3. A Youth Spent Without Regret
“Love is a pure emotion, pure without a blemish. Use your heart, use your heart to love and feel and care. Love doesn’t set conditions or barriers or distance. Use your heart, use your heart to love and feel and care. If you love you don’t deceive, grumble, turn your back, look to get something in return” (“Pure Love Without Blemish” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). This hymn of God’s word once helped me get through the pain of a long and drawn-out life in prison that lasted 7 years and 4 months. Even though the CCP government deprived me of the most beautiful years of my youth, I have obtained the most precious and real truth from Almighty God and therefore have no complaints or regrets.
In 1996 I received God’s exaltation and accepted Almighty God’s salvation in the last days. Through reading God’s words and gathering in fellowship, I determined that all God has said is truth, which is in complete contrast to all the knowledge and theories of this evil world. Almighty God’s word is the highest maxim for life. What made me more excited was that I could be simple and open and freely talk about anything with the brothers and sisters. I didn’t have the slightest need to protect myself against second guessing or being outwitted by people when interacting with them. I felt a comfort and happiness I had never felt before; I really liked this family. However, it wasn’t long before I heard that the country didn’t permit people to believe in Almighty God. This matter made me feel at a complete loss, because His word allowed people to worship God and walk the correct path of life; it allowed people to be honest. If everyone believed in Almighty God, then the whole world would be at peace. I really didn’t understand: Believing in God was the most righteous undertaking; why did the CCP government want to persecute and oppose believing in Almighty God to the point that they would arrest His believers? I thought: No matter how the CCP government persecutes us or how big social public opinion is, I have determined that this is the correct path of life and I will certainly walk on it to the end!
After this, I began fulfilling my duty in the church of distributing books of God’s word. I knew that fulfilling this duty in this country which resisted God was very dangerous and I could be arrested at any time. But I also knew that as part of the whole creation, it was my mission in life to spend everything for God and fulfill my duty; it was a responsibility that I could not shirk. Just as I was beginning to confidently cooperate with God, one day in September of 2003, I was on my way to give some brothers and sisters books of God’s word and was arrested by people from the city’s National Security Bureau.
At the National Security Bureau, I was interrogated over and over again and I didn’t know how to respond; I urgently cried out to God: “Oh Almighty God, I ask You to give me Your wisdom, and grant me with the words I should speak so that I will not betray You and I can stand witness for You.” During that time, I cried out to God daily; I didn’t dare to leave God, I only asked God to grant me with intelligence and wisdom so that I would be able to deal with the evil police. Praise God for watching over and protecting me; every time I was interrogated, either I was spitting, or incessantly hiccupping and couldn’t speak. In seeing God’s marvelous work, I became firmly resolved: Hold nothing back! They can take my head, they can take my life, but they will absolutely not make me betray God today! When I set my resolution that I would rather risk my life than betray God like Judas, God gave me the “go-ahead” in every respect: Every time I was interrogated, God would protect me and allow me to peacefully get through the ordeal. Even though I didn’t say anything, the CCP government accused me of “using an evil cult to destroy the implementation of the law” and sentenced me to 9 years in prison! When I heard the court ruling, I wasn’t sad thanks to God’s protection, and I wasn’t afraid of them either; rather, I despised them. When those people were pronouncing the sentence, I said in a low voice: “This is evidence that the CCP government is opposing God!” Later, the public security officers came just to spy on how my attitude was, and I calmly said to them: “What is nine years? When the time comes for me to get out, I will still be a member of the Church of Almighty God; if you don’t believe me, just wait and see! But you have to remember, this case was once in your hands!” My attitude really surprised them; they stuck up their thumbs and said repeatedly: “We’ve got to hand it to you! We admire you! You’re tougher than Sister Jiang![a] Let’s meet up when you come out, and we’ll buy you dinner!” At that time, I felt that God gained the glory and my heart was gratified. That year when I was sentenced, I was only 31 years old.
