Etched in My Bones
By Zhencheng, China
It was in February 2009. One evening a little past 6, I went to share the gospel with Mr. Li, a religious man. He wasn’t receptive to it and even made false accusations against me, saying I’d attacked his mother. He called over a mob of more than 20 other villagers who beat me up, then he got over a dozen other religious folks to come attack me, and then reported me to the police. I was wounded head to foot and even lost consciousness. Then, I was in a daze, but I seem to remember the police carrying me into one of their cars and taking me to the hospital. A doctor pried open my eyelids and shined a flashlight into my eyes. He said something to the cops, I don’t know what, and then walked off. I slowly came to after 20 minutes or so and every part of my body hurt. Knowing that I’d been arrested, I was incredibly scared. I had no idea what the police were going to do to torture me. I’d just been attacked by those horrible people, so if the police did anything to torture me, I knew it would either mean death or serious injury. And if I couldn’t take it, but I sold out brothers and sisters, that would make me a Judas. At this thought, I said a prayer to God, “Oh God, I’m afraid I won’t be able to take the cops’ torture. Please give me faith and strength.” I remembered some ofafter my prayer: “Faith is like a single log bridge: Those who cling abjectly to life will have difficulty in crossing it, but those who are ready to sacrifice themselves can pass over, sure of foot and worry-free. If man harbors timid and fearful thoughts, it is because Satan has fooled them, afraid that we will cross the bridge of faith to enter into God” (“Chapter 6” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in ). God’s words were enlightening, and I knew that Satan wanted to use the weakness of my flesh to attack me, to get me to betray God because I was afraid of death. I knew I couldn’t fall prey to its trick. I knew every breath was given to me by God and it was God’s call whether I lived or died, so I was ready to submit to whatever God set up. I thought of how Job was a man of true faith, that he stood witness for God and shamed the devil, Satan. I wanted to lean on God and triumph over Satan with my faith, and give testimony to satisfy God. God’s words helped calm me down and I felt a surge of faith and strength; I wasn’t so scared anymore. Around 1 a.m. that night, I got up to use the bathroom, and the moment I walked out of my hospital room, a couple of officers rushed out of the shadows and said, holding me in place, “You think you’re gonna run? We’ve got you now, so don’t even think about it. If you don’t tell us all about your church, we’ll take care of you when we get you back to the station.” Then they sent me flying to the ground with a single kick. I retorted angrily, “On what grounds did you arrest and beat me? Detaining people without any evidence is illegal, and a violation of human rights.” One of them said, “So what if we did arrest you and beat you up? Your faith is against the law, and it’s pitting yourself against the Party. We could beat you to death today and it wouldn’t violate any law. If this were back in Mao’s day, you’d get the firing squad.”
They took me to the police station after that, and around 9 a.m. the next morning, the station chief came to question me with some National Security Brigade officers. One of them came over and dragged me up, yelling, “How many members are in your church? How do you communicate? Talk!” When I said I didn’t know, he smacked me in the face, once on each side, leaving my face smarting from the pain. Then he demanded to know, “Open your mouth! You won’t see another day if you don’t tell us!” I thought to myself that even if they did beat me to death, I still wouldn’t be a Judas and betray God. He got even angrier when he saw I still wasn’t saying anything, so he got a bottle of chili water and sprayed it into my eyes. The spicy water was everywhere—in my nose, on my face, and in my mouth. My eyes were burning like crazy, in horrible pain, and I was fighting them with everything I had. The station chief came over and pulled really hard on my hair so that I couldn’t move around, then kept spraying chili water into my eyes. I was choking and couldn’t get a breath. I felt like I was about to suffocate. I was thinking about the cops using such a cruel, despicable tactic to torture me, and that if I really did die there, my family wouldn’t even know what happened. And how could I live my life after that if they really did blind me? I rushed to say a prayer and then thought of something thesaid: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). God’s words gave me faith and strength. God rules everything and my life was in His hands. If He didn’t allow it, no one could take my life away. That cop was spraying chili water in my eyes and he was itching to see me dead, but no matter how he tortured me, he could only destroy my flesh. My spirit was in God’s hands. If I was afraid of physical suffering and ended up betraying God like Judas, that would offend God’s disposition, and my soul would be punished. But if I stood witness for God, even if I was tortured to death, my soul could be saved and I could gain God’s approval. All the fear went out of me at that thought, and I resolved within my heart that even if I went blind that day, I’d never betray God.
