Student Pleas for Parents to be Freed in China

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A 29-year-old seminary student is asking Christians around the world to help free her parents from prison in China.

Yang Zue, known as "Esther" in America, recently shared her family's story with CBN News, giving details of the recent crackdown against one of China's largest house church movements.

"My dad cried because he really missed me," she said. "He doesn't want me to go to the university. That's too far from home so, he cannot see me."

Nearly 7,000 miles from home, Esther Yang Xue was attending seminary in the U.S. when she learned that her parents had been arrested in the middle of the night.

"For me it's no sense they took them away and destroyed the church," she said.

In her first television interview since the incident, Esther told CBN News she often cries for her parents.

"I worry about them. They'd be physically beaten or be hurt," she shared. "I don't want that to happen to them. And I also hope they can have food to eat and they can stay warm because the north part of China is really cold in winter."

Esther's father, Yang Xuan, and mother, Yang Caizhen, were among those leading the unregistered Linfen-Fushan church in China's Shanxi province.

Before dawn on September 13, 2009, a crowd of 400 police and other officials raided the church as Christians slept at the church construction site. Some were beaten and at least 30 were injured. Ten church leaders were arrested.

Bo Fu is founder and president of China Aid Association, a Texas-based ministry that helps persecuted Chinese Christians.

"This church is an evangelical house church with about 50,000 members," he explained. "Actually, it is part of the heritage of the church from the fruits of the China Inland Mission."

"Linfen is known all over China as the Chinese house church's liberation zone," Fu continued. "To describe how impactful and how influential this church has been in this area with over four million people ."

Government officials charged the Linfen Church pastors with "unlawfully occupying agricultural land" and "gathering to disturb the traffic order."

When they were brought to trial last November, the church leaders were fined and given prison sentences ranging from two to seven years.

Esther's mother received two years of "lao gai" or re-education through labor. Her father received three-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Gordon Chang, a China analyst with Forbes magazine, says the government is fighting a losing battle against the church in China.

"The underground churches, those that are completely considered to be illegal, the regime tries to stamp them out, but they can't because they're just so many people," he said. "So, basically the Communist party is creating enemies for itself because in this struggle we can see that faith is so much stronger than the government."

Esther said she believes her father's faith is being strengthened through this experience.

"My dad must be thinking for him it's encouraging," she said. "It's a test from God in order to make us stronger or more love to God."

Esther's passion has been renewed, but she still misses her parents. She's upset her family could not be together this year to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

"I also cannot hear their voice," she added. "I don't even know where they are now. So, when I think about this I am sad. I'm really upset."

"She's still pretty torn up about it, but her faith remains strong. She sees the larger picture," Tom White of Voice of the Martyrs said. "I think there's a type of joy you can have even while you're grieving. It's that greater sense that we are immortal in Christ the church will not lose."

Esther wrote a letter of appeal asking the international community to intercede for religious prisoners in China.

"We have a big family in the Lord," she said. "So pray for them. God still loves them, even when they are in prison."

*Origninal broadcast February 18, 2009.

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