Would you give up your faith in Jesus for 70,000 dollars?
This was the choice facing Sister Hua* from China. She is a believer from a Buddhist ethnic group, and the local village chief said he would block her from receiving the government subsidies she was entitled to – equivalent to around US$70,000 over the next few years – if she didn’t give up her faith in Jesus.
She has two children, aged four and six. This money could have made a big difference to her family and her children’s futures – and this was money she was entitled to receive.
But Sister Hua has seen the power of God. When she was suffering from an illness, Christians had prayed for her, and she was completely healed. She refused to give up her faith – so the village chief stopped her from getting the money.
Life isn’t easy for Sister Hua and her family. They are able to survive through working their farm, but the subsidy would make their lives much easier. Despite this, she says, “I will follow Jesus Christ for the rest of my life, because He is the one and only true God.”
Would you give up your house or your income for your faith?
While there are many Han Chinese people who believe in Buddhism, there are also various ethnic minority groups in China who see Buddhism as an integral part of their identity and traditions. Most of China’s Buddhist ethnic groups live in the west and southwest of China, in remote, rural farming communities. Some live in the mountains, and they are so remote that they have to walk for a couple of days to meet with others. Each village has its own temple where the villagers burn joss sticks and pray to many different gods and idols. There are many ceremonies they must attend for different occasions.
When someone from one of these ethnic groups comes to faith in Jesus, as Sister Hua did, they face persecution from their own communities. These communities see Christians as traitors. They are also afraid that if someone stops attending Buddhist ceremonies, bad things will happen. If someone gets sick, an animal dies, or there is bad weather, it is blamed on the Christians.
One believer shared, “Curses have no impact on me, so I don’t need to fear anything if I don’t put Buddha’s picture up in my house.” But the new faith of the believers doesn’t change the superstitions of their neighbours.
Xiao Yun*, an Open Doors worker who supports believers from these Buddhist ethnic groups, remembers trying to visit one believing family from a Buddhist community who ran a fruit shop. “When the neighbours saw us enter the fruit shop, they ran in behind us yelling at the family and cursing us. They were very angry and determined to make us leave – in fact, they tried to stop anyone from buying from this family, not just us. They were so furious.”
Another family’s home was destroyed by their community and they were kicked out of their village. Xiao Yun says, “They had nowhere to go so they went to find the pastor for help. He took them in and gave them refuge for almost 12 months. They felt afraid and rejected by their own people.”
Since they couldn’t farm their land, they were completely reliant on their pastor for their survival. It was a difficult situation – and yet, the father of the family said, “Since I know the true God, I cannot give up on my faith.” After some negotiations with the local authorities, the family were eventually able to return to their village.
Would you give up your freedom for your faith?
Believers from the Buddhist ethnic groups also face persecution from the government, which discourages the practice of any religious belief.
Xiao Yun shares, “I know one pastor who used to go from village to village sharing the gospel. Government officials tried to stop him, however he continued. Finally, he was arrested and sent to prison for several years. He is still in prison.”
Because believers from Buddhist ethnic groups are persecuted by both their own communities and the government, they are some of the most persecuted believers in China. With such fierce opposition, its no surprise that they are small in number – Open Doors estimates that there are just 1,000 Christians from these Buddhist ethnic groups. And yet, many of these believers have chosen Jesus over money, houses, and even their own freedom.
"Thank you so much for coming into our lives"
Your support and prayers enable Open Doors workers to stand with our brothers and sisters from Buddhist communities in China as they face persecution. The main strategy of the Open Doors team is to raise up local believers to become leaders. Xiao Yun explains, “Because they have the same culture and usually they live in the same region, it is much easier for them to share the gospel and pastor the believers (from Buddhist ethnic groups).”
She shares about one leader, Brother Xiu Jie*, who really benefited from this support. When Open Doors first met this leader, he was leading two different groups of believers from Buddhist communities in two different areas. But after working with them for two years, most of the believers had fallen away from their new faith. “He was so tired and discouraged,” Xiao Yun says.
“We sent a trainer to walk with this leader and envision him to raise up co-workers to be leaders as well, so that he doesn’t need to travel between these two places all the time.
“Nowadays, he has raised up a couple of his co-workers to become leaders. Just last year one of his co-workers handled a summer camp by himself. Brother Xiu Jie was so proud and happy, saying, ‘I am no longer the only worker in my church. I raised up a leader and he is able to lead our church as well.’”
It means a lot to the believers to have Open Doors workers come and spend time with them. Brother Xiu Jie shared, “Thank you so much for coming into our lives, to help us, to encourage us, and to walk with us at such a perfect time. You pray for us and support us just as God sent you to do. Thank you so much.”
Open Doors has also been working on a project to provide audio Bibles to illiterate believers from Buddhist ethnic groups in their own dialects. The audio Bible in one dialect is due to be completed shortly, and another should be completed in 2021. Xiao Yun explains, “They can download this app and they can hear the Bible in their local dialects through their smart phone. They can hear the Word of God any time, any place. Please pray that these audio Bibles can be completed smoothly.”
We want to see the church strengthened
Brother Xiu Jie’s favourite verse is John 3:30 – “He must become greater, I must become less.” When asked why he likes this verse so much, he said, “Serving is not to prove how successful we are. It is very true in the mission field. We want to see the church of believers from Buddhist backgrounds strengthened. In Him our ministry will be remembered and we can be forgotten on this earth.”
Your support and prayers give believers from China’s Buddhist ethnic groups the strength to stand strong in their faith in the midst of many challenges. And even more than that – you are helping the dreams of believers like Brother Xiu Jie to see the church strengthened become a reality. Please continue to pray for them:
- Pray for the pastor in prison. Ask God to comfort him, and to comfort and provide for his family. Pray that he will be released soon.
- Pray for the believers who have faced discrimination and attack by their families and communities. Pray that God will soften the hearts of their neighbours. Ask God to protect these believers and provide for their needs.
- Praise God for the work Open Doors is doing to support Christian leaders from Buddhist ethnic groups. Pray that God will raise up many more leaders, and that they will be equipped to disciple other believers.
- Pray for the successful completion of the audio Bibles in different dialects, and that it will be a huge source of encouragement for believers to hear the Word of God in their own language
- Pray that the church in these Buddhist communities will grow.