Seeing I still wasn’t talking, he picked up that bottle of chili water in a rage and jabbed my face with it really hard, shouting, “Spit it out, otherwise we’ve got even better implements for you to ‘enjoy’!” I silently called on God nonstop: “Oh God! The police have even worse torture instruments to use on me and I’m afraid I won’t be able to bear the pain. Please give me faith and strength so I can overcome Satan’s ravages.” I thought of these words from God after praying: “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). Then I understood that this was a time that God needed me to stand witness, and even though my body would suffer from those evil cops’ inhuman torment, I had a chance to give testimony to God in front of Satan. God was allowing that, and it was something really meaningful! This gave me the faith and strength I needed to face the situation. The pain in my eyes gradually faded and I knew that God had answered my prayer. He was by my side looking out for me, having mercy for my weakness. The police used about a pound of chili water on me in total, but they still never got a single word out of my mouth, so they had to give up. I heard one of them mutter off to the side, “That’s so weird! Why’s thisbeliever so tough? It’s just unbelievable that something this spicy in his eyes isn’t doing anything!” Then they left one by one, all sulking. I gave thanks and praise to God over and over when I saw how those demons had been defeated and humiliated. I thought of this from God’s words: “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). I could see from my actual experience that absolutely all things are subject to God’s arrangements and my faith in God grew.
They took me to the city Public Security Bureau a little after 2 that afternoon, where they dragged me up to the third floor and threw me roughly down onto the floor. A police captain came over to interrogate me, saying, “We’ll give you one more chance. Tell us everything you know, and we’ll let you go home right away. But if you don’t, we’re taking you to the detention house and you’ll end up doing prison time!” I told him, “If you want me to betray God and sell out my brothers and sisters, that is simply out of the question.” Seeing how firm I was, he switched to an unctuous, placating tone, saying, “You seem like a smart guy. Why be so stubborn? This is the Communist Party’s realm now, and you believe in God, which makes you a target of the state. There’s no God in this world—you just believe in a person.” I knew that they’re atheists, that they belong to Satan, and they wouldn’t even understand any testimony to God, so I didn’t even bother to respond. Then the police immediately changed tack again and came at me, punching and kicking. They kicked me really hard in the right shin, I have no idea how many times, leaving my pants torn, and my leg hurting so much it felt like it was broken. I just lay there on the floor, calling out to God over and over, asking Him to give me faith and strength so that I could make it through those demons’ torture. Then the station chief filled up four disposable cups with really hot water, walked up to me carrying one, and bowed down and said in insincere politeness, “This has been hard on you. Here, have some water and take it easy.” I figured there was no way he had any good intentions, so I wondered what kind of trick this was to torment me now. Just as I was thinking that, he suddenly poured the hot water into my left ear. It burned so badly that I cried out in pain and sat bolt upright, shaking my head. He brought another cup over and poured it into my right ear, cursing and saying, “You think you can get away? If you don’t talk, you’ll get all four of these cups poured on you, and then I’ll see if you have something to say!” My ears and my face felt like they were on fire from the pain of that hot water and I thought, “What will I do if I’m disfigured or mentally disabled?” I really couldn’t take that kind of brutal torment anymore—I was in total agony. Just then, God’s words came to 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). I remembered that all things, all events are in God’s hands, and even the police were in God’s hands. Even if I ended up disfigured or mentally disabled that day, I was determined not to beg for Satan’s mercy. They poured the last two cups of hot water into my ears after that, and I just gritted my teeth and endured the pain, calling out to God the whole time. Aof God’s words came to mind right then: “The utmost faith and love are required from us in the work of the last days. We may stumble from the slightest carelessness, for this stage of work is different from all the previous ones: What God is perfecting is mankind’s faith, which is both invisible and intangible. What God does is convert words to faith, to love, and to life. People must reach a point where they have endured hundreds of refinements and possess faith greater than Job’s. They must endure incredible suffering and all manner of torture without ever leaving God. When they are obedient unto death, and have great faith in God, then this stage of God’s work is complete” (“What God Makes Perfect Is Faith” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I understood from God’s words that He was using that kind of environment to perfect my faith and love for God. I had to have faith in God, stand witness for Him, and thoroughly humiliate Satan. It was after 5 p.m. when, seeing I was keeping quiet, the police took me to the detention house. They dragged me out of the police car when we got there, and I was in such agony I couldn’t stay standing, but just fell to the ground. The detention house staff saw what a terrible state I was in and refused to take me at first, afraid they’d be held responsible if I didn’t make it. After some negotiation, they did eventually agree to admit me.
