After being in jail (and later probation) for nearly two years, Elder Li Yingqiang of Early Rain Covenant Church moved his family back to Chengdu to reunite with their fellow church members.
When authorities in Chengdu received news of his return, they immediately began harassing and threatening his family again.
On Sunday 11 October, Chengdu authorities took Elder Li Yingqiang to the police station for questioning. Below is an update he sent detailing his experience.
After being forcibly taken to the police station, Officer Xu stated two things very clearly to me:
1) Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) is banned by Chengdu authorities, and we will thoroughly enforce this ban and will not give your church any room to survive.
2) You are not welcome in Chengdu, and as long as you are here, we will make sure you can’t do anything or see anyone.
They repeatedly emphasised that ERCC has been banned and that no activities can be conducted in its name. I replied, “The church is heavenly and no earthly power can restrict its existence.”
They answered, “Stop dreaming! We will never give your church any space. We will only continually squeeze you.”
I have to be honest, during my conversation with them today, I was asking myself the question: why do I want to continue living in Chengdu? In fact, God has been asking me this question for over a month now through everything that has happened.
Here’s what came to mind this morning at the police station and this afternoon when I got home. I didn’t tell this to the police, but I think they know.
We returned to Chengdu to pastor the church. God has put many from ERCC, including Pastor Wang Yi, in ‘prison seminary’ to study. As an elder and pastoral assistant in this church, it is only right that I return to Chengdu to shepherd this flock.
When the sheep are facing wolves and tigers and leopards, it is the duty of the shepherd to protect them. My duty is to take care of this flock according to the will of God, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have [me]; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being an example to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV).
What does it mean to serve the Lord? It is to act according to His will and not our own. Suffering for the name of the Lord, suffering for the church of Christ, is a blessing that Christians all long for. What we must be on guard against is our flesh and our pride, which may flare up at any time. If I thought myself worthy because of my sufferings, or if I thought I had merit because of my endurance, then I would be in sin.
Pray that the Lord would give me faith and grace to enjoy heavenly freedom in the midst of this lack of freedom, heavenly peace in the midst of this turmoil, and heavenly joy in the midst of these frequent tears and pain. Ask that I would not only love our dear brothers and sisters in this city – our family members – but also the millions of lost souls here and those who guard us, stalk us, summon us, detain us, and even those who threaten our wives and force our children to make our stay here uncomfortable.
On the evening of 11 October, during our family worship, each of us shared our thoughts about the day. We thanked the Lord for comforting the frightened hearts of my wife and children and for turning our hearts from carnal anger to dependence on the Lord.
Then we sang together:
“The Lord is my strength and my song;
My enemy pushed me hard, so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
His hand exalts and saves.”
Elder Li continues to be watched by the authorities. He and his family face ongoing harassment. In November, the authorities shut off the utilities to their rented home including water, electricity, heating and internet connection. The family were forced to use a public bathroom nearby.
They have since been forced out of Chengdu.