If Wang Hongwu had appeared sad and beleaguered, it would have been completely understandable.
Her husband, Pastor Yang Hua, had been arrested only four weeks earlier, and she was now being trailed by Chinese government authorities.
However, when we met her and her 5-year-old son in the back room of a restaurant in China, we were greeted with graciousness rather than sadness.
She politely provided a concise update of her husband’s situation, saying she didn’t know where Yang Hua was but that she was sending money to the police station so they would provide food for him. Their lawyer had not been able to visit him.
When asked whether she was worried about her husband, Wang Hongwu was quick to respond. “I’m worried about the impact on the church,” she said. “I’m worried about people falling away.”
A growing threat
The church Wang Hongwu was referring to is the Living Stone Church, or Huoshi Church, in Guiyang. Pastors Yang Hua and Su Tianfu founded the church in 2009, and it came under increasing government scrutiny and pressure as it grew in size and influence.
Before it was shut down by the Chinese government, Living Stone was the largest house church in the area.
Yang Hua, a third-generation pastor, is no stranger to persecution. His father spent time in jail in the late 1960s during the Cultural Revolution because of his Christian faith, and Yang Hua himself was briefly detained once before.
Yang Hua is known for looking after not only his own congregation but also other house churches in the region that experience government persecution. Lawyers in his congregation also assisted other house churches.
After being detained for 10 days in mid-December 2015, Yang Hua was formally placed under criminal detention on 21 December, charged with illegally possessing state secrets.
Later, police searched his home and confiscated his computer, a tablet device, USB drives and other items.
When Wang Hongwu drove to the detention centre, expecting her husband’s release, she instead saw him being taken away.
“Today, I went to pick up Pastor Yang, but I failed,” she posted on a social media site. “I saw four people pushing Yang Hua into a van without a license plate. Pastor Yang had on a black hood, and his mouth might have been sealed. I called out to him, but he didn’t respond. Those four people did not allow me to approach him. They pushed Pastor Yang into the car and sped away. I asked the detention centre, and they only said that the department managing him took him away. They could not tell me which department. I can only hand everything to the Lord!”
Wang Hongwu and Yang Hua had long discussed the possibility of imprisonment and agreed that, if it occurred, God would use it for the good of His kingdom. With that in mind, Wang Hongwu said she is not afraid.
“As a Christian, I know that such things will happen,” she said. “Jesus said, ‘The light has come to the world, but the world does not understand it.’ When we saw all of these government policemen, they were violent, I could see the darkness in their hearts.
She has no ill feelings toward the policemen or Chinese government officials.
“We bless our government,” she said. “We ask God to give them wisdom to do the right thing. We love those in our government.”
Wang Hongwu said their two sons, ages 5 and 14, understand what happened and talk about it openly. She said their oldest son prays for his father and has peace about his imprisonment. While she also prays for her husband, Wang Hongwu has other concerns. “I pray for my husband, but I pray for our church the most and ask God to lead us in His will, in His way,” she said.