Li, the elder, asked the global church to pray for them and to continue spreading the word. “Pray that God would give us the courage and the strength to deal with this persecution,” he said. “That those [in detention] would be a good witness, and that the church members wouldn’t compromise, but instead … they would know God is real and that He will protect them.”
On Sunday evening, Chinese officials launched a crackdown on Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church and its outspoken pastor, Wang Yi. Since then, police have broken down doors, swarmed apartment complexes, and ransacked homes to detain more than 100 leaders and members of the well-known house church, including Wang and all but one of the church’s elders.
According to a series of prayer requests sent out by the church, police have gone to the homes of church members and pressured them to sign a document stating Early Rain is an “evil cult” and promising not to step foot in the church again. Police took into custody those who refused to sign. Police also raided two dormitories of the seminary and liberal arts college associated with Early Rain and took the students away.
Since China’s updated religious regulations went into effect in February, many have expected a crackdown on Early Rain, one of the most influential house churches in China. (Although Early Rain meets in a building, it is still considered an unregistered “house church.”) The first crackdown happened briefly on May 12 as the church held a prayer meeting to commemorate the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Although authorities arrested 200 members, including Wang, they released all of them within 24 hours.