A pastor imprisoned for his faith in China's central Guizhou province has revealed he is thankful for his incarceration because it has allowed him to draw closer to God and "better listen to the Lord's voice."
Li Guozhi, a pastor at Huoshi Church who goes by the pseudonym Yang Hua, was taken into police custody on Dec. 9, 2015, after he attempted to prevent them from confiscating one of the church's hard drives, according to a report from China Aid.
Half a year later, the pastor penned a letter to his wife describing how God is using this time of pain and uncertainty for His glory.
"This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God," he wrote of his jail cell. "I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord's voice."
The pastor added, "Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother's arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart."
Chinese authorities sentenced Yang to five days in administrative detention a day later for "the crime of obstruction of justice" and later charged him with "gathering a crowd to disturb social order," extending his sentence five more days.
The pastor was supposed to be released on December 20; however, when his wife came to collect him, she saw officials herding him into an unlicensed vehicle as he donned a black hood.
Eventually, she learned that his charge had changed, and that he was being transferred to criminal detention for "illegally possessing state secrets." He was officially arrested on Jan. 22 for "divulging state secrets."
In a later interview with his lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin, Yang shared how prosecutors tortured when he refused to confess to his charges, including standing on his toes and threatening to kill him and bring harm to his family. As a result, Chen and Zhao sued the prosecutors for "using torture to extort a confession" and asked that they be dealt with according to the law.
Despite his bleak circumstances, Yang encouraged his wife to stand firm in the Holy Spirit and continue to pray for his persecutors.
"After this period of time, my spiritual life will be even more distinctive from the song that says 'A crowd flooded into my kingdom, but they did not want to bear the cross.' You can sing the song," he wrote.
"Let the words of God make you stronger," the pastor added. "You must always pray. Do not live in weakness and confusion; this is Satan's scheme. Be full of the Holy Spirit and leave spiritual predicaments. Seek [to fulfill] all of the Lord's decrees. Remove all of the negative thoughts and voices from your life."
In an effort to stunt the growth of Christianity in China, the government in 2013 launched a "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" campaign, which has seen the removal of over 1,5000 church crosses.
Chinese authorities have also targeted who campaigned to keep them. From July to September 2015, China detained or arrested more than 250 attorneys, pastors, and human rights activists for protesting the cross removals.
The Communist country is placed 33rd on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
China Aid has launched a campaign to free Yang Hua, and to learn more about his case, sign the petition for his release and donate to support the persecuted and their families, please visit www.freeyanghua.org.