Authorities in China again thwarted efforts by Shouwang Church to lease a worship facility at the year’s end, and the Beijing congregation again met outdoors on Sunday, Jan. 1, resulting in the arrest of 48 members. “The church tried three times to rent three different venues, but it was all to no avail because of the authorities’ intervention,” a source close to the church told Compass News.
Church leaders had arranged to have an indoor meeting on Sunday, Jan. 1, in a room they had leased from the Beijing Parkview Wuzhou Hotel on Dec. 17. Shouwang had announced on its Facebook page, “The outdoor worship service has come to an end. We first want to offer our thanksgiving to God … We also pray that God will continue to open a way for us.” But due to police interference and the cancellation of the lease, they were forced to change their plans and continue outdoor worship services.
Early on the morning of Dec. 25, church members had arrived at Zhongguancun square believing that it was to be their last service outdoors. Worshipers instead arrived to find it heavily guarded with industrial-strength rails blocking access. Police arrested 41 Christians who attempted to worship at the square, releasing all but one by midnight. The final detainee was released at 3 p.m. on Dec. 26.
Their hopes were dashed once more on January 1st, as they were forced to attempt to gather for worship outside as their permit to hold indoor services was again banned. This time police detained at least 48 church members, releasing 40 of them by midnight.
During Shouwang congregation’s 38 weeks of outdoor worship in 2011, police detained almost 1,000 church members and held many more under house arrest, according to the committee. One church member who shared his testimony on the Facebook page on Dec. 26 said, “On Christmas Day an officer interrogated him, taunting him for being afraid to give his home address and threatening to ‘hold you for more than 10 days so that you will lose your job. I will find out where you live and force you to move.’ As for my job, no one can fire me if God does not allow it,” the church member wrote. He also advised other church members, “How long they detain you has nothing to do with whether you cooperate with them or not, just as God’s love for you has nothing to do with what you do. So do not be afraid, and be brave in speaking out as the Holy Spirit guides you.”
His advice was timely as Shouwang church has resolved to continue meeting outdoors until a more permanent solution is found and officials seem equally determined to stop them.
Almighty God, we come before You acknowledging that You are greater than any earthly government or authority. We ask that You, who hold our every breath in Your hand, would work in the hearts of the government officials and police leadership in Beijing to look favorably on the Shouwang congregation and grant them permission to obtain a permanent place of worship. Shore up the resolve of the Shouwang believers! Let their prayer be that of the Apostles in Acts 4: “Now Lord, look on their threats and grant to Your servants boldness that they may speak Your word…” Cause Your purposes to be accomplished in the lives and hearts of members of the Shouwang congregation, as well as in those of the officials opposing them. We pray that the light of Christ would shine on all who come in contact with believers from this church that this attack of the enemy would be transformed into an opportunity for the Word of God to spread! Amen.
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