Liao Yiwu, though not a professing Christian, has done the church a wonderful favor. Yiwu, a Chinese journalist and dissident who was imprisoned by the government for four years for his writings, has written a history of Christian missions in China told from the perspective of the Chinese. The title is God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China. He interviewed a number of elderly Chinese Christians, and each chapter tells their respective stories. They recount the arrival of missionaries-which for most was the first time they ever encountered a westerner. Their descriptions of the missionaries reaffirm one thing we already know-we really did send our best and brightest. Repeatedly they describe the missionaries as smiling, patient, gracious, bold in preaching the gospel, and possessing really big noses (I’m not making this up).
These great saints tell about the gospel taking root and churches being planted in places like Dali and Chengdu, in both rural and urban settings. They also tell what happened after the missionaries arrived. For the better part of the 20th century, Chinese Christians endured awful ordeals. They recount tales of the savagery, rapes and murders inflicted by the Japanese when they invaded during WWII; the civil war that followed in which the Communist won; the starvation and persecution that resulted when the communists implemented the Great Leap Forward; and the murderous insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. At times God Is Red reads like a modern Foxes Books of Martyrs. One elderly lady recounted the last conversation she had with her son, a pastor, just before his execution:
“I’m going to be gone soon. Don’t be sad. I’m not afraid of death. While I was locked up in jail, I’ve been carrying a miniature Bible. I smuggled it in with me. I’ve been praying in my heart. I know that I won’t be able to escape death. People in the region have charged me with many crimes even though they don’t even know me. I’m innocent and their charges are false. I’m not going to admit guilt. But I’m not going to appeal either. I know it’s useless. They will ship me back to Pufu to have me killed there. I’m glad that I’m going back to Pufu. I have my Bible with me. I will be buried in the place where I used to work and preach. Mother, we are all going to die someday. Don’t be discouraged by my death. Continue with your faith.” (2168, Kindle)
The horrors, the terrors, the misery, and the victories and triumphs-reading their stories affected me deeply. Yet in the end, this is a happy book. The joy that these Chinese brethren possess in Christ comes through in page after page.
If you are going to read only one book this year, then I recommend that God Is Red be that book.