88. The Hardship of Prison
By Xiao Fan, China
One day, back in May 2004, I was attending a gathering with some brothers and sisters when more than 20 police officers burst in. They said they were from the Municipal National Security Brigade and that they’d been monitoring my cellphone for the past four months. They said they were part of a province-wide crackdown and that many believers in Almighty God had been arrested. They took me to a Communist Party School in the city for interrogation. As soon as I got in, they ordered me to take off my shoes and squat down. After a little while, my legs went numb, but whenever I wanted to change position, the police would bark at me, saying that I wasn’t allowed to move a muscle. They kept me squatting there for over two hours before they began to question me. “Who is your leader? Where is the church’s money kept?” I said nothing. The National Security Brigade captain then came in with a pair of handcuffs and said fiercely, “Don’t waste your time with her. Give her a taste of these!” Then he said to me, “Hear that in the next room?” I could hear a sister in the next room screaming and immediately felt nervous and scared, thinking, “These police are going to torture me like that. How am I going to bear it?” I then said a silent prayer to God, asking Him to give me strength and saying that I was willing to lean on Him and stand witness. Just then, the captain kicked me onto the ground, handcuffed my hands behind my back and then yanked them up and down. After dragging and pulling on me like this a few times, I was in such pain that sweat was pouring off me. They went on doing this for more than ten minutes before finally letting go. Seeing that this hadn’t worked, they decided to try something different. They brought in some police from another area and some riot police from the city, who then began to interrogate me one group at a time. There were four in each group and they took it in turns to watch me day and night, tormenting me by preventing me from falling asleep. When I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and slipped into sleep, the police would flick cold water in my face and pull my hair in an attempt to crush my resolve and make me sell out my brothers and sisters and betray God. Every day, my nerves were stretched to breaking point, afraid that if I lost concentration for one moment, I might reveal information on the church. I kept on praying to God in my heart, asking Him to guide me through those terrible days. The police deliberately humiliated me, as well. They wouldn’t allow me to close the door when I had to use the toilet while male police officers were coming and going right outside. Some of them made a point of looking in, and many times they would just stand in the doorway watching me go to the toilet. I was interrogated and tortured in this way for 12 days. Because I hadn’t slept in over 10 days and my nerves were frayed, I ended up severely constipated. Their tortures had caused me to lose weight from 58 to 52 kg. I’d lost 6 kg in just 12 days.
On the thirteenth day, the police took me to a detention house in the city. Less than a month later, they took me to a high-end hotel for monitoring. They brought my husband in and left him alone with me in a room so that he could encourage me to give up information on the church. I began to weaken at first, and I so wished I could get out of that hell hole with my husband as quickly as possible. But to leave, I had to betray God and sell out my brothers and sisters. God’s words then came to mind: “You must be awake and waiting at all times, and you must pray before Me more. You must recognize the various plots and cunning schemes of Satan, recognize the spirits, know people, and be able to discern all kinds of people, events, and things” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 17). God’s words reminded me that the police had brought my husband in to soften me up so I would betray God. This was Satan’s cunning scheme and I was in danger of falling into its trap. I thought how, when the police were interrogating me, they’d given me a list of brothers’ and sisters’ names and some photos and asked me to point out the ones I knew, but I’d refused. I also remembered how my husband was always so supportive of my faith, and I thought I could use this opportunity to get my husband to warn those brothers and sisters so that they could go to ground and avoid arrest. So I pretended to cry on my husband’s shoulder and whispered my plan into his ear. He agreed to do it. To my surprise, a female officer immediately burst into the room and said to my husband, “We brought you in here to help us. What were you talking about? Get out of here!” The police had wanted my husband to encourage me to give up information on the church and betray God, but when this female officer saw that their scheme hadn’t worked, she became exasperated and bustled my husband out. These police were so sinister and evil! Thanks be to God’s guidance that kept me from falling for Satan’s cunning scheme.
