I had a Skype conversation with Peter Wang in Dalian, China tonight. He told me that Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the first time the police tried to shut down his church. They first raided a prayer meeting and later interrupted a Sunday church service, eventually forcing his congregation to move into Peter’s apartment and then forcing Peter’s family to move to a different apartment. Those were dark, hard days for Peter and his family and his congregation.
How are things now?
“The police now call me and ask for my advice,” he said. “If they are concerned about a house church in Dalian, they call and ask me, ‘Do you know this church?’ If I say yes, they leave the church alone.”
How did such a change happen?
“It has to do with you and me, Pastor Ray.” Peter was referring to our visit last October when despite much opposition, we were able to have a Sunday night Meet the Author event at Dalian University of Technology. Up until the last second we thought the event would be canceled. Later we made a video of that amazing evening.
Peter told me that it wasn’t until months later that the police told him what happened. We wondered that night why no police showed up at all. It turned out that two days before the event, the “big boss” over religious affairs said to the police, “You must stop this event with Peter Wang and Ray Pritchard.” My name only matters because I am a foreigner. Peter said the police have no problem shutting down a Chinese-led event. But they have to be much more careful when foreigners are involved because they fear pressure from other governments. So the police officer said, “I will shut them down but I want a written order,” thus covering himself in case things went badly. He was promised that the order would be delivered.
That weekend was a holiday in China so many offices were closed. The police officer said he called everywhere and no one knew where the order to close us down was. It never arrived so the police just ignored the event, which was attended by 400-500 students. Here’s the kicker. The officer told Peter then when he arrived at his office on Monday morning, the order was on his desk. But it didn’t matter because the event had already happened. The policeman couldn’t figure it out, but Peter told him that God had protected us. The officer even agreed with him and then asked him to pray for his son (even though the officer is evidently not a believer). Peter prayed for his son, thus opening huge doors of friendship.
At the moment Peter is doing well, and the police are not bothering the house churches in Dalian (this isn’t true of the rest of China. In some cities there is continuing persecution).
My son Mark and I are going to Korea and then to China in late October and early November. We will spend time with Peter and, God willing, visit his house church once again.
There are other stories of God’s amazing protection that Peter told me, but this one stuck in my mind. Why did the police allow us to meet last October? Because God arranged it so that the order stopping us would be “lost” all weekend and then show up on the officer’s desk a day too late.
We do serve an amazing God. I know Peter is very grateful for your prayers.