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Daily Herald Interview

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:

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-42248056/in-your-face-china-s-all-seeing-state

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:

http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752

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:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/25/at-least-120000-muslim-uighurs-held-in-chinese-re-education-camps-report

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.”

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/02/china-100-christians-sent-re-education-camps-xinjiang/

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…

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180627/st-charles-missionaries-facing-difficulties-in-china

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June 2018 Update

It has been a while since you have heard from us. We were waiting thinking we would finally have some news, like a date, about our moving……or even that we would be telling you we have moved into our apartment already. But no – there is still no move-in date! Now we are being told maybe mid/end of July. So our frustration continues and some concerns.

Meanwhile we have a closing date for selling our townhouse on July 2nd. Pushing for a later date would mean a higher percentage rate on our buyer’s mortgage so they have been so very gracious to agree to rent back to us. These people are truly saints in their waiting with us for now more than a year!

As we wait Sherri is positive God sent an angel in a co-worker and now friend from church that has a wonderful gift of organization. She is amazing in helping with the sorting, purging and packing, not always an easy task. Stuff is stuff but some has a lot of memories attached and there is a little grieving that happens as it is discarded, given away or donated. We are grateful also to our son and daughter-in-law for moving out a lot of furniture that we will no longer be able to use.  So the house is looking pretty empty….

God’s goodness is very evident in all of this with patient buyers, all the help we have, and with all your prayers and encouragement.  Seeing past the frustration and tension, we can see we are truly blessed. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him”. Nahum 1:7

To add a little more excitement to the mix Sherri’s annual routine mammogram revealed breast cancer. She was told if “one has to have breast cancer this is the kind they like to see”. She has had surgery and praise God the lump was contained and the lymph nodes removed showed no cancer! After being released from same day surgery and sent home she gave Rolf quite a scare when her blood pressure tanked and she passed out not once but twice! With the help of a neighbor they got her on the bed and called 911 and she ended up spending the night in the hospital for observation. It was determined that it probably was caused by the anesthesia, dehydration and/or not having had eaten. But she is ok now and waiting for the follow up appointment to see what the next steps in her cancer treatment will be.

Praises continue from China! Another new 12-week session has started with 135 new students to take the “Faith or Fiction” class! Rolf’s leaders are missing him though and he them. He is anxious to be able to get back to train more leaders and help keep them on track.

Please continue to PRAY for the timing of our move. There is much more involved than just us! PRAY that the timing of the sale of our buyer’s house works out with our being able to rent back to them until we have a place to live! Remember to keep PRAYING for the apartment we want 314! Rolf has also had some health issues so please PRAY tests come back clear.

There just aren’t the right words to tell you how much we appreciate you and your love, support and prayers especially in this time of challenge for us. THANK YOU.

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April 2018 Update

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8.

Hallelujah praise God, happy dance and thank you for all your prayers!!!! A few weeks ago we finally got the approval for an apartment!!!. So we have that part over and now we are in the next phase of the “waiting game” and that is when the building will be completed. We are being told maybe end of May beginning of June. We soon will need something a little more specific because we have a granddaughter getting married in June in Utah and we need to make some travel plans.

We did get an “unauthorized” tour of the apartment building – don’t ask what that means and how it happened!! It was very sobering to see how small the apartments actually are but extremely helpful to know how to prepare our move. In spite of the small size they look lovely and we look forward to when we can finally move in. As a result of our “tour” we also know which apartment we would like so we ask please PRAY we are able to get number 314 and for the timing of the completion of the building.

More praises from China! Rolf asked for the leaders to give us an update on their classes. Here is the exciting news we learned:

From one of the leaders, her overall report is of the 149 people who signed up for the 12 week class in February 52 had already surrendered their lives to Christ by week 10! Some have already begun to spread the word to recruit others foo the next Faith or Fiction class starting up in mid May.

From the new leader who teaches a worldview class to Chinese 10th graders she is planning on using the Faith or Fiction curriculum in a private setting with selective students before the end of the second semester in June and she will let us know how they responded.

The leader that teaches in a church setting reported that many participants after watching the video and discussing the lesson were deeply touched that they were prayed for by name before and after the sessions by the leader. She teaches several Sunday classes in church and says people are hungry to learn the truth. Now she says we have tools to help spread this truth to others to combat the destructive communism culture.

Our businesswomen leader reported that a businessman said: ”I was a confused college student. Now as a businessman I had the privilege of attending a Faith or Fiction class and was instructed, inspired and convicted. This presentation has been immeasurable helpful to me, both in my work and my beliefs”

Please PRAY for protection for our leaders and their students and for many more lives to be changed.. PRAY in their enthusiasm for reaching others for Christ that they are cautious and wise in what and how they proceed.