Afterward, the police took me back to the Communist Party School for interrogation. They shackled me to a tiger chair and a female officer burst into the room and began to beat me across the face with a plastic slipper. Everything went black and then I lay prone on the chair. She said I was faking it, so, cursing, she yanked on my hair and continued to beat me. My face swelled up like a purple eggplant and blood trickled from my eyes. A male officer came over and unlocked me from the tiger chair, then pulled me roughly off by my hair and tried to stuff me underneath the tiger chair. I couldn’t quite fit under, so he kicked me and cursed me, saying I was no better than a dog. They shoved me underneath the chair and told me not to move before then stuffing me back into the chair and shackling me again. Being so brutally beaten and humiliated like this left me feeling terribly upset and I began to weaken. I thought to myself: “They won’t let up torturing me. When will it ever end?” In such extreme pain, I started to wish for death, but I was shackled to the tiger chair, so there was no chance of that. So I kept praying to God in my heart and then I thought of all the saints throughout history who’d been persecuted for preaching the Lord’s gospel. Some had been torn apart by horses, some had been stoned to death, and some had been sawed to pieces. They’d all undergone tortures normal people couldn’t have endured and they’d all borne testimony to God with their lives. I, on the other hand, couldn’t take even this little bit of pain, and even wished for death as a means of escape. I was so weak and was not bearing testimony at all. Thinking these things, I was overcome by remorse and anguish, so I hurried before God to pray and repent. Just then, I noticed a little bird sitting outside a nearby window. Its feathers were grey and I remember a gentle rain falling that day. It kept chirping and to me it sounded like the bird was saying, “Stand witness, stand witness….” The bird’s chirping got faster and faster, until it sounded almost hoarse. I realized that God was using this bird to serve as a reminder to me, and I was deeply moved. I wept as I prayed to God, saying, “Dear God, I don’t want to be a craven or a coward. I don’t want to die in such a weak and frightened way. Please give me faith and strength. I want to stand witness and shame Satan.” Just then, God’s words came to mind: “Perhaps you all remember these words: ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ You have all heard these words before, yet none of you understood their true meaning. Today, you are profoundly aware of their true significance. These words shall be fulfilled by God during the last days, and they shall be fulfilled in those who have been brutally persecuted by the great red dragon in the land where it lies coiled. 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, and these words are fulfilled in you, this group of people, as a result” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Is the Work of God As Simple As Man Imagines?). “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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). God’s words comforted and encouraged me. They showed me that it was inevitable to be persecuted and harmed by the Chinese Communist Party in the course of believing in God and doing my duty as the CCP is the devil Satan, the enemy of God. But the wisdom of God is exercised based on the cunning schemes of Satan and God uses the persecution and cruel tortures Satan metes out to perfect our faith and obedience, and in doing so, He makes a group of overcomers. I was suffering for the sake of gaining the truth, and this suffering was both meaningful and worthwhile. Just then, I thought of how God Himself became flesh to save us and endured rejection and slander, and was hunted and persecuted by the CCP, unable to find shelter. God suffered such great humiliation and pain, so, as a corrupt human being, what did my little bit of suffering amount to? It was an honor to be able to suffer alongside Christ. I couldn’t face death fearfully; no matter how Satan tortured me, I decided I would stand witness to satisfy God to my last breath! Later, the National Security Brigade chief said with a sinister smile, “You seem to be holding out pretty well. We didn’t plan on treating you this way. As long as you tell us everything and cooperate, I guarantee you’ll be allowed home soon so you can be reunited with your family.” They bought some chicken drumsticks and bread for me to eat, but I knew that this was just another ploy to lure me into betraying God. I looked at them and said in no uncertain terms, “I don’t appreciate your gesture, so don’t bother. I’m just meat on the chopping board for you to chop up as you see fit. I know I’m not getting out of here alive and I’ve accepted that fact, so you just do what you want. I’ve already told you I don’t know the answers to your questions!” He then said with a cold smile, “Don’t be so serious. Lighten up a bit. Just tell us what we want to know and you can go home.” He then turned and slunk away. The police kept me sitting on the tiger chair after that. Two weeks later, they took me to the detention house. When the staff there saw me with such severe injuries, they refused to take me. The National Security Brigade police forced me to say that I’d hurt myself by falling over, so the detention house police had no choice but to accept me.
I was at the detention house for a month before the police brought me back to the Communist Party School for more interrogation. They kept me sitting on the tiger chair 24 hours a day, bolt upright and with my legs bent at 90 degrees. This lasted for a month. My neck became unbearably painful and my legs swelled up terribly. The police were always teasing, insulting, and beating me, and inside I was furious. In particular, I heard them talking about how they’d arrested so many believers in Almighty God, saying that whether the person they’d arrested was a man or woman, old or young, they’d torture them first to frighten them, and then they’d all play ball in the end. They said this was a means of deterrence. Hearing these monsters brag so excitedly about how they were hurting my brothers and sisters and seeing them laugh their self-satisfied, brutish laughs, my teeth ground together in utter hatred. The CCP is truly a gang of demons that hurt people for fun. I prayed silently, cursing these monsters. Later on, the police saw that they weren’t getting the information they wanted out of me, so they transferred me to a detention center, to a criminal detention house, and then to somewhere to brainwash me. Finally, I was taken back to the city detention house where I was locked up for a year and three months. The police did all this to crush my spirit and to make me betray God but they didn’t succeed. Later, they charged me with “using feudal superstitions to interfere with the implementation of the law” and sentenced me to four years.
