Imprisoned Chinese Pastor John Cao Perseveres in Jail for the Lord
By Gina Goh
02/12/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Chinese pastor John Sanqiang Cao was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for his ministry in Myanmar in 2018. Despite his circumstances, he continues to grow in his faith while locked in an overcrowded cell with a dozen inmates.
Pastor Cao and his colleague Jing Ruxia were seized by the authorities in China’s Yunnan province on March 5, 2017, as they stepped off of a ferry on a return trip from Myanmar. They were immediately sent to prison on illegal border crossing charges. Last March, the trial court convicted and sentenced Pastor Cao to seven years in prison for organizing an illegal border crossing with no evidence.
His lawyers, Li Guisheng and Yang Hui, periodically provide updates through a WeChat blog called “Over Many Waters.” In the latest posts, they shared a conversation they had with Pastor Cao and detailed Cao’s efforts to strengthen his faith in spite of the hardships in jail.
On January 23, Yang Hui visited Pastor Cao at the Menglian detention center. His health is generally satisfactory, though he suffers from a toothache and asked if the lawyers could help him negotiate with the authorities for a dental visit. He also has a digestion problem and back pain, given the prison conditions.
The physical challenges however do not stop him from seeking God’s will. In his quiet time, God spoke to him through 1 Kings 19:7, Isaiah 42:3, and Isaiah 38:25. He was greatly comforted, knowing that the Lord knows what he has been going through and will strengthen him to serve the Lord for years to come.
Pastor Cao also spends time hand-copying Scripture. For a long time, since he was banned from obtaining a Bible, he hungered for God’s Word and had to dig through the prison’s library to search for Bible passages from surprising books such as Nietzsche Essays and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He would write down any Bible references he captured from these books on unfolded toothpaste boxes, given the lack of paper.
These toothpaste boxes loaded with Scripture, serve as his devotional materials and prayer guidance. He also did the same for hymns. Pastor Cao hand-copied the lyrics of Amazing Grace, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and Joy to the World so he could sing praises to God.
In September 2018, he was finally able to obtain a Bible with the help of his lawyers. He was filled with tears when he touched the book for the first time and he continues to copy Scripture.
At the end of their meeting, he said, “In this new year, let us pray with unity, asking for God’s grace to enter more families and rescue more souls. Let us fight the good fights with our hands together. May God bless each one of you, and please continue to pray for me and remember my shackles… May God strengthen us, because we all have a long way to go.”
“Let us fight the good fights with our hands together. May God bless each one of you, and please continue to pray for me and remember my shackles.”
Outside of his prison cell, a woman tirelessly fights to meet him. His 82-year-old mother, Sun Jinhuai, continues to implore the government to allow a face-to-face meeting with her son despite several blocked attempts.
On January 22, 2019, she submitted another meeting request to the Intermediate People’s Court at Pu’er city in Yunnan province.
Pouring her heart out, she wrote, “Sanqiang also has been hoping to see me. In his letter to me, he said, ‘I am incarcerated for seven years, but I was able to bring new life to the children who live thousands of miles away, and this is all very worthwhile. I have not the slightest complaint. Therefore, mom, please don’t feel that I have been wronged. Paul sees this as a crown, something that is better by far. The only downside is that I don’t get to see you often.’”
“My son had to suppress his emotions in his letter to me, fearing that I would be heartbroken. The letters he wrote to his lawyer, however, show his true feelings. He said, ‘Four times my 82-year-old mother came to visit me from Changsha, but to no avail. She doesn’t have much time left in this world, yet in her later years, she has to go through this emotional turmoil. Whenever I think of this, my tears cannot stop rolling down my face,’” she continued.
“Sanqiang was imprisoned for building schools. Whether he is guilty or not, we all know well, our God knows well too, I don’t need to elaborate. The reality of [the] current legal system I also need not to say more. I have prepared my thought accordingly – how Mary saw Jesus crucified on the cross, in the same way, it is how I see my son in jail,” she added.
She went on to say that the court has postponed his appeal for a fifth time, scheduling it for March 22, 2019. At 82 years old, if the appeal is further postponed, Sun might never get to see her son.
She pleaded with the court to give a just and humane response – to allow her to meet Pastor Cao before Lunar New Year, a time where families traditionally gather with loved ones in China.
Alas, her heartfelt message was again met with lack of response from the authorities. She was let down again. But, like mother like son, she will not give up.
One of Pastor Cao’s two sons, Benjamin Cao, told ICC last year, “My father is willing to risk a lot more than seven years of freedom for the Gospel. Even though [the sentence] was a harsh and very unexpected penalty, the expectation is that the Lord will provide and he’s willing to give up everything to serve the Lord.”
The blessings that Apostle Paul experienced when he was incarcerated surely were too abundant to measure. Even to this day, his letters continue to inspire and guide Christians around the world. Pastor Cao is echoing Paul’s experience today. We do not know how God will use his imprisonment for His divine purpose, but we know that Pastor Cao needs all the prayers, encouragement, and assistance he can get in order to run the race that the Lord has set before him.
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