Escaping Dire Straits
By Zheng Xin, China
One day in May of 2003, a sister and I went to preach the gospel to someone from a religious denomination. He refused to accept it, beat us severely, and reported us to the police. The police came and took us to the Public Security Bureau compound, and when we arrived, they dragged us out of the car and threw us on the ground. After that, the police pressed me with questions, “Where are you from? Who is your leader?” I didn’t answer. They beat me on and off for about an hour, after which I was dizzy and sore. At this time, the police brought in the sister who was arrested with me. When I saw she was walking with a limp and covered in wounds, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I realized that if they tortured us like this just after we were arrested, there was no saying what torture they would use on us next or whether I could bear it, so I prayed to God, asking Him to give me faith and strength. After I prayed, I thought of a passage of God’s word, “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” (“Chapter 75” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in). Indeed, no matter how threatening the police were, they were also in God’s hands. If God didn’t allow it, they couldn’t take my life. Thinking of that gave me faith and strength, and I resolved that I would stand firm and testify for God even if it cost me my life. The police handcuffed us to the car, and we were left in a half-squatting position for about three hours. Around 2 in the afternoon, four big men came over, all holding electric batons, and dragged us upstairs by our arms. One of them shouted, “Don’t think we’ll go easy on you! If you don’t talk, you get the baton.” When he finished, he bashed my mouth with the baton. My nose and mouth started bleeding, and then I passed out. After I woke up, I felt dizzy. Two police were holding my arms, and I saw that the sister was in a similar position. I signaled with my eyes that we should stand witness. Although we couldn’t speak, we each understood what had to be done.
The police dragged the sister up to the interrogation room on the second floor, while they dragged me to the third level and then threw me on the floor. A police officer in glasses glared at me and said, “Where are you from? Where is your home? Who is your leader?” I didn’t answer. He walked up to me, and then said as he kicked and stomped on me, “You’ll either talk or I’ll beat you to death!” After beating me for about an hour, after seeing I still wasn’t talking, he was so angry that he picked up the electric baton and bashed it against my mouth twice, and then he punched and kicked me again. I was hurting all over, and the pain made me scream, and I cried out to God over and over in my heart, “God, my flesh is too weak. I don’t want to become a Judas, so please protect my heart and help me through this difficulty.” After I prayed, I thought of a passage of God’s word, “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” (“Chapter 36” of Interpretations of the Mysteries ofto the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s word gave me strength. I knew I couldn’t be greedy for life and fear death, I had to put my life on the line to stand witness for God, and humiliate Satan. The police officer beat me up for a while, but I still didn’t say anything, so he used his leather shoe-clad foot to stomp forcefully on my face crushing my nose and mouth as he continued to curse me. The pain made me roll back and forth on the ground. At that moment, I heard the screams of my sister from downstairs, and I felt even greater anguish.
After a while, two police officers came in and said to me, “The woman downstairs already told us everything, so we know it even if you don’t say it. Now confess, or things will get worse for you!” I thought, “You demons have so many tricks. Do you think I couldn’t hear my sister crying and screaming? If she confessed, would you still be torturing her? I resolved that I wouldn’t betray God even if it cost me my life, so you won’t get any information from me!” Seeing that I still wasn’t talking, the police officer with glasses angrily grabbed my clothes and pulled me up, saying, “It looks like you still need a bit more beating. If we don’t beat it out of you, you won’t confess.” He continued to kick me and stomp on me as he spoke. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t support myself, and I collapsed limp on the ground. My mouth was so swollen that it protruded beyond my nose, and I continued to call out to God in my heart, “God, I’ve reached the limit of my endurance, and I don’t know what the police will do to me next. I ask You to guide me so that I can stand firm in my testimony.” After I prayed, I thought of a passage of God’s word, “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). As I thought on God’s words, I found faith and strength. No matter whether I lived or died, I would stand witness and humiliate Satan. When I became determined to put my life on the line, no matter how they punched or kicked me, it didn’t hurt as much. It was as if I was asleep.
After an indeterminate amount of time passed, a few police officers roaring with laughter woke me up. I heard one of them say, “Look at the one in the room, her pants are ripped open.” At that moment, I realized my pants were torn from my thighs to my knees and the thermal underwear inside was exposed. Hearing their laughter made me feel especially humiliated. I hated these demons from the depths of my heart. Around 5:30 that afternoon, the police took the sister and me to the hospital for a physical examination. At the time we were covered in wounds, my face and mouth were swollen, my pants were torn to shreds by the beatings, and there were bloodstains on my clothes. As we both limped toward the outpatient room, the other patients looked at us in horror and whispered, “What crime did they commit to be beaten like this? It’s unbearable to look at.” Thinking that we only believed in God and preached the gospel, yet were made to suffer such humiliation and persecution by the Communist Party while murderers, arsonists, thieves, and robbers were allowed to run wild made me feel very resentful. This is when I thought of a passage of God’s word in “Work and Entry (8).” “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 have long since disdained God, 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!” (The Word Appears in the Flesh). While the Communist Party outwardly waves the banner of freedom of religious belief, in secret they cruelly persecute Christians. They try to drive all who believe in God to death and disturb and destroy God’s work. The Communist Party is nothing but a group of evil spirits and demons who resist God. The police tortured and harmed me using any means they could to force me to betray God, but I wouldn’t let their conspiracy succeed.
