Zhang Qiang and Xiao Yue were no different than the thousands of other couples preparing for a wedding last Saturday, May 21, in China, except for one thing:
They are members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.
As a result, last weekend did not end with them being pronounced husband and wife but rather with them being detained and then released from the Chengdu police station, with orders not to proceed with the ceremony.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the couple were not the only ones pressured by the authorities over the wedding.
“Even the hotel where the wedding was scheduled to be held had to cancel due to the pressure,” says Representative Foley. “Elder Li Yingqiang, Pastor Wu Wuqing, Pastor Dai Zhichao, and others associated with the church were told by the police that they could not go out to attend the wedding. Sister Hu Xinrong, who was preparing to arrange the wedding, was stopped by the Dayi police at the high-speed railway station and had to return home. Even Brother Shen Bing, who went to the police station to comfort the couple while they were being detained, was followed by nearly ten security officers and was himself detained by the police even after the couple was released.”
The forced cancellation of the wedding by Chengdu authorities is the latest in a series of disruptions, arrests, and investigations of Early Rain Church since the arrest of its Senior Pastor Wang Yi and more than 100 of its members on December 9, 2018. Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced on December 30, 2019 to nine years in prison by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court for inciting subversion of state power and illegal business operations.
“It would have been easy for Zhang Qiang and Xiao Yue just to separate themselves from the church and regard their wedding as a private event for their own happiness,” says Representative Foley. “But Ephesians tells us that marriage is not a private celebration but a mystery that shows the world the unbreakable bond between Christ and the church. The Early Rain congregation members continue to be one body—with Christ, with this couple, with Pastor Wang Yi in prison, and with Christians around the world.”
Representative Foley says her organization, Voice of the Martyrs Korea, is calling for a special time of prayer for Early Rain Church and particularly for the persecuted bride and bridegroom. “Sister Xiao Yue cried the whole time she was detained at the police station and even after the couple’s release. Brother Zhang Qiang reported that he was still under surveillance ever after returning home,” says Representative Foley.
But according to Representative Foley, church members are committed to continuing on together, no matter the difficulties they face. “One church member wrote, ‘Although the wedding may seem impossible, Christ has already won, and He will soon come to marry His bride. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for the church. May we remain faithful and holy to our King, who loves us so much!’”
Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit http://www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer