As I mentioned in our January prayer letter, because of some phone calls received from the police asking questions about the building the underground church meets in, we decided to move out of the building we were meeting in. Sunday’s church service took place in a restaurant meeting room and was a really sweet time worshipping the Lord. As the Chinese pastor was preaching, he received a phone call from the police station. He ignored the call and we finished the service with no problems. That afternoon the police came to his house and took him in for questioning. He wasn’t released until about 9 hours later. As he was being questioned, Nancy and I started to receive phone calls from the police station, our landlord, and university that approved our visa. We decided to ignore the calls and go ahead and leave the country. We quickly made plans and were able to escape to Seoul, Korea on Monday with no problems. Praise the Lord! Only after we arrived in Seoul and after the Chinese pastor was released from questioning did we find out more of the story. Basically, a visitor that visited the church a couple times in the past month turned us in. This man claimed to be a Christian when he came, but acted very strange. According to what the police told the Chinese pastor this man committed a crime of posting an anti-government article online and when being questioned about it accused me and the Chinese pastor of helping him do it. Of course we were not involved in helping this man do this action and this story was all made up. The whole thing was very strange and we aren’t sure if this guy was really in trouble with the police and was trying to find someone to blame so he could get out of dodge, or if he actually works undercover for the police and the accusation was just a set-up to get me to come to the police station. Either way the result was that the church was found out and the police got a hold of my personal information. After staying a day in Seoul, Nancy and I flew back to the US and arrived in Atlanta on January 22nd.
The Chinese pastor Charles was interrogated again by the police the same day we arrived back in the US and was told what he was doing being a pastor was illegal, the church was illegal, allowing foreigners to teach the Bible was illegal, and witnessing to university students was illegal. The police gave him a warning and told him that this time there would just be a warning, but next time he won’t get off so easy. That was the last time the police have contacted him. He has continued preaching the Gospel and the church is continuing to meet regularly, but is now meeting at different locations than it used to. About a week after this, the Chinese friend and fellow believer who helped the church rent a building in his name was called into the police station. He was handcuffed, mistreated, beaten, and interrogated for several hours before being thrown into a cold prison cell. The police wanted him to give them information about our missionary friend Mark. They also briefly asked about us. This dear friend was very loyal and didn’t give over any information. He was sentenced to seven days in jail, but was released early after 48 hours. We are praying this is the end of everything that the police are trying to do. Persecution definitely has come and the believers have had a good testimony and desire to move forward serving God. Please pray that they would be faithful despite having to live and worship in the threat of persecution. Chinese friends have been packing up all of our stuff in China, and will help move it out to storage. Once we have everything moved and vacated, we will try to terminate our lease and notify the university that we will not be returning for the spring semester of language school in Dalian. Once we do this, both our landlord and university should notify the local police station that we are not returning. If all this goes well, then we plan to get new passports and apply for new Chinese visas. If they are approved, then we will make plans to head back to China, but to a different province. Hopefully we could get back to China sometime in the next couple of months. We feel like God wants us to try to get back in and continue trying to reach mainland China with the Gospel as long as there is a door open for us. If the door to get back in closes completely then we will know God wants us to go somewhere else and will pray about where next God would have us to go. Please continue to pray for us and the Chinese believers during this crazy time. We know God will gain the victory! Thank you for praying.