It was totally unexpected. One day you are going about your normal business and suddenly some visitors arrive at your house. However, they haven’t come for a social visit, but to take you away for interrogation.
This is what happened to me one day when my family and I were living in China. Actually, it happened twice on the same day! Both times, I was driven away in a vehicle with darkened windows. The first time I knew where I was taken to. It was the local government offices in the city. The second time was to a place I was totally unfamiliar with. For my wife and children it was a scary experience too as they didn’t know how long I would be gone and what the outcome was going to be.
Today, there is an intense crackdown on Christian workers living in China. Many are being held and interrogated for hours. Many have already been told to leave. For those who have made a life in China, being told they have only ten days to leave the country is a traumatic experience.
Not only are individual workers or families being expelled, whole mission agencies have also been forced to leave. The country’s national intelligence agency has been charged to bring down entire networks of missionaries.
Such new hostility is also being felt by the Chinese Christians themselves as influential house churches have been shut down; crosses and buildings of state sanctioned Three-Self churches have been demolished; the names of youth attendees have to be submitted to the Chinese government; and all Christian gatherings near schools, colleges and universities have been banned with the establishment of ‘church-free zones’.
This intensified crackdown has not been seen since China’s opening up during the 1980’s following the reign of Chairman Mao. The window of opportunity for foreign mission work within China appears to be closing. China’s own missionary movement also needs help with training and support.
How We Can Respond
Here are a few suggestions on how we should respond to these changing times within China:
- Remember that this latest crackdown isn’t causing God to worry! Psalm 2 states that when rulers plot against the Lord and His anointed ones, He who rules in the heavens laughs. The powers of darkness are rebuked as God has set His son, Jesus Christ, as Lord over all nations, including China. The world’s most populous nation is part of our Lord’s inheritance. It belongs to Him!
- Remember that the last time all foreign missionaries were expelled from China (exactly 70 years ago at the start of Mao’s oppressive reign in 1949), it only caused the church in China to multiply under the radar.
- Pray for those missionaries and other foreign workers who have been kicked out of China. They will need understanding and support as they have to transition into a whole new life elsewhere.
- Pray also for our Chinese brothers and sisters who remain within China under increasingly challenging conditions. Pray for strength, courage, wisdom, and protection.
- Lastly, it is time to once again find new creative ways of partnering with the Holy Spirit in advancing the work of God’s Kingdom within this great nation. This may include working with Chinese outside of China and connecting online, bearing in mind that China’s internet control is probably the most advanced in the world.