A League of Her Own

April 24, 2013

77-year-old China director brings words of encouragement, challenge to Taiwan donors

Bible school celebrates Easter in 2011

She survived the Japanese invasion of her hometown during World War II. For two decades she endured backbreaking labor and near starvation in a communist prison. And last August her husband passed away after 45 years of life lived as a team. These may sound like misfortunes, but don´t feel sorry for Dorothy Sun. She is a woman on a mission.

As co-director for the China division of Christian Aid Mission for the past 26 years, the indomitable Sun has been a force. A “Mu Bao Dao Shiang De Ren”, as they would say in her native country.

Sun recently returned from a four-week whirlwind speaking tour across Taiwan, where she thanked Christian Aid donors for their support of ministries in China. Her hectic schedule would be exhausting for anyone, let alone a 77-year-old widow.

“They called me ´energetic old lady,´” said Sun, who received a warm welcome as she gave presentations at dozens of churches. “They told me, ´We are glad you have come again. You are our spiritual mom.´”

Based in Taiwan, the Chinese Christian Evangelistic Association and its network of churches have worked with Christian Aid for 15 years. Many of these congregations consider Dorothy and Freddie Sun an extension of their church family, and they are accustomed to the couple´s annual pilgrimage to Taiwan and to mainland China.

With Freddie´s work on earth completed, Dorothy felt a trip was all the more paramount to assure donors the projects Christian Aid assists in China are not only continuing, but thriving.

Sharing the vision

Christian Aid works with student ministries in China.

The Suns joined Christian Aid in 1987 and worked tirelessly to establish the China division. Their desire was to train house church leaders, who could in turn teach and disciple other believers in their communities.

Since then God has abundantly blessed their efforts, as Christian Aid has helped 155 Bible institutes and missionary training centers in every province of China. Some schools were intended to operate on a short-term basis, but over 50 continue to produce a wellspring of courageous pastors and teachers, who are eager to share the gospel despite ongoing persecution.

These learning centers have now equipped and encouraged more than 50,000 Chinese missionaries and church leaders.

As Dorothy offered thanks to Taiwanese Christians for their generosity, she encouraged them to continue praying fervently for their persecuted brothers and sisters in mainland China.

“I reminded them that we are the same people. Our differences are political in nature between the free government of Taiwan and the communist government in China,” Sun explained. “As Christians we are one with the same God, same traditions. And as Christians, we need to have that same oneness not just with those living in China, but with believers all over the world.”

When the mainland fell to the communists in 1949, deposed leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and re-established his Nationalist Chinese government there. Further democratization occurred with future leaders, and rapid economic growth ushered in the great prosperity that persists today.

With that freedom, Sun said God gave Taiwan a responsibility to be a beacon of light for Him. Buddhism still has a foothold in the country, especially to the south. Many Taiwanese also cling to ancestral worship and occult practices that are part of their traditional folk religions.

“Why has God blessed this island? I believe He wants Taiwan to become a center for sharing the gospel,” she said in messages to congregations representing several Christian denominations. “He wants us to be strong, but we wrongly continue to worship idols. We have to return to Jehovah God, Who loves and has protected us.”

Sun also shared her vision with businessmen and high-ranking scholars in secular venues. She spoke in a government building in the capital city and visited with a student fellowship at Taipei University. Sun addressed Bible study groups meeting during lunch in office buildings and did radio interviews that were broadcast to listeners across the country.

Five of her stops were to prisons, where Sun delivered a special word of encouragement to inmates. She can identify with these prisoners in a deeply personal way because she has been in similar–but unquestionably worse–circumstances.

Broken to bless

The number of believers is increasing in China.

Hardship defined much of the first half of Sun´s life. She was born in Tianjin City, located in northeast China, in 1936. A year later that region of the country was invaded by Japanese forces. Their reign of terror continued until the end of World War II.

“I was nine when Japan surrendered, and after that we enjoyed a democratic government in China. We had human rights, liberty, and religious freedom. Our president and first lady were Christians,” remembered Sun. “We enjoyed about four years of life in a free land. Then Communism came and our lives were turned upside down.”

A strong believer, Sun´s father founded a Christian newspaper and an indigenous missions organization. The communists eventually learned of his faith and accused him of being a spy for the United States.

Then 22, Dorothy was in medical school studying dentistry when the police approached her with a special request. They wanted Sun to implicate her father in counter-revolutionary activities. They also asked her to denounce her belief in God.

She refused.

The authorities responded by charging her with crimes against the government. Though she was never officially sentenced, Sun was sent to a labor camp. That was 1960.

For six years she was forced to do heavy, back-breaking work for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Sun endured beatings and near starvation. Her meal, if she ate at all, consisted of sunflower seed husks ground into powder with onion skins and peelings from fruits and vegetables.

Not surprisingly, the hard labor adversely affected her health. To this day she suffers with deep vein thrombosis in both legs and back pain.

After release from the prison camp, she was transferred to a jail facility. During the next 14 years Sun had limited freedom as a night parolee. She stayed in the jail from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but was allowed to spend nights at her mother´s house. She was also free to go home on Sundays.

But God brought her comfort during the storm. In 1967 Dorothy met and married a Chinese Christian named Freddie, who was also committed to serving the Lord–no matter the cost.

Just 1 ½ years after they married, Freddie was arrested and placed in a different labor camp for his religious activities. Already pregnant, the difficult work Dorothy had to perform at the prison caused a miscarriage

In what seemed like an unfortunate accident, in 1971 Freddie broke his foot at the camp where he was held, and he was unable to do the burdensome work. The authorities sent him home for three months.

During this time Dorothy became pregnant–with twins. God had given them an extra gift to assuage the loss of their first child.

“Even the prison guards were jealous when I gave birth to two boys,” she said. “We named them Joseph and Daniel, after two men in the Bible who served Gentile kings but worshiped the true God.”

Dorothy with a girl from the Dai Lai tribe

Freddie was released from prison in 1978 and returned to his previous work with the Academy of Sciences. Dorothy was freed two years later.

Through her job as a publications editor with World Health Organization in Beijing, in 1984 a divine appointment opened up for Dorothy, enabling her to move to the United States. After the temporary, one-year position, she was supposed to return to China. She sought assistance from the U.S. Department of Immigration and was allowed to stay. God had provided a way.

But her family´s tribulations were not quite over. Freddie and the boys remained in China. Adding to her woes, she lost sight in her right eye due to glaucoma.

The anguish of separation rivaled the torture she suffered during her early years in prison. Five long years passed before they were reunited and able to start a new life together in the United States.

When Christian Aid´s founder, Dr. Bob Finley, heard the Sun´s remarkable testimony, he invited them to start a China division for the ministry. This was an offer Dorothy could not refuse.

Every year since 1990, the Suns have taken a mission trip to Taiwan and China to encourage believers and see the work first-hand. This is the first spring Dorothy traveled without her beloved Freddie, and maybe it was her last, as she plans to retire next year. That made the journey all the more treasured.

Dorothy plans to remain with Christian Aid as a volunteer and advisor.

“Freddie already finished his race, but I am still running mine. As long as I live, I will be involved with Christian Aid and work for God´s kingdom,” she said.

“No one can stop me from serving the Lord. I will serve Him until my last breath.”

Dorothy Sun´s book Clay in the Potter´s Hand will be available soon as an e-book. Stay tuned to this website for futher details.