Esther: "God helped me bear the unbearable" (Part 1 of 2)



Thursday, June 3, 2021


Esther sitting in the "tiger chair."
(Photo: Esther)

(ChinaAid—June 03, 2021) Part 1 (of 2) of Esther's story: 

I do not want to hear any more about Christianity or the Bible, I thought.


At that time, as an elementary student, instead of believing things my mother, a Christian, told me, I chose not to hear. Many times, because of her beliefs, when I wanted to play with my classmates, they let me know they thought of me as “strange.” Although I loved my mother, what she told me conflicted with what I learned in school. I did not believe in God nor that He existed. In school, our teachers relentlessly taught atheism as the only correct way of thinking. I did not consider becoming a Christian until later in life.

Throughout my childhood and teens, my mother continued to pray for me. In college, I not only changed my mind about wanting to “hear” about Christianity and the Bible —I wanted to know God.

In 2007, an automobile accident changed my entire life and view of Christianity and God. Traveling to Beijing with my family in heavy snow, our car flipped upside down into a nearby ditch. At the age of 25, I felt extremely fortunate to have survived. One person who stopped to help us right after the accident told me that just two days earlier, a similar accident left four people dead. As we emerged unharmed from such a dangerous experience. I began to wonder, Is there a God who had protected us with His grace?

Later that year, I met two Christian “sisters” at my workplace. Now interested in learning about Christianity, I joined the two of them daily to study the Bible. Eventually, in July 2007, I professed my belief in Jesus Christ, followed Him in baptism, and joined the sisters as a member of Beloved Church in Guangzhou. In 2009, I began working with other Christian employees at Woodland Kindergarten. We taught our young students to be thankful, humble, and joyful. Although not a Christian program, Christian ideals directly influenced our teachings.

In 2014, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities arrested and charged me with operating an illegal business. For many years prior to my arrest, the education department did not take issue with the books our school used. The problem, I later learned, related to my faith. In the summer of 2011, our church worked with an American team from Great Commission Churches to host a Christian summer camp program for adults and teenagers. On July 11 that year, I received a phone call from the education department, advising me to visit their office. One of the education department officials questioned me and encouraged me to give up my faith— to focus only on working at the kindergarten. “You need to stop your involvement with the church,” he advised. He also asked me not to involve any university students in our church’s outreach.

For the most part during the next few years, although the education department phoned me from time to time, inquiring about the kindergarten and directing me to stop planning religious camps for children, I felt peace. February 18 in 2014, however, education officials once again summoned me to their department office. “You will only be questioned for 24 hours,” one officer said.

At first, I believed this CCP officer.

During the first hour, three officers took turns asking me questions. I do not remember all of the questions they asked, but I remember the following:

  • Did the teaching materials at your kindergarten originate from the Bible?

  • Why are you teaching the children these materials?

  • How many Christian teachers have you employed?

  • Where did you obtain your teaching materials?

Next, after a new group of officers questioned me, they transported me back to the kindergarten to search for any religious or illegal materials. Officials ended their questioning around 11 p.m.

“May I go home now?” I asked.

“No…,” the officer said.

“May I hire a lawyer?” I asked.

Again, “No.”

That night I “slept” in the questioning room—no bed… no heat and shivering cold… no food and hungry. The next day, police transferred me to a detention center. There, my real nightmare began.

In the detention center, guards forced me and other women to sew for 12 hours per day, from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days per week. At night, I shared and slept on one large bed with 15 other women. We shared one toilet.

Officials continued to question me regularly and asked me over, and over, and over again:

Do you only have Christian teachers at the school?

Is the character material based on the Bible?

Who was involved in printing the material?

With the ongoing interrogations, it became even more clear that CCP authorities were unlawfully punishing me for two reasons:

1. My Christian faith.

2. I taught materials based on the Bible to kindergarteners.

The Chinese government appeared to believe that my status as a Christian and a teacher threatened the ideals of atheism and nationalism the CCP promotes. They require that their ideals, not biblical-based materials, be taught in classrooms.

In April 2015, after having my court hearings repeatedly postponed, the judge sentenced me to two years in prison.

Why did this happen to me? I repeatedly questioned. My husband and I had thought that because he worked in the church, he might one day be arrested—but not me.

Why? I cried out to God.

At that time, my husband and I had two sons; one, three and a half years old; the other, one and a half.

“Why?” I prayed. “I cannot understand… I can’t bear this. Dear God, I want to see my babies.”


 

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Bear one another’s burdens, 
and so fulfill the law of Christ.
                                                          ~  Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)





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