However, there are places in the world where Christians are suffering for their faith. They are not allowed to worship Christ with their families, let alone in public.
One place that we should remember is China and we should pray for our sisters who are separated from their husbands and fathers.
Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xianbin, and Guo Quan are all serving long sentences in prisons in China. Their crime – appealing to their government for religious freedom. This is not allowed in the communist regime and these men were arrested, tried, and convicted. Often their families are not allowed to visit them. Their families are under threat of harm or imprisonment as well.
Gao’s wife, Liu’s daughter, and Guo’s wife have taken the courageous step to emigrate to the United States. Here they are safe, and they also have the opportunity to tell the world about what is happening in China.
These three families represent many thousands of persecuted Christians in China. Their stories remind us that we still have much freedom here and we should be thankful. We should also pause sometime during the middle of all of our holiday fun and pray for these Chinese families and the persecuted Christians everywhere.
They are not having so Merry a Christmas.
Geng He, wife of Gao Zhisheng, fled China on a train through a rugged mountain region. When she and her children got across the border, rescuers from China Aid met them. They received help to come to the United States in 2009. Gao was offered the chance to flee but he chose to stay in China. He believed that he was called by God to stay and work for religious freedom. A month after his family was safe in America, Gao disappeared. He was tortured mentally and physically by Chinese authorities. He was briefly let out and then sent back for twenty more months of torture.
Geng and their two children miss their father. Geng is lonely but she continues to bring Gao’s story to officials to try to get publicity for the plight of religious groups in China.
Bridgette Chen was only fifteen years old when her father was arrested and sent to prison. Her father, Liu Xianbin was a human rights activist. He was one of a number of dissidents who signed a pro-democracy document that was condemned by Chinese officials. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence. Bridgette was about fifteen years old when she was offered a safe home in this country by a pastor and his family. She was sad to leave her mother but the family thought it was for the best. She is hoping that the Chinese officials will eventually let her mother come to America. In the meantime she is receiving a good education. She also is presenting her father’s case to U.S. officials in order to get some relief for her father.
Li Jing, wife of Guo Quan, waits and prays while her husband serves a ten-year sentence in China for writing about democracy and human rights. He continued to write even after threats, but he believes that as a professor he has some responsibility to society. He was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2009.
The authorities persecuted Li by making her employer reduce her hours at work until she could no longer provide for her son. She made the decision to flee. First, she wanted to make sure it was all right with Guo.
Her visits to the prison were strictly monitored so she tried something daring. She wrote in tiny letters on the end of her thumb, “I take our son and go to the U.S.” While she was talking to Guo she pressed her thumb on the glass that separated them. He nodded slowly. She knew that she had his approval, but the hard part was just beginning. She had to be very careful in her plans to escape. She got permission from the authorities to visit relatives in a nearby country. She discussed this on the phone with friends on purpose knowing that officials were probably listening in on her calls.
As soon as she was across the border, she and her son defected. She was helped to get to Los Angeles where workers from China Aid met her. Li was surprised that her plan worked but thankfully stated, “I think God arranged it. It’s amazing.”
A month later, Li Jing and Geng He went together to Capitol Hill to testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. They presented the plight of their husbands and requested a meeting with White House officials. They never received a reply.
Perhaps it was because our arrogant president Obama was meeting on that same day with the Chinese Vice President, Xi Jinping in the Oval Office. Jinping received the salute of a 300-man honor guard and a 19-gun salute at the Pentagon.
Li and Geng are still hopeful that they can press their cases. They also pray that conditions in China will change and their will be more religious freedom.
These courageous women deserve our respect and our prayers.
This Christmas as you delight in the warmth and love of your family around you, remember the persecuted, lonely Christians around the world who do not have this privilege. Take a moment to thank God for the gift of the Savior and the gift of freedom.