One of the top pastors in China, who we work together with, has a son who has been running a secret Bible study on a college campus. The Bible study group was a powerful witness during the pandemic when so many young people were dealing with feelings of fear, uncertainty, isolation, and depression. For three years, the Bible study worked hard to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ during one of the darkest times in China’s recent history.
Many of the students, unsure of their future, unable to pay living expenses, and forced into isolation day after day, found salvation from depression in God’s Word. Unfortunately however, there was one young student for whom the loneliness was simply too much.
Susan (not her real name) had extreme feelings of loneliness and was suicidal from the ongoing isolationism caused by the lockdowns. She found comfort in the weekly Bible studies, but she needed human contact, not just digital meetings. China’s draconian lockdowns made it almost impossible for in-person meetings and when the leaders were able to find ways to meet face-to-face with her, the fear of being discovered by authorities caused her immeasurable anxiety.
In the end, Susan found that her loneliness was too much to bear. In January of 2023, Susan stepped out on a high-rise balcony and fell to her death.
Susan’s story is tragic, but the tragedy does not stop there.
“Her parents were devastated,” Christine (not her real name) said yesterday in a small tea shop in Shenzhen, China. Christine has been working with Back to Jerusalem for almost 20 years and helps administer support to the underground house church network supporting the on-campus outreach. “Her mother knew that she had been attending secret underground house church meetings on campus and immediately blamed the church.”
Susan’s mother had been introduced to the leaders of the underground house church fellowship by her daughter. She knew their names, contact information, how they operated, where they met, and where the leaders lived. Susan’s mother and father decided that they would take all of that information to the police unless the house church paid money for the loss of their daughter.
“[Susan’s] parents only had one child and in their grief they blamed the church for her death. They didn’t blame the university that shut down, the government that forced their daughter into isolated lockdowns, the police that would arrest anyone meeting face-to-face, or themselves for not personally reaching out to her in her time of need. Instead, they blamed the only ones that tried to help.”
Susan’s parents have demanded the church pay them ¥800,000 RMB ($116,000 USD) in hush money to pay for the loss of their daughter or they would go to the police and hand over all the names, information, and make a claim that their Christian ‘cult’ (as the underground house church is often referred to in China) brainwashed their daughter and caused her to commit suicide.
This is not the first time that Christians in the underground house church have been blackmailed by attendees and family members. The church is often threatened.
Not all persecution of the church in China is external – sometimes it is from within and they desperately need our prayers.