Pastor Levi just said “amen” at the conclusion of his sermon when we were visited by Harbin police Easter morning. Levi had just finished preaching on how the resurrection of Christ should encourage Christians to persevere in their faith even the midst of persecution, such as the kind the church in Smyrna encountered in Revelation 2. They came in first with camcorders taking everyone’s photo and recording while Pastor Levi was finishing his sermons-end prayer. The cups and bread lay ready for the Lord’s Supper on the back table, but we didn’t make it that far in the service. We were ordered not to speak or use our phones. Some of our people’s cell phones and iPads were confiscated, some returned and some not. At one point we were told that not knowing the law isn’t excuse for not obeying it, so with that being said, I can’t imagine what excuse these men will have while standing in front of the Lord’s throne.
The police also visited other churches in Harbin disrupting the preaching, taking computers, taking the offering money, and detaining everyone until they’ve given over their personal information. As for the foreigners, we were detained much longer. Foreigners on student and English teaching visas we’re let go but myself and Jake, who was attending in a different location, were singled out for interrogations to held at separate police departments. Pastor Levi and Pastor Stephen, Chinese pastors were also taken in for interrogation. Police were reasonable with us, making sure we had food and water as well as bathroom breaks when we asked, but Jake’s home was searched and mine was observed while retrieving our passports off the bookshelf. At the police station we joined them in the small lunch, however the Jake and his family were a little more hard pressed for food until a church member went to get french fries for their 1 year old daughter. The interrogations were held in a small padded room with a desk and a wooden chair placed in to the middle of the room where I sat for 2 hours answering questions. Questions such as:
1. Do you know house church is illegal?
2. Where does your money come from?
3. What do you do with your money?
4. Do you financially support all illegal churches in China or just these in Harbin?
5. Who are your partners?
6. Do you know the names of other missionaries in Harbin?
7. What do you do in church?
8. Who teaches you Chinese?
9. What does your wife do?
10. Which church supports you in America?
11. Don’t you know we can fine you heavily for breaking the law?
12. What is your past history in China?
13. What are your future plans?
These questions I answered honestly and withheld nothing in attempt to hide my intentions while in China. There were other questions, all mostly interested in the use of finances. The opportunity came several times to explain the Gospel to my interrogator, one occasion answering a question about our particular beliefs. We were released, but were yet somewhat under house arrest seeing they have confiscated our passports which makes leaving the country impossible at the moment. Jake is scheduled to meet back at the police department tomorrow morning, and I am awaiting a phone call within a few days to decide what they will do with us. At this point we expect fines, at the worst fines and expulsion, so please pray for the situation. None of the pastors were told that they had to stop doing what they’re doing. It is evident that police already knew well that we exist. We assume that the picture taking was their departments way of proving their worth and “hard work” to the higher ups. Truth is, these guys could at anytime come and stop the churches permanently if they wanted, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Their purpose is hidden, but ours is not, so please pray the Lord would be glorified–this is all for the glory of the resurrected Jesus Christ The Lord.
I totally feel unworthy to receive any kind of persecuted for my Lord Jesus’ sake, but I’m grateful to be experiencing it in some way. We were not met with violence and at worst it seems we may be out a few thousand dollars, but It makes me think about the real heroes of the faith who’ve given up there lives for the Gospel sake. We’ll see what happens in the next few days and keep everyone updated. We GET to!