China’s jails are hell on earth, and long-term prison life made me thoroughly see the true inhumanness of Satan and its devilish substance that has become an enemy to God. China’s police do not follow the rule of law, but rather follow the rule of evil. In prison, the police do not personally deal with the people, but rather they incite the prisoners to violence to manage the other prisoners. The evil police also use all kinds of methods to confine people’s thoughts; for example, each person who comes in has to wear the same prisoner uniforms with a special serial number, they have to cut their hair according to the prison’s requirements, they have to wear shoes approved by the prison, they have to walk on paths that the prison allows them to walk on, and they have to march at a pace that the prison allows them to march. Regardless of whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter, whether it is rain or shine, or whether it is a bitterly cold day, all prisoners have to do as they are commanded without any choice. Each day we were required to assemble at least 15 times to number off and sing praises to the CCP government at least five times; we also had political tasks, that is, they made us study prison laws and the constitution, and they made us take an exam every six months. The purpose of this was to brainwash us. They would also randomly test our knowledge of the disciplines and rules of the prison. The prison police not only persecuted us mentally, they also ravaged us physically with complete inhumanness: I had to do hard labor for over ten hours a day, crammed with several hundred other people in a narrow factory performing manual labor. Because there were so many people in such little space, and because the clamorous noise of machinery was everywhere, no matter how healthy a person was, their bodies would suffer serious impairment if they stayed in there for a period of time. Behind me was an eyelet punching machine and every day it incessantly punched out eyelets. The rumbling sound it transmitted was unbearable and after a few years, I suffered a serious loss of hearing. Even to this day I have not recovered. What was even more harmful to people was the dust and pollution in the factory. After being examined, many people were found to have contracted tuberculosis and pharyngitis. In addition, due to long periods of sitting there doing manual labor, it was impossible to move about and many people contracted serious hemorrhoids. The CCP government treated prisoners like machinery used to make money; they didn’t have the slightest regard for whether someone lived or died. They made people work from early in the morning until late into the night. I was frequently so exhausted that I physically couldn’t go on. It wasn’t only this, I also had to deal with all kinds of random exams in addition to my weekly political tasks, manual labor, and public tasks, etc. Therefore, every day I was in a state of high-level anxiety; my mental state was constantly being stretched, and I was extremely nervous that I wouldn’t be able to catch up if I was even slightly thoughtless, and would thus be punished by the prison police. In that kind of environment, getting through a single day safe and sound was not an easy thing to do.
When I had just began serving my sentence, I wasn’t able to handle this type of cruel ravaging by the prison police. All kinds of intense manual labor and ideological pressure made it hard to breathe, not to mention that I had to have all sorts of contact with the prisoners. I also had to endure the maltreatment and insults of the devilish prison police and the prisoners…. I was frequently persecuted and put in a tight spot. Several times, I sank into despair, especially when I thought of the length of my nine-year sentence, I felt a burst of desolate helplessness and didn’t know how many times I had cried—to the point that I thought about suicide to free myself from the pain that I was in. Every time I sank into extreme sorrow and couldn’t support myself, I would urgently pray and cry out to God and God would enlighten and guide me: “You can’t die yet. You must clench your fists and resolutely continue to live; you must live a life for God. When people have truth within them then they have this resolve and never again desire to die; when death threatens you, you will say, ‘O God, I am unwilling to die; I still do not know You! I still have not repaid Your love! … I must bear good witness of God. I must repay God’s love. After that, it doesn’t matter how I die. Then I will have lived a satisfactory life. Regardless of who else is dying, I will not die now; I must tenaciously continue to live’” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks With Leaders and Workers of the Church). God’s words were like the soft and gentle sight of my mother placating my lonely heart. They were also like my father using both hands to warmly and gently wipe the tears from my face. Straightway, a warm current and power rushed through my heart. Even though I was physically suffering in the dark prison, attempting suicide was not the will of God. I wouldn’t be able to testify of God and would also have become Satan’s laughing stock. It would be a testimony if I walked out alive from this demonic prison after nine years. God’s words gave me the courage to go on with my life and I made a resolution in my heart: No matter what difficulties lie ahead of me, I will diligently go on living; I will live courageously and strong and will certainly testify to God’s satisfaction.
