Insight into life behind bars for a Chinese Christian.
As his eyes adjusted to the dim light coming from the small slit in the wall, he became aware of the stench and the obvious presence of the rodents scuttling around the small cell. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been in the cell; the days ran into one another. It was difficult to remember whether it was day or night. His captors kept him in darkness, before flooding the cell with light and loud music when he tried to fall asleep.
His body was aching from the scars and traumas inflicted by constant interrogations. In this cell there was nothing but a hard concrete floor and a bucket to be used as a toilet. He had been given no means by which he could wash, so his body was filthy, and his clothes were caked in blood and excrement. As he adjusted himself into a sitting position, he gave thanks for the next few hours when he would be left alone. These times of solitude had become his sanctuary, and as he settled against the cold brick wall he began to pray.
He had been a Christian pastor for a few years now. When he gave his heart and life to Jesus, he knew it would inevitably mean imprisonment and perhaps torture. This was his second arrest and incarceration in the last ten years. He knew that his congregation would be praying for him now and even as he had endured this last beating, he had known the presence of the Lord amid such evil. God had given him compassion for those who delighted in causing him pain and humiliation and as he prayed for the prison guards, he marvelled at the miracle of this.
As they beat him, God revealed to him the fear of authority and rejection which the guards carried into their jobs causing them to follow such awful orders. Some of the guards were so hardened to the violence that in some perverse way they enjoyed it, such was the grip of the enemy upon their lives. But there were some whom he could sense were holding back just a little, likely repulsed by both themselves and the torture they were inflicting on him. He knew that none of them were beyond God’s amazing grace and mercy. He concentrated on praying for their souls and the souls of their families, acknowledging that if God were to bring them to a saving faith in Jesus they too could end up in the same situation as he found himself now.
Later, when he drifted into a God–given sleep, dreaming of people ministering to him, washing his wounds, and cleaning his mutilated body, he was awoken by the sound of the window on the cell door opening. At once, he braced himself for another round of brutality but instead it was some cold rice porridge which was pushed through unceremoniously, along with a small amount of water. He grabbed the bowl before the rodents could get to it and ate it ravenously. In his quest to eat quickly, he remembered he had not given thanks and as he placed his bowl on the floor, knowing that the rats would attempt to lick it clean, he offered thanks for the food and for those who had prepared it for him. It was so important for him to keep his heart, mind, and soul connected to His God, to acknowledge Him in every situation whether it be torture, food, or solitude.
Sitting quietly, he could hear the latest victim being put through the same trauma as he himself had endured some hours previously and he prayed that they would have the strength to stand firm and for God to make His presence real to them. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” were the words which came to mind as he considered the days and weeks ahead. Once again, he prayed for strength, that no matter what was inflicted upon him he would not deny his Lord.