‘When the Lord’s disciples leave the earth they only sleep,

Though their friends are grieved they are comforted,

For Jesus died to redeem the sins of mankind.

When the Lord returns we will meet again.

It is only temporary separation, not eternal.

Soon the saints will meet again.

Today they are in Father’s home praising the Lord’s grace,

Waiting for the Lord’s return to meet again!’


It was the night of October 17, 1989 at a certain village in China’s Zhejiang Province. More than 1,000 brothers and sisters sorrowfully sang this song, ‘Waiting for the Lord’s return to meet again.’ As the band began to play the funeral music, the body of an old brother was slowly lowered into the casket as the sound of the cannon echoed. The booms of the cannon mingled with the noise of the brothers and sisters’ crying and weeping. This resounded throughout the mountain valley.

One brother stood up, and with tears he told how this old servant of God, throughout his life, had faithfully and gloriously served the Lord. His name was Miao Zizhong, born in 1916. The Lord took him home in October 1989 at the age of 73. As a young person he had greatly opposed the Lord and despised the church of God. He constantly, without provocation, hurled insults at those who believed in the Lord.

In the spring of 1948, Zizhong contracted a fatal disease and even the large hospital declared they were incapable of helping him. As death drew near, a relative came and urged him to believe in Jesus. He accepted the illumination of the Holy Spirit, turned to the Lord, confessed his sin, and repented. Complete healing came to his body. Seven weeks after believing in the Lord, a pastor sent him to a certain area to preach the Gospel. From that time he began to serve the Lord fervently and suffered much for the Lord and the message of the cross.

In the winter of 1954, Zizhong was summoned to go before the rural government where he was sternly criticized and ‘struggled against’ by the cadres and people’s militia. The cadre said, ‘Belief in Jesus is the poison of imperialism and a tool of foreign intervention. Our nation only believes in Marxism. You are not permitted to believe in Jesus. If you continue to believe, this is counter-revolutionary…’ Having said that he commanded Zizhong to abandon his faith and write a statement saying he would leave the Church.

Zizhong very calmly answered, ‘Jesus is the Saviour of my life. I would be ungrateful to deny him and as such I would go to hell. I cannot do this.’ Upon hearing that the cadres began to gnash their teeth and with their fists they started beating Zizhong viciously. Zizhong prayed fervently asking the Lord for His help. The evil men used every method, but in the end were unable to coerce Zizhong into submission. Therefore they accused him of being anti-Marxist and opposed to ‘the great leader.’ Declaring him a ‘counter-revolutionary,’ they put him under public surveillance.

Soon the government fabricated charges of ‘collaborating with overseas counter-revolutionary organizations’ and had him arrested. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment at the end of 1954 and sent to Heilongjiang Province, the coldest part of China, for reform through labour. After some time, due to the fact that Zizhong not only persevered in his belief in Jesus, but even preached to the people in prison, his sentence was increased by ten years. He then began an extremely miserable and painful period of 15 years suffering in labour reform camp.

The second year after he arrived in Heilongjiang, he went through a great trauma. Previously his wife had been faithful and loving. Now that he had been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in which he would suffer starvation and exposure to extreme cold, what hope was there that he would ever come home alive? Therefore she wrote a letter to Zizhong requesting a divorce.

The evening that Zizhong saw that letter, he was so shocked he could not believe what his eyes were reading. When he realized it was truly his wife’s request for a divorce, he was so furious he fainted. As he considered his condition he realized there was no one close to him. He was in a heartless prison and was facing ground covered with ice and snow, the prison guard’s leather-thonged whip and endless ‘struggle’ sessions. Back home he had no parents, nor a single brother or sister. His only hope was the prayers of his wife and her words of comfort expressed in her letters. But this day she heartlessly severed their relationship. He lost the one person on earth who was close to him.

He felt so forlorn, so unfortunate. Taking no notice of the cold, he opened the cell door and ran to a grove where he fell on his knees on the snow covered ground and with loud sobs, wept before the Lord. He was unable to suppress his grief and tears flowed like a fountain. Suddenly he heard a very clear, personal and tender small voice from heaven saying, ‘You must be patient that you may fulfill God’s will and you will obtain the promise.’ He then immediately thought of Psalm 73:25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.’ He received comfort and strength and, as he poured out his heart to the Lord, he sang:


My family has deserted me, my friends ridicule me,

Lord, My heart loves you.

I patiently and humbly accept the reproach,

Lord, My heart loves you.

Lord, My heart loves you,

My heart loves you now and forever,

Let the oceans dry up and the stones be crushed,

Lord, My heart loves you.


He returned to his cell and immediately wrote a letter to his wife agreeing to the divorce.

