Secretive Detention

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In this photo taken July 15, 2014, Pastor Tao Chongyin, left, speaks with church member Fan Liang’an in front of the Wuxi Christian Church with the words “Church of Jesus” in red, in Longwan, Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.

Christian Lawyer Who Fought China’s Government Faces Secretive Detention
by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.

China’s most prominent Christian lawyer, Zhang Kai, who defended and gave legal counsel to a number of Christian churches throughout the country, especially against the government’s cross-removal campaign, was carried off by police on August 25 and now faces up to six months of “secretive detention.”

Knowing full well that it could cost him his legal career and even his freedom, the Chinese attorney battled the Communist Party and successfully defended numerous Christian churches that wished to keep visible “crosses” on top of their buildings.

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Christian Human rights lawyer Zhang Kai.

Organizing an impressive legal team of more than 30 lawyers to deal with religious freedom cases of the Zhejiang Province, Zhang was convinced that he had the law—and God—in his corner.

“It’s all in the books, I just read them. And I have God on my side,” he said.

But Zhang knew that opposing China’s Communist party was risky business. Two weeks before his arrest in Wenzhou on August 25, Zhang shared his thoughts with friends on WeChat: “The most they can do is imprison me. But if I remain silent, I will regret it for the rest of my life.”

Not long after, he and his assistant Liu Peng were taken away.

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Zhang Kai is a 37-year-old lawyer of the Xinqiao law firm in Beijing. In the midst of the campaign for the demolition of crosses in Zhejiang, Zhang was the most active of all the human rights lawyers in China.

Starting in August of 2014, he joined together with the pastor of the Salvation church of Wenzhou, the Reverend Huang Yizi, moving to Wenzhou and serving as a consultant in many cases related to the destruction of churches and crosses.

On July 10, 2015, when Zhang was going to start a series of lectures entitled “Laws and Decrees,” he was arrested by police as part of a violent national crackdown on lawyers and interrogated all night long.

Later, in an interview with a reporter from Initium Media, Zhang said that officials had ordered him “not to hold illegal seminars in Wenzhou and to stay out of religious liberty cases in Zhejiang.”

But Zhang kept his residence at the Xialing church, meeting every day with the pastors and faithful of the whole Zhejiang province, exhausting every possible legal path to safeguard their rights.

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Human rights lawyer Zhang Kai visits Tibetan children adopted by Christians during his work for the Tibetan house church.

A year ago, the Communist authorities had met with fierce resistance from the faithful of the Salvation church, who fought to prevent the removal of their cross. Many people were beaten badly during this conflict.

Pastor Huang Yizi was eventually referred to as “the leader” of the resistance and sentenced to one year in prison on charges of “having convened a crowd to disrupt public order.” Zhang Kai acted as his defense counsel.

Scrupulously applying Chinese legal principles, Zhang mobilized 11 lawyers to help him, and repeatedly discovered instances where the authorities had broken the law.

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Authorities removing cross from church steeple.

For example, state policy says that the suspects in criminal cases have the right to see a lawyer within 48 hours, but in the case of Huan Yizi this right was denied for more than 70 hours. Zhang demanded compensation.

Prison guards also prevented the pastor from receiving a copy of the Bible while in detention, so Zhang once again brought a case against them, the first case ever in China involving the reading of Scripture during police custody.

Zhang Peihong, a lawyer who has worked with Zhang on religious liberty cases in Zhejiang, said that Zhang has “created a new approach” in his method of dealing with religious liberty cases: “Do not leave a single legal stone unturned.”

Peihong said that all Chinese citizens have the right to access official information that authorities have gathered on them, a provision meant to temper the state’s power.

If the government is involved in “illegal” activities, it is natural to ask for an explanation and to open an administrative case, he said.

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Chinese human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (left) and Jiang Tianyong (right).

According to reports, Zhang’s aggressive legal pressure provoked anger and a sense of helplessness in the authorities, who were used to acting according to their own will without having their decisions questioned.

Zhang said that three months after he began with this strategy, the authorities of Wenzhou proposed a deal: “if Pastor Huang Yizi would relinquish representation by Zhang as his lawyer, he would be released within a month.”

Zhang withdrew his patronage, but the authorities reneged and in March 2015 sentenced the pastor to a year in jail.

