November 01, 2013
Remember Their Chains
By Brittany Tedesco
The year was 1959 in China. Under the ruthless dictatorship of Mao Zedong, Communist Party members had been arresting Christians and others suspected of being disloyal to the regime. Well-known pastor and theologian, Watchman Nee, was already in prison.
The communists were successfully convincing the masses to look upon Christians as American spies, counterrevolutionaries, and criminals. Believers lost their jobs, were expelled from schools, imprisoned, and treated inhumanely in hard labor camps.
Their homes were ransacked and they were subjected to public humiliation, which included mass public “trials,” where Christians were hauled onto a stage before thousands, eager to see who would “break” and pledge allegiance to Mao and who would cling to their faith, despite the dire consequences.
Dorothy Sun, a young college student, was expelled from the university she attended for refusing to testify against her father, arrested weeks prior for his faith in Christ.
She was one of a large number of youth forced onto the stage at a public trial. The pastor and several members of her Christian youth group were among the number.
Step to the left, the communists told the group, and you’ll be protected by Chairman Mao. Step to the right—cling to your “white man’s religion”—and face the punishment.
The crowd roared to life. Some jeered. Some pleaded for the group to step to the left. Dorothy watched as two-thirds of the young people ran to the left. She hid herself from the crowd behind her youth pastor, frozen with fear.
Suddenly, the pastor’s wife, holding their baby, ran onto the stage, pleading for him to step to the left—he could still practice his faith, she told him, just in secret at home. Dorothy watched as he turned his face to the sky to hold back his tears…before running to the right of the stage. He was killed two weeks later. But his courage prompted Dorothy to run to the right as well…and to suffer greatly because of it.
For 20 years she worked in a hard labor camp, at one point emaciated beyond recognition. She subsisted on the scraps thrown to her by her captors—mainly onion skins and the shells of sunflower seeds.
Dorothy is now the Director of Christian Aid’s China Division, and has been since the late ‘80s. Despite her advancing age and multiple health issues, she works at an intense level. Speaking in North American churches to raise awareness about the work of indigenous Chinese ministries is one facet of her job.
Last week in staff meeting she recalled an incident, several years ago, where she and several other missionaries were scheduled to speak at a church for “Missions Sunday.” Last in line, Dorothy waited while the others spoke. When it became her turn, however, the time was gone. Not wanting to dismiss her completely, the pastor took the microphone and asked Dorothy to tell the congregation, in three words, what she wanted to convey to them about the persecuted Church in China.
“Remember their chains,” she said, referring to the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:18.
This Sunday, November 3, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It’s a day for Christians, like me, who live in relative ease and freedom, to remember their chains and intercede for believers throughout the world who are suffering because they will not deny the Lord. Because they refuse to compromise the message of the gospel to suit government regulations. Because they won’t continue to practice aspects of their former false religions to hide their faith.
They are following in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who chose the furnace before they’d worship anyone other than God. They are like that kernel of wheat spoken about in John 12:24…unless it “falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
As Dorothy told us in staff meeting, the Chinese communists tried to keep the gospel from going forth by killing the Christians, but the Word of God cannot be stopped. China has experienced the fastest growing church movement in history. And the Church is growing rapidly throughout the world wherever the saints are being persecuted.
This Sunday offer up your individual prayer, which will be joined to the prayers of Christians everywhere, for these precious believers—for their peace, their provision, that they would maintain hope, and most importantly, that no matter how difficult the circumstances, they would not deny Christ.
If faced with that choice one day myself, I hope the Church remembers my chains. Let us remember theirs.