CCP persecutes me, I will stand firm and bear witness for You.” During that time, I called out to God every day and I didn’t dare to leave God even for a second in my heart. I praised God for looking after me and protecting me; every time they interrogated me, I was hiccupping constantly and I wasn’t able to speak at all. Seeing God’s wondrous deeds, I became fiercely single-minded: I am ready to risk it all! They can take my head, take my life, but today it is absolutely impossible for them to get me to betray God! When my resolution was set and I felt I would rather give my life than be a Judas and betray God, I felt really thankful to God for opening up the way forward for me. Every time I was interrogated, God protected me and got me through the ordeal safely. Though I said nothing to them at all, in the end, the CCP government still imposed on me the charge of “using a xie jiao organization to destroy the application of law” to sentence me to nine years. Because of God’s protection, when I heard the court ruling I didn’t feel distressed, nor did I fear the people in the court. Instead, I had nothing but contempt for them. They were on high pronouncing their judgments, and I was down below saying in a small voice: “This is proof of the CCP government’s defiance of God!” Afterward, public security officers came specially to investigate my attitude, and I said to them very calmly: “What’s nine years? When the time comes for me to be released I’ll still be a member of The Church of Almighty God, and if you don’t believe me, you just wait and see! But remember, this case is on your hands!” My attitude surprised them a great deal, and they gave me the thumbs up and said: “We’ve got to hand it to you! We admire you! You’re tougher than Jiang Zhuyun! Let’s meet up when you come out, and we’ll buy you dinner.” At that point, I felt God was glorified, and so I was gratified. When I was sentenced that year, I was only just 31 years old.
Chinese prisons are hells on earth. The endless prison life allowed me to see very clearly the cruel and inhuman face of Satan, as well as its demonic essence that opposes God. China’s police do not follow the rule of law; they follow the rule of evil. In prison, the guards don’t make life hard for people themselves, but instead they encourage the prisoners to use violence to keep other prisoners in check. The prison guards also use all manner of ways to restrict people’s thinking. For example, anyone who goes into prison has to wear the exact same prisoner’s uniform issued by the CCP government, and each person has to wear a special serial number; they have to get their hair cut in the style the government requires, wear the shoes the government allows them to wear, take government-prescribed routes and walk at the government-prescribed pace. No matter the time of year, in wind or rain or on hot days or in freezing weather, prisoners must do as they command and are not able to choose anything for themselves. Every day they required us to assemble together at least 15 times to number off and sing the praises of the CCP government at least five times; and then there were the political tasks, such as making us learn the prison laws and the constitution with a big exam every six months, the aim of which was to brainwash us. They also gave us exams on prison rules and discipline whenever they wanted. The prison guards not only subjected the prisoners to mental torture, but they also devastated our bodies with utter inhumanity: We had to do over 10 hours of hard labor every single day, and what’s more they would crowd several hundred prisoners into a small, narrow factory building to work. Because there were so many people and so little space, and everywhere there was the loud noise of machines, no matter how healthy someone was when they entered prison, after they’d been there a while their body would suffer serious harm. Behind me was a big machine used for punching eyelets into shoes. It punched eyelets continuously every day, making an unbearable booming noise. After a few years, my hearing became seriously damaged, and it still hasn’t recovered even now. The thing that harmed people even more was the large amount of dust and pollutants in the factory building, and many people became afflicted with tuberculosis and pharyngitis. Also, because we had to sit working for such a long time without being able to move, most people ended up with severe hemorrhoids. The CCP government turns prisoners into money-making machines, without any regard for whether they live or die, making people work every day from early morning until late at night. I was so exhausted all the time, and I felt very run-down. Not only this, but we also had to give our answers to all manner of spot-check examinations in the prison that could come at any time, plus weekly political tasks, manual labor and public tasks and so on. Therefore, I spent every day in a state of high mental anxiety, with nerves stretched to breaking point at all times for fear that I might slip up slightly and not keep up with every task, and then have to suffer the punishments of the prison guards. In that kind of environment, it was really not easy to get through even one day safe and well.
