THE SECRET TO SURVIVING
18 YEARS IN A CHINESE PRISON
People don’t usually look for heroes in Chinese prisons. They typically look for them on popular TV programs or in the music charts. However, one person I consider a real hero emerged out of a prison nightmare as a light in darkness having endured the loss of family, and being beaten and tortured. I think of Chen Minying, pictured here clapping his hands in a Chinese house church gathering, after he was released from enduring 18 years inside a Chinese prison. He was my hero. When he passed away last October 2021 in his beloved China, I was reminded of his life…
PRISON LIFE CHALLENGED HIS WILL TO LIVE
Chen, a young pastor in Zhejiang province, had planted a house church in the rural countryside that grew to 300 members. He loved pastoring, always looking to nurture and see the church grow.
Then in 1960 he, like many other pastors in the Shanghai area, had been invited to a special meeting with leaders from the communist party at the YMCA. As they gathered in the gym expecting the meeting to start police officers emerged from the corridors surrounding all the pastors. As he was led away to jail he wondered what his future life would be and what would happen to his wife and young son. Little did he know he would never see his family again. His wife and son would both die while he was imprisoned.
In jail he found himself crammed into a prison cell with 4 other prisoners. The cell was so small the men had to lie on their sides, head to foot, like a can of sardines in order to sleep. A nasty wooden bucket in the corner served as their washroom.
The prison conditions were unspeakably horrible. Though he suffered, he certainly did not suffer alone. The communist government put ALL Christian ministers in prison in a brutal effort to choke off the rapidly growing Christian population, whom they saw as a threat to their power.
It was in prison he learned what true greatness is all about, as he watched his Christian brothers die one by one. At times, he too longed for death. He even prayed to die. But he was sustained and encouraged by the faith of his fellow Christians.
THE SECRET TO HOW HE SURVIVED IMPRISONMENT
As the years passed, Chen received an ominous assignment from his prison guards. “They tried to make things really bad for me by putting me to work in the prison cesspool” Chen recalls. “I spent my days deep in human waste, turning it with a shovel to help the waste ferment. They thought I’d be miserable, but actually I was happy. It smelled so bad that no one would come near me, so I could pray and sing aloud all day.”
The prison produced massive amounts of human waste from its 50,000 prisoners. The waste flowed into large holding pits in the ground. It was as good as a death sentence. He would step into the pits in his bare legs with the human waste coming up to his upper legs. Then when it ripened, he would shovel it into containers to be spread into the fields.
The stench was unbearable and he thought he would die before his first day was done. As he worked he noticed something that had escaped his attention; he was completely alone. No fellow prisoners, and especially no prison guards. That had never happened in the crowded prison camp. No one wanted to be around the waste pits!
“The guards thought I would be miserable, but actually I was happy. It smelled so bad that no one came near me, so I could pray and sing as loud as I wanted all day.”
As he worshipped God an old favourite hymn he had learned as a young Christian came back to him and he began to sing it as a thanksgiving prayer.
I come to the garden alone, while the
dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear,
falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me;
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share, as we tarry there.
None other has ever known.
There, for 6 years working in that cesspool, the Holy Spirit transformed that dark pit of death into a beautiful garden of life, and light.
HE WAS SHOCKED TO LEARN…
In 1978, the political environment of China relaxed and Chen was released from prison. Upon his release, Chen sent word to the small villages near Shanghai where he had pastored, telling them he was still alive and now free. Would anyone remember him? He wondered if any of them had survived the past calamitous years.
After three days and nights of exhausting travel, he arrived and was joyously reunited with a few of the people from his house church. They said “Pastor let us take you to meet your congregation.” They led him out into the countryside away from everything. Coming over a hill, he discovered a sea of people awaiting him. To his utter astonishment, Pastor Chen was greeted not by 300 or even 100 but by more than 5,000 Christians.
Words failed him as he tried to understand what he was seeing. His house church that originally numbered 300 was now over 5,000. How could this be? Who did this? What evangelist or pastor did this?
The leaders responded, “The Holy Spirit was our pastor and teacher, Pastor Chen. Instead of spending 1 to 2 hours in church on Sunday we decided to spend all day in God’s presence.”
Pastor Chen covered his face with his hands to hide his tears as he slowly sank to his knees, and repented that he had not fully trusted the keeping and teaching power of the Holy Spirit.
REACHING MAINLAND CHINESE IN AFRICA
This Christmas we ask for you help in honour of Bro. Chen! Africa currently has over 1 million Chinese from China living and working throughout the continent. They need to hear the message of God’s love and receive their personal copy of the Bible. AsiaLink is partnering with 7 Christian radio stations in the country of Zambia that broadcast Mandarin Chinese programming sharing the gospel.
Bibles are urgently needed to donate to broadcast listeners who are hungry for God. Many have never heard of Jesus Christ. This is our opportunity to make a difference in mainland Chinese living and working in this African nation.
We need your help to ship Bibles that have been donated already for Africa. Will you help? To ship one Bible costs $9. Why not provide 10 Bibles or more!
As our way of thanking you I want to make available to you Bro Chen’s testimony. You can listen to my interview with him and also hear him share his vibrant testimony. Just go to asialinkministries.org and click the special link to Bro Chen.
Thank you for partnering with AsiaLink to see God at work!!
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!
Yours for Asia’s Harvest,
(Reverend) Dale R. Hiscock
PS: You can send your gift by Visa, MC, or as an Interac e-Transfer that avoids credit card processing fees. Use our AsiaLink email, email@example.com