By Zhang Qiang
Generation after generation of my family, including my parents, has believed in the. When I was a child, I was seriously sick one time, so my parents prayed strenuously to the Lord, their hearts and minds as one. The might of the Lord Jesus helped me to escape death. Consequently, our neighbors all started to believe in the Lord Jesus and attend meetings at our home. We brothers and sisters read the Bible, sang hymns, and praised God together so that we could free our spirits. But because the Chinese government persecutes religious faith, in later years the police came to our church to threaten and arrest us time and again. In addition, they confiscated our tables and benches, saying: “If you keep on believing in God we will arrest all of you and give you a taste of being imprisoned.” In order to avoid the government’s persecution, my whole family went to live in the mountains. The brothers and sisters had to wind their way up the narrow mountain road to our home to gather for meetings after dark. Every time, the meetings ended at 3 a.m. so that they could be home before daybreak. But even then the government stretched out its violent hand toward our family.
One day in the winter of 1986, when we were having a meeting, my dog suddenly began to bark like crazy. I pushed the door open and saw a shadow jumping over the wall of our house. The door of our house opened and six policemen burst in. I hurried to tell the brothers and sisters to escape through the back gate into the mountains. Just when I was at the gate and intending to stall the police for time, a policeman rushed to me and asked: “Are you Zhang Qiang?” I replied: “Yes, I am.” Subsequently, another policeman kicked me to the ground and handcuffed my two hands together behind my back. The rest then ransacked the house wildly. Thank the Lord! With His protection, the brothers and sisters managed to get out of danger. The police didn’t find anyone, so they then interrogated me ferociously: “Speak up! Who came to the meetings here? Where do they come from?” I said nothing. A policeman seized me by the collar and said maliciously: “You don’t want to speak, right? I’ll take you somewhere that will make you open your mouth!” Then they pushed me into the police vehicle and took me to the town police station. On the way, I repeatedly prayed to the Lord, asking the Lord to protect my heart, to grant me the words I should speak, and to give me faith, in order that I could stand witness for the Lord.
At the station, the chief slapped the table and said: “Someone reported you. He said some people frequently go in and out of your house and that some things the villagers lost were stolen by you people. Answer now! Where are those people from? How many people attend the meetings every time?” I didn’t say anything. He suddenly said slowly, in a “milder” tone: “If you speak, it’ll be all right and we will let you go home.” I answered: “It’s just and honorable to believe in Jesus. We don’t steal or plunder. You’re trying to falsely shift the blame onto us.” On hearing my words, the chief sputtered: “Cut out the nonsense! I don’t care if you have stolen or not because someone really did report you. Speak! Who were those people at your gatherings? Where do they live? If you tell us, we will let you go home; if not, you will not be allowed to eat for three days. And if still you don’t speak, we’ll send you to the county detention center and detain you there for half a month.” Then a policeman pulled my belt out from my trousers. I had to hold them up with my hands and was locked up in a small dark room. There was nothing in the room and the ground was dirty and wet. Standing in the corner of the room, I prayed silently: “O Lord, I am willing to take up Your cross and follow You. I must not become a Judas who sold out the Lord and his friends. However, under these circumstances my heart feels so weak. Lord! Please give me faith and strength!” Finishing the, I thought of the Lord’s words: “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). The Lord’s words gave me faith and strength in my heart, and I no longer feared the situation I was in. The next day, the police interrogated me again: “Have you thought it over? If you have, sign your name and guarantee you won’t again. Work hard and live a good life at home.” I ignored them. Then they pointed at my head, cursing: “You don’t know right from wrong! What cheek! Ingrate!” But no matter how they threatened me, they still could not get any answer. After a week of being imprisoned they still couldn’t get anything out of me so they became flustered, saying: “You don’t say anything, do you? So don’t blame us if we stop being so kind! Today, we’ll take you to the County Public Security Bureau.” Before I was taken, the chief threatened me one more time: “I’ll give you one last chance. If you say you don’t believe any longer, we will let you go home right now. Otherwise, we will take you to the County Public Security Bureau. Then they’ll really give it to you. When that happens, you’ll have no choice.” Seeing me keep silent, the police came up and kicked me, and then sent me to the County Public Security Bureau. On arriving there, a policeman took a squint at me, and said casually: “Lock him up there. Today I’m busy. I’ll sort him out another day.” This made me nervous because I didn’t know how they would treat me. I kept praying to the Lord in my heart to ask Him to give me faith and power so that I would be able to stand witness, and would not yield to Satan. At that moment, the Lord enlightened me: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). In thinking of that, my heart was immediately filled with a kind of power, and I wasn’t scared of the situation any longer.
The next day, the police interrogated me: “I heard you are sharp-lipped and have an unshakeable belief in the God of foreigners.” I said: “Doesn’t the state stipulate that everyone enjoys freedom of religious belief?” He walked up to me at once and maliciously gave me a slap on my face, with his ferocious eyes staring at me. My head immediately started to buzz. He laughed grimly and said: “Freedom of religious belief? That’s nothing but a daydream. That is for the foreigners to see. In China, there is no freedom! Answer me, how many people are you in contact with? When do you have gatherings? Do you still want to believe in God or not?” Seeing that I had nothing to say, he took a belt and whipped my back like crazy. Each whip caused me a heart-piercing pain. At the same time, he said: “Do you still believe? …” In agony, I thought about what the Bible says: “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). Accordingly, I answered firmly: “I believe.” Hearing my reply, he whipped me harder, saying: “You want to believe, believe this! You want to oppose the Communist Party then you are courting death!” Just when I felt the pain from the whipping was most unbearable, the scene of the Lord Jesus being mocked by the soldiers, with a crown of thorns on His head and His blood flowing down His face, appeared in my mind. The Lord Jesus suffered such great humiliation and pain for the sake of saving all mankind. Thinking of this, I realized what I was suffering was nothing. The more I pondered God’s love for mankind, the more I was encouraged. My tears flowed down unceasingly and the pain in my body was relieved a lot, without me even really knowing it. I didn’t know how many times the policeman whipped me, but I saw that he eventually got tired and breathless and had sweat all over his face. He looked at the blood on the ground, saying to me: “You got off lightly this time. I’ll fix you tomorrow. Don’t believe I can’t make you submit!” Several policemen dragged me into a small black room. I wanted to stand up but I couldn’t. My back was beaten to a bloody pulp and my tattered clothes clung to the yawning gashes in my flesh, so I would have been in unbearable pain if I’d moved. I had no choice but to lie prone on the floor, praying to the Lord silently to ask Him to give me the strength and the will to suffer. At that point, the Lord Jesus’ words came to my mind: “And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). As a child, I often listened to my parents teach me: “The truth has been persecuted since ancient times. If we want to follow the Lord and walk the way of the cross, we must suffer in these ways.” Thinking of this, I didn’t feel the pain but felt that suffering for the Lord and bearing the pain of the cross was an honorable thing. Therefore, my heart was comforted, and I became peaceful and steady.