When I had only just begun my prison sentence, I couldn’t stand this kind of cruel ravaging within the prison, and all the different kinds of high-intensity labor pressure and the ideological pressure made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. Add to that coming into contact with all kinds of other prisoners and having to endure the physical and verbal abuse and insults of the prison guards and head prisoners. I was often tormented to desperation and I fell into despair many times. In particular, whenever I would think of the incredibly long prison term of nine years, I would feel such desolation and helplessness. I don’t know how many times I cried, and I even thought of death as a way to free me from this kind of suffering. Whenever I felt myself falling into extreme sorrow and I felt that I couldn’t go on any longer, I would urgently pray and call on God, and God’s words would enlighten and guide me: “You can’t die yet. You must clench your fists and resolutely continue to live; you must live a life for God. When people have truth within them then they have this resolve and never again desire to die; when death threatens you, you will say, ‘O God, I am unwilling to die; I still do not know You. I still have not repaid Your love. I must die only after coming to know You well.’ … If you do not understand God’s intention, and merely ruminate on your suffering, then the more you think about it, the more distressed you feel, and then you will be in trouble and begin to suffer the torment of death. If you understand truth, you will say, ‘I have not yet obtained truth. I must properly expend myself for God. I must bear good witness of God. I must repay God’s love. After that, it doesn’t matter how I die. Then I will have lived a satisfactory life. Regardless of who else is dying, I will not die now; I must tenaciously continue to live’” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can You Obtain Changes in Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words shone like a light as soft and gentle as a mother, pacifying my lonely heart, and they were like a father’s warm hands, wiping the tears from my face. At once, a breath of warmth and a breath of strength surged through my heart. I understood that though my flesh must suffer pain in this dark prison, yet it was not God’s will that I should seek death; if I couldn’t bear witness for God then I would become a joke of Satan. If after nine years I could walk out of this demonic prison, then that would be my testimony. God’s words gave me the courage to live on and I became secretly resolved in my heart: No matter how many difficulties lie ahead, I shall live on. I shall live bravely, live strongly, and I absolutely will bear witness for God and satisfy Him.
Being overburdened with work year in year out, month in month out, my body became weaker each day, and sitting in the factory building for a long time made me sweat abnormally and profusely. When my hemorrhoids were very bad, they would start bleeding at any moment, and I would often feel dizzy due to severe anemia. It wasn’t an easy thing, however, to get treatment in prison. When they were in a good mood, the prison guards would give me some cheap medicines. But when they were in a bad mood they would say I was trying to shirk my work by feigning illness, so all I could do was to endure the afflictions of illness and swallow my tears. I would be overworked all day long, and I would drag my exhausted body back to my cell and want to have a rest. But I didn’t even have the right to a good night’s sleep. Either the prison guards would wake me up in the middle of the night to go do something, or they would make loud noises to wake me up. They would often play games with me to the point where I was all in a muddled trance and in unspeakable misery. Moreover, I had to endure the prison guards’ inhuman treatment. I used to sleep on the ground or in corridors like a refugee, or even next to the toilet. The clothes I washed could not be air dried, but were dried by the body warmth that came from being crowded together with the other prisoners. Washing clothes in winter was especially a most upsetting thing, and many people got arthritis from wearing damp clothes for long periods. In this prison, no matter how healthy someone was, it didn’t take long before they became slow-witted, run-down or wracked with ailments. We often ate out-of-season, withered old leaves that shops didn’t want anymore, and if we wanted to eat something better, we had to buy the expensive food in the prison. In prison, although the guards made us study the law, there was no law in that place; the prison guards were the law. They had only to see someone they didn’t like and they would come up with any old reason to deal with them, and even physically punish them for no reason at all. Even more hateful was that they classified those who believed in Almighty God as political prisoners, saying that we were worse criminals than murderers or arsonists. They were therefore especially hostile to me, treated me most harshly and tormented me most viciously. All these many kinds of evil deeds are ironclad proof that the CCP is perverse, godless and is in opposition to God! Enduring the cruel torment of the prison guards, my heart was often filled with righteous indignation and it felt such sadness and resentment: Exactly which law has been violated by our belief in God and our worship of God? Exactly what crime have we committed by following God and walking the right path in life? People are created beings in God’s hands and believing in God and worshiping God is an unquestionable truth. What reason does the CCP government have to flagrantly obstruct us and do all it can to cruelly oppress us? It’s plain that it is perverse and godless, opposing God in all things. It labels those who believe in Almighty God as reactionaries and it severely oppresses and ravages them, trying to catch and exterminate all who follow Almighty God. Isn’t this confusing right and wrong, and being utterly reactionary? They oppose Heaven so wildly and set themselves against God, that in the end they must meet with God’s righteous punishment! For there must be judgment wherever there is corruption, and there must be chastisement wherever there is evil—these are the heavenly rules and principles as preordained by God, and no one can escape them. The CCP government is guilty of the most heinous crimes, and there can be no escape from being destroyed by God. Just as God said: “God has long since loathed this dark society to His very bones. He gnashes His teeth, desperate to plant His feet upon this wicked, heinous old serpent, so that it may never rise again, and will never again abuse man; He will not excuse its actions in the past, He will not tolerate its deceit of man, He will settle the score for every one of its sins throughout the ages; God will not be in the least bit lenient toward this ringleader of all evil, He will utterly destroy it” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
