I have posted the complete interview questions with actual videos on our blog since Dave Heun was not able to print the full interview in his column. But it is important that readers get a full picture of the ongoing persecution in China.
Daily Herald Interview with Columnist Dave Heun
How long have you been involved with International Ambassadors for Christ? How did you get interested in this?
We have been ministering in China since 2002. After 10 years with Campus Crusade for Christ we went on a mission trip to China in 2000. After lots of prayer we felt the Lord calling us to work full time in China helping Chinese Christian leaders establishing ministries of evangelism and discipleship activities in their cities.
What do you do in China on a regular basis? Is there such a thing as a regular routine, or a process that has a goal in mind within each village or city?
Since Missionaries are not allowed to enter China I go as a Professor teaching Business, Finance and Import/Export programs in English to adult students age 18 to 60 in a privately owned business school. My school year starts March 1st through the end of June. Then I come home for a few months before going back for the 2nd Semester starting September 1st through the end of December. I then come home again for a few months.
Over the years we have worked in various regions of China, as far west as Xinjiang, the Tibetan Highlands and other major urban areas throughout the country to reach unchurched and non believers for Christ with the help of local ministries and churches. Privately we teach bible based, 12 week world view “Faith or Fiction” classes translated in English/Chinese to selective recruited participants from all areas of the local communities. We have been able to teach, train, motivate, encourage and equip local Christian leaders to create citywide movements to share the Good News of Jesus Christ through one-on-one personal discipleship’s, Bible discussion groups and prayers in having an authentic personal relationship with God to live peacefully and lovingly with one another.
Has anything changed, based on political winds, or international law in the past few years?
In the past 18 months, the situation for Christians in China has dramatically worsened. Persecution is rampant and has sharply increased since President Xi Jinping came to power. Christians and Churches are now undergoing a fiery trial that is more fierce than anything experienced in China since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. It is so dire that most believers around the world simply wouldn’t believe it if we told them.
President Xi Jinping, who is about to have the constitution amended so he can remain in power for as long as he wishes, first raised concerns among Christians about three years ago when he spoke about the need to control “illegal religion”. Persecution has markedly worsened since then, and hundreds of house church pastors have vanished over the past few years. Many are assumed to have been killed. Others may be held in “black jails”, secret facilities where they are tortured mercilessly. When someone enters a black jail they are usually never heard from again. Their families have no idea of their whereabouts, and all communication ceases.
You are unlikely to hear much fresh information from the Church in China, because most mission organizations working in China have been targeted in recent years. Thousands of foreign Christians have been expelled from the country, while the large “persecution” ministries have seen their Chinese contacts arrested. The result is that news about the Church in China is becoming difficult to access. The government appears to be trying to throw a blanket over the Church, so that the rest of the world can’t see or hear what’s going on inside the country.
Christian activity in China has been strictly monitored, due to the presence of tens of millions of facial recognition cameras that have sprung up in every airport, city and town, and even in villages. The data from these cameras is fed into a massive computer network around the clock. Using “artificial intelligence”, alerts are sent to the police if the computers detect any suspicious activity, such as a group of Christians gathering at a location for worship or Bible study. We encourage you to watch the following short video from the BBC. It is sobering, but will help you understand the challenges facing our brothers and sisters in China:
For decades, most members of Three-Self churches in China thought they were safe because they had registered with the government. Many looked down on the illegal house church networks and chided them for not “obeying the laws of the land.” The distinctions between the two groups are now blurred. Hundreds of Three-Self pastors have also been arrested in the last few years, and church buildings have been demolished by special paramilitary forces.
The largest single worship center in China, the “Golden Lampstand Church” in Shanxi Province, had a congregation of more than 50,000 members. The building, which was constructed with official permission, was recently blown up by the Chinese authorities and is now a pile of rubble:
Last year the government announced draconian new laws designed to punish “illegal religion” (i.e. all worship or activity outside the control of the atheistic Communist Party). These new laws, which came into force February, include fines of up to US$30,000 for holding prayer meetings or Bible studies, while Christians who travel out of the country (including to Hong Kong) to attend conferences or other Christian events may be arrested and fined up to US$50,000. These amounts are more than a lifetime’s income for many Chinese believers. Pressure is also being applied to those who associate with Christians. For example, landlords face heavy fines if they rent a property to any believers who subsequently use it for meetings.
