Once a month Chen Hongxian is allowed to visit her husband in prison for 30 minutes, two hours away from where she lives. Pastor Zhang Rongliang, leader of the China for Christ house church movement, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years' imprisonment in June 2006 for "illegally crossing the national border and fraudulently obtaining a passport."
Chen reported that when she visited her husband in early April, Pastor Zhang was doing relatively well. He can walk again, but only short distances. He still suffers from several chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. He suffered a stroke in July 2007 which paralyzed half his body.
Authorities isolated him because his evangelization in prison resulted in too many new believers. Other prisoners risk punishment when they speak with him. Last year a prisoner came to Christ shortly before he was executed. The prisoner wrote to his mother: "I am going to heaven to wait for you, so believe in Jesus."
Chen says: "His heart is still with the ministry of the house church network. He said to me, 'You can do anything to get me out, but under one condition – I will never leave China. My calling is here.'"
'I Do Not Feel Like A Widow'
"When my husband was sent to prison for the first time, some 30 years ago, I was not a Christian myself. I was really touched by the care of brothers and sisters from the church. They brought me food and visited me during the Chinese New Year. Because of their witness, I also became a believer. I consider the times that my husband was in prison just as a normal part of being a Christian. It is just carrying the cross. This is the price one has to pay as a Christian. I do not feel bad because my husband is in prison and my children can not stay at home because the authorities are after them. I do not feel like a widow.
"However, sometimes I can not sleep. Then I pray, and I can sleep. But I have the feeling that my prayers are not strong enough; that they do not reach heaven. Therefore, I am so grateful that brothers and sisters (around the world) are praying for us. When I pray for my husband, I pray that he may be strong and that he may have peace in his heart."
Chen adds: "I wait for my husband to be released. We hope and pray that he may be released earlier (than scheduled), because of the Olympic Games (which start August 8 in Beijing). That would be great! But when I asked the prison authorities about the possibility of early release, they said, 'You should come together with your children and then we will consider.' (Note: The real reason behind this reply is that authorities are seeking her children; her oldest son was elected into the leadership team of the house church network where Pastor Zhang is one of the leaders.) So there is nothing more that we can do but to just wait and see."
It is not unusual that a prisoner gets early release following "good behavior." However, given Pastor Zhang's case and his evangelization activities in prison, it is – humanly speaking – not likely that he will get an early release.
Chen Hongxian's prayer requests:
+ Pray for his release before the Olympics
+ Pray for his health
+ Pray for our (all of the family's) endurance
+ Pray for the protection of my two sons (35 and 27 years old) who are on the run
+ Pray that the Olympic Games will bring a change in China and that the country will become more open to the Gospel of Jesus.
Last August Open Doors USA launched a one-year countdown to the Summer Olympics called One Minute/One Year/One Country. The goal of the campaign is to unite believers in the West to pray for their persecuted Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ. It's not too late to sign up for the One Minute/One Year/One Country campaign. Go to http://www.OpenDoorsUSA.org or http://www.opendoorsusa.org/content/view/156