In this demonic prison, I was no better than a stray dog in the eyes of the evil police. Not only did they abuse me physically and verbally, but they would often root through my bed and scatter my personal belongings all over the place. Also, whenever some kind of social unrest happened in the outside world, the people in the prison who were in charge of political matters would come for me and question me about my views on what had happened, and if my answer didn’t please them, they would constantly rebuke me for following the way of belief in God. Whenever I had to face this kind of questioning, my heart would leap into my throat, not knowing what kind of scheme they were planning against me this time. My heart was always urgently praying and calling out to God for Him to help me and lead me through these difficult times. Day after day, year after year, all the various kinds of maltreatment, exploitation and oppression were a torment beyond words: Every day being overburdened with labor tasks, the monotonous political tasks and the afflictions of illness, plus the long-term mental oppression, brought me almost to the edge of collapse. In particular, there was a time when I saw a middle-aged woman prisoner hang herself from her cell window in the middle of the night because she couldn’t bear any longer the inhuman tortures of the evil police, and a time when an elderly woman prisoner died in prison because she wasn’t treated for an illness quickly enough, and at these times I would once again fall into suffocating hopelessness. Again, I would conceive the idea of death as a way to end my troubles and I felt that death was the best way to be free. I knew, however, that it would be a betrayal of God, and I just couldn’t do it. All I could do was endure all this pain and obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements. But when I thought of my interminable sentence, and of how gaining freedom was so far away in the indefinite future, I felt indescribable pain and despair, and I felt that I really couldn’t go on any longer; I really didn’t know how long I could keep myself going. So many times, all I could do was to get under the bed sheets and sob secretly in the dead of night, praying to Almighty God and confiding to Him all my heart’s troubles. When I was in the most pain and felt the most helpless, I thought of God’s words: “You, especially, have all suffered persecution and experienced difficulty in returning home; you suffer, and also have thoughts of death and an unwillingness to live. These are weaknesses of the flesh. … You do not know what God is doing today. God has to allow your flesh to suffer in order to transform your disposition. Even though your flesh suffers, you have God’s word and you have God’s blessing. You cannot die even if you want to: Can you resign yourself to not knowing God and not obtaining truth if you die? Now, mainly, it is just that people have not yet obtained truth, and they do not have life. Now people are in the midst of the process of seeking salvation, so they must suffer some during this period. Today everyone throughout the world is tried: God is still suffering—is it right that you do not suffer?” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can You Obtain Changes in Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words soothed my sad heart and enabled me to understand the meaning of suffering. God now performs the work to change man’s disposition; I am still corrupt and there are many of Satan’s poisons within me, so how could I attain change and purification without suffering? This pain is something I’m supposed to suffer, and is something I must endure. When I thought of these things, I felt no pain, but on the contrary, I felt that my ability to endure this persecution and to endure being imprisoned for my belief in God, and that I could suffer in the pursuit of salvation was something most valuable and most meaningful—this pain I was suffering was so worthwhile! Without being aware of it, my heart turned from grief and became joyful, and I felt an irresistible urge to sing a hymn in my heart, called “We Are Fortunate to Meet With God’s Coming”: “We are fortunate to meet with God’s coming, we hear His voice. We are fortunate to meet with God’s coming, we attend the feast of the Lamb. We know the incarnate Almighty God, we see His wondrous deeds. We understand the mystery of human life, Almighty God’s words are the most precious. … Who can be more blessed? Who can be more fortunate? God bestows the truth and life upon us, we must live for God. We must live for God. We must live for God. We obtain the truth and testify to God to repay God’s love” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I sang this hymn in my heart over and over. The more I sang the more encouraged my heart became, and the more I sang, the stronger and more enjoyment I felt, and I couldn’t help but swear an oath before God: “Oh, Almighty God, I give thanks to You for Your solace and encouragement, and for making me have the faith and the courage to live on. You make me feel that You really are the Lord of my life, the strength of my life. Though I have fallen into this nest of devils, I am not alone, for You are always with me as I live through these dark days, giving me faith and the strength to live on time and time again. Oh God, supposing I can one day leave this place and am able to live free, I will still do my duty. I will no longer cause You grief, nor will I make any plans for myself. Oh God, no matter how painful or difficult the days ahead may be, I wish to depend on You and live on with strength!”
