Translated by Carolyn Song. Written in English by Brynne Lawrence.
(Guiyang, Guizhou—July 21, 2016) A pastor imprisoned in China’s central Guizhou province on a falsified “divulging state secrets” charge penned a letter to his wife on June 30, thanking God for the chance to rest after serving as a pastor for 23 years.
“This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God,” Li Guozhi, a pastor at Huoshi Church who goes by the pseudonym Yang Hua, wrote of his jail cell. “I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord’s voice.”
Government personnel took Yang into police custody on Dec. 9, 2015, after he attempted to prevent them from confiscating one of the church’s hard drives. They sentenced him to five days in administrative detention a day later for “the crime of obstruction of justice.” On Dec. 15, authorities charged him with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” and extended his sentence five more days.
When his wife came to collect him on Dec. 20, she saw officials herding him into an unlicensed vehicle as he donned a black hood. Upon inquiry, she learned that his charge had changed, and that he was being transferred to criminal detention for “illegally possessing state secrets.” On Jan. 22, his relatives received a notice that he had been formally arrested for “divulging state secrets.”
In an interview with his lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin, Yang disclosed methods the prosecutors used to torture him when he refused to confess to his charges, including standing on his toes and threatening to kill him and bring harm to his family. As a result, Chen and Zhao sued the prosecutors for “using torture to extort a confession” and asked that they be dealt with according to the law.
Despite these circumstances, Yang writes, “Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother’s arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart.”
A full translation of the letter can be read below, with breaks added for legibility.
China Aid launched a campaign to free Yang Hua to confront the unjust incarceration and expose abuses he and his family have suffered. To learn more about Yang’s case, sign the petition for his release and donate to support the persecuted and their families, please visit www.freeyanghua.org.
Dear wife: Everything’s fine!
I received your letter on June 30. I am thankful. Suddenly, I thought of a song, but I couldn’t recall all the lyrics. There’s a part that goes like this: “The path we walk has laughter and tears; this is the Lord’s grace.” You can sing it. [It’s] Sheng Xiaomei’s “Marks of Grace.”
|The first page of Yang Hua's letter to his wife.|
(Photo: China Aid)
You don’t have to go to photo studio since I have already got your photos. It is not necessary [for you to go].
Don’t be too thrifty. Buy some meat, chicken and fish for our sons to eat. They are currently growing; buy some suitable snacks for them. The money I have can support me until October. There are many newly-built convenience stores near me. I have enough to eat. I just received 800 Yuan [U.S. $120]. You don’t have to come to the detention center twice a month. Once a month is enough. Don’t transfer too much money. 600 Yuan [U.S. $90] a month is more than enough. Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” You should copy the whole chapter.
I want to share what I’ve received with you. God has given me a year of rest after 23 years of hard work. Previously, when I was out of [jail], things were always coming down incessantly, because there were many different kinds of affairs [to attend to]. The Israelites worked every year for six years and rested on the seventh. This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God. I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord’s voice. “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever” [Psalm 29:10] (“You Sit on the Throne,” a hymn). Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother’s arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart.
After this period of time, my spiritual life will be even more distinctive from the song that says “A crowd flooded into my kingdom, but they did not want to bear the cross.” You can sing the song.
|The second page of Yang's letter to his wife.|
(Photo: China Aid)
Listen to more of Pastor Wang’s preaching. It will help a lot. Let the words of God make you stronger. This is incomparably good; that you encourage each other with the words of God. Thank my mother and aunt for me. They are our family’s angels, always helping us. Say hello to everyone for me. God’s decrees will certainly be fulfilled. Let’s talk next time. Keep the letters. Don’t throw them away. In regards to Xiangen practicing his musical instrument: he should study lightly. He shouldn’t have pressure, either from you or from himself. Don’t participate in any examinations. Any amount of studying is fine. He can improvise an accompaniment. Let Mu’en practice his instrument half an hour a day after school ends so as not to forget. You can eat and have fun with Xinde’s mother. Be happy. Good night! Mail a photo of my aunt. It’ll be useful.
Jehovah-nissi, Emmanuel [Editor’s Note: These two phrases are Hebrew for “The Lord is my banner” and “God with us”]
Your husband, who received the favor of God with you:
The evening of June 30