What We Believe

Detained for Christ

a persecuted Christian

New Horizons: May 2023

Ministry in Ukraine During War

Also in this issue

Editor’s Note

Ministry in Ukraine During War

Editor’s Note: A persecuted Christian shares her true story from a country where Christians are suffering for Christ, told through Orthodox Presbyterian missionary M.

It was a cool Sunday evening in December in the large East Asian city where my husband and I lived. We had just returned from evening worship when suddenly the power went out. Several police officers rushed in, overpowering us. They yelled, “Don’t move!”

“Who are you? What do you want?” we responded.

They waved a piece of paper at us that said, “Notice of Suspected Illegal Business.” Recently the government has been charging church workers with running illegal businesses. Apparently, this is done to avoid the appearance of charging people with their true “crime”: worshiping in accordance with their consciences rather than in a church that is approved by the state and that capitulates to its demands. I was quickly separated from my husband, taken to the local public security bureau, and interrogated in handcuffs all night. The interrogation stopped around 6:30 a.m. the next morning. I started singing hymns softly, and the police officer sitting next to me tapped his foot.

Around 8:00 a.m., two policewomen brought the wife of the senior pastor of my church into the station. “When were you brought in?” she asked. “At eight o’clock last night,” I said. I didn’t see her again. I found out later that both she and her husband had been charged with subversion of the state; he was subsequently convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison, and she remains to this day under house arrest, completely shut off from the outside world. The same night I was arrested, hundreds of people from the church had been detained by the police. Most were released within twenty-four hours, but a number were held longer.

I was then taken to a detention center. The rules were made clear: no talking about my faith, no talking about my case or family situation. Since I had not slept all night during the interrogation, I was extremely tired, and yet my heart was joyful. When the guards brought me to my cell and I saw the other inmates standing at attention, I said, “I am very glad to meet you!” They all stared at me blankly.

A Conversion

A few days later, a state security officer and two regular police officers began to question me regarding my involvement with the local seminary library bookstore, which was at the heart of the charge against me of running an illegal business. They questioned me many times over the next month and brought in ledgers and other documents from the seminary library bookstore with my signatures on them. Although these documents were sufficient to demonstrate my involvement, they were never able to definitively prove that I was really the one in charge of the bookstore. 

Lacking such proof, after thirty-seven days of incarceration, they gave up asking me about my involvement with the bookstore and started to push me in regard to my faith. A police officer showed me video clips of my pastor’s testimony and preaching—to my great spiritual encouragement, since I had no Bible or other Christian literature in prison. He asked me to write a letter expressing regret for having joined my church. The letter was supposed to state that my church was an illegal organization and a cult. He also asked me to testify against my pastor for inciting subversion of state power.

I said, “The church I attend is the church of Jesus Christ, grounded on orthodox foundations. People can only determine if this church is a cult or a pseudo-Christian heretical group based on biblical doctrine; man’s own standards and law cannot determine this. My pastor preaches biblical truth in the church, not subversion of state power.”

He replied, “Your pastor has said in sermons that the leaders of our nation are unbelievers under God’s wrath and destined for hell. Although your pastor preached these words in church, if there are unbelievers who come to hear them, they will find them inflammatory. They will not understand them from a biblical perspective. They will think negatively of our national leaders and will want to disturb society.”

“Whether people believe in the Lord or not,” I said, “as long as they enter the door of the church, they should know that the truth of the Bible is spoken here and nothing else. What my pastor was preaching is the truth of the Bible. If someone really subverts the state, thinking it to be the message delivered by my pastor, it is the person who broke the law who should be arrested, not my pastor.”

Unknown to me, the day after my arrest, my husband, who was not an object of the attack on the church, since he was not even a believer, came to the police station to bring my Bible and other personal items. The police detained and interrogated him: “Are you a Christian? What do you think of the pastor of your wife’s church? Do you believe what he preaches?”

“Well, I don’t know,” my husband replied. “My wife brought me to church sometimes, but I didn’t pay much attention to the preaching.” Eventually, he was let go, but, provoked by the persecution against my church and its pastor, he started listening to online recordings of the pastor’s sermons. Over the next few weeks, the Lord used them to bring him to faith in Christ.

Motivated by his newfound faith, he began helping other Christians in the local church whose spouses were imprisoned and posted an online positive response to a sermon. The police brought him in again for questioning, and this time when they asked him if he was a Christian, he replied, “Yes, I am a Christian, and I believe the pastor of our church is preaching the truth of the gospel!” He was jailed for a month and then placed under house arrest for six months. First he went to jail without Christ, but this time he went to jail with and for Christ.

Ongoing Interrogation

My interrogations continued for months. The guards reminded me that if I continued not to cooperate with my case manager, I would have to suffer.

I was forced to scrub washbasins and buckets, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There were more than thirty washbasins and a dozen buckets. Every time I finished scrubbing, the guards would taunt me by throwing a few hairs in the basins and buckets, saying I had done a poor job, and then require me to clean them all again. Six female police officers took me to the hospital because the prison doctor thought that there was something tumorous in my uterus. I felt very worried. They put a black hood over my head, heavy shackles on my feet, and handcuffs connected at the waist so that I could not straighten up. After the examination in the hospital, a state security officer said to me, “The doctor said there is no problem with your uterus, but there are three cysts on your liver. You have to reject the church and your pastor.”