In the detention house, the boss of the inmates pointed at me and said, “Just tell me who the leader of your church is and you’ll be fine. Otherwise, all bets are off!” When I didn’t say a word, he said, enraged, “I’ll be straight with you. The corrections officers told me to get information about your church out of you, and if I don’t finish the task, I’ll lose my rank here. This is all on the corrections officers—don’t blame me.” Then he grabbed me by the hair with his left hand and used his right hand to slap me, first one side then the other, then had some other inmates come smack me, too. I don’t know how many times I was slapped, but my face was swollen and one of my molars was knocked loose. They took my clothing off after that and made me bathe in cold water. It was the middle of winter, so it was incredibly cold, but they poured basin after basin of cold water over my head. I was freezing cold, shivering from head to toe, and my teeth were chattering. They also made me stand on the cement floor with bare feet, and I had to sleep right by the toilet at night. When people got up to use the bathroom at night, they’d intentionally urinate toward me. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t take any more of the inmates’ humiliation and torment, and I thought to myself that they were just as inhumane as the police, so I had no idea what else they would do to torture me. I was really miserable. Then I thought of this hymn of God’s words: “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. It is through people’s suffering, through their caliber, and through all the satanic dispositions of the people of this filthy land that God does His work of purification and conquest, so that, from this, He may gain glory, and so that He may gain those who will bear witness to His deeds. Such is the entire significance of all the sacrifices that God has made for this group of people” (“You Are Those Who Will Receive the Inheritance of God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I saw that having faith in China where the CCP rules means you’re bound to be oppressed and harmed by Satan, and God is using this oppression and hardship to perfect our faith so that we can gain the truth. This is a blessing from God. My suffering had value and meaning. I also thought about how God has come into the world to speak and work twice now, in order to save mankind. He’s suffered all sorts of humiliation and misery, condemned and pursued by the ruling party, rejected and slandered by the people, but He’s never stopped expressing the truth and working to save us. His love is tremendous! So what did it matter if I, someone so deeply corrupted, suffered a bit? I was being persecuted by the Communist Party because of my faith, but it was for the sake of righteousness, so it was actually an honor. I knew I should face it without qualms and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. Over the next three days, the boss refused to let me eat or drink anything, and the inmates intentionally waved their own leftovers right in front of my face, saying, “Hungry? If you want to eat, just tell us what we want to know and we’ll give you some food. Otherwise, we’ll throw it out before giving you anything.” Then they’d just crumble up their leftover bread and throw it in the toilet. I knew this was one of Satan’s tricks, that it wanted to use this food to tempt me into betraying God. I remembered this Bible verse: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). I never told them anything, no matter how they tempted me. Over those few days I couldn’t eat or drink, I actually didn’t feel that hungry. Finally, one of the inmates said, at his wits’ end, “You’re a damn mule. Ten oxen couldn’t pull you off course.” Seeing that Satan had been defeated, I gave thanks to God in my heart over and over.
