As a person of Cuban ancestry, born in the United States, I have always known about the evils of communist dictatorships and the oppression that has harmed so many. However, it was merely old history in my life. In December of 2018 I came face-to-face with oppression on a trip to China. I was sent to visit families, pastors, and teachers and share about what Calvary Christian Academy has to offer Chinese students through the International Student Program
. The experience caused me to seriously reflect on how I live out my Christianity and what freedom of religion in America really means.
I journeyed to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to visit the many families that we serve in China through CCA’s International Student Program
. Through presentations, announced by varied means, we were able to have several events to share what CCA and other Christian schools offer, and in those meetings, we even had CCA Chinese parents’ share their positive experiences with CCA.
God uses this [government's] pressure to unify the Christians in China and it is part of why the Christian church continues to grow in their country.
Due to Chinese regulations and laws, only children that go to public school are eligible for entrance into Chinese universities; they take the Gaokao — an extremely difficult national placement exam — which determines their career or job track based on their performance. Christian parents who do not want strictly atheistic teachings, nor the government deciding their child’s career, but instead desire Christian principles in the lives of their children, decide to go against the grain and place their children in Christian “homeschool programs.” The only problem is, these schools are illegal.
I visited such a program in Guangzhou and for safety purposes, we will call the school “Shine School”. Two of our seniors in the International Student Program, Arthur and Enoch Ma, studied at Shine School for 14 years before enrolling at CCA. Government officials have come four times to shut Shine School down, but each time, Mrs. Jenny (the school’s administrator), regroups and moves all the students to a different location. They evacuate the building by telling the students that they are going on a “special field trip.” I had a chance to speak to Mrs. Jenny and she shared her calling to educate these children in the Word, and teach them “the drills” on how they will deal with such impromptu visitations from the government. Mrs. Jenny has learned that disguise is a part of survival in China. Despite the continued government obstacles, she presses on “breaking the rules” in order to continue to nurture Christian education in the lives of these children, of which Arthur and Enoch are their first-fruits.
We have so much to learn from them, so many freedoms to fully appreciate, and so much opportunity to exercise our faith for Christ.
I also attended a church in Beijing, called SP or Solomon’s Porch. There was no signage to note on the exterior of this commercial building; it was completely void of any indicator that a church was meeting there. Christian pastors and congregants throughout China are persecuted by government officials who close down churches without warning, so they’ve learned to disguise their meetings. Enoch shared how he remembers that at his father’s church, 90 police officers came and took everything from inside the church, including furniture and computers, leaving the building completely barren. Then, they added barriers and sealed the church entrance. Many times, pastors that are not arrested or gone missing have travel restrictions and are carefully monitored. Pastor Ma, who asked us not to share his photo, continues to spread the Gospel by simply moving to different locations and continuing his mission. I spoke to Arthur and Enoch and they expressed that this persecution does make their people stronger. They said God uses this pressure to unify the Christians in China and it is part of why the Christian church continues to grow in their country.
As an American, I can’t help but recognize that I am not doing enough to spread the Gospel, when I can. I can listen to Christian radio, read my Bible openly in public, and even sometimes I find it difficult to share God’s truth with my own unsaved loved ones, who are tough. Yet, here you have people that are restricted, persecuted, and seriously hindered in their daily lives, who could possibly be imprisoned or killed, and yet… they courageously press forward in faith, knowing the consequences that could beset them.
May we choose in 2019 to proclaim the Gospel in boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31). As our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ live out their faith through waves of persecution, may we pray for their strength and perseverance. We have so much to learn from them, so many freedoms to fully appreciate, and so much opportunity to exercise our faith for Christ. It is my prayer that, the Lord change us and allow us to know the value of this great freedom and the immense responsibility that we have, to exercise it for God’s glory.
Learn about how you can help international students grow as students disciples through CCA's Homestay Program
Naomi Peyton is the International Student Program Director at Calvary Christian Academy. She has served at CCA since 2000 as a teacher and administrator. Now she recruits Christian students worldwide to study abroad at CCA. She and her husband have two sons.