While in prison, I often thought back to the days I spent with my brothers and sisters—what a great time that was! Everyone was happy and laughing. There were disputes too, but it all became a beautiful memory for me. Every time I thought back to how I used to be slipshod with my duties, I felt such guilt and so indebted; thinking of how I got into disputes with my brothers and sisters because of my arrogant disposition, I felt extremely sad and remorseful. At times like these, I would be in floods of tears, and I would sing a hymn secretly in my heart: “I’ve believed in God for many years but have never done my duty well, I feel such deep regret in my heart. I’ve enjoyed so much of God’s love, but have never given anything back. God has given me so many opportunities to practice, but I approached them all in a slipshod manner, and instead single-mindedly sought status, fame and fortune and made plans for my future destiny. Filled with extravagant desires, I truly knew no shame and have wasted so much good time. … I am so remorseful—why didn’t I accept God’s judgment and chastisement when I read His words? I don’t know if my repentance has come too late, I am so remorseful. I don’t know if God will give me another chance, I am so remorseful” (“I Am So Remorseful” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). In the midst of this pain and self-reproach, I would often pray in my heart to God: “Oh God! I really owe You so much. If You will allow it, I wish to seek to love You and, after I get out of prison, I wish still to do my duty. I wish to start over and make up for my previous debts.” During my days in prison, I really missed the brothers and sisters that I grew so close to and I really wanted to see them. Yet here I was in captivity in this demonic prison, so this desire was nothing more than a fanciful wish. Yet I would often see my brothers and sisters in my dreams, dreaming that we were together reading God’s words and fellowshiping the truth, so happy, so joyful …
When the Wenchuan earthquake happened in 2008, the prison in which we were being detained was also shaken, and I was the very last one to evacuate the scene. The aftershocks continued for days, and both prisoners and guards were all terrified and in a state of alarm all day long. But in my heart, I felt exceedingly calm and sure, for I knew that this was the fulfillment of God’s words and it was the fire of God’s wrath that had befallen and punished those who resisted God on earth. That earthquake was the biggest for a hundred years, and during that time God’s words were always protecting my heart. I believed that life and death were in God’s hands and, no matter what God did, I would always be willing to obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements. The only thing that made me sad, however, was that if I died I would no longer have a chance to do my duty for the Creator, no longer have a chance to repay God’s love and would no longer be able to see my brothers and sisters. My worrying was unnecessary, however. God was always with me, giving me the greatest protection, enabling me to escape death during the big earthquake and to live on safe and sound!
In January 2011, I obtained early release, and my slavish life in prison was finally brought to an end. Having obtained my freedom, my heart felt incredibly excited: “I can go back to the church again! I can be with my brothers and sisters again!” I was so excited, there was really no way I could put it into words. What I hadn’t anticipated was that, after I returned home, my daughter did not recognize me, and both relatives and friends looked askance at me, hid themselves away from me and would have nothing to do with me. No one around me understood me, and they couldn’t accept me. Although at this time I was no longer being subjected to the maltreatment and torment of prison, yet being given the cold shoulder, ridiculed and rejected was even harder to bear; I became weak. I couldn’t help but recall the past to mind: I had only just turned 31 the year I was sent to prison, and when I came out of prison I was already 39. I spent eight winters and seven summers in prison. So many times, when I felt alone and helpless, God orchestrated people, events and things to help me; so many times, when I was in pain and despair, God used His words to comfort me; so many times, when I wanted to die, God gave me strength and made me have the courage to live on. During those endless, painful years, it was God who led me step by step through the valley of death and enabled me to live on tenaciously. And here I was facing this bit of suffering and becoming distressed and weak, causing God to grieve—I really was a mean person, weak and useless and so ungrateful! Thinking of this, I condemned myself greatly, and I couldn’t help but think of the oath I swore to God back in prison: “Supposing I can one day leave this place and am able to live free, I will still do my duty. I will no longer cause You grief, nor will I make any plans for myself.” Thinking of this oath and remembering the time when I swore this oath to God, tears blurred my vision, and I slowly began to sing a hymn: “I myself am willing to seek after You and to follow You. Now even if You want to abandon me, I will still follow You. Whether You want me or not, I will still love You, and in the end, I must gain You. I offer up my heart to You, and no matter what You do, I will follow You for my entire life. No matter what, I must love You and I must gain You; I will not rest until I have gained You” (“I Am Determined to Love God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs).
After spending some time in spiritual devotions and making adjustments, under God’s enlightenment and guidance I very quickly left my negativity behind and threw myself once again into doing my duty.
Although I spent the best years of my youth in prison, during those seven years and four months I was able to suffer for my belief in God and I have absolutely no regrets. Because I came to understand some truth and I experienced God’s love, I feel that enduring this pain had meaning and value, that this was God’s exceptional exaltation of me and kindness to me, and God’s special favor to me. Even though friends and relatives don’t understand me and my daughter doesn’t recognize me, yet nothing and no one can break my relationship with God; not even death can keep me from Him.
“Pure Love Without Blemish” was the hymn I most loved to sing in prison, and today I want to devote my purest love to God through taking practical action!