CHENGDU — An elder of Early Rain Covenant Church penned a handwritten letter providing spiritual exhortation and guidance on how the church should proceed in the middle of persecution as over 100 members, including pastors, elders and deacons, were detained on Sunday by Chinese police.
“Beloved brothers and sisters, do you have joy?” asked Li Yingqiang. “Are you rejoicing in the fact that you are suffering with Christ because of this church? Do you know that we are blessed?”
“The Lord is bestowing on us poor people today treasures of glory from Heaven!” he wrote. “The Lord himself is bestowing on us weak people comfort from Heaven! The Lord Jesus is shining on us blind people his great light. Those of us brothers and sisters standing on the front lines of the gospel war will earn great spiritual riches!”
According to reports, police raided Early Rain Covenant Church Sunday evening, and also went to the homes of various church members of take them into custody. Others were tracked down via their cell phones.
Wang Yi, the pastor of the church, which is unregistered with the Chinese government, was arrested for inciting subversion of state power, reports the South China Morning Post. Video posted online shows one woman asking the police where they are taking her husband, and why. Police simply responded that they were going to the municipal public security bureau for an investigation.
Reports state that the church was shut down because it was “unauthorized.” Members of the church posted images to the Early Rain Facebook page of bruises and torn clothing that they allegedly suffered at the hands of the Chinese police.
One post reads, as translated, “Lord, look at the grievances of your children. This country tramples on the dignity of your children, but these children are the servants of your eyes. You will heal these wounds with your loving hands, and let us learn to love God and learn the patience of Christ in suffering. Lord, may you come soon!”
Another declares, “They want to completely erase the Early Rain Church from this country, but the Lord’s purpose is to make this church deeper in this country, and deep in their hearts. The Lord’s Church is the only community in the world that has survived forever. Today, let us carry the eternal life to encounter all the sufferings, evil and tears in this place. This is the beauty of the Lord, and it is a part of our cup.”
The last elder to be taken into custody was Li Yingqiang, who left a handwritten note that was shared on Tuesday by China Partnership.
“Thank the Lord for being with us in this trial. Thank the Lord for cultivating us according to his true Word!” he wrote while in hiding. “Thank the Lord for training us through these days of hardship! Thank the Lord for sculpting us through today’s persecution! May the Lord give us great joy and true hope and make us strong through reliance on Him.”
“What these next two days or next few weeks hold we do not know,” he said. “These days are in the hands of the Lord. Just as he turns the dew into frost and the rain into snow, just as he makes the fragrance of the plum blossom waft across the bitter cold, we are in the hands of the Lord. How wonderful it would be if, because of this suffering, we might be able to give off the sweet fragrance of the gospel!”
Yingqiang also provided guidance to those in the church, and noting that Early Rain will not register with the Religious Affairs Bureau or join the Three-Self Church as the government requires. He said that the church will not give up its building easily.
“If we cannot enter the church building, we will rent another place,” Yingqiang wrote. “If there is no place indoors where we can worship, we will begin worshiping outdoors.”
He said that the church should stay together as a group, but if it is forced to meet in small groups—and should the government continue to assail them, “we are willing to pay an even greater price to bear witness to the great work of the gospel in our lives.”
“We are willing to have 200, 300, or 500 people arrested and imprisoned,” Yingqiang declared. “May the whole world know that we are joyfully willing to receive this persecution for the sake of our faith.”