Over the next few days, three National Security Brigade officers came to question me several times, trying to get information on the church, sometimes enticing me, sometimes intimidating me. I kept my mouth shut. Then the morning of March 18, they took me to an interrogation room where they handcuffed me to a tiger chair. One officer who seemed like he was in charge gave them a look, and the others all left. He said to me in a really low voice, “I’m here on behalf of a friend of yours, coming to step in for you.” I was thrilled to hear this, thinking that my older brother was probably using his connections to get me out. I was dying to get away from that awful place as soon as I could. But then he went on disingenuously: “This doesn’t have to be a big deal—your case could be big, or it could be small. Just tell me everything you know, and I can just say the word to get you out of here.” That’s when I realized that he was trying to get me to betray God and sell out my brothers and sisters. It was really cunning. Then he went on, saying, “I heard you used to be a businessman. Why’d you give up such a good business? You were so well-respected, everyone admired you, and you had two well-behaved kids who were good students. But now, all because of your faith, your kids’ teachers don’t treat them as well and their classmates make fun of them. Their chances at going to university, joining the military, being a cadre are pretty much shot, and your wife isn’t living at home. You had such a wonderful family, but now all of you are scattered to the winds. Just think about it—would you be going through all of this here if you weren’t a believer?” Hearing him say all this really did leave me feeling awful. My two kids were implicated because of my arrest and I felt that I really owed them. At that moment I realized that I wasn’t in a good state, so I quickly said a prayer to God and thought about how my children’s fates were entirely in His hands. God had already determined what they’d be able to do when they grew up. It wasn’t up to the Communist Party. Satan wanted to use my kids’ future to pressure me into betraying God. That’s disgusting! My children getting bullied and my wife being on the run was entirely the Communist Party’s doing. But they were shifting the blame, saying it was because of my faith. They’re twisting right and wrong! When I didn’t respond, he showed another side, saying, “You think believing in God is a small thing? Let me tell you—you’d be better off committing any other crime. You think gambling, whoring, or drinking is a big deal? That doesn’t count for anything.” I was so angry to hear him say this. The Communist Party really is so evil! Then he warned me, “Don’t be so stubborn. Just tell us everything about your church and you can keep believing in your God. Then whenever you have news about your church, tell us about it right away and do whatever we say. We’ll make things easy for you. We can give you a stipend, make sure you’re rewarded with reputation and money. What do you say?” I thought to myself that Satan really had a lot of tricks up its sleeve, even wanting to bribe me with money so that I’d betray God like Judas. I knew that I’d never serve Satan, even if I died that same day. He saw I wasn’t falling for it, so he said threateningly, “Mr. Li is bringing charges against you, saying you killed his mother. Two charges at once means the death penalty. You’ll get the firing squad.” Then he said, pretending to be sympathetic, “Who can testify for you on this? You’ll just be wrongly sentenced to death. You’re no idiot—give it some thought.” He went on to say that he’d give me 15 more minutes, and it was fine if I prayed about it. Then he walked out. Hearing him say that Mr. Li was lying about me that way and that I had multiple charges against me, I felt wronged and miserable in a way I can’t describe. I was thinking that I’d never raised a hand against his mother, but he was framing me, saying I’d killed her. If it really was true that there were two charges against me, I would get the firing squad. Thinking about this was really upsetting. Then these words from God came to mind: “At all times, My people should be on guard against the cunning schemes of Satan, guarding the gate of My house for Me; … so as to avoid falling into Satan’s trap, at which time it would be too late for regrets” (“Chapter 3” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words reminded me that Satan was threatening me with death to get me to betray God, and I’d nearly fallen for its trick. But the great red dragon couldn’t decide if I lived or died. That was up to God. I was ready to obey whatever God arranged, whether it meant life or death. I started humming a hymn of God’s words to myself: “No matter what God asks of you, you need only work toward it with all your strength, and I hope you will be able to come before God and give Him your utmost devotion in the end. As long as you can see God’s gratified smile as He sits upon His throne, even if this moment is the appointed time of your death, you should be able to laugh and smile as you close your eyes. You must, during your time on earth, do your final duty for God. In the past, Peter was crucified upside down for the sake of God; but you should satisfy God in the end, and exhaust all your energy for His sake. What can a created being do on behalf of God? You should therefore give yourself up to God, sooner