“For the Lord is good and is love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5.

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March 2018 Update

Thanks be to God for His gift of perfect love for us. And we rejoice for Christ has Risen and He Lives!! Hallelujah!!

We have much to praise God and be thankful. Sherri’s surgery went well and there was NO CANCER!! It was somewhat of an adventure to get there. The surgery was scheduled for 8am on the 15th of March. The night before at 8pm the hospital called to say the surgery had been cancelled as the doctor had an emergency and would be out for the next 4-8 weeks! What! Now what do we do?! Fortunately her office called the next morning and by the afternoon they had been able to reschedule Sherri with another surgeon at 4pm on the 20th. Oh so grateful we didn’t have to wait weeks for this to happen! She came out of the surgery well and has had no pain from the very beginning. The hardest part for someone as active as she is would be the restrictions for 6 weeks of no lifting more than 10 pounds and no exercising.

THANK YOU for all your prayers for her. Sherri definitely felt God’s peace even not knowing what the results might be and then very relieved to hear in the recovery room “no cancer”. We also learned her doctor’s emergency turned out to be a good emergency – she had gotten the call for the baby she was adopting!

Another big praise and thanksgiving is for what is happening in China. One of Rolf’s leaders took over the training of the new leader so there are now a total of 5 leaders that will be teaching the “Faith or Fiction” classes. And are you ready for this……they have already lined up 149 people that want to take the class!! PRAISE BE TO GOD!! We could not be more excited although Rolf wishes he could be there with them. Please continue to PRAY for them and their students for God’s protection.

Wish we could be praising about out living situation but as of today we still have not been approved for the apartments we have applied for. In fact the last time Sherri talked to the management company no one had yet been approved! Don’t know what the holdup is and can’t seem to get any real answers. They are still telling us the building will be completed April/May and driving by there, workers are working but completion doesn’t look that near done. Meanwhile we have people that have been waiting patiently, and hopefully continue to wait patiently to buy our townhouse. They will have a house to sell and no one can move forward until we get an answer! So please PRAY for a favorable answer and SOON so we all can make some steps forward.

Meanwhile at this Easter season we celebrate and remember the hope, joy and victory that is ours in Christ! We pray for you “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

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China’s Paramilitary Police

Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken another step to increase his power over the world’s most populous nation in consolidating and tightening his control over the “Paramilitary Police”  by moving the People’s Armed Police (PAP) to the Central Military Commission, of which he is chairman.

Previously, the paramilitary police force of about 1 million officers was controlled by the State Council, which Xi does not directly lead. The move began to go into effect on January 1.

Paramilitary police conduct disaster and kidnapping rescues, special human trafficking and drug trafficking operations, protest control and other duties.

The Nikkei Asian Review said the move was seen as a “hedge against a coup.”

It has been suggested that Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, plotted to carry out a coup against the Xi administration by teaming up with Bo Xilai, a former Communist Party secretary of Chongqing who once was the president’s major rival. Zhou had a strong influence over the paramilitary force.

The South China Morning Post added that the previous structure “gave lower-level authorities the power to deploy the PAP to tackle natural disasters, protests and hostage crises.”

The Communist Party’s People’s Daily reported that the paramilitary police would remain separate from the military.

Assuming control of the People’s Armed Police looks like a continuation of Xi’s reforms, which were given wide news coverage at the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October.

There, Xi proclaimed a “new era” of Chinese power. Xi has also made strides toward “re-centralizing” China’s economy by rebuilding government-controlled monopolies, fortifying national enterprises, and limiting opportunities for competitors—both in China and abroad.

Meanwhile, Xi has muzzled “dissenting voices” within Chinese society, making the country considerably less free than it was during the time of his predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

Regarding China’s military might, Shanghai-based military affairs commentator Ni Lexiong says Xi now “not only controls the military but also does it in an absolute manner.”

Now Xi is adding control over the “paramilitary police” to the power of his regime.

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One Man to Rule a Billion

Fifty years ago, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong unleashed his “Red Guards” against members of his own Chinese Communist Party accused of having capitalist sympathies. This paramilitary group of Chinese youth carried out “mass killings” in Beijing and other major Chinese cities in the name of Mao Zedong and Communist orthodoxy.

In the southern region of Guangxi, these violent pogroms escalated to the point of cannibalism—with teenagers killing their school principals and eating them in celebration of their triumph over “counter-revolutionaries.”

