When Mom Does Time
By Zhou Jie, China
I was 15 years old when my mom and I fled from home. I remember we left late one night in 2002. My mom suddenly whispered to me that the police were coming to arrest her, and that we couldn’t stay at home and needed to leave immediately. We frantically collected a few belongings and then left the house in a hurry. My mom and I have never returned home since then. So my mom didn’t take me with her, she had me stay with some relatives while she hid out in another city. My mom used to help those relatives out a lot when she was still doing business, now we were in trouble, but they were worried about what might happen and didn’t want to get involved. They didn’t want to take me in and even took a dig at my mom, saying her belief in God had left her without a home and she couldn’t even look after her kid. They wanted my mom to take me away. I was so angry with how they were misunderstanding my mom. This was all obviously because of the police, it wasn’t my mom’s fault. I really wanted to get out of there right away. I didn’t want to stay for even another minute. I hoped that my mom could come back and get me soon. When my mom first left, it was very hard for me. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to lean on and I suffered a lot. I’m from a single parent family, my parents divorced when I was just three years old. My mother and I stuck together, we were never apart. Whenever I thought about how my mom wouldn’t be able to take care of me anymore, I would start crying. When I felt sad and helpless, I would pray to God. I would say: “Dear God! My mother can’t take care of me anymore. Please help give me strength.” After prayer, I came upon a passage of God’s words which said: “Do not fear, the Almighty God of hosts will surely be with you; He stands behind you and He is your shield” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 26). “Bravely advance; I am your rock of strength, so rely on Me!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 10). God’s words cleared things up for me. My mother was no longer by my side, but God stood behind me and I could rely on Him. I couldn’t let this hardship get the best of me and I couldn’t rely on my mother anymore, I had to learn to be strong—no matter how hard and how trying things got, I had to rely on God and persevere. Later, I went to live with Sister Zhang’s family. Their family of three are all believers. We had no blood relation, but they still treated me really well. Sister Zhang’s daughter would often read God’s words for me and fellowship on the truth. My mom might not have been by my side, but I didn’t feel lonely. I really liked being with my brothers and sisters.
That was in 2003. My mother was spreading the gospel in another city. One day, she sent a letter to me saying she’d like to meet up, and told me to wait for her at the specified place and time. I was so happy and excited when I got her letter that I could barely sleep that night. On the day of the meeting, I arrived at our meeting spot on time, but after waiting for an hour, there was still no sign of her. I paged her on her beeper a few times, but she never responded. I ended up waiting for her from noon until 8 p.m. that night, but she never came. I was so disappointed and felt like something might be wrong. The next day, my leader informed me that the previous day, 8 brothers and sisters had been arrested while spreading the gospel, and that one of them was my mother. He instructed me to destroy the beeper I’d use to contact my mom right away. I was really worried when I heard this news. I prayed over and over to God, asking that He protect her safety and help her to stand witness. During that time, whenever I thought of my mom, I couldn’t help but cry. I often worried that she was being beaten or tortured. She must have been suffering a lot in jail. When would she be released? I was worrying so excessively that one day I suddenly fainted. When I finally came to, I slowly limped back to my room, using the wall as support, then lay down in my bed and cried, thinking of how lonely and helpless I was. In my most miserable hour, it was God that guided me through. I recalled a hymn: “During my refinement, Your heart aches for me. Your words provide for what I lack; when I am sad, they bring me comfort. …” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, God’s Love Has Melted My Heart). I clearly saw that this was God’s guidance. I immediately realized that I’m not alone—God is with me. Because of the great red dragon’s persecution, my mother couldn’t be with me. She couldn’t care for and comfort me, but God hadn’t left my side. In my darkest hour, God was there to comfort me. I felt that He was so close, and realized that He is the only One I can truly rely on. I thought to myself, “If God can guide me like this, I’m sure He can also help my mom through her difficulties.” When I realized this, I perked up a little and felt less worried and hung up over my mom’s situation. Later, I got to see my mom. She was in jail for four months and only got out when she used a connection to secure her release. When we met up, she was full of concern for me and gave me lots of advice. We fellowshiped and encouraged each other and we made a pact that no matter what happened to us, we would always follow God and fulfill our duties.