In prison, I once again knew how it felt to be in a living hell. I was set to making clothes on a production line where everyone had their own task to perform. Anyone who couldn’t keep up with the process or couldn’t finish their task was made to stand for 30 minutes to an hour after they finished work at 11 p.m. During that period, besides meals, I spent all my time in the work room. I couldn’t spare time to drink when I was thirsty and I even had to run to the toilet and back. I ended up severely constipated. As I was spending all day every day sitting and working and because there was always so much work to do, plus the torture I had suffered at the hands of the police, being made to sit on that tiger chair for over two months, I ended up with severe neck pain again and often suffered from headaches and nausea. One time, I slipped and fell in the shower and hit my head hard on the floor. My back hit the steps and I became dazed and unable to move at all. I felt like I’d broken my back, and it hurt so much. Even the other inmates said I was surely done for, or that I’d now be crippled. They all yelled for help and rang the alarm bell, but no one came. In the end, some of the prisoners carried me to my bed. I felt like my body was broken and I couldn’t stop crying from the pain. That night, it hurt so much I couldn’t sleep at all. A guard finally came to my cell at 8 a.m. the next morning. Impatiently, she demanded to know how badly I was hurt. I said, “I think my back is broken. I can’t move at all and my head really hurts.” But she just scoffed and said, “No big problem. You need to get yourself upstairs to work, you’ve got a lot to do. If you can’t move, you’ll have to find someone to carry you up. If no one helps, you’ll just have to crawl there by yourself!” She then turned and walked away. So I had to endure that terrible pain and ask some of the other prisoners to help me slowly off the bed. It took 30 or 40 minutes just to get me into a sitting position and then I made my way slowly over to the stairwell, and then up the stairs. It was a real struggle to get to my workstation, and I was trying to sit down, but after dozens of tries, I just couldn’t do it. In the end, I had to hold onto my machine and, gritting my teeth against the pain, use all my effort to sit myself down. I felt something break in my back and the pain was excruciating. It was really hard to hold up until the doctor came on duty, but all she did was rub some iodine on me and give me three notoginseng tablets. She told me to swallow them and then get back to work. And so, the pain I felt in my body and in my heart made me feel like I couldn’t go on any longer. I hated these police so much for treating me so inhumanely. In their eyes, prisoners were no better than dogs—we were just machines to make money for them. I thought of how I’d only been in prison for less than a year, whereas my sentence was four years. How on earth was I going to last such a long time? I really didn’t know whether I would survive it. I felt so alone and desolate thinking this. Without realizing it, I began to hum my favorite hymn of God’s words: “When you face suffering, you must be able to lay aside concern for the flesh and to not make complaints against God. When God hides Himself from you, you must be able to have the faith to follow Him, to maintain your previous love without allowing it to falter or dissipate. No matter what God does, you must submit to His design and be prepared to curse your own flesh rather than make complaints against Him. When you are faced with trials, you must satisfy God, though you may weep bitterly or feel reluctant to part with some beloved object. Only this is true love and faith. No matter what your actual stature is, you must first possess both the will to suffer hardship and true faith, and you must also have the will to forsake the flesh. You should be willing to endure personal hardships and suffer losses to your personal interests in order to satisfy God’s will. You must also be capable of feeling regret about yourself in your heart: In the past, you were unable to satisfy God, and now, you can regret yourself. You must not be lacking in any of these regards—it is through these things that God will perfect you. If you cannot meet these criteria, then you cannot be perfected” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, How to Be Perfected). I quietly sang this hymn, and the more I sang, the more moved I felt. I began to feel some strength inside and felt that, although I might now be suffering in this devils’ lair, in my weakened state God’s words were still guiding me, giving me faith and strength. God had never left me and with God’s words, I wouldn’t be alone. I felt so comforted by this thought and regretted my lack of determination to endure suffering. Faced with these hardships and trials, I’d fallen into negativity and wounded God’s heart. I thought about what I’d been through since my arrest. I’d been harmed and tortured by the police for a long time, and were it not for the guidance of God’s words and God watching over me, I would have died several times over by now. Now suffering this inhuman torment once again, I had faith that as long as I relied on God, then I would get through this, too. God was using this situation to perfect my faith. I knew I couldn’t cause Him any more hurt; I had to rely on Him and toughen up, keep on living, and bear witness to Him. Thinking these things, the distress I’d felt began to ebb away. It was God’s words that guided me through the harm and torture inflicted on me by Satan during that time. Eventually, my sentence came to an end and I had survived long enough to walk out of that hell on earth.