Year in and year out, the overload of work caused my body to progressively weaken. After sitting for long periods in the factory I would begin sweating profusely and my hemorrhoids would bleed when they became severe enough. Due to my serious anemia, I would frequently feel dizzy. But in prison, seeing the doctor is not an easy thing to do; if the prison police were happy, they would give me some cheap medicine. If they were not happy, they would say I was faking sick to skip work. I had to endure the torment of this ailment and swallow my tears. After a day’s work I would be completely worn out. I dragged my exhausted body to my prison cell and wanted to get some rest, but I didn’t have the power to get an ounce of steady sleep: Either the prison police were calling me in the middle of the night to do something, or I was awakened by a rumbling noise created by the prison police. … I was frequently toyed with by them and suffered unspeakably. In addition, I had to endure inhumane treatment by the prison police. I was like a refugee sleeping on the floor or in the corridors, or even next to the toilet. The clothes I washed were not dry, but were rather crammed together with other prisoners’ clothes to be dried. Washing clothes in the winter was especially frustrating, and many people developed arthritis due to wearing damp clothing for long periods of time. In the prison, it didn’t take long for healthy people to become dull and slow-witted, physically weak or disease-ridden. We frequently ate old, dried vegetable leaves that were out of season. If you wanted to eat something better, then you had to buy expensive food from the prison. Even though people were made to study law in the prison, there was no law there; the prison police were the law and if anyone rubbed them the wrong way, they could find a reason to punish you—even to the point that they could punish you without any reason at all. Even more despicable was that they considered believers of Almighty God to be political criminals, saying that our crimes were more grievous than murder and committing arson. Therefore, they especially hated me and strictly controlled me, and persecuted me most fiercely. This kind of evil behavior is ironclad proof of the dictators’ perverse behavior, opposition to Heaven, and enmity with God! Having endured the cruel torment of prison, my heart was frequently filled with righteous indignation: What law does believing in God and worshiping God violate? What crime is it to follow God and walk on the correct path of life? Humans were created by God’s hands and believing in God and worshiping God is the law of heaven and earth; what reason does the CCP government have to violently obstruct and persecute this? Clearly it is its perverse behavior and opposition to Heaven; it is setting itself against God in every aspect, it attaches a reactionary label to the believers of Almighty God and severely persecutes and ravages us. It tries to eliminate all the believers of Almighty God in one fell swoop. Is this not changing black for white and being thoroughly reactionary? It frantically resists Heaven and is hostile with God; ultimately it must suffer God’s righteous punishment! Everywhere there is corruption, there must be judgment; everywhere there is sin, there must be punishment. This is God’s predestined law of heaven, no one can escape it. The CCP government’s evil crimes have mounted to the sky, and they will suffer God’s destruction. Just as God said: “God has long since loathed this dark society to His very bones. He gnashes His teeth, desperate to plant His feet upon this wicked, heinous old serpent, so that it may never rise again, and will never again abuse man; He will not excuse its actions in the past, He will not tolerate its deceit of man, He will settle the score for every one of its sins throughout the ages; God will not be in the least bit lenient toward this ringleader of all evil, He will utterly destroy it” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
In this demonic prison, I was less than a stray dog in the eyes of these evil police; they not only beat and scolded me, but these evil police would frequently and suddenly barge in and scatter my bed and personal belongings into a mess. Also, every time some sort of riots took place in the outside world, the people in the prison who are in charge of political matters would find me and cross-examine my viewpoints with these events and they would constantly lash out at me about why I walked on the path of believing God. Each time I faced this type of questioning, my heart would jump into my throat, because I didn’t know what evil scheme they had in mind for me. My heart was always urgently praying to God and crying for help and guidance through this crisis. Day after day, year after year, the abuse, exploitation, and suppression tormented me with unspeakable suffering: Each day I was overloaded with manual labor and dull, tedious political responsibilities, I was also tormented by my ailment