For years, the Rev. John Sanqiang Cao journeyed across a small river using nothing more than a bamboo raft. His mission? To cross from southern China into neighboring Myanmar, with the sole aim of spreading the gospel of Christ.
Armed with nothing more than notebooks, pencils and Bibles, Cao would cross the 30-foot stretch of water in broad daylight, fully aware of the risks to his personal safety. So, when he was arrested in March of last year, he had a clear idea of the ordeal that awaited him.
Cao and a teacher were rafting back across the rive into Yunnan province when they spotted Chinese security agents waiting for them on the shoreline. The pastor sprang into action, quickly dumping his cellphone into the water to ensure the protection of more than 50 Chinese teachers he had recruited to provide Burmese children with an education that was rooted in the Christian faith.
Cao himself, however, had to face the full wrath of the Chinese judicial system. For “organizing others to illegally cross the border,” he would be sentenced to seven years in prison, according to ABC News.
Now, Cao’s U.S.-based family are appealing to the Chinese government for his release, citing his notable track-record of humanitarian work.
“Nothing my father organized was ever political. It was always just religious or charitable,” Ben Cao, the pastor’s 23-year-old son, an American citizen living in Charlotte, North Carolina, told ABC News. “We hope that China will be merciful, and see that my father’s intentions were good.”
The Chinese authorities continue to tighten restrictions on Christian evangelism and church work.
According to a fact sheet created by Christian persecution watchdog group, Open Doors USA:
“All Christians are slandered, which seems to support the widely held belief that the Communist Party is banking on a unified Chinese cultural identity to maintain its power.”
The organization estimates that there are around 100 million believers residing in the communist nation. Many argue that the arrest of Rev. Cao is the latest in a series of moves by the government to strike fear into the hearts of those attempting to spread the gospel of Christ.
“This reflects the tightening environment under President Xi (Jinping) against any kind of religious independence,” explained Cao’s friend Bob Fu, a Texas-based Christian rights activist. “In the past when they talked about foreign infiltration, they were referring to the activities of foreign missionaries inside China, but that has now expanded to include Chinese missionaries going overseas.”
“Pastor Cao’s name should be on President Trump’s lips whenever he talks to [Chinese President] Xi Jinping,” stated Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman who chairs a House subcommittee on human rights.
For now, though, Cao is behind bars, locked up for his faith. Despite his earthly suffering, the pastor insists that such persecution should be counted as a blessing, for it indicates that God’s Church is on the move.
“The government chose the right church to persecute,” Cao once wrote in a letter describing the resilience of his affiliated “house churches,” as reported by ABC News. “Time has proven … that God is still alive and well in China.”
The immortal words of the Apostle Paul come to mind:
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthaisn 12:10.
Pray that the government will release this man of God! Faithwire will keep you updated on his situation.
(H/T: ABC News)