While there is no official count of the number of people murdered during these purges, historians estimate that millions—even 30 million or more—may have perished in the decade-long “Cultural Revolution” that began in May 1966.

The bloodbath of the “Cultural Revolution” was so horrific that Chinese leaders amended the country’s Constitution in 1982 to “prohibit one-man rule” after Mao’s death.

Instead of being governed by the “whims”of the chairman of the Communist Party, the government is now allegedly run by the “collective will” of the Standing Committee of the Politburo—a group composed of “five to nine” top Communist officials.

Disturbing reports out of Beijing, however, indicate that the Communist Party is “abandoning” this collective leadership model. President Xi Jinping has “consolidated” more power than any Chinese leader since Mao.

He has assumed “seven” top government positions. He is the General Secretary of the Communist Party, (1) the president of the People’s Republic of China, (2) the chairman of the Central Military Commission, (3) the chairman of the Central National Security Commission, (4) the head of the Joint Operations Command Center, (5) the leader of the Central Leading Group for Military Reform, (6) the leader of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, (7) and the leader of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Information.

At least seven provincial-level party bosses have publicly proclaimed Xi as the “core leader” of China. This title hasn’t been used in China since the retirement of Deng Xiaoping in 1989, and it is widely seen as a sign indicating a “Maoist-style cult of personality.”

While ultimate power in China still rests with the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Xi has reduced the number of people on this committee from nine to seven and has used his political influence to ensure that these seven people are all members of his own inner circle.

Only three years into Xi’s presidency, the Standing Committee of the Politburo issued a public statement demanding “unwavering loyalty” to the person of Xi Jinping.

In addition to practically anointing Xi as “Chairman of Everything,” the Chinese government is financing a media campaign designed to update Xi’s image for the social-media generation.

Officials from the Communist Party of China have hired Sameh al-Shahat, the founder of British communications consultancy China-I Ltd., to advise them on how to produce publicity films to promote Xi to younger audiences.

This government-sponsored propaganda campaign relies heavily on Mao-era imagery, prompting worries of an emerging “cult of personality” and a coming era of “dictatorial” rule!

As China approaches the final stages of its planned “hundred-year marathon” toward global domination, it is reverting to the “one-man” leadership model it had during the 1949 Communist Revolution.

If this “consolidation of power” continues unabated, Xi Jinping could emerge as a political figure whose “role in history” outweighs that of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping combined!

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China Preparing for War

For the first time in the history of the modern Chinese state, the leader of the Communist Party has personally dictated military action to the People’s Liberation Army.

“Here I give my orders,” announced Chinese President Xi Jinping to thousands of assembled troops. “The military at all levels should strengthen military training and war preparedness.”

Speaking to more than 7,000 Chinese servicemen, the Communist Party’s general secretary ordered all members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to ready themselves for the outbreak of war.

In the clip showing Xi’s speech, the camera regularly takes in the vast array of soldiers and military equipment. The magnitude and regimentation of those present reinforces the power wielded by this East Asian country.

Christina Zhao of Newsweek reported that during his speech, Xi encouraged the troops to “enhance their military training and combat readiness” to “grasp the capability to win battles” as dictated by the Chinese Communist Party.

The president’s direct orders to the PLA are another big step for Xi in securing power for both himself and his nation.

“This is the first time since the founding of the country that instructions on military training have been directly issued by the chairman of the Central Military Commission,” said Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, speaking of President Xi. “It shows that improving combat readiness is now a strategic mission for the Chinese military.”

This news falls in line with the rise of Xi Jinping as Asian strongman.  During his first term in office, Xi has accumulated more power than any Chinese leaders since Mao.

“It would be easy to view Xi’s rise as the result of an ambitious individual maneuvering to make himself an authoritarian,” he wrote.

“But his rapid ascent could not have happened without the full consent and assistance of the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese elite see that the global order is unraveling. They see American power declining and leadership vacuums opening up. They see that the international stage is primed for conflict, that there is a chance for China to take advantage of the volatility and to emerge as a superpower.”

In such tenuous times as the world finds itself in, China knows that it needs a strongman to guide it toward greater “global dominance and power.” It takes a streamlined chain of command to effectively play on the world stage.

Xi’s success in cementing power over his nation’s military and foreign policy is worth watching closely. For any nation destined to play a decisive role in shaping history, an ambitious leader with the power to steer his nation is key.

Be on the lookout for China and its allies to continue to expand their military power, reinforce their governments, and prepare for coming global conflicts!

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