When I got back home, I heard that the police had been busy spreading rumors saying I was a scam artist. My husband had had to find work elsewhere to avoid all the gossip and finger-pointing from the neighbors and he said he wanted a divorce. His mom had been so ashamed by my being sent to prison that she could barely look at me. My daughter had also been mocked relentlessly by both teachers and classmates so that not even one child in the village was willing to play with her anymore. I couldn’t hold back the tears when I saw what had happened. We’d been such a happy family, now reduced to this because of the CCP’s persecution. I hate the CCP down to my very bones! A passage of God’s words came to my mind. Almighty God says, “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! … Why put up such an impenetrable obstacle to the work of God? Why employ various tricks to deceive God’s folk? Where is the true freedom and the legitimate rights and interests? Where is the fairness? Where is the comfort? Where is the warmth? Why use deceitful schemes to trick God’s people? Why use force to suppress the coming of God? Why not allow God to freely roam upon the earth that He created? Why hound God until He has nowhere to rest His head? Where is the warmth among men? Where is the welcome among people? Why cause such desperate yearning in God? Why make God call out again and again? Why force God to worry for His beloved Son? In this dark society, why do its sorry guard dogs not allow God to freely come and go among the world which He created?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (8)). As I contemplated God’s words, I thoroughly understood the ugliness of the CCP. It pretends to be righteous on the outside, spouting off about “freedom of religious belief,” “keeping law and order for the people” and “caring for the people.” It says all the right things about virtue and morality but in secret it uses any means at its disposal to arrest and persecute believers and spread rumors, resulting in countless Christians being thrown into prison, unable to return home, and having their families torn apart. I never saw the CCP for what it really is before, and I used to idolize it. But after I’d suffered its persecution, I finally saw that the CCP is the chief demon that harms the people. In essence, it is the enemy of God and of the truth, and it is the evilest, most reactionary bunch of devils.
After I got out of prison, the police never let up in their surveillance of me. The police in our local station were always asking whether I still believed in God and when I read God’s words at home, I had to keep the front door tightly locked. I had to keep my book of God’s words hidden in the most secret place and I had to be so careful and cautious when going to a gathering or preaching the gospel. One day in March 2013, a leader and two deacons from a church I was responsible for were arrested and I had to quickly arrange for some church stuff to be moved and notify some brothers and sisters to be on their guard. Just as I was sorting all this out, I heard a sister say, “The leader who got arrested had a list of brothers and sisters on her so the police have the list now.” She said the police pulled up all surveillance videos, looking for strangers, and that they were preparing to go door-to-door looking for believers. They also made this threat: “Better to wrongly arrest a thousand than to let even one slip through the net!” I felt so nervous and afraid when I heard this. Because I’d been arrested for my faith before, they had a file on me. If the police used face-recognition surveillance, then I was sure to be arrested. If I was arrested again, then there was no way I’d survive—they’d make sure of that. Thinking this, I realized I had to get away as soon as I could. When I got to another church, however, I couldn’t get my mind to settle and had an attack of conscience. There was a lot of work in that church that urgently needed arranging, but I’d dropped my commission to safeguard my own life. If I left now, I wouldn’t be protecting the interests of God’s house! Where was my conscience and humanity? Wasn’t I acting like a craven and a coward? I had no true faith in God—where was my testimony? As I thought these things, I hurried before God to pray, asking Him to grant me faith and strength and to protect me so that I could stand witness.
I then read a passage of Almighty God’s words: “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. Although, in the definition of the ‘flesh’ it is said that the flesh is corrupted by Satan, if people truly give themselves over, and are not driven by Satan, then no one can get the better of them” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Interpretations of the Mysteries of God’s Words to the Entire Universe, Chapter 36). Pondering God’s words, I understood that this situation was God’s test, and that a war was raging in the spiritual world. I knew I had to stand with God and offer up my life to shame Satan and bear testimony to God; there was no way I could turn tail and run at such a crucial moment! I had to protect the work of God’s house—that was the very thing someone with conscience and humanity should do. I was suffering persecution for the sake of righteousness, and even if I died, it would still be worth it. If I lived ignobly and surrendered to Satan, then although my body would survive, I’d be like one of the walking dead. I felt liberated at this thought, so I hurried back to that church and organized the brothers and sisters to move all the books of God’s words and told them all to lay low. All church work was arranged pretty quickly and I thanked God for His guidance!
Having believed in Almighty God for over 20 years and constantly suffering the persecution and oppression of the CCP, though I may have suffered some pain, under the guidance of God’s words, I’ve come to understand some truths and have learned to discern between right and wrong, between righteousness and evil. I also learned to rely on God through such extraordinary circumstances. I truly feel the authority in God’s words and my faith in God has grown. This is all by the grace of God. Thanks be to Almighty God!