There were a total of 1,300 prisoners in this labour reform camp, but very few believed in the Lord. Therefore Zizhong, as a Christian, was constantly under observation. All around him people sent by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) were watching him daily. Once, as he was secretly preaching the Gospel they discovered him. Several prison wardens tied him up. They forced him to kneel on a small wooden stool that was only as wide as four fingers. The people swarmed around him and one by one they smacked his ears, spat on him and mocked him saying, ‘Where is your Saviour? Tell him to come to take vengeance on us!’ Zizhong knelt on the stool and put up with this for several hours. Due to the cords, his wrists became swollen and his legs turned numb. Everything suddenly turned black and he fell from the stool unconscious.

On several occasions they used a fire grate from the oven and had him hang it from his neck. This fire grate was made of cast iron and weighed more than 40 pounds. The prison warden then put a sign on it saying ‘Miao Zizhong, the leader of counter-revolutionary superstition.’ He was then forced to parade with this. After that they put handcuffs and feet stocks on him and put him in solitary confinement for several months.

During one winter, the weather was much colder than normal. Throughout Heilongjiang the temperature fell to -45° Celsius. Many old and weak people froze to death. Later a plague swept through the labour reform camp. It spread quickly and the temperatures of the patients soared to 42° C. As a result, their eyes bulged out and their hands and feet went into convulsions as they died. It was a horrifying scene. Within a few days, of the 1,300 prisoners in the labour camp, 1,050 had died. The authorities dug a huge ditch nearby. They used trucks to move the dead bodies to this ditch and threw them into it in a mass burial.

Zizhong was also infected by this horrible disease and was examined by the doctor who shook his head saying, ‘Here is another one.’ Then he had some people take Zizhong to a room specially reserved for dead bodies from where they were taken for burial. Zizhong, lying among many dead bodies, though barely alive, was alert in his spirit. He prayed in his heart, ‘Lord, I ask you to save me. Don’t allow me to die here whereby your Name will be reproached. Heal me and allow me to return home in peace. I will serve you all the days of my life and do the work of an evangelist.’

Then an angel dressed in a white robe whose face showed forth glory came and stood in front of Zizhong. On his back was a medicine box in the form of a cross and tenderly he said, ‘Is your name Zizhong? Do not fear, only believe.’ Then he stretched out his right hand and taking hold of Zizhong’s left hand led him out of that building. He was taken to a room that was very beautiful, of pure white beyond description. The angel had Zizhong sit upon a white chair and then he took a stethoscope from his breast. He took a white tube and put it in his mouth. The angel blew on it and all of a sudden he felt a cool sensation and became very comfortable.

When he came to, his sickness had left him. He immediately knelt among the dead bodies and loudly praised the Lord. He again dedicated himself and turned his whole life over to the Lord. He quickly ran away from the dead, running and singing ‘Hallelujah.’ He went to the doctor to ask for food. When the doctor saw him entering he was so shocked he broke into a cold sweat and stumbled backwards.

He cried out, ‘You …, you …, you …, Are … you … a … ghost?’

Zizhong laughed and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am Miao Zizhong. My God has already healed me and saved me from death. He has sent me to proclaim the way of salvation to you. Therefore you must believe in Jesus.’

Upon hearing that, the doctor immediately, very calmly knelt down saying, ‘Your God is true. Jesus is alive. I now believe and ask Jesus to receive me.’

Hallelujah! Time and time again the Lord brought Zizhong from the fringe of death. In this desolate land of snow and ice enduring much tribulation and suffering he miraculously survived those 15 long years. Very few people who were taken to the labour reform camps in Heilongjiang came back alive.

At this time we would like to relate a true incident: Not too far from this particular labour reform camp there were more than 70 old servants of God who were also part of labour reform punishment. All of you can imagine the hunger, pain and persecution they went through.

One morning, the authorities of the labour reform farm led this group of more than 70 people to another place to work. To reach their destination they had to cross a river that was frozen over with ice. Those in charge ordered the group to cross. Who would ever have thought that when they reached the middle of the river, the ice would crack due to the weight of so many people? As a result, these faithful servants of God all fell into the icy water and most of them drowned. Even though they pulled out the survivors onto the river bank, their wet clothes soon became ice, and they all froze to death, except for one.

There was another important reason why Zizhong survived his term in Heilongjiang. He took advantage of every opportunity, mostly late at night when others were sleeping, to go out to the grove to pray. As a result, he received great strength, was able to overcome death and remain victorious in all adverse conditions.

