A spiritual awakening is taking place in the People’s Republic of China which has been attracting the attention of concerned government officials for several years. But the growth of Christianity in this nation, already occurring at record rates, has a unique characteristic which makes it especially hard to reckon with: it is accompanied by documented, New Testament-style miracles. When people are actually raised from the dead or supernaturally healed in broad daylight by Christian believers, as they are today in China, the Church becomes a force which is difficult to challenge.
Mrs. X (names in this story have been withheld) is a 40-year-old government informer who attended a Christian crusade meeting with the intention of gathering evidence against the Christians and to report on their activities. When she returned to her home in the evening, she began bleeding from the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth, and could not stop the strange phenomenon.
Her daughter-in-law, upon seeing her, was very frightened and began to cry. Then, her daughter-in-law remembered hearing about Christians who could heal the sick, and took her to a home church. The government informer realized her sin, repented, and her bleeding stopped. House church leaders today report that this woman’s story has been used as an effective warning to other government informers.
Mr. Z was a 26-year-old production cadre in a rural commune. He was also a Party intellectual who strongly opposed all superstition and idol worship; in fact, he liked to harass religious people. However, he had a serious disease that had been deteriorating his body for about one year.
“Although I had been taking medicine every day and had daily treatments, the pain remained,” he told one source. “My family was then very poor and, in any case, medicine was scarce. I was suffering physically and mentally.”
He went to the commune’s clinic for help, but the nurse wasn’t there so he went to her house. There he met the nurse’s mother, who told him about Jesus Christ and explained the gospel to him. She then prayed for his disease to leave.“The pain vanished at once,” said Mr. Z. Because the infamous “Gang of Four” was in political power at the time, he was sworn to confidentiality about the experience.
A few months later Mr. Z witnessed a miracle that few Western Christians have ever seen. “One night,” he related, “a [Christian] brother came to my house and wanted to preach the gospel after dinner. So we ate and then set off on our journey on bicycles.”
“After cycling 10 miles, we arrived at a small village where this brother’s father-in-law lived. He was extremely sick, so we used the opportunity to preach to the villagers, proclaiming that Jesus can heal. But while we preached, his father-in-law died.”
“More and more people crammed into the house. Then the Holy Spirit urged me to pray. I asked everyone to kneel and close their eyes. I believed that God wanted to save the dead man. The brother and I held up the corpse and prayed,‘O Jesus! You are the true God and want to save everyone, even this man, even this man!’”
“The father-in-law revived and came back to life. Every person witnessed this and agreed that Jesus is the true God. They said to one another, ‘Today we have heard the Gospel. Not only that, we have seen God’s power!’”
Such experiences are not uncommon among Chinese Christians today. In fact, there are many stories like this one which have never been reported in the West. Brother Zhu Bao-Shan is a preacher in the Henan province. He was arrested in the spring of 1986 after the government-controlled church – called the Three Self Church – accused him of preaching without their permission.
On the second day of his imprisonment, he prayed and asked the Lord why this would happen. God told him he would be in prison for 20 days, and that he would lead 17 convicts to Christianity.
Brother Zhu shared the gospel faithfully, but only met with ridicule and rejection from all the prisoners. On the 14th day of his imprisonment, a brawl broke out and one of the prisoners was killed in the skirmish. Because the jailers knew they would have to give an account for the incident, they went to Brother Zhu and said, “We heard you Christians have power to pray for the dead and bring them to life.”
They then made Zhu a promise: “If you pray for this dead prisoner and he comes to life, you will be released. Otherwise we will sentence you to 15 years of prison.” The prisoner had been dead for seven hours and 20 minutes. Zhu prayed and the prisoner was miraculously revived. When Zhu was released six days later, he had lead 17 convicts to Christ just as the Holy Spirit had told him earlier.
Mr. Zhu continued his ministry until March of 1987, at which time he was arrested again. However, during that one year of freedom, he had led 3,000 to Christ. He is currently in prison.
Although Chinese Christians have lived under this constant threat of imprisonment, suffering, and persecution, their most critical problem is the shortage of Bibles.
In one province there are 60,000 Christians, but only six reference Bibles between them. The Bibles are 30 years old and printed in old script. The Christians take turns borrowing the Bibles and faithfully copying them by hand every day until their fingers become swollen. In another village, some 60 to 80 people became Christians, but they only had two to three Bibles between them. They told Western visitors that they were willing to pay any price for additional copies of the Scriptures.
The “house church” movement in China is growing phenomenally in many rural areas where the Three Self Church has no control. Its leader and founder, Wang Ming-Dao, has been under constant attack from the government. Bishop K.H. Ting, president of the government-controlled China Christian Council, has warned house church leaders that evangelistic work violates government policies.
“It is strictly forbidden for any person to come to mainland China to preach the Gospel, to establish churches, to establish any church work or participate in any religious activity without permission of our two Christian organizations,” according to Ting.
Today there are an estimated 50 million believers in China, and at this present rate of growth the number may surpass 100 million in 14 years time. Because of this rapid increase in the numbers of Christians, and the strict government policies aimed at limiting church growth, many rural parts of China have an average of only one Bible for every 500 to 2,000 Christians.
What does the future hold for the Church in Communist China? Although government restrictions are not likely to stop overnight, it is very likely that policies will become more and more relaxed as more government officials become Christians. Reports are already being circulated about officials in all levels of the communist government who are having personal encounters with Jesus Christ.
On one of the most prestigious campuses in the People’s Republic of China, Beijing University, students instigated the destruction of a four-story tall statue of revolutionary leader Mao Tse Tung. Destruction of the statue was perceived by university officials as a move to lessen the late leader’s influence.
The statue was a national monument in front of Beijing University’s main library and was one of the largest in the nation. An American student told the Associated Press that all that remained of the monument were the pedestals and some rubble.
The day before the statue toppled, workers were seen laboring on the statue under bright lights and it has been covered by scaffolding and plastic sheeting for more than a week. However, students said it was being cleaned and repaired.
At 5 a.m. the next morning, when the plastic sheeting was removed, the concrete statue was sawed off at the feet and came toppling down, leaving a dent on the pavement, a student said. Statues of Mao, bare-headed, wearing a long windblown overcoat with a hand raised in greeting, were once fixtures in nearly all institutions and official compounds.
However, no new statues have been erected in recent years. This is significant of the official Chinese attitude toward Mao, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, which has changed from unquestioning allegiance to the position that he was a great man who made major mistakes.
A poster criticizing the students’ action was put up briefly that morning on a campus bulletin board, and several Chinese students expressed regret over the demolition of the figures. “Taking it down was unnecessary. He was an important historical figure, for good or for bad. We can judge for ourselves,” one student said.
Several professors disagreed. A middle-aged professor who helped erect the statue in 1967 said, “It’s a symbol of an era, and that era is over. Taking it down is only natural.”
Buddhism is booming—quite a paradox given the Communist Party’s official atheism and its troubled relationship with the Dalai Lama. The faith’s growing popularity reflects a yearning for meaning among China’s yuppies, who increasingly are attracted to Buddhism’s rejection of materialism and emphasis on the transitory nature of life.