Today’s article comes from a piece I wrote up in my journals after a life-changing trip to China. I hope you enjoy it–and hopefully it will be a reminder to pray for those living in restricted countries where the Gospel is hindered and those who believe are still persecuted.
Her name means “Little Pearl”
I met her in November 2002, in central China, at a small house-church Bible School. She was 27 years old, thin and tall, and spoke with such a soft voice we found it difficult to hear. However our interpreter conveyed every word she spoke to us. As her story unfolded, we found our hearts opening to this young woman whose name, translated into English, means “Little Pearl.”
Pearl is a member of the house church movement in China. This membership did not come easily nor without great deliberation on her part, and personal suffering. Even by Chinese standards today, to become a Christian in this country is a radical and dangerous decision to make. She stood before our class, tall and straight that day, and proudly proclaimed, “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Her story came forth and as she talked, tears coursed freely down her cheeks, and soon we were all crying, for Pearl’s story is one of suffering, hardship and victory–one that every classmate there could identify with.
This is Pearl’s story, as she told it to us on that day—twelve years ago!
“I was raised in the home of a high Communist official who believed in keeping the letter of the Party law. Since God is a forbidden concept in my country I had little or no opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ or the Bible. As a teenager, I actually met some people who were believers in Jesus Christ, but I was not drawn to them because I was afraid of my father’s wrath. However, I often felt empty and depressed. There was no joy in our house—nor in my heart. Life, for me, was empty–without meaning.
All this changed when I was fifteen.
One day, I arrived home from school and our house was empty. Father and Mother and my elder sister were still at work. I had the house all to myself—a rare treat. I decided on that day to turn the radio on. As I moved the dial to change the channels I heard a choir singing beautiful songs. The songs were in Chinese, but the words were definitely not the usual patriotic propaganda songs we were encouraged to listen to—instead they were telling about God, heaven and salvation. When the music stopped, a man began talking about God—the Almighty God—creator of the universe. He talked about the good news of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible. I was fascinated. This was the first time for me to hear the good news of Jesus Christ! After that day, whenever possible, I would listen again. I found myself wishing that I, too could become a follower of the one called Jesus.
I prayed that God would save me.
Each time I listened, I prayed that God would save me, and make me His child, as the radio speaker said He would do. I prayed that someday I would meet some real followers of Jesus. I wondered, were there any such people in our town? If so, where were they? What were they like?
Weeks went by and I continued to listen, wish and pray as my heart was being drawn to Christ. However, fear also stalked me every day. I knew that if my father should find out about my secret, I would be in big trouble. I heard many stories of what happened to those who worshiped this Christ, and I knew that my father was harsh in his punishments of such people—for he was powerful in the communist government. I shuddered as I thought about his zeal to weed out ‘those fanatical Christians!’
One evening I listened to him boast to my mother that he caught a group of followers worshiping together in someone’s home. He ordered them to be beaten and put into prison, and to pay a huge fine. He himself had ordered the secret police to search their homes for songbooks and bibles. These they burned in the courtyard in front of their homes.”
Pearl shuddered again as she remembered this terrible part of her story.
“When my father was boasting to my mother, fear seized my heart. I realized then that my heart had turned to believing in this “gospel”—in this man, Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world. I saw that the punishment that fell on those people by my father’s hand could also fall on me. The full realization of this took hold of me. I knew the treacherous road ahead for anyone who took such a step of faith to believe.
Every day after that I worried about being found out. I gained courage when I listened to the radio speaker—but then I would weep because I feared my father’s wrath. Then, one day, Father came home early and caught me listening to the Christian broadcast I had grown to love. He was furious. With tears I confessed my belief in God and His Son!
My father was so angry that he beat me severely. When he finished he forbade me to ever listen to this program again, threatening that things would not go well with me if I did. Bruised and hurting, I lay on my bed. At first my heart was broken, and I feared more punishment. But then I realized something. This gospel must be true, for just as the early followers of Christ had been mistreated and persecuted, so were those in our country who believed it. Why else would the government work so hard to keep the people from believing?
That night, in the darkness of my room, I gave my life fully to Christ, vowing to become his disciple, whatever the cost—for He had suffered and even died for me—so that He could take my sins away forever. What else could I do?
As I prayed, peace flooded my heart.
I prayed then that God would seal my commitment by helping me to find a group of believers, so that I could worship Him with others; so that I could study the Bible and learn more about this Christian faith.
Before long God answered my prayer. In spite of my fear, I began meeting secretly with a house church in my town. It was not long before my parents and sister found out. Again father was enraged. He threatened me, beat me, and warned me of the folly of this decision. My mother wept silently, wringing her hands as she witnessed my father’s rage pour out on me, their second daughter.
Each day became an ordeal, facing his rage and interrogations—until one day, after returning from Bible study, he met me at the door. When he heard where I had been, he lost all control. In a fit of rage he drug me down to the river that flowed past our home. He threatened to throw me into the fast flowing water if I did not promise him to stop believing in Jesus!”
Pearl, paused in her story, and looked directly in to our faces.
“I knew I could never recant! I could not deny my Lord.”
“I knew I could never recant! To do so would deny my Lord and Savior—and all that He had done for me. That I could never do! As I stared at the water rushing past us, God’s peace flooded into my heart. I realized it would be okay if I should die for Christ. After all—He had died for me—even when I had treated Him as an enemy, He had love me. It would not be so bad to die. I would go to heaven and sit at His feet. There I could worship Him all day long without harm. I stood and looked into my father’s eyes—‘I will not deny my Lord.’
A black rage overtook my father and he shoved me to my knees on the cold, wet banks of the river. He beat my back with a rod until it bled. Then, dragging me back to our house, he pushed me down onto the doorstep and forced me to kneel there until it was dark. Finally, I managed to get up and limped to my bed. I was not dead.
For three days I remained in my bed. I could not sit or walk. When I could walk again, I went to my house church pastor and told him everything. The church prayed for me and the Elders decided that I should go on a mission trip to an area in the far north of my country—over 500 miles away. The pastor and Elders feared that my father would find me and hurt me more. Time away would give his temper time to cool. I agreed to go and without even returning home to tell my mother and sister, I left the very next day. I was gone for three months.
After a time I sensed God urging me to return home.
One day, as I was praying, I sensed God urging me to return home. I sensed that it was safe. I went directly to the house church and everyone there welcomed me home joyfully. Then my joy overflowed when I learned that my mother and elder sister had become believers, and were now a part of this fellowship. I could hardly believe it when they shared that my father, sorry that his anger had forced me to run away, had softened his heart toward me and other believers. Pastor told me that my father wished me to come home.
I was still a little fearful to go home, so the pastor went to my home first, reporting that I, their little Pearl, had returned. My father wept for joy and promised the Pastor never to harm me again—“only please tell little Pearl to come home.”
Pearl’s salvation came with much suffering, hardship—and victory.
Pearl returned home, and even though her father was not yet a believer, her sister and mother were. Her father hugged her tight when she came to their door, and after she settled in, he promised her that she could attend the house church without fear of his punishment.
It was told to Pearl, by the local people, that in her absence her father had become less hateful to those who believe in Jesus—and even listened to the Christian radio station from time to time with his wife and daughter.
Pearl’s salvation came with much suffering and hardship—and victory. She is a diligent student of God’s Word and a valiant missionary—being part of that host of persecuted servants, ‘. . . of whom the world is not worthy.’ She is still serving her people in a land hostile to the Gospel. She prayed that God would save her–and He did!
Pearl finished her story with a smile, and confided that her father’s love for her has returned, and that she has become his favorite daughter!