In 1969 he completed his 15-year sentence in the labour reform prison and returned home. During those long years there were many difficulties and bitter experiences. He could share many testimonies of blood and tears in which he experienced God’s covering and protection! As he was sitting on the train bound for home, his heart was racing faster than the train and it had already flown to his home village. He could visualize himself standing in the midst of the brothers and sisters sharing beautiful testimonies about the Lord. But his suffering had not ceased for there were still many tribulations and testings awaiting him.

When Zizhong returned to the countryside and entered a certain village, the Great Cultural Revolution was at its height. Many government officials and cadres were paraded in the street, ‘struggled against’ and attacked. How much more did the Christians face extreme testings and agony.

As soon as Zizhong returned home, he was immediately taken to the commune for questioning: ‘After 15 years of labour reform, has your religious belief changed?’

Zizhong very solemnly answered, ‘These 15 years of labour reform have not changed my belief; moreover my relationship with Jesus has been strengthened and my belief is stronger than ever.’

So, soon after leaving the prison, having served such a long term, Zizhong had to face merciless beatings again in which they used both their fists and truncheons.

In the summer of 1970, he was detained by the commune to enter a ‘re-education class.’ They had also detained in this ‘class’ large numbers of hooligans, thieves, pimps, gamblers, etc. This group of extremely crude, degenerate people were accustomed to showing off their toughness and self-confidence. But in this place they were as a cock who had been defeated in a cock fight, heads bowed down and totally dejected. Zizhong had to remain among these people for 73 days. However he was not dispirited by them at all. In spite of the intervention and beatings he received from these evil men, he continually sang and prayed. More than once as he lifted up his rice bowl to give thanks, they stole the rice bowl from his hand and struck his head with a fierce blow.

They brought a very famous Buddhist monk to this place to be ‘struggled against.’ He daily felt dejected and constantly sighed to the extent that he even considered suicide. One day, they were taken out to be paraded in public.

Upon returning he said to Zizhong, ‘I saw as they paraded you through the streets, you lifted up your head high. Have you forgotten where you are?’

Zizhong laughed and said, ‘I am a disciple of Jesus. Wherever I am, this Jesus who rose from the dead, who is real and alive is with me. He causes me to have unlimited joy and peace. How about you? Since you are a disciple of Buddha, is it possible that Buddha doesn’t come to bring you comfort?’

The monk had nothing to say.

One afternoon, it was extremely hot. There was hardly any movement in the leaves on the trees. It was so hot people had a hard time breathing normally. Zizhong and a group of criminals were tightly bound by several thugs and taken to a place called ‘Dongao’ where they were ‘struggled against.’ They built a high platform and many spectators gathered. These evil men forced Zizhong onto the platform. One by one the cadres brought accusations against Zizhong for the ‘hideous crimes’ he had committed. Then they demanded that Zizhong deny Jesus before the crowd and renounce his belief. Moreover they said, ‘Today if you continue to believe in Jesus, we will beat you to death.’

Zizhong stood up before the crowd, and with an intense fiery gaze looked at all the people below the platform. Then with a ringing voice he said, ‘Fellow countrymen, because of belief in Jesus I have already spent 15 years in the Heilongjiang labour reform prison where I was ‘struggled against’ and beaten several times. Yet my belief is stronger than ever. Why is that? Because the Lord Jesus whom I believe in is the true and living God. He is the Son of God, the Creator of heaven and earth. He was born for us, because of our sins He was crucified on the cross. Therefore all of you should repent, leave your idols, cease from violence and believe in Jesus that you may obtain eternal life.’

Upon hearing this, the crowd of ruffians pounced on Zizhong like an angry lion. Nineteen people began beating him with their fists. Some struck his head while others attacked all parts of his body. Others used their shoes, violently kicking him in the abdomen, waist and chest. The people below the platform only heard the voice of Zizhong loudly saying, ‘Lord, forgive them. Lord, I commit my soul unto you.’ Slowly Zizhong collapsed onto the ground. Yet he did not die, for there was still much tribulation for him to experience and much work to do. Though he was seriously injured, he recovered after several months.

Zizhong’s father was born in a mountain village. Hence, Zizhong had many relatives there. They realised Zizhong was all alone where he lived and faced constant reproach. Therefore they used every method available to change his residence registration so that he could return to his original village. As the storm clouds became very black, Zizhong escaped the tiger’s cave to enter the wolves’ den. Within a few days of moving back to this mountain village, he was seized and taken in ‘to study.’ Early one morning, the village cadres proclaimed to all the villagers in the public square the history of Zizhong’s ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities. Then they announced, ‘At 8:00 a.m. in Dingyu village there is going to be a major struggle session. We desire all the members of the commune to be there.’

