In The Lion's Den
(The following is a true story told by one of our members. For obvious reasons, the writer will remain anonymous.)
It was a seemingly usual Sunday morning in the fall of 2016. I was going to chair the worship of our church that day, and a missionary from America was going to give a sermon. I had been one of the leaders of this family church for 12 years and God had blessed it so much that it had become quite influential in the area. Thankfully, the government had been tolerent of it for the past few years.
As was my usual practice, I arrived at the rented building one hour earlier prior to the worship time. Some brothers and sisters were there already, either praying or busy with daily chores. I looked around imagining how I should lead the whole service procedure wishing for all worshipers to be fully filled by the holy Spirit. Just as I was about to sit down for a quiet prayer time, someone told me that a policeman was looking for me. As I went to greet him, I wondered why he was there. His figure appeared at the inner most door to where we were. I tried my best to speak to him as calmly and boldly as possible even though I wasn't that kind of a gentle and patient person normally.
Curiously, he was trying to be as freindly as possible as well. He used a tone of kind reproach and said to me, "Why didn't you apply to be officially legalised after we talked to you last time?"
Oh, yes, a couple of months before, they came to search our building under the name of fire protection concern and took me to the station for several hours of inquiry. The final group of people from them gave me an impression that their real interest was for our connection with some certain missionaries from abroad. They asked me to give some information or some clue about certain people. My response then was that I had nothing to tell, which clearly irritated them. They responded by threatening us that since we had no qualifications of preaching approved by the government theological schools or government churches, we should face some consequenses if we didn't cooperate with them. Before they sent me away, this policeman in charge of this area told me to apply for official approval to assemble, which has been tried unsuccesdfully by many other family churches around us.
Recalling all of the above as we now spoke before church, I became aware of that they might want to do three things: 1. look for clues of foreign connections, 2. take our church properties, or 3. dismiss our church.
As I thought this, I knew I needed to inform the guest missionary and all the other leaders not to come so that the church could still assemble in another way should the worst happen. I also prayed that they would not touch our properties, while determining that I would try to take all responsibility, to get as few members implicated as possible.
Having made up my mind, I tried to get rid of the policeman who had been obviously doing his best to keep me restrained to the very inside corner from the beginning. As time passed, I got more and more anxious since the missionary and the leaders could be here any time. Suddenly I saw the chance as the policeman, miraculouly, started walking away for an unknown reason. I immediately took the opportunity and went to second door and told the first brother I saw to go into the bathroom to call a leader to tell him what I thought. As soon as I did that, I quickly came back to where I was kept and just in good time to greet the policeman back.
After a short while the policeman asked me to accompany him to meet other government officials who had arrived. I followed him down the stairs to be greeted by an astonishing scene. There were about 40 people walking up the long walkway towards us, some in different uniforms, some not in uniforms. They belonged to four different government departments. At the same time I was amazed to see on the other side of the street members of our church managing to walk away just in time. By the grace of God they missed each other and were spared in that moment.
I am still shaken when I think of that day. The police and officials declared us unlawful, dismissed us, searched our properties, sealed the gate and took a couple of us to record notes which were supposed to be useful for them. I was detained by the police for several hours, unsure of what the outcome might be, all the while praying and hoping. Eventually they let me go, but I know that I am on their watchlist now.
Three miraculous details of God's hand delivering me and my brothers and sisters in Christ are:
One, the policeman gave me one moment of free time to send information out. Who knows what may have happened had our foreign guest and other leaders entered while the police were there.
Two, while the two groups of people were on opposite sides of the same walkway and able to see each other, the police did not apprehend any others other than we who were in the building.
Three, the government's assault on us frightened many of us, including myself, but God allowed this to strenthen our faith. He also used this persecution to seperate the weeds from the seeds and let our church prosper more genuinely.
Your Brother in Christ