Zhang Qiang and Xiao Yue were no different than the thousands of other couples preparing for a wedding on Saturday, May 21, in China, except for one thing:
They are members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.
As a result, the weekend did not end with them being pronounced husband and wife but rather with them being detained and then released from the Chengdu police station, with orders not to proceed with the ceremony.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the couple were not the only ones pressured by the authorities over the wedding.
“Even the hotel where the wedding was scheduled to be held had to cancel due to the pressure,” says Representative Foley. “Elder Li Yingqiang, Pastor Wu Wuqing, Pastor Dai Zhichao, and others associated with the church were told by the police that they could not go out to attend the wedding. Sister Hu Xinrong, who was preparing to arrange the wedding, was stopped by the Dayi police at the high-speed railway station and had to return home. Even Brother Shen Bing, who went to the police station to comfort the couple while they were being detained, was followed by nearly ten security officers and was himself detained by the police even after the couple was released.”
Early Rain Covenant Church members Brother Zhang Qiang and Sister Xiao Yue were scheduled to hold their wedding May 21st.
The Chengdu police station where the bride and bridegroom were detained.
The forced cancellation of the wedding by Chengdu authorities is the latest in a series of disruptions, arrests, and investigations of Early Rain Church since the arrest of its Senior Pastor Wang Yi and more than 100 of its members on December 9, 2018. Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced on December 30, 2019 to nine years in prison by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court for inciting subversion of state power and illegal business operations.
“It would have been easy for Zhang Qiang and Xiao Yue just to separate themselves from the church and regard their wedding as a private event for their own happiness,” says Representative Foley. “But Ephesians tells us that marriage is not a private celebration but a mystery that shows the world the unbreakable bond between Christ and the church.”
According to Representative Foley, even after the authorities cancelled the event, the couple and the church members vowed to complete the wedding together. “One church member wrote, ‘Although the wedding may seem impossible, Christ has already won, and He will soon come to marry His bride. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for the church. May we remain faithful and holy to our King, who loves us so much!’”
Police officers were at the door of Pastor Dai Zhichao’s house to prevent him from leaving.
Subpoena from the Public Security Bureau. “Carrying out activities (wedding) in the name of a banned organization (ERCC)” was the crime referenced in the subpoena.
Representative Foley believes God honored the persistence of the church and the couple. “The couple reserved another wedding hall in Chengdu for May 24, but this wedding hall was also forced to cancel due to pressure from the police,” says Representative Foley. “But church members managed to arrange for another wedding hall in nearby Wenjiang, and the couple was able to be married on the afternoon of May 24.”
Representative Foley says that even though many church and family members were unable to be present due to the circumstances, the church was still able to fulfill its biblical responsibilities to the couple. “Minister Dai Zhichao and Elder Li Yingqiang were unable to be present in person due to surveillance, so they conducted the ceremony via online connection,” says Representative Foley. “Deacon Ge Yingfeng and his wife Li Bing were present as their witnesses and signed the marriage certificate, which was then presented to the couple on behalf of the church. Truly love—the love of the Lord for his church and for the wedding couple—conquered all.”
Messages from the hotel to the newlyweds, informing them that the hotel was forcibly requisitioned by the town government as a quarantine hotel and that their deposit was refunded.
The couple married May 24 in Wenjiang, with Pastor Dai Zhichao officiating the service via online connection.
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