From the Red Army to the Underground Church

Welcome to our series, Stories From the Field,” the podcast that takes you deeper into the stories from our partners in the national church worldwide. Ron has sat with incredible women of God and listened to their testimonies. This podcast is a glimpse behind the scenes. Welcome with me to the studio Ron and Charis Pearce. Hello, guys!

Charis and Ron- Hi! Greetings!

Joy- Greetings, it’s good to be here!

Ron- Yes! Now into our first story.

Joy- Okay, let me give you a title and I want to introduce it. This is the title: From China’s Red Army to the Underground House Church movement.’ There is a story here that we want to hear all about.

Ron- It was one of the most fantastic meetings I’ve ever had in my life with national church leaders in China. What happened was, we were invited to go to this restaurant and this was in one of the major cities of China and we were supposed to get there by a certain time. We had to leave about two hours in advance. I can remember trying to lose the tails that we had on us, we were being followed by government police, etcetera. 

Joy- You could see them in the car following you?

Ron- We knew they were following us. I remember because when I first came out of my hotel and I met our man in country who was there, we had a plan that he would spot me across the street, we would get in a cab and get going. So I had two guys on me from my Holiday Inn in Beijing, and here we are, I came out, I walked down the street, I know the two guys are behind me. We walked down the street and he was sitting, my friend, and my partner, in a coffee shop right across the road. So I am walking down, he was reading a newspaper in the window, he gets up, walks out as well, heading down the street and I still remember that he got a cab, I ran across the street, jumped in the cab, the cab was off and I could see these two guys running down the street after me and they had to get a cab. So we went for quite a ride.

Joy- I just have to interrupt and I have to say, and correct me if I’m wrong, Charis, but does this not sound like something out of many spy movies?

Ron- There was a little bit of that involved in this. We changed cabs about three times, I remember going through two malls.

Charis- So it was very obvious they were following you. They weren’t discreet.

Ron- Oh yes, they were on us the whole time.

Joy- So they weren’t good spies. {laughter}

Ron- No, no, I’ll wrap it up at the end of this story and I’ll tell you where it all landed. But we did that, I would say for an hour and a half. I remember we ran through a park, I was a lot younger then, and we ran through a park and we got to this restaurant. We got out of the cab and went upstairs to the first floor. Then they said, Go up and wait on the second floor.” There was a big room there that they would have sort of luncheons in. I would suspect there would be about 15 round tables. So we went and sat in there and they said, Wait here for a while.” About a half-hour later, we saw about four people come in. One lady came up in an elevator and she was in a laundry cart and she came out of the laundry cart from being covered in laundry. They had smuggled her in in the trunk of a car.

<p>Red army cap and coat</p>
I can remember trying to lose the tails that we had on us, we were being followed by government police, etcetera.

Joy- Did you see her climb out of the laundry cart?

Ron- It was right in front of me. So she gets out of the laundry cart and they are all sitting around this round table and we started our meeting. These were some of the leaders of the largest house church movement in China. One of the guys was an older gentleman sitting to my left, I will always remember him. This is his story. We’ll call him Caleb. Caleb used to think that Mao Zedong was a god. Mao Zedong was the revolutionary leader in China and he worked for him and was one of the top leaders in the Red Army at this point. He would do whatever Mao said to do until one time, I remember that his mother had been praying for him, he told me that the Gospel got through to him, he accepted Christ and then the army and the secret service or whatever it was discovered that he was a Christian. He couldn’t have this divided loyalty. This was right after the revolution in 49 so this would have been the early 1950s.

Joy- Would the army have decided that it was a divided loyalty or was it hard for Caleb himself?

Ron- It was probably hard for Caleb but the real big thing was the fact that the communist party did not allow Christians. They wanted to purge the country of all Christianity and they couldn’t have him as a leader and a Christian at the same time. So he went to prison and they beat him mercilessly he said, up and down you might say, every single day trying to beat it out of him.

