Edited for grammar and journalistic style by China Aid
(Midland, Texas—Nov. 21, 2014) A normal rainy day on the streets of China, but for one pastor, his day takes a turn for the worst. He’s seen in striped shirt. More than 20 government officials rush him into a vehicle. As they quickly drive away, the now imprisoned pastor’s congregation is left wondering what happened.
“It was a Saturday, many believers were in church doing clean up for Sunday worship, two police showed up and pretended to be friendly and have tea together, then all of sudden over 30 police came out and kidnapped my father from his office,” his daughter Zhang Huixin said.
On that day of Nov. 16, 2013, Pastor Zhang Shaojie was in his church office when he was taken. His daughter Zhang Huixin says two months after his kidnapping, even his lawyers weren’t allowed to meet with him. The government charged Pastor Shaojie with fraudulence and disturbing social order.
“The government keeps making false accusations and [creating false] evidence. When my father was accused by [the] government of committing fraudulence, they couldn’t even produce a witness,” Huixin said.
Pastor Shaojie had helped a family of believers after losing their son in a factory fire. The government refused to make compensation to the family. So Shaojie decided to step in. He helped get the family compensation from the government for more than $700,000 [Editor’s note: Pastor Zhang helped the family secure compensation worth 700,000 Yuan (U.S. $113,000)]. As a thank you, the family gave some of the money to the church and Pastor Shaojie. The government tried to get the family to speak out against him, but they refused. The witness in their family hasn’t been heard from since.
Pastor Shaojie was sentenced on July 4, 2014, a day we here in the U.S. see as Independence day, but now this Chinese pastor will spend 12 years in prison.
But even through all this, Shaojie still has hope.
“So, my father told my younger sister that he is full of energy and passion in the prison and asked us to not worry about him. This is the best location to share the gospel, so God continued to use [him],” Huixin said.
After Pastor Shaojie’s kidnapping and arrest, his daughter Zhang Huixin spoke out about his freedom. She spoke with media to make an appeal for his release. But the Chinese government arrested and detained her twice. The second time [she was detained along] with her baby.
“And at the same time, two video monitoring devices recorded every second of our movements, at that time our baby was very scared,” she said.
Zhang and her baby were released five days later but were still being monitored. Most everyone in her family had been jailed at that time. When she was behind bars, she said God gave her a reason to hope.
“After taking away every item of my belongings, the only item left was a Bible in my pocket, and I was so grateful. In the end, we asked help from pastor Bob Fu to help our freedom.”
Bob Fu, along with those in his organization, China Aid, rescued Zhang Huixin, her husband and their baby.
They were taken out of China and flown to the U.S. and are now living in Midland.
The family has been allowed one year to decide whether [or not] to appeal for asylum under religious freedom.
“So I do believe that without the help of Bob Fu and co-workers in China Aid, my father might [have] already been missing or disappeared, [but] because of this pressure internationally—that made my father still in prison alive,” Huixin said.
Zhang Huixin, her husband and their baby fled China to get away from religious persecution. With the help of China Aid, they made it out and are now in Midland.
When asked how her family is adjusting to the U.S. she said, “I just feel people here are so nice, and we were shocked when we came here [because] we didn’t see video cameras on street corners. We feel much safer here because our Chinese government said the reason they install the video cameras is to protect [our] safety, but actually they produce more fear for my family.”
The family was helped out of the country by Pastor Bob Fu and his organization. Bob Fu is the founder and president of China Aid, which is based out of Midland. It’s an international non-profit Christian human rights organization. They help those in China escape religious persecution and promote rule of law in China.
“China Aid was established in the garage of my Philadelphia home. At that time, I was the only staff without much support at all. In 2004, when we moved here, essentially, we formally established China Aid as a more healthy organization,” Fu said.
When asked, why Midland, Bob said, “It’s like the question, why Nazareth? Right? Midland has a small community with big dreams so this is a very unique community. Of course, the oil and gas on the surface seems like [it has] nothing to do with the persecuted faithful in China. But look at the Midlanders, it has everything to do with world affairs.”
The family China Aid rescued now plans to continue to lend a hand with the organization. They said they want to follow God’s leading as they work to fight against persecution in China.
“I am hoping I can testify and be a witness for God and be a testimony and share in more places. I don’t know in the future what I can do so I’m praying that God can lead me just how he led me to come to U.S.,” Huixin said.
The daughter, Huixin, and her mother have visited Pastor Zhang several times in prison. The pastor has to labor long hours manufacturing socks there as part of their re-education through labor process. First Baptist Church in Midland is covering temporary housing, and China Aid has been taking care of the family’s living expenses. But in January, they have to find another place to stay and help with living expenses before they can look for work.