Many years previous to this the churches in this area were established. The brothers and sisters endured much persecution. In spite of this they continued to love the Lord fervently. When they realized this old brother who had already suffered so much tribulation was to be castigated again, they all began to intercede fervently for him with tears. Then they went early to the field where the ‘struggle session’ was to be held. In front of the platform, there gathered a huge crowd of those who believed in the Lord.

The village cadres tied up Zizhong and carrying their rifles, brought him up onto the platform. As he looked out from the platform he saw the brothers and sisters. One servant of God standing in the front nodding his head with compassionate eyes full of comfort conveyed encouragement and hope. As their eyes met, it was as if a hot current flowed through Zizhong’s whole body. He immediately sensed a surge of physical strength and inner joy. A smile came upon his face.

A thug pushed Zizhong to the front, and lifting his right hand, shouted the slogan, ‘Down with the counter-revolutionary Zizhong!’

‘Resolutely come against religious superstition!’

However, only a few people standing below the platform followed him in these slogans. The procedure was the same as the last ‘struggle session’ he had to go through. First one of the thugs stood up and viciously attacked the church. He declared that Zizhong had put on the cloak of religion to carry out counter-revolutionary crimes. After that they ordered Zizhong to confess his crimes and deny Jesus.

The brothers and sisters below the platform then noticed that Zizhong’s face was shining with glory, like that of an angel. He nonchalantly opened his mouth saying, ‘bring out a knife and cut out my heart. You will then know what is in it.’

Saying that, he loudly began to sing this song: ‘Be faithful! Be faithful! Proclaim this everywhere.’ The brothers and sisters hearing this were all so moved they began to weep. Immediately they all opened their mouths and sang with him:


Be faithful to what has been committed to you. Be faithful to your glorious Lord. Be faithful! Be faithful! Though everyone refuses to follow, in spite of facing difficulties, stand close to the side of the Lord. Allow the Lord to always see you faithful.’


When the group of ruffians realized the situation, they were so afraid that they did not know what to do. Several people immediately came forward and pushed Zizhong off the platform and took him to the headquarters of the rural government committee. The brothers and sisters, thinking the affair had ended, returned to their homes.

In the afternoon, these brutes first pressed their knees into Zizhong’s back. They used a very thin nylon cord to tie him up. Then they took him out into the streets to have him publicly ‘struggled against.’ Many middle and primary school students followed Zizhong shouting loudly, ‘Down with class enemies of all descriptions’ (the Chinese phrase literally means ‘strike down the cow demons and snake gods’);

‘Resolutely fight against the counter-revolutionary Miao Zizhong!’

‘Down with the reactionaries!’

‘Long live the Communist Party!’

Zizhong straightened his chest and walked forward. He knew he was not walking alone, for the Lord was with him. After several paces, the ruffians asked him, ‘Do you still believe in Jesus?’

Zizhong answered resolutely, ‘I believe and will believe to the end!’ Before he had finished someone hit him on the head with a small iron hammer and a large lump immediately emerged.

After a few more steps, they asked again, ‘Are you still going to believe?’

With a very loud voice he answered, ‘I believe. Even if you beat me to death I will believe.’

The thugs hit him again with the hammer and there was another large lump on his head. As he walked they struck him often. Many more lumps developed on his head. After walking half to one kilometer, they had beaten him on the head so many times that it swelled to the size of a gourd. His eyes had sunk into his swollen face.

He was paraded past the door of a shop where there was a large pile of stones. The ruffians, using their knives, forced him forward so that he fell over, hitting the stones. Since his hands were bound very tightly, he could not support his body. As a result, three ribs were broken by the uneven edges. The thugs again lifted up Zizhong. Then his face turned extremely pale and he started gasping for air as blood started to flow from his mouth. He could barely stand. But these thugs did not release him and continued to beat him as he walked. As the crowd of people passed a public lavatory, the thugs prepared to throw him into a cesspool deeper than the height of a man. However, seeing a huge crowd looking on, they decided against it.

Yet they were not going to give up. They threw Zizhong’s hat into the cesspool, and using a bamboo pole, soaked it thoroughly with human waste. They then retrieved it and set it on his head. The night soil ran down his head, onto his face and neck until it soaked his shirt. Then one of the thugs, using two pieces of bamboo, picked up a lump of dog excrement and stuffed it into Zizhong’s mouth. He shut his mouth tight, but they smeared his mouth and lips with the smelly dog waste. Zizhong opened his mouth and began to spit it out, but all that came out was several mouthfuls of fresh blood.

