Brother Yun's Prison Ministry
May 01, 2007
In October of 1984, Brother Yun was sentenced to just four years to prison, accused of being a “counter-revolutionary” for His Christian witness and for refusing to join the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Church. This is the denominational church set up by the government of China. He was sent to the Xinyang Prison Labour Camp. In that camp were about 5,000 prisoners separated into four work units.
Yun was first assigned to work in the irrigated rice fields and fish farms, hauling dirt and rock fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, with very little food to sustain life. But later he was transferred to the fields, where he had to carry buckets of human waste to fertilize the vegetable gardens. He rejoiced, because this was easier work. There also he met a 70-year-old Catholic priest who had received a ten-year sentence for refusing to join the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association.
On Christmas Day of 1985 Brother Yun received a visit by two fellow believers who had come to visit him on behalf of the house churches. The guards told them to go away, but when Yun saw them standing at the gate, he asked the chief warden if they could use the toilet facilities and visit with him during that short time. The warden gave his permission. Yun thus learned that the year 1985 had been a year of great revival in China, and thousands were being converted to Christ every day in the house church movement. The year 1985 became known in years following as the year of the breakthrough.
While in the toilet, the three of them knelt down on the dirty floor to worship God. At that moment, Yong, one of the other prisoners walked in—a bad man with a violent temper, who was always reporting on other prisoners in hope of promotions. Seeing what they were doing, he threatened to report them to the wardens immediately. But the Holy Spirit filled Brother Yun, and he commanded him, “In the name of Jesus, how dare you speak against the Living God? Now, I command you to kneel down and repent of your sins. Receive the Lord and perhaps He will forgive you!”
“Immediately, as if he had been struck by lightning, Yong knelt down and the three of us laid hands on his head and prayed for him. . . . After Yong received the Lord, he became a good friend of mine.” (The Heavenly Man, p. 172)
Yun then lent him his Bible to read, because he had suddenly developed a great hunger for the Word. However, soon afterward he was discovered reading the Bible. The guards took away the Bible, and Yong lost his temper and began to fight with them. Yun immediately went to the warden and asked if he could return his Bible. A few days later the warden, Captain Wong, returned it and at the same time asked Yun about some of the things written in the Bible which he did not understand. Brother Yun explained his questions and led him to Christ. Captain Wong was also healed of his chronic throat infection that had made him cough day and night.
In 1988 as Brother Yun’s sentence neared its end, the prison authorities made a final attempt to get him to repent of not joining the Three-Self Patriotic Church. He refused, but the authorities released him anyway. Later, he discovered that he was released in order that the authorities might be able to arrest others who would want to see him or hold meetings with him. But because God warned him of the danger in a dream, he was able to be on his guard against this government tactic.
On June 4, 1989 the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre took place, which served to discredit Communism in the eyes of many Chinese people. Up to that time, the Gospel had exploded among the elderly farmers, but 1989 saw the beginning of the Gospel going to educated students and government workers. Fewer people became Communists, while more people became Christians. In Brother Yun’s home village, several Communist Party members withdrew their memberships, became Christians, and began to preach the Gospel. The authorities saw such a powerful move of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by such great miracles that they remained in their police stations, afraid to do anything about it. Yun led meetings in other provinces as well, where the blind saw, the deaf heard, and the lame walked.
But after two years of huge successes, Yun began to feel burned out from having too many meetings and not enough prayer. In May 1991 another wave of persecution hit the house church movement. The government had announced in early 1991 that all house church leaders who did not join the Three Self PatrioticChurch were going to be arrested. A law was passed making all house church meetings illegal.
Dr. Stephen Jones