and on top of it all, I was mentally depressed. It drove me to the brink of falling apart. Especially when I saw a middle-aged female prisoner hang herself from the window in the middle of the night because she was unable to bear the inhumane torment of the evil police, and another older female prisoner die from delayed treatment for her illness, I sank into the same stifling dire straits and again began to contemplate suicide. I felt that death was the best kind of relief. But I knew that would be betraying God and I could not do that. I had no other choice but to endure all the pain and submit to the arrangements of God. But as soon as I thought about my long sentence, and thought about how far away I was from obtaining freedom, I felt that no words could describe my pain and despair; I felt that I could not go on enduring this and that I did not know how much longer I would be able to hold on. How many times I could do nothing but cover myself with my quilt in the dead of the night and cry, praying and pleading with Almighty God and telling Him about all the pain that was on my mind. In the time of my most pain and helplessness, I thought: I am suffering today so that I can separate myself from corruption and receive God’s salvation. These hardships are what I should suffer, and what I must suffer. As soon as I thought about this, I didn’t feel bitter anymore; rather, I felt that being forced into prison because of my belief in God, and suffering hardships to seek salvation was of the greatest value and significance; this suffering was too valuable! Unknowingly, the distress of my heart transformed into joy and I was unable to restrain my emotions; I began humming a hymn of experience I was familiar with in my heart called “Our Life Is Not in Vain”: “Our life is not in vain, our suffering has meaning. Our life is not in vain, we won’t back down no matter how hard life gets. Our life is not in vain, we gain a good opportunity to know God. Our life is not in vain, we can expend for the supreme God. Who is more blessed than us? Who is more fortunate than us? Oh, that which God gives us surpasses all past generations; we should live for God and we should pay God back for His great love.” I repeated the hymn in my heart and the more I sang in my heart, the more I was encouraged; the more I sang, the more I felt I had power and joy. I couldn’t help but make an oath in God’s presence: “Oh Almighty God, I thank You for Your comfort and encouragement that has caused me to once again have the faith and courage to go on living. You have allowed me to feel that You are indeed the Lord of my life and You are the power of my life. Even though I am imprisoned in this hell hole, I am not alone, because You have always been with me through these dark days; You have given me faith over and over again and have given me the motivation to go on. Oh God, if I am able to get out of here someday and live freely, then I will fulfill my duties and will no longer wound Your heart nor make plans for myself. Oh God, regardless of how hard or difficult the days are ahead, I am willing to rely on You to go on living with strength!”
In prison, I frequently recalled the days with my brothers and sisters; that was such a beautiful time! Everyone cheered and laughed, and we also had disputes, but all of these became fond memories. But every time I reflected on the times I perfunctorily fulfilled my past duties, I felt extremely guilty and indebted. I thought about the disputes I had with the brothers and sisters because of my arrogant disposition; I felt especially uncomfortable and remorseful. Every time this happened, I would burst into tears and I would silently sing a familiar hymn in my heart: “I am so remorseful, I am so remorseful, I have wasted so much precious time. Time moves ever onward and only regret remains. … For all my past indebtedness and I shall start anew with head held high. God gives me another chance, and with His tolerance I’ll make my new choice. I shall indeed cherish this day, practice the truth, perform my duties at my best, and thereby satisfy God. God’s heart is anxious, full of expectation. So I shall not break His heart again” (“I Am so Remorseful” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). In my pain and self-blame, I frequently prayed to God in my heart: Oh God! I have truly fallen short of You too much; if You will allow it, I am willing to seek to love You. After I get out of prison, I will still be willing to fulfill my duties and will be willing to recommence! I will make up for my past shortfalls! During my time in prison, I especially missed those brothers and sisters whom I was in contact with morning and night; I really wanted to see them, but in this demonic prison that I was held captive in, this desire was an impossible request. However, I would frequently see these brothers and sisters in my dreams; I dreamed that we were reading the word of God together and communicating truth together. We were happy and cheerful.
