One of the of the most significant leaders in the history of Christianity in China, Dr. Sun Yi-yin, known in America as "Freddie Sun," passed away on August 22 from cancer at the age of 76, allowing for his full story and missionary work to be revealed.
"When we look back at the history of China, we will see that Freddie Sun is probably one of the two or three greatest Chinese leaders," shared Bill Bray, Special Projects Coordinator of Christian Aid, in a phone interview with The Christian Post. "He did all this very covertly, never took credit, never promoted his name – he just had a servant spirit. So now that he is dead, we can tell his story for the first time."
Christian Aid works to provide support for Christians suffering persecution in countries like China, with Dr. Sun joining the organization in 1988 and becoming the China Director.
The late missionary spent 10 years in a labor camp prison in China for his participation in underground churches and his faith in God – but that only inspired him to grow as a Christian leader, and in his lifetime he raised funds to start 154 Bible schools and was responsible for the training of about 60,000 underground pastors and teachers.
Religious freedom in China remains a controversial subject. While state-approved and government-controlled churches are permitted, they are often accused of hosting Communist propaganda, which forces many Chinese Christians to turn to underground or un-sanctioned churches.
"Sadly, there still needs to be an independent non-government church that is not politicized. It seems that the Communist Party and the government keeps wanting to use the Church for political reasons, instead of focusing on God and spiritual life," Bray told CP.
Before his work for Christian Aid, Dr. Sun was in the underground church movement in China, but also worked as a geology professor at a government-controlled university. Bray shared that it was some of his coworkers who told officials of his church involvement, which then began "a long trail of humiliation and abuse he went through" before he was sentenced to labor camp for 10 years.
"But while he was in prison for his faith, it drove him to pray more and seek God more, and he had a personal revival while he was at the labor camps. It drove him closer to God, made him more zealous. He had no one to turn to but God and the Holy Spirit. So during that time he became much stronger in his faith," Bray explained.
During the time he served the house church movement, over 90,000 non-government-controlled churches were planted in all throughout China. "It is not how many people he helped find the love of God but the wide range of his work. Every province and corner of China was reached and is being reached. He was not concerned with numbers but leadership training and he was responsible for the training of about 60,000 underground pastors and teachers," he added.
The Christian Aid Projects Coordinator noted that Dr. Sun's work always had to be kept a secret for fear of Chinese officials capturing him.
"Every time he went to China, we always had a prayer for him. He used to say, 'I may not come back. If they catch me I will die, I will be imprisoned.' But he went back and forth between China and America, carrying the offerings between American churches and Chinese churches," Bray said.
He concluded that the Charlottesville, Va., organization and the Chinese community there are rejoicing in Dr. Sun's life, and they will hold a major memorial service for him on Sept. 15.
A more detailed biography of the Christian Chinese leader has been published on Christian Aid's website.
Dr. Sun's book, The Man in the Fiery Furnace, is available for purchase online, and details his life and trials in China's labor camps.