rather than later, for Him to dispose of you as He wishes. As long as it makes God happy and pleased, then let Him do as He will with you. What right do men have to speak words of complaint?” (“A Created Being Should Be at the Mercy of God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Peter strived to love and submit to God, and in the end he was crucified for God. He bore resounding witness. I had to follow his example, and stand witness to satisfy God, even at the cost of my life. I didn’t feel so afraid after that, and I said a silent prayer to God in my heart: “Almighty God! I give thanks and praise to You! Your words have guided me the whole time since I was arrested, and You’ve been giving me faith and strength. As those demons have been tormenting me, You’ve watched over and protected me. I’ve witnessed Your deeds. God, I have really and truly seen Your love, and now is the time for me to repay Your love. I’m ready to put myself entirely in Your hands. Even if the police execute me today, I absolutely will not betray You. I’ll be devoted to the death, and never go back on my word!” Pondering God’s love was really moving for me, and the tears just started flowing. Those 15 minutes passed, and when the officer came back in and saw me crying, he thought I’d fallen for his trick. He got out the photos of a bunch of brothers and sisters and asked me if I knew them. I said curtly, “No.” He became furious as soon as he saw my attitude and barked, “You’d better be sure about this. You’re facing the death penalty!” I said, “Go ahead and execute me. I don’t know them.” Furious, he picked me up out of the iron chair I was in and then slammed me hard down onto the ground, and several others came over, punching and kicking me while swearing at me. One of them was jabbing me with the tip of an umbrella. After they’d been beating me for about half an hour, I was black and blue all over, and I ended up losing consciousness. They dragged me into a jail cell, tossed me onto the floor, and left.
Then the morning of March 21, three police officers came and waved a copy of a verdict in front of my face, saying, “You’re getting a year of reeducation through labor for the crimes of illegal proselytizing, disrupting social order, and undermining the enforcement of the law.” Then they continued, “You thought we couldn’t do anything if you wouldn’t talk? We still got you prison time!” Then they put my hand on the copy of the verdict and forced me to thumbprint it. They pointed to a police vehicle parked right outside of the interrogation room and said, “See, the car’s here. We’re giving you one last chance. Just tell us all about your church and you can go home right away.” Seeing their shamelessness made me really angry, and I said, “If I’m not afraid of the firing squad, you think I’m afraid of doing time? There’s absolutely no way I’m betraying God!” They pushed and shoved me angrily into the car and then sent me off to the reeducation through labor camp. The people at the labor camp saw how badly I’d been beaten and didn’t want to take me. The National Security Brigade officers spent ages making calls before the labor camp staff reluctantly agreed to take me. When I was getting my physical exam, they took off all my clothing in front of everyone for a nude examination. The doctor saw I was covered with bruises head to toe, and asked me what had happened. An officer interjected quickly, “He just fell.”
I suffered horrible abuse in that labor camp. I had to get up early every morning to number off, and since my hearing had been damaged by hot water, I often failed to hear the person before me, so the corrections officers would hit or kick me. When the prison guards sent us out to do some digging, they’d always assign me twice as much work as anyone else. And they were all old construction sites, so the ground was packed too hard to dig. I could just scrape at the soil manually, and I got blood blisters all over my hands. It was really hot in June, and when everyone else was done and could go back inside, I was the only one left out there. I had to finish before I could go in. I didn’t just have to do manual labor there, but I had to recite the prison rules and sing songs praising the Party every day. If I didn’t, not only would I be beaten, but I would have time added to my sentence. During that time, all I could do was lean on God and pray. I only made it through with the strength that He gave to me. My sentence was up after a year. I was released and went home. After that, local police officers and National Security Brigade officers kept going to my house to check up on me, to make sure I wasn’t practicing my faith, going to gatherings. I left the area to do my duty, so I wasn’t under constant police surveillance.
This experience of arrest and persecution showed me the Communist Party’s evil essence of hating the truth and hating God. I wholeheartedly rejected it and left it behind. I was also able to feel God’s love. I was brutally tortured over and over, and when I was weak, in pain, and even felt like I’d be better off dead, I leaned on God and prayed. I got through it by relying on God’s words and His guidance. I saw the might and authority of God’s words, and I personally experienced that God is my only pillar, that He is always there to help me. Only God loves us. Only God can save us. I give thanks for God’s love and salvation from the bottom of my heart.