I remember, it was September and my mom was still spreading the gospel in a different city. I’d heard that a sister who had an important duty was arrested and many of the people that had made contact with her were in danger and had to relocate. I was thinking to myself, who could this sister be? Then my leader came and told me that I needed to destroy my SIM card I used to contact my mom. I realized right away that it was my mom that’d been arrested. I knew that this time she was being arrested for printing books of God’s words and might be subject to brutal beatings and torture. The next few days I was very worried and couldn’t sleep at night. Not soon after, I learned that more than twenty brothers and sisters had already been arrested and they’d all been tortured. When I heard this, I became even more worried. Was my mom getting tortured right then? Was she alive or dead? My mom was in grave danger, but all I could do was worry and panic—I couldn’t do anything for her. I felt terrible. I couldn’t help but think that if only my mom hadn’t taken on such a dangerous duty, maybe she wouldn’t have been arrested and tortured. It’s so hard and so dangerous to believe in God in China. During that time, I was very weak. I was distracted and lost and I didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t have any energy and was unmotivated in my duty. Every day, all I did was pray to God and ask that He protect my mom.
One day, I saw a passage of God’s words that said: “When Job lost his livestock that filled the mountains and untold masses of wealth, and his body became covered in sore boils, it was because of his faith. When he could hear the voice of Me, Jehovah, and see the glory of Me, Jehovah, it was because of his faith. That Peter could follow Jesus Christ was down to his faith. That he could be nailed to the cross for My sake and give glorious testimony was also down to his faith. … People have received so much because of their faith, and it is not always a blessing. They may not receive the kind of happiness and joy that David felt, or have water bestowed by Jehovah as Moses did. For example, Job was blessed by Jehovah because of his faith, but he also suffered disaster. Whether you are blessed or suffer disaster, both are blessed events. Without faith, you would not be able to receive this work of conquest, much less see Jehovah’s deeds displayed before your eyes today. You would not be able to see, much less would you be able to receive” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Inside Truth of the Work of Conquest (1)). I thought: “That’s right, it’s all in God’s hands whether we are blessed or suffer disaster. The hardships and trials we go through in our faith are God’s way of exalting and testing us.” Just like Job—Satan made a bet with God that it could tempt Job by depriving him of his children and livestock and making his body fester with boils and sores, so that he’d deny and abandon God. God was also using this ordeal to test Job and perfect his faith. Not only did Job not blame God, he praised God and said: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). Job stood witness for God and gained His commendation, and he even heard God’s voice in a whirlwind. As a result, he gained an even truer faith in God, and this is an even greater blessing from Him. I thought that, on the surface, it seemed disastrous that my mom was being harmed by the great red dragon, but God was actually using this to test us and perfect our faith. This was God’s exaltation. I suddenly realized that Satan was watching me and God was waiting for me to make my position known. They were waiting to see if I’d lose my faith in God, deny and betray Him because my mother was arrested. When I realized this, I was willing to stand on God’s side, not blame Him or betray Him and fulfill my duty to satisfy Him. Once I understood God’s intention, I stopped being so worried and concerned over my mother and was willing to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements.
