Preparing for Persecution

Martyrs who model faith and joy

"A 'Martyr' has been defined as 'a Christian who chooses to suffer death rather than deny Christ, or His work... One who sacrifices something very important to further the Kingdom of God... and endures great suffering for Christian witness.' Voice of the Martyrs

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CHINA: Living Martyrs Fund: "In China today Christians are regularly beaten, tortured and even killed because they love Jesus. House church leaders have given us details of more than 1,000 Christian leaders who have been crippled as a result of torture received at the hands of the authorities. The Living Martyrs fund assists many pastors and evangelists who are now unable to work because of their injuries. They and their families face extreme poverty and hardship." To help these faithful servants of God, please click on Asia Harvest, then "special projects."

China, a century ago: The Boxer Rebellion 

"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you,
and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Manís sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven." 
Luke 6:22-23

 

What Was The Boxer Rebellion? "...188 foreign missionaries and more than 32,000 faithful Chinese believers were butchered simply because they were Christians. ... This is not simply the story of cruelty and death, but more a testimony of God's people staying true to their Savior despite desperate circumstances.

"The Chinese view the 1800s as the most degrading and humiliating time in their long history. The Japanese, British, Dutch, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russians and other countries had seized Chinese land by military power, and were raping China of its wealth and natural resources.

"It was in this atmosphere that a secret Chinese society, known as The Boxers, was born.... Working behind the scenes, the Boxers grew rapidly in influence until they had members in every part of the country.

"In the last few years of the 1890s foreign missionary activity became more and more difficult, and Chinese Christians were persecuted and accused of being 'running dogs' for the Western Imperialists. Something was about to erupt.... In June 1900 one observer noted,

'Crazed mobs rampaged through the cities of north China, looting and burning churches and the homes of missionaries and Chinese Christians. They were led by bare-chested fanatics called Boxers who brandished long-curving swords and cried for the heads and hearts of Christians and missionaries."[1-page 15]

"...Chinese Christians were forced to kneel and drink the blood of the many foreigners who had been beheaded. Some also had crosses burned into their foreheads. One Chinese Christian mother and her two children were kneeling before the executioner when a watcher suddenly ran and pulled the children back into the anonymity of the observing crowd. ...the mother went to her death because she would not deny her Lord. A quick flash of steel, and the executioner's sword separated her head from her body, and her soul from this world into the presence of her loving God."  [See the rest of the story and other testimonies at Asia Harvest]

The Boxer Rebellion exploded in early 1900. Like countless other brave Chinese Christians, a pastor refused to deny His faith in Jesus Christ. The  enraged mob cut off his eyebrows, ears and lips.  When he still remained "uncooperative," the furious mob cut out his heart and displayed it for the public. 

His brave fourteen-year-old daughter followed his footsteps. After watching her father choose a torturous death rather than betray the God he loved, she could only do the same. Bravely she stood her ground through the terrifying test and died as a martyr for her King.  Like her father, she won the reward of eternal glory and joy with her beloved Friend who first gave His life for them....

The details of these atrocities are documented in the revealing book, By Their Blood, by James & Marti Hefley. It tells us that in 1900, almost 170 Chinese had committed their lives to Jesus and  served Him in Tsun-hua. When the Boxers swept through their land intent on stamping out the "White Devils," almost all were killed. When a pastor was tied to a pillar inside a pagan temple, he preached to his captors and friends all night. In the morning, "a thousand-strong mob "descended on him and literally tore out his heart." [1-page 15]

The same crowd chopped the feet off a Christian Chinese teacher who refused to renounce Christ -- then ran a sword through her. Another teacher was burned alive as she shouted to her pupils, "Keep the faith!" [1-page 16]

When violence broke out in June, the missionary compounds in Taiyuan were torched. The believers -- Chinese and Western together - linked hands and sought temporary refuge in a Baptist boys' school.  One missionary realized that two Chinese girls were left behind, so she ran back to rescue them.  The girls had managed to escape from their building, but the mob forced the lone missionary back into the blazing house. The girls she come to save watched her kneel in the midst of the flames. [1-page 20]

Letters from Martin, a young missionary in China, written to his sister (February 15, 1900)
 

Dear Anna,  ...I confess, the enthusiasm I had when I left Oberlin Seminary at the end of summer has waned. The Lord's work is slow and tedious; we were happy to gain two new converts last year, for our presence here in rural Shanxi is not well regarded by most of the Chinese. ... 

     Our medical station is a great service to the people here, with most of the patients being opium addicts.... The drought makes people uneasy, and many Chinese blame the drought on us, saying that we have angered their gods by spreading our Christianity

     Many young boys have joined groups that call themselves The Boxers United in Righteousness.  Do not fear; they pose no real threat to us because the Imperial government is fighting against them.  Still, we have heard stories of them burning churches and attacking Chinese Christians, which does not endanger our lives as foreigners but makes our work of converting Chinese harder.  ...  We persevere in the faith, trusting that God will bless the Chinese who have come to know Him and will allow us to bring more into the fold....

June 10, 1900:

     ....we have heard that the Boxers have them surrounded and have destroyed the railroads and telegraph wires between the cities.  Though we hear many accounts and predictions of boxer violence, we cannot tell what is rumor and what is truth. ... My Chinese is now good enough that I could understand the chants of people outside the mission calling us 'white devils'... It is depressing, but it only strengthens our resolve and makes us yearn for the day when all of China will be brought into God's Holy Kingdom.

August 3, 1900:  

    ...Though the Merciful Lord has spared our mission thus far, the political situation has changed... The Imperial Court has recognized the Boxers as part of the Ch'ing militia, and is at war with the US and European powers. ...  On July 31, the Imperial soldiers took the Oberlin mission in Taiku; the 6 foreign missionaries and at least 38 Chinese Christians there were all killed.  Soldiers guard our mission now, so we cannot flee. 

     I pray continuously that God will end the turmoil, but I know that His Divine Will is not for us to understand, so I pray that if our mission, and even our lives, should be lost in this struggle, that we will be judged to have been good and faithful servants.... 
 

The Massacre of Taiyuan: Taiyuan, the capital of Shansi Province in China, became the scene of one of the bloodiest massacres of modern-day Christianity....

Also living in this capital city were a group of various missionaries dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the Shansi region. Dr. William Wilson operated a hospital for opium addicts at his own expense. He lived there with his wife and young son. Although he was already due for furlough, he had put it off because of the many victims of the famine that was ravaging the area. While he tirelessly worked on, he came down with peritonitus....

Just after the killings started, Wilson traveled twenty miles to help a Chinese doctor who had been slashed by a Boxer sword. Although very sick, Wilson made the trip and was able to help the wounded man. On the way there, he penned his last letter. "It's all fog," he wrote a fellow doctor, "but I think, old chap, that we are on the edge of a volcano, and I fear Taiyuan is the inner edge." He wouldn't live to know how true those words were.

With Mrs. Wilson were two China Inland Mission workers who were single. Jane Stevens, a nurse who was in frail health at the time, had arrived in China fifteen years prior in 1885. During her last trip to England there were those who attempted to persuade her to stay in England. She replied,

"I don't feel I have yet finished the work God has for me in China. I must go back. Perhaps - who knows - I may be among those allowed to give their lives for the people."

Mildred Clarke, her fellow CIM missionary wrote,

"I long to live a poured-out life unto Him among these Chinese, and to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings for souls, who poured out His life unto death for us."

1. James & Marti Hefley, By Their Blood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1988).

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