China (MNN) — On the last day of October, police stormed into a meeting of 250 students in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. The university students were being trained as lay pastors in leadership and outreach.
"The police came in [and] broke up the meeting," says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs. "They arrested one of the pastors who was leading the meeting, and basically said, ‘You don't have the authority to hold a religious service.' Thankfully, only one person was arrested, but one of the concerns is that they took the names of a lot of the people who had come through this training program."
Why raid a training meeting for leaders and evangelists? Nettleton says meeting to train the next generation of Christian leaders could seem like a threat to the government. "That's a huge concern to the communist government because they want those university students to be trained as good communists, not as good Christians."
The numbers of Christian conversions are certainly on the rise among the students. The believers meeting together last week all attend Grasslands Church — a congregation that resides in the capital city of Inner Mongolia, within close proximity to a major university. The church attracts about 400 college students regularly. The government already showed their apparent disdain for this movement by conducting a separate raid on the church last May.
Things appear only to be getting worse as far as the government is concerned. "One of these group leaders was told by one of the officers who was there to do the raid: ‘This year, we're being nice to you. Next year, things are going to get bad.' Now keep in mind, this is as they're raiding and breaking up a service," explains Nettleton.
If a spontaneous raid and arrest was nice, Nettleton wonders what next year will look like.
Amazingly, the students involved seem fairly unfazed by the police activity. Voice of the Martyrs contacts have reported that the 250 students present when the incident occurred were not intimidated, frightened, or even shocked by the actions taken at the meeting. "That speaks to their faithfulness," says Nettleton. "It also speaks to the way they see following Christ. They understand that there's a price that comes with that. That's the good news."
The Lord is using these students, who are clearly living by the principle of Hebrews 13:6: "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper. What can man do to me?'"
The battle is not over for these faithful followers. Pray for the imprisoned pastor's freedom, and pray for these young Christians as they rise up as a generation of Christ followers. "Pray for this church and for these believers: that they'll continue to be faithful and continue to share the Gospel in spite of these types of persecution."