(Chengdu, China—October 21, 2022) Last week, Elder Li Yingqiang, one of the leaders of the Early Rain Covenant Church, penned a letter to volunteers of the kingdom prayer meeting called “Pray at 5 PM for China.”
Li titled the letter “Participate in the Holy War in the Wilderness by Praying.” In this open letter, he analyzed the current circumstance house churches in China have been facing, introduced the mission of “5 PM in China,” invited more Christians to join them in praying for imprisoned believers, and gave a list of 10 practical ways to help imprisoned Christians and their house churches.
“5 PM in China”, the kingdom prayer meeting, originally was a promise between Elder Li Yingqiang and his wife, Zhang Xinyue. Many pastors, elders, deacons and Christians attending Early Rain Covenant Church were prepared for imprisonment before the “129 Crackdown” took place. Elder Li Yingqiang and Zhang Xinyue planned to pray simultaneously at 5 PM if he was arrested. Elder Li Yingqiang realized that it was a great encouragement after being detained. The dinner at the detention center starts at 5 PM, all people sit in two lines in the hallway, waiting for the meal to be distributed to each cell, and then each cell distributes the meal to each person. The wait time is generally 15 minutes to half an hour starting 5 PM. It is the perfect time for prayer.
After his release, Elder Li Yingqiang said that the most wonderful time was that he and his family came to God together every day simultaneously. Because of these experiences every day at the same time, Li said that he didn’t feel that it was too tough at the detention center. He said he was with his family, the church, and Jesus Christ together every day at 5 PM. Among the preparations he made for imprisonment, this was the most helpful. He had no clue what was going on outside, but he felt supported and comforted while praying with his wife and children together, which is the most critical spiritual support he received in the 8-month detention. Later, he wrote a song, “5 PM in China”:
5 PM in China, prayers waft
The Lord’s grace is poured down from Heaven, how could high walls stop it?
5 PM in China, prayers waft
Prospers the gospel wholeheartedly, and may the Lord have mercy on us!
5 PM in China, prayers waft
Fly cross mountains and rivers, comfort the souls that are hurt
Body is bound, but soul is free
Suffer for Christ, advance for the gospel, may the Lord’ kingdom prosperous!
Li learned that many Christians prayed with him together every day other than his wife and children.
On March 14, 2021, Elder Li Yingqiang, Elder Zhang Chunlei of Ren’ai Reformed in Guiyang, Pastor Huang Xiaoning of Reformed Biblical Church in Guangzhou, and Pastor Fang Xiaojun of Dao’en Church in Xuzhou made a promise: they all pray at 5PM regardless of who will be imprisoned. Two days later, authorities arrested Elder Zhang Chunlei and cracked down on Ren’ai Reformed.
Elder Li wrote an article, “Pray for Imprisoned Christians at 5 PM in China,” saying that the hymn he wrote depicts the revival of house churches in the past three decades, and the hymn summarizes the most beautiful traditions of house churches, such as practicing godliness, strong eschatology, vehement prayer, and concerns about the kingdom.
Now, it is a virtual prayer meeting from 5-5:30PM (Beijing Time), and people on the interception list include Christians who have been sentenced, for instance, Pastor Wang Yi, Elder Qin Defu, Pastor John Cao, Elder Hu Shigen, Pastor Bao Guohua, Bao’s wife—Xing Wenxiang, Pastor Zhang Shaojie, Chen Yu, Pastor Alimjan Yimit, Lai Jinqiang, Pastor Yang Jianxin, 6 sisters and brothers including Ju Dianhong, Liang Qin etc., Zhang Zhan, the Chang Yuchun and Li Shenhui couple, Brother Chen Yunfei, Pastor Hao Zhiwei, Minister Geng Zejun. In addition, the list includes Christians who are detained and not sentenced yet, those whose situation is unavailable, and those who were released (or those who were bailed out and not sued after being arrested).
Below is the open letter written by Elder Li Yingqiang last week:
House churches in China have confronted new crackdown and tight control since 2009. Government has used strategies including the systematic massive suppression, fragmenting and demoralizing, targeting selectively since 2012 in the attempt to “Sinicize Christianity”. As a result, house churches in China have been cast out of the public space but also become isolated from each other in the twitchy and precarious circumstance.
“5 PM in China” is a kingdom-oriented prayer meeting. We connect the chained Christians and those are not imprisoned via the prayer meeting that happens regardless of rain or shine, spiritually support the pastoral staff and brothers and sisters who are isolated and motivate Christians living in freedom by organizing them to intercede for witnesses who suffer for Christ.
The most important is that it demonstrates the heavenly feature of churches. When we pray, we are the “air force” flying with wings instead of “troops” divided and encircled on the ground, we gather in the Heaven, the city of the eternal God—Jerusalem in the Heaven, where there are tons of angels, churches of the oldest sons whose names are registered in the Heaven, God who will judge everyone, souls of saints in the past who finished their journey, and Jesus–the Mediator in the New Testament–and his blood.
Prayer is our most vital service! To those Christians who are imprisoned, it is the most important spiritual support when someone remembers them in prayers and intercedes for them every day. Bonhoeffer said, “A Christian can come to others only via Jesus Christ”. High walls can’t keep us from the love of brothers and Christ nor the spiritual communication via Christ.
In the wilderness of this life, Christians’ prayer is a holy war and spiritual war. We can not only participate in the war by attending the virtual prayer meeting of the kingdom but also get involved in the holy war by lifting hands to God anytime, kneeling in our private room, praying in our family worship, and attending the morning and evening prayer meeting and specific prayer meeting organized by churches.
What can we do for the imprisoned Christians? The first thing is prayer, and the second is still prayer.
Therefore, we list 10 things that volunteers can do while calling on people to volunteer:
- Intercede for the Christians and churches that are persecuted at home and in church;
- Attend the kingdom prayer meeting, “Pray at 5 PM in China” on a regular basis;
- Help find legal assistance resources or raise the fund for lawyers’ fees
- Speak at the seminars about “how would churches and Christians deal with persecution”
- Provide the Bible-based support and therapy to Christians who are either detained or severely assaulted in persecution;
- Accompany and support the wives of coworkers who are either detained or imprisoned;
- Visit the churches that are persecuted and families of Christians who are detained and sentenced;
- Help and support the coworkers’ team restore after the persecution and crackdown (limited to pastors);
- Provide interim and short-term sermon support (limited to pastors)
- Provide the persecuted church what they may need and what we are able to provide.
We would like to say again that dear brothers and sisters, we hope you, first of all, are committed to prayers when you decide to commit yourselves to the service of the kingdom. If you don’t want to be committed to prayers, to be honest, you wouldn’t be really committed to the service.
We are grateful for the Lord’s protection and guidance. Some brothers and sisters living abroad are so caring and hope to be part of the service, so I hope that each person can stand in the shoes of Christians who live in mainland China while participating, thinking if your assistance can really benefit brothers and sisters who have suffered.
If you would like to participate in the kingdom’s service, click on the link https://t.me/+o9BXNf-Ie9M2Mzk1 in Telegram and join the volunteers’ group.
~Yu Bing, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid