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。