As a result of this massive suppression, in the past year almost all house church networks we serve have stopped holding large gatherings, and most have broken down into tiny groups of no more than 4 or 5 believers. Even small meetings like this carry risk of detection and police action, so great is the control being exerted.
In some parts of the country, thousands of Chinese Christians have been arrested. The worst of all is in northwest China, where the government has cast a wide net to demolish the threat of Islam, with at least 120,000 people currently believed to be held in concentration camps in the region:
Many Christians in Xinjiang, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority believers, have been rounded up and sent to the same concentration camps. Church leaders have told us things there are “worse than during the Cultural Revolution.”
The supply of Bibles to Chinese Christians has been severely reduced. The house churches have never been officially allowed to access Bibles, but now the registered churches are also reporting a great shortage. Last year, the few remaining Bible courier ministries that were operating from Hong Kong also closed down. A decade ago, Asia Harvest was one of about a dozen known ministries providing Bibles to the house churches of China. Most of those groups have since been forced out of the country through threats, intimidation, seduction, and other means.
We have received reports of some who carried Bibles into China recently being stopped at the border. In the past, officials would confiscate the Bibles and allow the person to continue on their journey. Now, those caught with Chinese Bibles have been interrogated for up to 12 hours, expelled from China, and banned from ever coming back. We believe the overall purpose is to isolate the children of God in China by strangling the supply of God’s Word. Many Chinese Christian websites, Bible apps and other resources have also been blocked by the government.
Teachers in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, recently sent messages to the parents of elementary and middle-school students, demanding that the parents disclose their religious beliefs. One Christian said school officials have even come to Christian parents’ homes and workplaces, asking them to renounce their faith. And in some cases, employers are pressured into reducing the pay of Christian employees in an effort to dissuade them from attending church. In one part of China, an online publication warned, “Schools should make clear to students that they should not have any religious beliefs, propagandize religions, or enter churches.” The publication also stated that schools whose students attend church will face hard punishment, because religion is a “foreign invasion.”
China is also extending its anti-Christian influence into neighboring countries. We have received reports of believers in Nepal, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam being warned not to spread the Gospel across their borders into China, or they will face severe consequences.
Few Christians around the world imagined that China would ever return to its intense anti-Christian persecutions like during Mao’s rule, but things are lining up for a brutal and prolonged period of struggle for Christians in China. In many ways, because of new technology, believers face an even greater challenge than during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution. Many in the West thought that Communism collapsed with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Politicians were certain that free market reforms would cause China to open up and embrace democracy. They were wrong. The dark forces of aggressive, God-hating atheism are alive and well in China, North Korea, and other parts of the world.
Praise God that He has done a wonderful work of grace in China during nearly 70 years of Communist rule! Today there are at least 100 million Christians in the country, many of whom love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts and are willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel. Pray this persecution will cause the Church to rise up and claim even more of their country for the kingdom of God.
What motivates you to keep at this? Do you base it on progress you see, such as planting a seed in one that can grow to many more, or is it simply that faith-based missions provide their own reward regardless of results or any preconceived notions?
What motivates us is God’s call on our life: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV). God has blessed our efforts with the result of thousands of people making a decision to follow Jesus Christ. As long as we are healthy and God provides the resources we will continue making an eternal difference in people’s live until we are called to our eternal home.
If the need for additional support remains a major factor, let me know if there is an online link or information to share for those who would like to donate.
Our ministry assignments are made possible by the generosity of individual donors and supporters who give and pray as God lays it on their hearts. And God has made it clear, if we stop telling people about the needs and asking them to help, then far fewer people will give, there will be less money to support the ministry efforts, and less ministry can be done. Unfortunately, our culture is very sensitive about money. People often don’t like to be asked to give. And, to be honest, part of me doesn’t like to ask, because I don’t want to offend anyone.
But at the same time, another part of me gets excited about asking people to get financially involved in our work. That’s the part that realizes that by asking people to support our ministry we are giving them the opportunity to share in God’s work in ways that will mean a blessing to them as they give! Malachi 3:10 (NIV) “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Support for Rolf & Sherri Ronstadt or the ministry of International Ambassadors for Christ can be send to: International Ambassadors for Christ, P.O. Box 545, Saint Charles, Illinois 60174-0545 or through our web blog China – In His image.
Here is a link what has been published by columnist Dave Heun’s on 6/27/2018 2:13 PM in the Daily Herald Newspaper: St. Charles missionaries facing difficulties in China…