Archives For Christian Missions

Persecuted Early Rain Church Elder Li Yingqiang and his family

In December 2018, Elder Li Yingqiang of Early Rain Covenant Church was arrested with Pastor Wang Yi and other leaders and jailed for 8 months in Chengdu, China. Li was then released on probation for one year, during which time he was required to leave Chengdu and live in his hometown.

After his probation ended last month, he and his family moved back to Chengdu to reunite with their fellow Early Rain Church members. When government authorities learned of his return, they immediately began harassing and threatening his family again. Below are the English translations (and Chinese text) of a few excerpts from his personal updates he shared recently regarding the renewed persecution his family is suffering.

Editor’s note: Special thanks to Brent Pinkall for translating these bulletins and helping make them available to the public. Please pray and share with others.

Sep. 27, 2020:

At about 8:50 pm, a group of six people from the Chengdu Public Security Bureau came to our door. Three of them identified themselves as Officer Chen, Officer Zhao, and Officer Xu of the National Security Bureau. Two identified themselves as Officer Wei and Officer Wang of the Qingyang Public Security Bureau. The other identified himself as Chief Dai of the Caotang Road Police Station. We received them into our home. They repeatedly told me, “You are not welcome in Chengdu! The Chengdu people do not welcome you!” And on and on. 

They informed us that they may take a number of measures including but not limited to strictly surveilling us, following us, “legally” making it uncomfortable for us to live here, “legally” depriving us of custody of our children, and so forth.

I stated to them that I wanted to communicate properly with them and did not want a confrontation. I told them I hoped they would not knowingly break the law or enforce it in an unlawful way. I told them that we are simply believers in Christ who want to bless the city of Chengdu. I said that we obey the authorities—even if they break the law, we will still submit to them and are willing to pay the price for our faith. 


When they left, they saw the spring couplets with the Early Rain Covenant Church logo hanging on our door and then proceeded to tear them down.


We came back to Chengdu because we wanted to share in the sufferings of our brothers and sisters and also to share in grace with them. May our gracious Lord be with us! May he keep our hearts so that we might always trust in him, praise him, and testify of him.

I also pray for the leaders and police officers of the Chengdu Public Security Bureau. I pray that through their contact with the church, they will come to know the God who made heaven and earth, who controls all things, and who shed his blood and laid down his life to redeem men from their sins. May God take a people for himself from these police officers and public officials who are persecuting his church.

Sep. 27, 2020:

Eight people arrived at our door from the Chengdu Qingyang District Public Security Bureau, the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, the Bureau of Education, and the Subdistrict Office. We received them into our home.

The people from the Bureau of Education began by informing us that we had violated the compulsory education law by not sending our school-age children to public school. They said that if we would like to send our children to school, they could help us contact the relevant people.

My wife indicated to them that during my incarceration, people from the department of education in my wife’s hometown came to her home dozens of times to force her to send our children to public school, but because we were Christians, she would not allow our children to receive an atheist education.

The gentleman from the education department said that state authorities could lawfully deprive us of guardianship and then send our children to public school. We responded by saying that we would not allow our children to receive an atheist education as long as we were still the guardians of our children.


Sep. 28, 2020:

Today, we began to enjoy our “uncomfortable” life in Chengdu. At the request of authorities, the subdistrict office placed a guard at the foot of our apartment building to follow us whenever we leave and to forbid visitors from coming to our home.

My wife said [to the church], “Starting today, no one is allowed to visit our home. I cannot come out to escort you in. You are not even allowed to visit if you register your ID with the guard. A friend just came, and before I could notify the police the man who was following me notified the police. A while later, the police arrived and told my friend that it would be best if we moved out and lived with her. May the Lord give me endurance and joy.”

I took our two children to a nearby park this afternoon and was followed. The person following me was quite restrained and civilized in speech and behavior, calling me “Mr. Li” and giving us space while following us. Our two children kept curiously looking to see if he was still behind us. They wanted to shake him off. I told the kids that this is the new lifestyle that we have started, so do not try to get rid of it but rather start getting used to it. Don’t worry about what they do. Just focus on what you are doing and do what you have to do. Enjoy your time, make good use of it, and don’t let them disturb you. The kids got better afterwards.

At Huanhuaxi Park, we “ran into” brother and sister Dai and their two children. The four children enjoyed playing together. Brother Dai played the flute and we sang Amazing Grace and I Cannot Tell. When we parted ways, we sang Cast All Your Care Upon Him and prayed together.

Chengdu is rainy tonight and slightly cool. Thanks be to God.

Sep. 30, 2020:

At around 10:00 am, my wife and I planned to go out to play with our two children. As soon as we got downstairs, we saw that the guard sitting in the hallway had been replaced by two young men. They followed us out. We went to the street to wait for a taxi. When we opened the door to get in, one of the young men said to the driver, “I’m a police officer. You are not allowed to take them. Leave.”

I stood at the side of the road and reasoned with him for a while, but he said he was just fulfilling the task assigned by his superiors. I said, “Then how about we leave Chengdu today and go to another city?” He said a police car was on its way and asked me to wait. Soon, a middle-aged man on an electric scooter arrived and said, “Where are you going, sir?” (It looks like they are reading my journals too. Thank you, gentlemen, for the patience and restraint you’ve shown in accomplishing your tasks.)

I asked this gentleman if I could go to Leshan by train. He said, “We can drive you there.” I said that would be fine. But he quickly changed his mind and said that we couldn’t go anywhere today. We could either go home or they could drive us to the police station in a police car.

When the children heard that they couldn’t go out, they started to feel sad and even cried. I was also a little annoyed. Yesterday, when I went out, I took a taxi and they just took a picture of the license plate. Today they won’t even let me get a taxi.


We had to return home and drop off our belongings. Then we took the kids to a nearby park to play and went to a nearby street for lunch. Two plainclothes policemen (I’m not sure if they were official police or auxiliary police) followed us the whole time. They even followed me into the bathroom when I took the kids to the bathroom.   

When we ate, we invited the two gentlemen to join us for lunch, but they firmly declined. Since the restaurant was crowded, we asked the owner to set up a table by the side of the road. As we sang, prayed, and ate, I thought about how we used to come to this street to eat with our brothers and sisters when we were meeting at the sanctuary on Baihua Lane. Yesterday afternoon I went to look at our former church building. That spacious, bright sanctuary that sat more than 600 people is now the site of a pharmaceutical company. 

When we returned home at noon, we found two women sitting at the “guard post” in the hallway. I didn’t realize until we got home that many people from our church were being closely guarded that day. After December 9, 2018, many families of our church staff were strictly guarded and surveilled, but police later gradually relaxed their restrictions. To this day, there are still multiple (6 by my rough count) families of church staff that are under 24-hour surveillance.

So my family returned to Chengdu because we wanted to return to our brothers and sisters, to be chained with those in chains, to mourn with those who mourn. In a sense, I am not returning to Chengdu to shepherd these brothers and sisters but to share with them in the sufferings that God has given his people at this time, as well as to share with them in his peace that surpasses all understanding.

I was supposed to preach on September 27th but had to cancel it last minute because we had an unexpected visitor. The text I was going to preach from was 1 Peter 3:13-22. I will end this journal entry with verses 13-16:

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

May the Lord help us treasure up these words in our hearts, for it is a great blessing to be united with Christ through suffering and to have the opportunity to experience a few difficulties for the sake of the faith.

This morning when my son was very sad that he could not go out to play, I picked him up and said to him, “Yes, of course it is sad that our freedoms are restricted. But what is that compared to what the Lord Jesus suffered for us? The Lord has already given us freedom and revealed that we are his heavenly people. So we need not be sad. If we can’t travel to somewhere far away, we’ll go to somewhere nearby. If we’re not allowed to take a taxi, we’ll walk. If one day we are not allowed to go out, we will still thank the Lord because we don’t even deserve this little bit of freedom. It is a gift from him.”

I am reminded that the Lord in heaven is watching over us all the time, and not even a sparrow will fall to the ground apart from his will. So I have peace like a river. Thank you, Lord!

Original Chinese text:







































13你们若是热心行善,有谁害你们呢? 14你们就是为义受苦,也是有福的。不要怕人的威吓,也不要惊慌; 15只要心里尊主基督为圣。有人问你们心中盼望的缘由,就要常作准备,以温柔、敬畏的心回答各人; 16存着无亏的良心,叫你们在何事上被毁谤,就在何事上可以叫那诬赖你们在基督里有好品行的人自觉羞愧。




AP photo

Editor’s note: In October 2018, Jemar Tisby gave the Covenant College (PCA) Reformation Day chapel lectures. In response, on November 7, 2018, PCA pastor Andy Wilson published an online article titled, “Dear Covenant College Students: Jesus Can Set You Free from the Yoke of Being Woke.” In it, Wilson disagrees strongly with Tisby’s lectures, accusing him of presenting an unbiblical view of a justice-oriented Church that promotes a works-based legalism that is beyond the Gospel forged in the Reformation.

