(Kunming, Yunnan province) On Tuesday, Pastor John Cao’s mother visited him in prison. Sun Jinhuan, over 80 years old, had not met with her son face-to-face since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2019.
Long awaited visit
On the morning of February 7, Christian Jing Ruxia accompanied John Cao’s mother to Kunming No. 2 Prison. It was the first time they saw John Cao in the past three years. Pastor John Cao’s mother reported that a lot of people waited in line to visit prisoners. Police officer Mr. Dai gave her a special favor, adding Sun Jinhuan to the second round of visitors.
After receiving her number, she did a COVID self-test in the lobby. Another police officer helped her climb the stairs to the visitation area. Later she found out he was the warden of the prison. He led her to be seated, and several seconds later, she saw Pastor John Cao.
She asked Pastor John what he ate during the Chinese New Year. “We ate fish, meat, vegetables, and fruit. We also had a great lantern festival.”
“Wow! You ate better than rich people in the old days!” she joked. They both laughed.
She told him that so many people around the world miss him. John’s mother talked about all of his support from Canada, Singapore, America, Thailand, Malaysia, Lebanon, New Zealand, and even all over China. Many were concerned about his health and freedom. John Cao responded, “Please tell fellow brothers and sisters from all over the world that I am healthy. Please, don’t worry about me.”
She told him that his wife and children want to come to China to visit him. She also shared with him some family updates. However, their time ran out quickly. Pastor John Cao stood up and waved both hands farewell until she disappeared into the hallway.
Sun Jinhuan reflected on their in-person visit, “Today God helped me accomplish a huge thing. My heart is full of joy.”
At the end of February last year, Pastor John Cao wrote a letter to his mother. He said that his Chinese name Sanqiang (San means “three” and Qiang means “good at” in Chinese and Qi) means he is good at three things: serving the sentence in prison, sharing the gospel, and running schools. In letters her wrote to his mother later, he continued to write about “three” to talk about his vision for his life after getting out of prison and his faith and optimism for the future.
Their last visit took place virtually on December 7, 2022. The video call was supposed to start at 9:15. They both arrived at their designated location 20 minutes before the start time, but due to internet connection issues, the video call was postponed for two hours. Pastor John’s sister flew to Kunming at 1 a.m. to go to the video call with her mother. During the video call, Pastor John Cao was in good spirits, even though he had already spent six years in prison. He waved his hands to greet his mother and sister.
John’s sister told him that his younger son would become a father next year, and he laughed aloud. The prison police and people around also laughed. His mother said to him that his wife hopes he takes good care of himself. She wanted to come to China to visit him, but she couldn’t make it because of COVID. His mother also shared with him greetings from fellow Christians.
John Cao’s work and arrest
Pastor John Cao served as a missionary in Myanmar’s Wa State, transforming the lives of more than 2,000 impoverished minority children by building 16 schools and working to fight poverty in the region. Chinese officials knew that he repeatedly crossed the border between China and Myanmar because of his work and allowed him to do so for three years.
However, on March 5, 2017, authorities in China’s Yunnan province intercepted Cao and placed him in prison on illegal border crossing charges, even though they had never had trouble before. One year later, they changed Cao’s charge to “organizing illegal border crossings,” and he was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2018. This charge is usually used against crimes involving human trafficking.
~Yu Bing, China Aid Special Reporter