In an effort to curb the growth of Christianity, officials in China's eastern Zhejiang province have issued orders aimed at closing Sunday schools and keeping children from Christian events over the summer months.
"For a long time, teenagers and students have not been allowed to participate in religious activities," a local Christian surnamed Zhang told persecution watchdog China Aid, referencing a Chinese law that seeks to control religion among children by forbidding them from attending religious events.
"However, the Three-Self Churches and house churches would usually hold summer camps during the summer vacation. The government then emphasized ... that even the Sunday schools would be closed down. The government's major intention is to shut down the Sunday schools."
A short time earlier, the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Committee and the Henan Provincial China Christian Council handed down an order preventing churches from organizing summer camps for minors and students, citing "high temperatures" as a possible health hazard.
A Christian from Henan said that such camps have typically been allowed in previous summers, and the government would originally only interfere if they received a tip-off about the event.
"The government is trying to control ideology," Zhang told the outlet. "During [Chinese Presidents] Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao's time, the government was tolerant toward preaching and missionary work. After Xi Jinping came into power, the government's grip on religion has strengthened."
China is ranked 39th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Over the past year, President Xi Jinping has directed the party to "Sinicize" - or bring under Chinese tradition - the country's ethnic and religious minorities in efforts to counter religious "extremism". Authorities believe Christianity, whose followers are said to rival in number the 85 million members of the Communist Party, "poses a major threat" to its long-term stability.
As earlier reported, Chinese officials previously warned Christian parents that if they continue to take their children to churches not approved by the government, their offspring will be banned from attending college or serving in the military, and will face legal action. The government sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, specifically forbids its members from "brainwashing" teenagers with religious beliefs and bringing children to religious activities.
Despite the ongoing persecution of Christians in China, the Gospel continues to spread at an unprecedented rate, as an increasing number of parents are "begging" teachers to teach their children about Jesus.
Speaking to CBN News, Sean Elgut, the headmaster of Veritas Christian Academy of Virginia, revealed that Christian schools are on the rise in China. While many Chinese are atheist, or Buddhist, most parents are open to Christianity, and some even encourage their children to learn all they can about Christ.
"Chinese parents start to realize Christian education is beyond textbooks. The parents want their kids to live with faith. They are begging us to teach them about Jesus," Elgut said.
In addition to teaching Christian values, teachers spend quality time with students in hopes of leading them to Christ: "Time is important. We want to spend more time with them, just like Jesus with His disciples. He had time for them and taught them," Sean said.
Chinese millennials are also embracing Christianity at a dramatic rate, and two Christian converts shared how the Gospel opened their eyes to happiness and peace in an entirely new way.
"Before attending school, I knew little about Jesus. While I was attending classes, I learned so much about God and His love for His children," Crystal Lu said. "My Christian parents are extremely happy that the Lord finally provided a way for me to know Him, too. My whole family are Christians today."