On December 7, 2018, in response to Wilson’s article, Covenant College students Aaron Anand, Sarah Lane Cochrane, Abby Gienapp, Will Payne, Ryan Rhodes, and Mark Roos published in their student newspaper, The Bagpipe, an online article (below) titled “Freedom in Christ to Obey His Word: A Response to Rev. Andy Wilson.”

Article summary: In this article, the students present a biblical case against what they consider to be Wilson’s narrow view of justice as merely “equal treatment under the law,” drawn from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s position in their book “What is the Mission of the Church?” The students present biblical and social evidence for the necessity of a justice-oriented Church from within their PCA college’s Reformed doctrinal standards and confessional commitment. And they argue that biblical justice includes not only “equal treatment under the law” but also obeying Jesus’ command to “love our neighbors as ourselves” so believers are the “sweet aroma of Christ” in all places and to all people–especially the poor and marginalized.

Freedom in Christ to Obey His Word: A Response to Rev. Andy Wilson

Aaron Anand, Sarah Lane Cochrane, Abby Gienapp, Will Payne, Ryan Rhodes, and Mark Roos

Dear Rev. Wilson,

As students of Covenant College, we wish to offer a humble response to your recent article, “Dear Covenant College Students: Jesus Can Set You Free from the Yoke of Being Woke.” We present our own views in this letter, not the views of the College, nor of all our peers. We hope that this reply helps inform your perspective on the condition of academic and theological debate at Covenant. We further hope that our response will be a productive contribution to the broader dialogue that has surrounded Jemar Tisby’s recent Reformation Day lectures on our campus.

For the record, we do not agree with all of Mr. Tisby’s assertions. Students at Covenant are critical consumers of information—we are more than willing to question controversial or debatable assertions made by chapel speakers. His lectures sparked lively discussions on campus regarding several of the issues which you address in your article, including his creative rephrasing of Scripture, his stance on the centrality of activism, and his views on universal healthcare. However, we aren’t threatened by Mr. Tisby rightly pushing us to recognize weaknesses within our own Reformed tradition. As spiritual heirs of the Protestant Reformers, we do not assume that our theology has arrived at its terminus. In light of our cultural blind spots, we need to keep reforming our tradition in light of Scripture (sola scriptura!). Thankfully, God has given us the Body of Christ with many members from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It is vitally important for our tradition to listen to those voices when they tell us we are falling short in significant ways.

In 1973, O. Palmer Robertson delivered an address to the first General Assembly of the PCA. In that address, he affirmed that, “The Continuing [Presbyterian] Church commits itself to ‘the faith’ as it affects the totality of man’s existence … it searches out the implications of Scripture for the totality of human life.” We believe that this commitment, drawn from the genesis of the PCA’s doctrinal foundations, has significant implications for the modern discussion of race and ethnicity within the church, and we call for interpretation of Mr. Tisby’s lectures in this light.

Biblical Justice and Collective Repentance

Justice, as you have defined it from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s What is the Mission of the Church?, is “equal treatment under the law.” While this is a component of justice as laid out in the Scriptures, Christ takes us a step further. His explicit call to love our neighbor as ourselves, through our actions, thoughts, attitudes, and judgments, is a call to live justly (Matt 22:39). In Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” Doing justice, then, entails action that goes beyond creating a fair legal playing field. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ministering to the sick, and welcoming strangers are acts of mercy that must be involved in the administration of justice (Matt 25:35-39). By failing to welcome in and pray alongside our black brothers and sisters in Christ, the North American church—and more specifically, the PCA—failed to enact justice. We committed corporate sin by failing to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In some evangelical circles, talk of “corporate sin” is controversial. Properly understood, we don’t think it should be. The Reformed theological tradition contains robust support for the notions of corporate sin and repentance, beginning from the earliest pages of Scripture. The Fall affected the totality of human existence. With the sin of Adam and Eve, all subsequent generations sinned as well; individual sin impacted and continues to impact the body of Christ as a whole (WSC Q.16). While the doctrines of the fall and original sin are clearly a special case, they suggest that a corporate understanding of sin is woven into the biblical way of thinking. In the questions regarding the Lord’s Prayer, the Westminster Larger Catechism notes that “we pray for ourselves and others” for the remission of sin—such prayers would include the sins of people and their institutions from earlier generations (WLC Q.194). Thus, there is strong evidence throughout all our doctrinal heritage for collective, corporate sin and repentance (along these lines, see Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America [P&R, 2015]).

