The 41-year-old Chinese missionary retold his story of the 2-year prison sentence he received for preaching the Gospel one decade ago. His story was remarkable, seemingly unbelievable.

While I was translating his testimony from Mandarin to English for American visitors, I was suddenly struck with a divine revelation. I was sitting in the presence of a modern day hero, a 21st century Apostle Paul, an Acts 29 Christian minister.

“I was apprehended by the police in a rural village while telling unreached people groups about the Jesus,” he recalled. “Within a few days, I was imprisoned.”

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He received a 2-year sentence simply for giving witness of God’s grace and glory in China. His wife and newborn child were crushed, and uncertain of their future without a husband and father.

After 1 year, he was to be released on good behavior. But when the police arrived to free him, he declined the early release. I paused in the middle of my translation, surprised by his response to his persecutors.

“How could I leave my prison ministry?” he asked rhetorically. “During the first year of my prison sentence, I led over 20 men to faith in Jesus. I could not abandon them. Who would disciple them and help them grow in their newfound faith?”

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Thankfulness was his only response to persecution.

I continued translating for him, telling how he remained in prison for another year to complete his full sentence and disciple inmates who gave their lives to the Lord.

He spoke in jovial tones, a broad smile stretching across his face. For him, it was an honor to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

I wrestled internally with his testimony. How would I respond to such an unjust system? Would I stay in prison for another year to strengthen new Christians? Would I maintain a positive attitude in the midst of persecution?

“While I was in prison, my wife gave birth to our firstborn son,” he recalled joyfully. “She had no financial income without me, so she shined shoes on the sidewalks to care for our child. But God lifted her from the ashes and replaced her sorrows with joy.”

After 2 years of imprisonment, this Chinese Christian brother was released and reunited with his family. Today, he still travels every week among Southwest China’s unreached tribes.

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I thought to ask him if he was afraid of returning to prison, but then I bit my tongue. The question itself seemed silly. There were no marks of trepidation about him. He had seen the worst of persecution and had only become more emboldened. The plans of the police backfired as his experience of persecution molded him into a powerful witness of the Gospel.

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Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Without a doubt, this Chinese missionary concurs wholeheartedly. And as he travels to the least reached peoples of Southeast Asia to tell of God’s goodness, the kingdom of heaven is being established in mighty ways.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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