Joy- The Christianity.

Ron- The Christianity, and they couldn’t do that. He found a way to escape and I never really understood how he did it, but he escaped and went into hiding. He would stay with various Christians around in the countryside but they were scared to be caught with him. Finally, he went into a cave and he was in the cave for about two years. He would memorize scripture all the time, as much as he could find on pieces of paper or somebody would bring him a page from the New Testament or the Bible and he would memorize that. Then he would write tracts trying to convince people that communism was not the religion to follow and that Jesus was more powerful than Mao. This was a tense period of time in China and any sort of talk like this was seditious. Therefore, he was in big trouble for writing these things.

Joy- So really his time in prison didn’t deter him from doing this stuff. Clearly, he was going to go back to prison.

Ron- Oh no, his love for the Lord was deep and he was in this cave with very little food, very little of anything, and when he got out of the cave he had to keep a low profile but they caught him and they put him in jail. The one prison sentence that he talked about was five years and they put him in for hand-copying Bibles and distributing written materials. For the first three years, he tried to write spiritual things, like writings, in his diary but they caught him and they beat him very badly and he still was able to witness to the officers and the other prisoners. Many became believers. One year, they handcuffed him every day for a year and beat him every single day trying to discover who were the Christians and where the leaders were and he wouldn’t break.

Joy- Which has to be supernatural.

For the first three years, he tried to write spiritual things, like writings, in his diary but they caught him and they beat him very badly and he still was able to witness to the officers and the other prisoners.

Ron- Oh, well, their determination is something else. But they knew that this was going to be a long hard battle with him because they wanted him to sign documents renouncing Christianity, confessing he was a sinner as far as communism is concerned. Then he told me this, he said, I was in prison ten times for many months at a time, over and over and over.” Now here he is sitting right beside me and I’d heard about a guy like this. This was many years ago when I was in Bible school, that one of the leaders in the communist party was a friend of Mao Zedong, he escaped and became a Christian, etcetera. And I looked over at him and thought, this is the guy! This is the legend! I looked at him and you know how you get goosebumps? This is the guy! We sat there, and he was so frail at the time when I met him. They had served rice and he had a little bit of rice and here he is with these shaky little chopsticks in his hand putting some rice into his mouth but he could only eat a little bit at a time. He was older and very gaunt. The one quote that he gave and I will always remember this is, I love my country but I love God more.” In other words, he loved the people of China but they couldn’t beat God out of his life because he loved Him more. We left there that day and went back to the hotel. This is the funny part. I walked into the hotel, here’s the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Beijing, and the two secret service guys were sitting in the chairs waiting for me so I thought, I’m going to rub this in just a little bit. I walked by them and stopped in front of them and said, Did you guys have a good day? Mine was great!” You could see they were steaming, they must have really gotten in trouble. I walked over, got into the elevator, and went up and that was it. A day or two later I left town.

Joy- I was going to say, I hope you left the next morning!

Ron- No because they had nothing to get me on and those were the days when you just didn’t arrest people. Nowadays, they would have more proof.

Joy- I mean, you wouldn’t do that today.

Ron- Well yeah, there was no surveillance, I wasn’t carrying a cell phone, they didn’t know where I went. I lost them. That is the sort of thing that we did. That was an important day for me because I saw someone who is at the top echelons of communism turn his back on that and be a leader in the church. Over the years, I’ve met many more like this but he was the first one and I still remember sitting there looking at him and I thought to myself, nothing could deter him from following Jesus, nothing. Not even being beaten every day for a year with his hands behind his back handcuffed. Nothing could change him.

Joy- That is really something else, isn’t it. Well, that was a behind the scenes peek and I just realized we never got to talk about the lady in the cart. Maybe another time we’ll do that. So there you have it folks, from China’s Red Army to the Underground House Church Movement.’ A behind the scenes peek. Thanks, Ron.

I was in prison ten times for many months at a time, over and over and over.”

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