Cal’s Comments: From Communist China, In The Belly Of The Beast; Pray For The Chinese Christians Who Need Bibles!
By Cal Zastrow
How would you feel if your first child was murdered by forced abortion and your wife sterilized by wicked doctors? What would go through your head and heart if the local police stormed into your apartment while you and your friends were praying, dragged the leaders off to prison, and gave the rest of you a few shocks with electric cattle prods? Welcome to being Christian in China.
I spent most of last month in China, delivering (smuggling) Bibles to persecuted Christians. By God’s grace, 5,400 study Bibles, 1000+ Bibles, over 4,000 Bible study books, and 120 lbs. of Chinese Gospel tracts were safely delivered to Christians inside of Communist China. With tens of thousands of Chinese people repenting and coming to Christ daily, we aren’t supplying enough for the demand. Just one of the Church networks we worked with is requesting 400,000 study Bibles for their pastors, evangelists, and ministers-in-training who don’t even have Bibles yet.
True, the Chinese government prints a token amount of Bibles inside of China. True, the Chinese Constitution declares freedom of religion. Some westerners actually believe what the Communist Chinese tell them about “freedom” inside of China. This kind of gullible participation in deception is very wicked, especially when committed by professing Christians. Just because tourists and businessmen don’t see the prisons, quarries, and factories where Christians (and others) are beaten and tortured, does not mean that these places don’t exist. They do exist!
Trying to look pretty for the Olympics, the Chinese government is cleaning trash off of the streets of Beijing and detaining Christian leaders and “human rights” activists that might embarrass them by telling the truth when the world media shows up for the Olympics. While I love the Chinese Church and the Chinese people, I agree with the handcuffs-Olympics poster shown here with my column.
Arriving in China this last trip (my tenth) had some instant drama. One of our guys had a zipper break on his suitcase while the baggage handlers had it. At our arrival city inside of China, you can imagine the stress felt when the broken suitcase comes up the belt with Chinese Bibles sprawled openly around it. The Lord made seeing eyes blind as all of those Bibles were scooped up, crammed into the broken suitcase, taken through customs inspection, and safely delivered to “outlaw” Christians in that city. This was not an extreme sporting event, but the adrenaline rush was there.
While a half dozen ladies proceeded from the airport to minister at two orphanages, thirteen of us men made daily trips through various border posts with Bibles. It was hard work, but we often could get three border crossings in daily. Boats, trains, planes, and buses are common ways to enter Chinese borders. We used almost all of them. We split up into sub teams and would cross at various places in the mornings and then report who had gotten through and who had gotten caught at customs. If caught at customs, they usually just take away almost all of the Bibles, give you a confiscation receipt, and let you go. For a “storage fee” you pick up your Bibles the next day as you exit China through that same border. All of us got caught at least a couple of times.
We aren’t as tricky as you imagine. Our greatest strategy for bringing in so many Bibles is this: prayer. With family members and friends praying back home, with a couple of men watching the storage places inside of China interceding, God caused many distractions for customs officers while we usually just strolled right through without even having our luggage inspected. One guard inspected one of our heavy bags once, saw that is was filled with Bibles, looked over his shoulder to make sure his co-workers weren’t watching, and waved our guy through.
If “Dragon Lady” was ever on duty at a certain border, we tried to avoid her shift.
I sensed a leading from the Lord to go light on one crossing. With those big study Bibles being two lbs. each, I only had nine Bibles scattered in my bags. The customs police pulled me out of line and ordered me to open my bags. Seeing that I had forbidden Bibles, but only several (they didn’t see all of them) there, they let me go as they had to deal with other people at the moment. The officer barked in English, “Don’t bring so many books into China next time!”
I grinned big as I zipped up my bags and said, “Oh!”
“Grumpy” was on duty as the shift commander when four us went through a border that wasn’t the busiest. I knew we were in trouble when the immigration officers were very curious as to the many recent border stamps in our passports. They directed us into a large room on the side. Three of us sat, one stood, as Grumpy asked questions we couldn’t understand. He had our passports up on the counter as he came and opened some bags and saw some Bibles. He questioned and lectured us in Chinese for too long. Our guy standing wasn’t having fun, so he simply grabbed the passports, shoved his in his pocket, and tossed the others to us. In a second I had mine in my back pocket and was sitting on it.
Being as we were having a communication problem, Grumpy goes and gets more police and commences to yell at us some more. The new translator is nervously sweating as he tells us to calm down, which we were. Grumpy wasn’t getting to me at all, but my blood pressure rose when I saw one officer with a demonic-Cheshire-cat-grin standing nearby with a big metal flashlight. Being the middle of the day with all lights on, I knew what that flashlight was for - cracking skulls. I quietly started to write Grumpy’s i.d. number on my paper bus ticket. Grumpy grabbed the paper out of my hand and carried on some more. “Flashlight” took his i.d. number off his shirt (just like the police in Jackson, Mississippi) and grinned even more, while looking at me.