She was sentenced to two years of reeducation through labor. I was shocked when I found out. Two years is a very long time. The living conditions and food in jail are awful and you have to work every day. How was my mom going to make it through those hellish conditions and brutal mistreatment? She was already over 50 years old—could her body really handle any more of this torture? One day, I saw a passage of God’s words that says: “From the moment you come crying into this world, you begin to fulfill your duty. For God’s plan and for His ordination, you perform your role and start your life’s journey. Whatever your background, and whatever the journey ahead of you, no one can escape the orchestrations and arrangements of the Heaven, and no one is in control of their own destiny, for only He who rules over all things is capable of such work” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). God’s words helped me understand that each person has a role and purpose in their life, and the course your life will take was long ago preordained by God. My mom had a role to play and mission to complete. Two years in prison was a long time, but this was something she had to go through. How her body would fare and how much suffering she would undergo was up to God. God allowed my mother to be harmed by the great red dragon and arrested and put in jail in order to test her. God was giving her an opportunity to stand witness for Him. I should feel proud. I also had lessons to learn from this situation. I needed to learn how to not complain and blame God when faced with hardship and how to submit and fulfill my duty. After I understood God’s intentions, I prayed to God, telling Him that my mom was in His hands and asking that He protect her in jail so that she could stand witness.
A year and a half later, I heard that my mom had gotten out of jail early and so I contacted her. To avoid being followed and monitored by the police, we decided to meet at a sauna. That day, I arrived an hour early. My heart was racing in anticipation: I was so excited to see my mom. I kept my eyes glued on the entrance and then through a window, I saw an emaciated middle-aged woman. As she entered, she told a staff member her daughter was waiting inside for her. When I heard her speak I thought, “Isn’t that my mom’s voice?” It took me a second to realize. If she hadn’t spoken, I wouldn’t have recognized her at all. My mom used to have a tall, straight posture and a refined elegance, but she had lost a lot of weight and seemed more hunched over. She was nothing like before. I ran right up to her and yelled: “Mom!” My mom turned to face me and her face was so gaunt that I couldn’t recognize her. She had a sallow complexion and looked thin and worn out. She had a dull look in her eyes like someone who had been overstimulated. I nearly broke down when I saw her like that. I couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through in jail—I couldn’t bear thinking about it. The tears started welling up in my eyes. My mom sitting next to me squeezed my hand tightly and asked me how I’d been these past years. She said that while she was in jail, she was most worried about me and often prayed for me. She was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle the trauma and would turn away from God. When she heard that I still believed in God and was fulfilling my duty, she was very happy. My heart ached for my mom when I saw how skinny she’d become while we were in the dressing room. When she turned around, I saw that she had a scar on her left collarbone. The scar was black and the bone was sunken in the middle as if it had been broken. I just couldn’t stand seeing her like that. I choked back the tears and asked her: “How did you get this scar? Did the police beat you? Does it still hurt?” My mom was afraid I’d worry, so she said it was fine and had already healed. It was only years later that I learned my mom had been brutally tortured after being arrested, and a professionally trained officer had punched her 30 times in the shoulder, breaking and fissuring many bones, dislocating her shoulder and displacing many vertebrae. Thankfully, with God’s safeguarding, my mom miraculously made a full recovery and all her bone breaks completely healed. Even the prison doctors were surprised at how fast she healed.
Not long after that, we had to part ways because my mom had only just been released, so the police were probably still monitoring her. For my own safety, we had to separate for a little while longer. It was very hard for me that time, I wanted to stay by her side and help care for her. But due to the great red dragon’s persecution, I couldn’t even fulfill my responsibility as a daughter. I felt just awful. On the way home, images of my mother’s frail body and the scar on her collarbone kept flashing in my head over and over. Each time an image flashed brought a new round of torment. I just couldn’t imagine how those officers must have tortured and brutalized her. I was so outraged. The great red dragon is so vicious and evil! A passage of God’s words came to mind: “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, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (8)). I clearly saw the cruel, God-resisting, demonic essence of the great red dragon. These officers brutally attacked a middle-aged woman just because she believes in God, not caring if she lived or died. This made me so angry. God made humankind, so of course we should believe in and worship God, but the great red dragon stops at nothing to torture and brutalize people so that they deny and betray God. They are so despicable, evil and cruel! I used to think that government officials and police officers were all good people. Only after being persecuted by the great red dragon did I realize, that their claims that citizens have legal rights and religious freedom are all just deception and lies. They frantically arrest, persecute, torture and beat believers and are itching to kill them all off. They’re nothing but a pack of God-resisting demons. I hate them all from the bottom of my heart. I want to give my heart over to God, follow Him and fulfill my duty.