Now it is Zhang himself who has been imprisoned, under the charge of threatening state security, highlighting two elements of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to tighten control over church activities: “a systematic campaign to harass and silence human rights lawyers and restrictions on the free exercise of religion.”

Since July, more than 230 lawyers have been detained and questioned by the police, according to estimates by Amnesty International.

Yang Xingquan, a colleague Zhang’s from the Xinqiao Law Firm, said he had spoken to a police officer involved in the case who told him that Zhang was being held under a form of imprisonment known as “residential confinement.”

This method has been traditionally employed by the Communist Party to detain dissidents in “secret” without trial or access to lawyers or family.

Local Christians said at least 11 pastors and church members had also been taken away by police in late August, in an effort to stifle Christian resistance to the cross removal.

The Work of Lawyer Zhang Kai
Lawyers predict ‘major wave of persecution’ in wake of detentions, interrogations of human rights lawyers
US calls for China to release Christian lawyer ahead of President’s Xi Jinping’s state visit
The War On Christians

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August 2015 Update

We were hoping and praying for healing for Rolf’s shoulder issues but it was determined that surgery was necessary for the healing he needed. So on June 24th he was admitted for rotator cuff surgery and some other clean up and repairs on his shoulder. The doctor was very optimistic with the results and says there shouldn’t be any more problems. But meanwhile the full recovery is long and the 3 times a week physical therapy is pretty painful and leaves him very sore after!

But surgery wasn’t going to stop us from attending our grandson’s wedding in Utah! Two weeks after surgery we were in the car with our 15 year old granddaughter, Brittany heading west. It was a fabulous trip. We made a vacation out of it, stopping in Nebraska, Wyoming (where we even fed bison) and then to Estes Park Colorado to spend the night with friends. We had a wonderful but short visit with them before continuing on to the other side of Colorado to stay with friends in their cabin. We hiked in the mountains and admired beautiful wildflowers and scenery – and all this with Rolf’s arm in a sling! We sat at their kitchen table and watched out the picture window a big moose, a lot of elk and deer as they grazed.

Then it was time to make our way to Utah for the wedding. It was fun to have all our grandkids together in one place and to meet some of the bride’s family – and to meet the bride for the first time!!

After that we continued on to Montana for 3 days and enjoyed, of course the beautiful scenery, Yellowstone National Park (arrived at Old Faithful just in time for it to erupt!), some gentle white river rafting and a cowboy cookout. Brittany got to do some zip lining and horseback riding while we rested! Now it was time to start home but not without visiting Mt. Rushmore, Custer Park, a conservancy where they breed Spanish mustangs for breed preservation and the Badlands on the way.

Forty three hundred miles and two weeks later we are back home tired, glad to be home but the trip of a lifetime, especially for Brittany. We all got to see and do things we hadn’t done before. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…..Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” Genesis 1:31, 2:1. And it was very good, we were blessed by our friends and all we saw and did and to be able to enjoy some special times together while Rolf is home on his extended stay before he goes back to China.

Unfortunately not all was good while we were away. While traveling in Europe Sherri’s brother, Art was hospitalized. He was air ambulanced to Madrid for surgery to remove 3 tumors and part of his small intestine. He has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which has been in remission as of tests just last February. However biopsy results showed that it has returned. Please PRAY for healing and that he can get strong enough so he and his wife, Debbie can come home.

We are so thankful for you.

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June 2015 Update

sabbatical noun: a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.

Although this was not in our plans it seems it might be what God had in mind for us and what was needed. As much as Rolf misses his students and being in China being home has been a good thing. He has been able to do some catching up with family and friends. We attended our youngest grandson’s 8th grade promotion and as far as we can recall it is the first promotion or graduation of our 5 grandchildren that he has been able to attend!

In May we celebrated our 43rd anniversary TOGETHER for the first time in years. We rode the train downtown to Chicago and met friends who had graciously invited us. After spending the afternoon walking enjoying the sights of the city they treated us to dinner. It was a wonderful day with delicious food and great company.

We will be heading west next month for our oldest grandson’s wedding in Utah. While there we will take some time and visit with some friends and enjoy some of this great country we live in. Also we will be seeing our oldest granddaughter – and I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but ready for this….who will be making us great grandparents in August!!

Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
This summer we will be hosting 2 families through the Hospitality Homes Ministry that we belong to. The goal of this ministry is to provide opportunities for those who are on the front lines to “come away” with Jesus and get some rest and to be restored. The first family coming is a pastor, his wife and adult son. They will be coming in July when we are out west. They stayed with us last year so they are familiar and know the “layout” and really will be able to enjoy a quiet place.

The second guests we have coming is a couple with a baby and 3 year old. We have never had anyone stay for more than a week so after some prayer and consideration we decided to accept this request from them to stay for a month in August/September! They are missionaries from China on home leave (might have helped in our decision!). We would ask for PRAYERS for them and for us that we can provide the place they need to get that rest and restoration and that we won’t need rest and restoration after they leave!

Lastly, we ask for PRAYERS for Rolf. He has had some shoulder issues and therapy did not work. He will be having a MRI to determine if it can be “fixed” with a shot or if he will need surgery. Obviously we don’t want to have to go through surgery so please PRAY for healing.

We are grateful to you our team for your love, support and prayers. We thank you for taking the time to invest in us and what we do.

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Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day 2015 01

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April 2015 Update

It has been awhile since you last heard from us. Meanwhile we did take that 2 week get away in March. We drove to Florida and stayed with Sherri’s brother and sister-in-law in their beautiful new house in Gainesville. We enjoyed being with them and being able to wear shorts and sandals, doing some kayaking, going to concerts and being able to be outdoors – even with some alligators! We were also able to spend a few days with friends in Bradenton, a day with other friends in The Villages and Sherri spent the night with a longtime friend in Hernando. So all in all it was a great time away!

We arrived home in time to spend Good Friday and Easter here and to be able to worship and celebrate at our home church. A celebration it was of the bright hope and promise we have in Jesus. It was the first time Rolf was home for Easter in many years and unfortunately family was not and so we rejoiced in the resurrection with a quiet day with our grand dogs! We hope God’s perfect love and amazing grace gave cause for celebration for you in how ever you spent your day.

” Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NKJV

Rolf continues to stay in frequent contact with many of his students. We received some very good and encouraging news from one of them not too long ago. After Rolf left apparently a couple of the students watched the “Jesus” VCD that he had handed out at the Christmas dinner and were asking questions asked about what it all meant. She invited them to go to church with her to learn more and they did and have continued going…(Matthew 28: 19,20) disciples making disciples, YES, that’s what it is all about! We trust there were others that also watched the VCD and may be asking to themselves “what does this all mean” and for whatever reason, maybe fear…..have not asked anyone or don’t know who to ask.

Please PRAY the Holy Spirit makes God’s presence known to them and they will seek and find Him. PRAY for the two already going to church that they will give their lives to Christ and continue to grow.

Rolf is also still in contact with the owner of the school where he was teaching. They are talking about the possibility of Rolf teaching in the fall at another school he owns about an hour away. Of course Rolf’s heart desire is to be able to return and we hope that is also God’s will for us. So please PRAY for us as we continue to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.” As we wait we will enjoy the summer and spending time together and with family and friends.

THANK YOU for your love and prayers, partnership and support. We are grateful.

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He Is Risen

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Peter Williams, PhD gave this video lecture on the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Following the lecture, responses are given by Dr. David Fleming, Dr. John Monson and Mark Lanier. The end is comprised of a time of Q&A with Peter Williams.

Luke 24 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Footnotes:
Luke 24:13 Or about 11 kilometers

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Counter Culture

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Counter Culture
By: Erich Bridges, IMB’s Global Correspondent

It’s hard not to “offend” people these days, especially if you actually “believe” what the Bible says about “right, wrong, sin and salvation.”

Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant, or worse, being called intolerant, many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.

That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: “the gospel itself.”

“The most offensive and counter cultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes IMB President David Platt in his new book, “Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “

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Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that “God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”

That claim, and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it, is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.

The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: “Do we believe this gospel?”

If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.

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The gospel is an “equal-opportunity” offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.

“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians — particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes.

We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.

“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage — issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us — we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.”

That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it.

Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of “The Church at Brook Hills” in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.

“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues … these are global issues … . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”

Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.

“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”

“Let’s get down on our knees, then get up from our knees and do whatever it takes, no matter what that means, to set the sails for God to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people for the glory of His name.”

Will you “fast, pray and give” to see this “vision” fulfilled?

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