I truly felt the Lord’s peace as I prepared to sing, “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb…,” during the forthcoming action. Which of you was praying for us at that moment? Thanks! Flashlight soon put his number back on his shirt, for which I gave him a thumb’s up sign. The tension level was acute as I wrote i.d. numbers on the palm of my hand. Soon the station commander came into the room, realized what was happening, and got us out of there and going through customs, where the immediate threat was gone. They got most of our Bibles while we witnessed to the guard who spoke English. Flashlight stood real close. Seeing it had been almost a couple of hours, one of our team members asked to use the restroom. Flashlight was assigned to escort him to that part of the building. When those two were out of earshot and around the corner, Flashlight asked in perfect English, “Why do you bring so many books into China?”
For a good while, my friend shared how that Book had changed his life and that it was God’s Book. Flashlight listened hungrily to every word about the Bible and my friend’s testimony. He heard of God’s love for him and the Chinese people.
They let us go on into China eventually without further excitement. The next day, three guys departed China through that same border to pick up our confiscated Bibles and bring them in through another border. The officers were delaying and making excuses and being rather rude. While they sat there, Bret insisted that he wasn’t leaving until they picked up their Bibles. Finally, the guard made a call to someone higher up who could speak English clearly. Bret explained the situation and his frustration over such treatment. The voice on the phone responded, “You don’t understand. China is a communist country. Things are not good here.”
Bret asked this officer if he wanted him to go back to America and tell people that China is not an open place and that Christians are not welcome and that the Word of God is not wanted in China and people should not come to the Olympics. The officer said in a dejected tone, “Please do”.
The Bibles were quickly returned.
My favorite part of the trip, as always, was briefly seeing the Chinese Christians who risk their lives to get Bibles. If we get caught inside of China with Bibles, we may get deported. Chinese people who get caught get tortured, imprisoned, and sometimes killed.
When asked how we can further help them, the Chinese Christians reply, “Pray! And, please bring us more Bibles.”
The day before we flew home, a few of us were sitting at a table at an outdoor coffee shop. People were walking by while the guys were unwinding and I was singing praise songs to Jesus in English. A young Chinese woman grinned big and started to practice her English on us. She remarked that I must be very happy to be singing. I told her that I was very happy because I have the love of Jesus in my heart. She listened wholeheartedly to the Gospel. One of our guys asked her if she had a Bible. She didn’t know what that was. “It’s a book about Jesus. Would you like Jesus’ Book?”
She joyously exclaimed, “I would like Jesus’ Book very much!”
We got her address.
It was nineteen years ago when I first went to China with Bibles. Five of us successfully got 1,300 lbs. of Bibles to northern China. “Charles” met us and got our load safely to the Christians. Feeling like a hero of the Cross after a long, hot, dirty train ride, I asked him about who all was receiving this shipment of Bibles. “It sure was a lot of work to get them here. I sure hope that they appreciate them.”
Charles told us that our load was slotted for 50 house-Church pastors who were currently students at a big university in the city. It was the middle of June. They were to graduate at the end of June and return to their home cities with Bibles. Charles had give one of them a Bible and a couple of Gospel tracts in early March. As a student, this pastor got the equivalent of $.50 per day for food. For $.20 daily, this pastor could buy one scoop of steamed white rice. At the end of every week he saved enough money from not eating to purchase a postage stamp and an envelope. For three and one-half months he tore a couple of pages out of his Bible and weekly sent them home to his city in southwest China. Charles had just visited him the night before our arrival. He was having dizzy spells, had blacked-out once, and had some internal bleeding. Out of three stages of malnutrition, this guy was in number two! Charles lovingly advised him to not send any pages home that week but to buy and eat some vegetables, fruit, and meat. After all, he would be back home in two weeks. The young pastor/student replied, “Brother, you hurt me.”
“I’m sorry. What is it?” asked Charles.
This humble Christian went on, “Brother, you offend me. You don’t know what you are talking about. In my home city, we have a church of over 200 Christians ready to die for Jesus. Many more people are hungry to know about God also. In our church, we only had two pages of the Bible. When you become a new believer, and are ready to die for Jesus, and get baptized, then you get to look at one of page of the Bible. You do nothing else until you have that page memorized. Then, you give it back to the church and the next person starts memorizing it so the pages are always being memorized. We pray and take turns fasting, asking God to give our church one Bible. How can I sin against God? How can I sin against my brothers and sisters in my home church by living here in luxury with a Bible and not sharing it with them?”
I didn’t feel like a hero of the Cross anymore. I repented and asked God to teach me to love and to give like that. Thus, I keep taking teams back to China to bless our persecuted brothers and sisters.
In my next column, I’ll describe how you can help get Bibles into China through the mail, financial donations, and taking them in yourself.blog comments powered by Disqus