My health continued to decline, and now a different group of police interrogated me. One told me viciously, “You are just an insignificant follower, a person who is nothing and simply runs after others. Your faith is so powerful, is it? I’ll make sure you go to jail and give up your faith.” I replied, “I won’t!” He said, “You will! You will when I lock you up for a few years!” I replied, “I won’t!” This went back and forth a dozen times. Then he finally stopped asking questions.

After a particularly severe interrogation, a policeman interceded for me. He apologized to me, saying that he himself had spoken harshly to me during an earlier interrogation because he had quarreled with his wife that morning and because he had been influenced by the state security. They wanted him to say that “this group of Christians” was disturbing the public peace and aiming to subvert the state. He said that at first he believed it, but after actually getting to know some of us Christians, he found out that we are not at all as we had been described. Both high-ranking and low-ranking leaders in the prison had great regard for me and sensed that I was a truly devout Christian, he said.

In early April, yet another set of people interrogated me. During the interrogation, I learned about the situation of other believers who had been arrested. I imagined many of them were in more difficult circumstances than I, and every time I prayed for them, I burst into tears. But I never wanted to compromise. Rather, I was strengthened in my faith and beliefs knowing that they were enduring, too.

A new officer genuinely wanted to help me get out of prison and assisted me in crafting a statement that I could sign without compromise and that would at the same time satisfy the prison authorities. I insisted, though, that my statement include a clear declaration that I did not believe that my church or its pastor taught unbiblical doctrine. The officer said the reason the top leaders refused to let me go was that I kept mentioning the Bible. I replied, “I have had my faith for more than ten years. Just like your eyeglasses, which you have to look through to see matters clearly, I have to think and act through my faith and the Bible. From the day I believed in the Lord, it’s like it’s my DNA. I was made a new creation, and that cannot be changed.”

The officer advised me not to be so rigid. He asked if I could refrain from using the single word, “Bible.” I agreed to exchange “Bible” for the phrase, “the whole truth and doctrine of Christianity.” The officer took the statement I signed, which included affirmations that I did not oppose the rule of the government and that I would not attend a church that “teaches against the whole truth and doctrine of Christianity or the law of the state,” and brought it to other officials for their approval. The local police accepted it, but the national security officers rejected it, because it did not include statements explicitly condemning my church. I, therefore, was not released at that time.

The Shadow of Death

By early June, I was physically in bad shape. I had no strength. I could not walk steadily; I was dizzy and frequently fell; I was very thin. My joints and my hands began to swell and hurt, and the head of the prison told me that it was rheumatoid arthritis. My feet were swollen, and my hair had turned gray. My health had not been robust when I entered prison, and my poor treatment and poor nutrition did not improve it. For a week, I thought much about martyrdom. The prison hospital had given me a blood test a week earlier but delayed telling me the whole result of the test, and so I began to think I might die soon. But when I started thinking about martyrdom, I had a special peace in my heart. First, my husband had already become a believer in the Lord, and my adult daughter in America, also a Christian, was proud of my suffering for the Lord. So, I had no worries, and I would always have a chance to see them again in heaven. Second, I thought about the attributes of God, that God is most true, most good, and most beautiful. That which is most true is the eternal nature of God. I had already been converted, and my life was already in the Lord. I had eternal life, and it was a very beautiful thing to go to be with God a bit earlier. When I thought of this, I had a special peace.

In June, the police printed out the statement I had made before and asked me to read it while being recorded on video. They still hoped I could change the statement to make it more agreeable to the other officials. I said, “I have not changed from the beginning to the end, and I will not change now.” Every time I went to be interrogated, my hands were cuffed behind my back, and I had to walk a long, eerie way, which made me appreciate the Lord Jesus’s walk to Calvary. I kept praying for the Lord’s guidance and wisdom on how to answer each time. Every time I came back from an interrogation, I felt like I had won another battle. I am thankful for the pastoral care I had received from the pulpit of the church and the spiritual equipping and feeding God gave me in the seminary where I sometimes attended classes. All that instruction strengthened me. And by God’s grace, I endured six months in prison and was finally released.

The Care of the Shepherd

Every Sunday while I was imprisoned, I thought about the Bible, meditated on it book by book, sang in my heart, and worshiped God. This was my strength. One Monday, someone complained to the prison guard about my crying. He asked me why I cried, and I said that yesterday was Sunday, and Sunday was for worshiping God with his people but that I was separated from them in prison.

Later, when the inmates in my cell bullied me, God caused me to meditate on the creation of mankind in Genesis and to think how people need love. So, I did not hate these inmates whom God had created. I was free even in prison, and no matter how much they yelled at me, by God’s strength, my body language and verbal responses showed love, which softened their hearts.

I meditated most often on Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I know that the Lord is in charge of my daily walk and leads me to experience his shepherd-like care in every big and small thing.

Thank you, Lord! You manifested your power through a humble and weak vessel like me! To you be all the glory and praise!   

New Horizons, May 2023.

New Horizons: May 2023

Ministry in Ukraine During War

Also in this issue

Editor’s Note

Ministry in Ukraine During War

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