During the great Wenchuan earthquake of 2008, the prison we were locked up in was shaken and I was the last person to evacuate the scene at the time. During those days there were continuous aftershocks. Both prisoners and prison police were so alarmed and anxious that they couldn’t carry on. But my heart was especially unperturbed and steadfast, because I knew that this was God’s word coming to pass; it was the arrival of God’s fiery rage. During that one in a hundred year earthquake, God’s word always protected my heart; I believe that the life and death of man is all in God’s hands. Regardless of how God does it, I am willing to submit to the arrangements of God. However, the only thing that made me sad was if I died, then I would no longer have the opportunity to fulfill my duty to the Lord of creations, I would no longer have the opportunity to repay God’s love, and I would not be able to see my brothers and sisters. Yet, my anxiety was superfluous; God was always with me and gave me the utmost protection, which allowed me to survive the earthquake and live peacefully through it!
In January of 2011, I was released early, which finally ended my life of slavery in prison. In obtaining my freedom, my heart was exceptionally excited: I can return to the church! I can be with my brothers and sisters! Words could not describe my emotional frame of mind. What I didn’t expect was that after returning home, my daughter didn’t know me, and my relatives and friends looked at me with a peculiar gaze; they all distanced themselves far from me and wouldn’t interact with me. The people around me didn’t understand me or take me in. At this time, even though I wasn’t in prison being abused and tormented, the cold looks, sneers, and abandonment made it difficult to bear. I became weak and negative. I couldn’t help but reflect back on the days past: When the incident happened, I was only thirty-one years old; when I got out of prison, eight winters and seven summers had passed. How many times in my loneliness and helplessness had God arranged people, matters and things to help me; how many times in my pain and despair had God’s words comforted me; how many times when I wanted to die had God given me power to have the courage to go on living…. During those long and painful years, it was God who led me step by step out of the valley of the shadow of death to tenaciously go on living. In facing this hardship now, I became negative and weak and had grieved God. I was truly cowardly and incompetent person that had bit the hand that fed me! In thinking about this, my heart was strongly condemned; I couldn’t help but think of the oath I made with God while I was in prison: “If I am able to get out of here someday and live freely, then I will still fulfill my duties. I am not willing to wound God’s heart again and I will no longer make plans for myself!” I pondered this oath and reflected on the circumstance I was in when I made the oath to God. Tears blurred my sight and I slowly sang a hymn of God’s word:
Out of my own willingness I follow God. I don’t care whether He wants me or not. I seek to love Him, steadfastly follow Him. I will gain Him, offering my life to Him.
I. May the will of God be accomplished. May my heart be fully offered up to God. No matter what God does or what He plans for me, I’ll keep on following, seeking to gain Him. Out of my own willingness I follow God. I don’t care whether He wants me or not. I seek to love Him, steadfastly follow Him. I will gain Him, offering my life to Him.
II. If you wish to stand and fulfill God’s will, if you want to follow Him until the end, lay a firm foundation, practice truth in all things. This pleases God and He will strengthen your love. Out of my own willingness I follow God. I don’t care whether He wants me or not. I seek to love Him, steadfastly follow Him. I will gain Him, offering my life to Him.
III. As you face trials, you’re grieved and suffering. Yet, for the sake of loving God, you’d endure every hardship, give up your life and everything. Out of my own willingness I follow God. I don’t care whether He wants me or not. I seek to love Him, steadfastly follow Him. I will gain Him, offering my life to Him. (“I Will Not Rest Until I Gain God” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs)
After some time of spiritual devotions and adjustment, I quickly came out of my negativity under the enlightenment of God and I threw myself back into the ranks of fulfilling my duties.
Even though the best years of my youth were spent in prison; during these seven years and four months I suffered hardships because of my belief in God, I have no complaints and no regrets, because I understand some truth and have experienced God’s love. I feel that there is meaning and value to my suffering; this is an exception of exaltation and grace God made for me; this is my partiality! Even if my relatives and friends don’t understand me, and even if my daughter doesn’t know me, no person, matter or thing could separate me from my relationship with God; even if I die, I cannot leave God.
Pure Love Without Blemish is the hymn I most loved to sing in prison; now, I want to use my real actions to offer the most pure love to God!
a. Sister Jiang refers to a young female Communist Party member in 1940s China, named Jiang Zhuyun, who kept information from the Nationalist forces despite undergoing torture.