In the evening, the police sent us to the detention house. A policewoman took us into a room and asked us to take off our clothes for inspection, and also cut off the buttons on our clothes and our belts, and then took us to our cell. That night, we both slept on the bare concrete bed. Because I hadn’t eaten for a day, and due to the pain all over my body, I couldn’t fall asleep while laying down, and I didn’t dare touch the bed with my buttocks. All I could do was curl up on my side. I felt miserable, and everything felt hard to bear. I didn’t know what crime the Communist Party would charge us with. If I had to go to prison for 8-10 years, wouldn’t that mean I would spend the rest of my life in prison? I would never see my family or my church brothers and sisters again. I felt very weak, so I prayed to God, “God, I beg You to give me faith and strength, and guide me in understanding Your will.” After I prayed, I thought of a passage of God’s word in “Is the Work of God As Simple As Man Imagines?”: “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…. 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 Appears in the Flesh). From God’s word, I understood that because the Communist Party is an enemy of God, it especially hates God and the truth, so it does everything possible to prevent us from believing in God and uses all kinds of torture to force us to betray God. When we believe in God in the country of the great red dragon, we are destined to suffer this persecution, but enduring this suffering gives us the chance to testify for God, so this was a blessing for me, and a glorious thing. Thinking back on my experience since my arrest, I saw that God had been enlightening and guiding me with His words so that I could overcome Satan’s tortures and torments. I saw that God was always by my side to protect me, and I felt that no matter whether I was sentenced to prison, I was willing to obey God’s orchestrations and rely on God to stand witness! Once I understood this, things didn’t feel so difficult.
Because my teeth had been knocked loose by the beating, and my mouth was extremely swollen, it was so painful that I couldn’t open my mouth or eat. After not eating for three days, I was so hungry that I felt weak and light-headed. All I could do was break a steamed bun into pieces the size of a fingernail and put them into my mouth little by little, and I didn’t dare chew it, so I had to swallow by drinking water. Even like that, the guards refused to leave me alone. They took turns on shifts to watch us, and gave us additional tasks to make us stay awake all night. Due to my physical weakness and heavy workload, I fainted twice after I couldn’t take it anymore. The third time, the doctor there said to the police, “She won’t live for much longer, and her life will be in danger if you don’t release her.” The police feared I would die in there and they would take responsibility, so they decided to send me away. At about 3 in the afternoon, two police officers said to me menacingly, “Go get in the trunk of the car. We’ll try an even heavier punishment and see if you talk then!” I climbed into the car with difficulty, and the two police officers locked me in the trunk. I curled up into a ball with a splitting headache, and it was so hard to breathe that I felt like I was about to suffocate. I was in severe pain and heartbroken, and I felt like I was about to die, so I called out to God over and over in my heart. At that time, I realized God allowed the great red dragon to persecute me as a means to allow me to stand witness before Satan, to perfect my faith and obedience, and to allow me to clearly see the great red dragon’s evil essence so that I would no longer suffer from its deception and bondage. This was God’s love for me. Thinking of this moved me and also gave me faith. I felt ready to rely on God to face whatever came next. At that moment, my head no longer hurt, I was no longer tired, and I didn’t feel as miserable.
I don’t know how long they drove, but soon, the car drove onto a bridge. The two police said something indistinct to someone on the bridge, and then they continued to drive. Before long, the car stopped. I looked around. We seemed to be in a tourist area, and there was a cemetery nearby. The police officer in glasses scolded me, “You caused us a lot of trouble, and we didn’t get anything for it. We even lost money on you.” Then, he asked me who my church leaders were again, but I firmly shook my head and didn’t tell him anything. He angrily struck me hard with the electric baton and said, “You’re at death’s door and you still won’t talk?” The blow knocked me to the ground. He pointed at the cemetery up ahead and forced me to walk toward it. I walked in that direction for about 200 meters, and then turned south. When the police officer saw it, he said, “Don’t you dare go south. You walk straight west!” I had no choice but to keep going west. They watched me for about half an hour before they drove away. I dragged my exhausted and weak body along as I walked about another 50 meters, and then I saw an old farmer working in the field. He told me that there was a large river embankment ahead, and that there was no way out. He also said I couldn’t stay there, because several days ago, another woman had died there. At the time, I was terrified, and anguish and fear took hold of my heart. My body was near collapse, and I didn’t know if I would make it through this alive. If I died here, my family and my church brothers and sisters would never know. Was I really meant to die here, so unjustly? This was when I thought of God’s words, “Do not fear, theof 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). God’s words give me faith and strength. I had God as my backing, so what did I have to fear? I energetically walked back 2.5 or 3 kilometers the way I arrived. When I arrived at the bridge, I saw 4 or 5 people operating a SARS checkpoint on the bridge. One of the men yelled at me, “Go back to wherever you came from! You can’t cross the bridge! Get moving, or we’ll make you leave!” I said weakly, “Are you so hard-hearted that you don’t care if people die out here?” The man said fiercely, “Do you want us to kill you? Get lost! Do you think you haven’t suffered enough? Do you want to suffer more?” When I heard that, I suddenly realized this was why the police got out of the car to talk to someone on the way here. They were colluding to keep me trapped in the cemetery. But I thought of how God has sovereignty over everything, and that God controlled my life and death, not Satan, so I was willing to rely on God to experience whatever came next. So, I hid in the small patch of forest near the river bank. Mosquitoes and insects buzzed in my ears and kept biting me, and thorny tree branches cut into me, both causing me pain and making me itch. After finally waiting until dark, I decided to go back to a familiar place. Because there were police watching the bridge, the only way out was to wade across the river at a distance of 100 meters from the bridge. The river was about fifty meters wide. I slowly plodded forward through the river, putting one foot in front of the other. There was debris such as glass, bricks, and stones on the river bottom, so I had to take every step with extreme caution, until I finally waded to the other side of the river. I was so excited that I shed tears and knelt on the ground to offer my thanks and praise to God.