In 2013, my mom was arrested yet again. At first I was a bit worried. I thought: “Will mom be tortured yet again? Will she be sentenced to jail time? Can her body really take another jail sentence?” Just as I was thinking this, I immediately realized that my mom was arrested with God’s permission. I should submit and seek God’s intention. I thought of God’s words, which say: “Have you ever accepted the blessings that you were given? Have you ever sought the promises that were made for you? You will surely, under the guidance of My light, break through the stranglehold of the forces of darkness. You will surely not, in the midst of darkness, lose the light guiding you. You will surely be the master of all creation. You will surely be an overcomer before Satan. You will surely, at the downfall of the kingdom of the great red dragon, stand up amid the myriad throngs to bear witness to My victory. You will surely stand firm and unwavering in the land of Sinim. Through the sufferings you endure, you will inherit My blessings, and will surely radiate My glory throughout the entire universe” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Words to the Entire Universe, Chapter 19). God’s words helped me realize that my mom was arrested this time with God’s permission. God uses the great red dragon’s persecution to perfect our faith, give us truth, and allow us to stand witness for Him. I also heard my brothers and sisters fellowship about believers who had been arrested several times, and eventually when faced with jail time by the CCP, they were no longer constrained by Satan’s dark influence. No matter how many times they were arrested, they still believed in God and fulfilled their duties when released, and felt liberated and free. This was God’s salvation. Once I understood God’s intention, I felt much more serene. I prayed to God for mom, asking that He help her to not be afraid of the great red dragon’s influence, and bear a resounding witness for Him. I didn’t know how long I’d be separated from my mom this time, but I felt at peace in my heart. Not long after, I threw myself into fulfilling my duty.
Later, my mom told me that when the police officer went to look up her file to check past offenses, there was amazingly nothing on the record. My mom said that in her past two arrests, she’d personally experienced how God guided her through hardship and performed miraculous works. She also gained a better understanding of God’s almighty sovereignty and her faith in God grew stronger. When the officer asked her how they spread the gospel, my mom openly bore witness to God’s work. Through my mom’s experience, I saw how wise God is. He uses the great red dragon’s persecution to give us courage, wisdom and faith, to improve our discernment so that we can see the demonic essence of the great red dragon and despise and abandon it entirely. The great red dragon is just a pawn in God’s hand. It uses every possible method to disturb and derail God’s work, but its efforts only contribute to the perfection of God’s chosen people. It’s a paper tiger! Having witnessed God’s almightiness and wisdom, I feel even more confident about following God and experiencing His work. This made me think of God’s words, which say: “When I formally begin My work, all people move as I move, such that people throughout the universe occupy themselves in step with Me, there is ‘jubilation’ across the universe, and man is spurred onward by Me. In consequence, the great red dragon itself is whipped into a state of frenzy and bewilderment by Me, and it serves My work, and, despite being unwilling, it is unable to follow its own desires, but is left with no choice but to submit to My control. In all of My plans, the great red dragon is My foil, My enemy, and also My servant; as such, I have never relaxed My ‘requirements’ of it. Therefore, the final stage of the work of My incarnation is completed in its household. In this way, the great red dragon is more able to do service for Me properly, through which I will conquer it and complete My plan” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Words to the Entire Universe, Chapter 29).
The great red dragon’s persecution might have made me suffer more than other children, but despite the hardship and moments of weakness, I’ve become stronger. These experiences have been very valuable for me. They’ve helped give me the deep conviction that only God is always there to help and offers me true support. As long as we don’t lose faith in God, He guides us through hardship and we can witness His work. I’m willing to rely on God to steadfastly follow God, fulfill my duty and repay His Love!
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