Saturday, July 16, 2011

A letter to Leyi

After years of missionary endeavour, there were something like a million Christian believers in China when the Communists took over in 1949.

Foreign missionaries were expelled. The Communist government allowed some churches to remain open, but only under the control of the state. The state controlled church appointments; preaching was monitored; evangelism, Sunday school and the baptism of minors were forbidden.

Those who disagreed with such intrusion formed illegal unregistered house churches. Members of such churches were arrested, beaten, tortured and imprisoned.

Despite the persecution - or perhaps because of the persecution - such churches grew. Christians in China are now estimated at between 55 and 130 million. It is said that 10,000 Chinese are converted to Christ every week. Some say that that number are converted every day. (It should be borne in mind that the population of China is in excess of one-and-a-quarter billion.)

In recent years has come something new. In addition to the state-controlled churches and the unregistered house churches - the latter mostly in the country - have appeared churches of educated professionals - doctors, lawyers and government officials - who have come to faith in Christ in the cities. One such, Shouwang Church in Beijing, has been in the news in recent weeks.

Because its 1,000-strong congregation was too large to meet together in homes, the church met in rented premises for Sunday worship. Time and again it had to leave its rented premises because of pressure on the landlord by the authorities.

The church paid the equivalent of four million American dollars for its own premises in a Beijing office building. After the money was handed over, the landlord refused to hand over the key because of such pressure.

The church decided to hold its Sunday worship in public in the open air, leading to arrests and detentions each week. Police prevent members leaving their homes to get to the meetings. The entire church leadership has been under house arrest for three months. Still those who can manage to get there continue to meet.

One member of the congregation has suffered not only from police harassment. Recently his daughter, aged almost two, fell to her death from the upstairs window of the family's apartment. Perhaps to deal with his grief, he began to write letters to the dead girl.

One of them, A letter to Leyi (no. 11), has been translated into English and published on China Aid's website. It gives a remarkable insight into the harassment he suffers and his grief at the loss of his child. You can read it by clicking here. It may just touch your heart.