Then, I continued to move forward. I saw the police on patrol, and the beams of their headlights reached far. I was afraid of being discovered, so I proceeded cautiously, passing through patches of wheat. Soon, I found that another river blocked the way ahead. I walked about 3-4 meters out into the river and noticed that the water was already up to my waist, so I quickly went back. On the bank, I found a young tree that was just over 2 meters tall, so I put the tree into the water to test the depth and discovered that the water only got deeper. I realized I wouldn’t be able to wade across the river. All I could do is go back to the bank. After that, I walked straight along the bumpy embankment, and I didn’t know if I would escape with my life, so I prayed to God, and then thought of God’s word, “Man’s heart and spirit are held in the hand of God, everything of his life is beheld in the eyes of God. Regardless of whether or not you believe this, any and all things, whether living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear in accordance with God’s thoughts. Such is the way in which God presides over all things” (“God Is the Source of Man’s Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Indeed, God is the source of human life. All I had to do was rely on God, and God would guide and lead me! At that time, I hadn’t eaten for three days, but I didn’t feel hunger and thirst at that time, nor did I feel tired. Seeing that God was always by my side and protecting me, I found strength again, and I continued to move forward. After walking with frequent rests, it was about 3 in the morning when I finally came to a stop, but I had arrived at another SARS checkpoint. I didn’t know whether the people at this checkpoint had been warned about me and would turn me back. I was very worried, so I could only go back. Because of my illness at the detention house and walking the whole night, I was hungry and thirsty, and I felt limp and weak. I didn’t have the strength to go any further. Every few steps I had to stop and rest. I felt that God was the only One I could rely on, and in my heart, I called out to God over and over again, “God, I have nowhere to go now, and I don’t know what to do next. Please guide me and help me.” After I prayed, the idea formed in my mind that no matter what, I could only go forward, not backward. So, I rested for a bit, and at dawn, I picked up a bamboo basket by the side of the road and pretended to be a vegetable merchant who wanted to ride in a vehicle past the checkpoint. I waited for nearly two hours, but no cars came. I continued to pray, asking God to open a way out for me. Then, an old man doing farm work saw that I wasn’t able to get a vehicle to stop, so he stopped a carriage for me. I got in, and successfully passed through the SARS checkpoint. It was noon when I walked into the town. I hadn’t eaten for four days, and I couldn’t walk anymore. I went to a restaurant and asked for something to eat, and the owner poured me a bowl of water. At that moment, I saw many people standing around the bus station across the road. The restaurant owner said to me, “They’re checking all the vehicles, no matter where they come from. Everyone who comes from the direction of Beijing and Hebei gets taken off and detained in a little room.” This is when I realized the fact that I couldn’t flag down a car previously was God’s good intention. If I had been in a car, I would have been found by the police. I saw that God was always by my side, and was always watching over me and keeping me safe, so I felt more confident about the journey ahead.
After a day and night on the run, I finally reached the safety of my church brother and sister’s home. When my brother and sister, who were older, saw my state, they couldn’t hold back their tears. The sister quickly cooked for me, then boiled a large basin of water so that I could wash and rest early. When I took off my socks, my feet were caked with blood. My socks and the flesh on my feet were stuck together, and 4 toenails peeled off my feet with my socks, making me scream in pain. After recuperating for a period of time, my body recovered, so I went to another region to perform my duties.
After experiencing this persecution and difficulty, although I suffered a little, when I think back on all that happened, I know that without God’s care and protection, and without the faith and strength I found in God’s word, I would have been tortured to death by the police or died in a desolate graveyard. It was all thanks to God’s love and mercy that I survived the ordeal and saw my brothers and sisters again, and my heart was filled with gratitude to God. I felt that God loves people the most, and only God can save people, which gave me more faith to follow God. Now, I only hope to pursue the truth and fulfill my duties to repay God’s love.