The 30th General Assembly in 2002 addressed the need for the PCA to repent of racist elements of its past: “We therefore confess our involvement in these sins. As a people, both we and our fathers, have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws God has commanded. We therefore publically repent of our pride, our complacency, and our complicity.” This was followed in 2004 by an extensive Pastoral Letter, “The Gospel and Race,” adopted by the 32nd General Assembly. The 44th General Assembly’s 2016 lament for the collective sin of racism “does recognize, confess, and condemn these past and continuing racial sins and failure to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires; and be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the Gospel task of racial reconciliation.” We gather that this 2016 denominational decision was contested at the time; nevertheless, through these formal actions, the PCA has affirmed collective responsibility for racist sin, and for the PCA’s past role in perpetuating injustice.

Individual repentance for individual transgression is called for throughout the Bible, but this is not the only sort of repentance with biblical grounding. Throughout the Bible, the entire people of God are treated as an entity that can be called to corporate repentance. All of Israel, in Amos 5, is condemned for their oppression of the poor and for turning their backs on the responsibility to carry out justice. Ezra prayed as an individual for the collective and historical sins of Israel (see Ezra 9 and 10). The prophet Jeremiah exhorts the Israelites to repent of their own individual sins and the sins of their ancestors (Jer 3:25; 14:20); in Isaiah, the Lord chastises the people for “both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together” (Isa 65:7). In a similar vein, we should not forget Daniel’s heartfelt prayer in Dan 9:1-19. In the New Testament, as Stephen is condemned in Acts 7, he traces the sins of the Jewish leaders all the way back to the sins of Israelites who went before them—the effects of collective sin can span millennia. The body of Christ today should confess its collective failure to bring justice to those oppressed through the sin of racism.

An individualistic view of salvation is devoid of the important contributions of kingdom and resurrection theology—cornerstones of the Reformed tradition. The resurrected King Jesus, the righteous king who renders justice to the oppressed (Psalm 72), is reconciling all things to himself (Col 1:19-20). This redemption is cosmic. Christ will stand as preeminent Lord over all creation, with the Church as the primary instrument for the advancement of his Kingdom. The Gospel’s power is far broader than individual salvation—it’s about renewing creation to be the temple of God’s dwelling that it was always meant to be. Many lay believers forget that much of the goodness we take for granted in our governmental structures, marriage, education, medicine, business, scholarship, and the like, is directly related to past Christians proclaiming God’s kingdom far and wide. Hospitals, for instance, are the legacy of gospel-centered Christian stewardship (e.g., see Charles Rosenberg, The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America’s Hospital System; and for earlier Christian influence, see Gary Ferngren, Medicine and Healthcare in Early Christianity). Wilberforce and other evangelical abolitionists labored tirelessly to make the English slave trade illegal. American checks-and-balances style government had its inspiration from the Presbyterian understanding of total depravity. Literacy and liberal democracies grow in a more robust fashion in countries around the world which received proselytizing Protestant missionaries (e.g., see the Christianity Today article by Andrea Palpant Dilley, “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries”). The renewal of the gospel is not limited to personal salvation, but extends into all creational structures.

Equal Treatment in Modern America

We have noted already that much of the discussion within the PCA turns on how we define justice. In your understanding, justice is “not about equality of outcome, but about equal treatment under the law,” and you assert that in America today, “people of all races do receive equal treatment under the law.” Even accepting this definition of justice, modern “equality under the law” is not a factually supportable claim. The racist attitudes of the past, which you are right to decry, have cast a long shadow. In his 1978 book Micromotives and Macrobehavior, Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling found that if a population has been segregated, segregation will continue unabated even in the absence of discriminatory laws. Accomplished justice requires a new behavioral impetus, not mere deletion of the old.

Discriminatory structures are still present in America today. A brief perusal of national headlines provides ample evidence, as does widespread academic documentation and research. As one example, in May of 2018 the Vera Justice Institute published an evidence brief titled “An Unjust Burden,” which found statistical evidence to support the conclusion that past structural racism has placed minorities at a present disadvantage in America. Even beyond this source, we have little reason to believe that implicitly racist attitudes have disappeared from our country. Substantial research has shown that mild biases of individuals are capable of producing a broadly unjust system—systems