Oh, what cruel inhumanity! Beloved brothers and sisters, do you realize that in the world today these tragedies are still happening? These thugs also took Zizhong to a large tree where they hung him up very high. Then they threw stones at him, cursing him at the same time. Zizhong soon passed out. Seeing that the sun was soon to set, the thugs then brought him down from the tree, threw him to one side and left him.

As the sun was setting its rays shone on Zizhong who was lying on the ground. As the light shone on his face, it showed one who was strong, unwilling to compromise and very courageous. He was such a beloved brother!

The sky soon turned black as night arrived. The brethren heard what had happened that day, and ran to where he was. They took Zizhong, who had been unconscious for a long time, to the home of a brother. They placed him on a soft comfortable bed. Many brothers and sisters stood around the bed weeping, asking the Lord to save His faithful old servant. Zizhong eventually regained consciousness. He was unable to open his eyes, but he heard the sound of the brothers and sisters crying.

Opening his mouth with effort he said, ‘My beloved brothers and sisters, do not weep for me. But weep for our rebellious nation, for our unbelieving countrymen, for our sinful leaders.’ Upon hearing these words they were so moved they were unable to control the tears and each one began to cry even more loudly.

Miao Zizhong not only had a life full of testings and pain. His life was also full of fear and reverence toward the Lord. From the time they took him to the labour reform prison in the north until he returned to his village, where he suffered so much, up to his death, he would rise early each morning to intercede with weeping for the country, the people and the Church. Every morning after the time of prayer, he would put on his reading glasses and, under a small kerosene lamp, read the Bible. He would often not go to bed and even skipped meals to study the Bible. He put much effort in studying the Word, and so, became very familiar with the Bible. You could ask him the location of any verse in the Bible and he would tell you. However, he was not satisfied and very often humbly requested that the brethren teach him.

Each time he received a revelation from the Bible, he would jump up and dance with great joy. He remained single after his wife divorced him. For years he lived a hard life in which he constantly travelled for the work of the Lord. He experienced much bitterness in this life. Even so his life was full of joy. In every home he stayed there was always the sound of singing. As he got older his voice was stronger than most young people. Often he would sing, cry and laugh until tears flowed. One servant of God was a ‘clan brother’ who was very close to him. The two of them often met together to share from midnight through until morning. They loved to sing this song:


‘When I was drowning in sin, all around were winds of sorrow and rains of grief; when fierce wolves were howling through the night; when my heart was stricken with fear until my strength was depleted; when the desolate mountains and lonely valleys were covered with thorns; when I desired to go to that place where all would cease: What great love that searched and found me! What precious blood that cleansed me! What vast grace that led me back into the flock! What vast grace that led me back to the flock!’


The two of them would sing and sing until they were moved to tears.

Throughout his life Zizhong put great emphasis on the Lord’s day. This day was a very holy day to him. From the time he received God’s grace and salvation until his death, except for the 15 years he spent in the labour-reform prison in the north, during his 42 years of serving the Lord there were only four Sundays in which he did not attend church meetings.

During the last 18 years of his life, his situation slightly improved and he could devote more time and energy attending to the ministry of evangelism. He was totally submissive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to the church and was totally faithful in his work. Wherever the Lord sent him he went. He never refused to go even to the most distant and inaccessible places.

For many years he travelled throughout the Wencheng mountain district and with tears urged the people to repent. Many times he faced dangers as he traversed steep, narrow mountain trails through snowstorms in order to visit the brothers and sisters. Therefore throughout the whole of the Wencheng mountain district the Gospel went forth and he established many churches. To obtain these goals he shed many tears and paid a great price!

He was a disciplined man and was careful about all his words and actions. He hated sin and in every manner was an example to the believers. His lifestyle was very simple. He never wanted a life of leisure or pleasure. He ate simple food (sweet potatoes and vegetables) and dressed in common clothes. He lived in a very small black house. Yet he felt what he already had could be considered too ‘luxurious.’ He was content therefore, with what he had.

He had a great love for the brothers and sisters and took a great interest in their families, spiritual life and livelihood. He continually exhorted them with tears, was concerned about them and led them. Before Zizhong died, he was bedridden for 80 days. Every day many brothers and sisters came from many places to visit him. Though he did not have any children, in reality he had more children than anyone else. Therefore he felt fulfilled and joyful.

On October 18, 1989 in the morning, more than 1,000 brothers and sisters buried this old ‘brother and father in the Lord’ on the mountain. As they lowered the casket into the grave, they all sang: ‘Waiting for the Lord’s return to meet again!’ The sound of weeping and singing resounded throughout the valley. Faithful servant of God, may you rest in your Lord!


From: Danyun, Lilies Amongst Thorns, Sovereign World Ltd, Tonbridge, Kent, England, 1991, pages 8-21