BEIJING (BP)–Members of a cult in China have kidnapped 33 top leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship, ASSIST News Service has reported.
Compared to being kidnapped by the Eastern Lightning cult, “it would have been a blessing for the missing brothers and sisters to have been in the hands of the police!” wrote Paul Hattaway, director of Asia Harvest, an interdenominational ministry based in Thailand, in a message addressed to Christians worldwide in early May.
Hattaway described the Eastern Lightning as a “satanic cult” that believes Jesus has already returned as a 30-year-old woman living in China’s Henan Province.
The cult has been targeting its “twisted doctrine” specifically to house church Christians for about 10 years, Hattaway wrote. “If believers refuse to accept their teaching, they often revert to kidnapping, beatings, torture, drugging, sexual entrapment and intense brainwashing. There is credible evidence that dozens of Christians have been murdered by the Eastern Lightning over the years. Most are poisoned, making it difficult for the authorities to prove they were murdered. Many more house church Christians have simply vanished, not known if they converted to the cult or were killed. … Most Christians around the world have never heard of them, while even many missionaries and Christians working inside China have little clue about what they believe and why they oppose the church so strongly.”
Hattaway noted that 35 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship were originally captured by the Eastern Lightning cult, but two managed to escape. “This information comes directly from the elderly founder of the China Gospel Fellowship, who himself was not abducted because he is no longer in active leadership within the movement,” Hattaway wrote.
Hattaway recounted that the China Gospel Fellowship (CGF) is organized at a national level with what they call the Chai Hui (missionary sending agency) level underneath. “To qualify as a Chai Hui, a region must have at least 30,000 baptized believers and a certain number of trained leaders and training centers,” Hattaway explained. “By last year, there were 22 such Chai Hui’s throughout China in the CGF. It is believed that the cult has kidnapped EVERY ONE of these top leaders.”
Hattaway recapped what is known and has been confirmed from inside China based on information from a variety of sources, including Brother Mak of the Chinese City Gospel Mission:
— The kidnappings were carefully pre-planned by the Eastern Lightning cult. About a year ago, a lady introduced some Singaporeans to one of the major leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship, starting the relationship. The Singaporeans identified themselves with a Bible school based in Singapore, the Haggai Institute, which has a good reputation. The CGF leader made some investigations about the school, and when he received good reports he trusted the Singaporeans from that time on.
— More recently, the CGF was informed that some famous professors from the Singapore school were coming to China to give them leadership training. Because the CGF leaders are being hunted by the government, for security reasons it was decided to split the leaders into six different groups to go to different locations for training. The Singaporeans promised to cover all travel and accommodation expenses and to conduct the training in a safe environment.
— On April 19, each group of house church leaders went to the meetings. At one location, the organizers greeted the church leaders and immediately requested they hand over their mobile phones for safekeeping, thus removing their ability to communicate outside of the room. When some of CGF participants refused to cooperate, the Eastern Lightning beat them to get their phones. This was the first the believers knew they were in trouble. One CGF leader, after realizing the Eastern Lightning was behind the deception, asked to go outside to use a restroom, and she managed to escape. If she had not escaped, no one would have any idea what had happened to these house church leaders. They would have simply vanished without a trace, which was the intention of the cult. When they discovered that the woman had escaped, the Eastern Lightning went to her home. Not finding her there, they beat up her parents before leaving. Bob Fu, executive director of the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China, said the woman reported the CGF leaders already were being severely tortured by the time she escaped.
— The woman went to the police and told them what happened. Together they rushed back to the meeting place, but by the time they arrived the room was deserted, with no trace of where the house church leaders had been taken. It is clear, however, that the Eastern Lightning in the past has always separated Christians and spread them in different locations to be brainwashed and beaten individually. By now, it is likely the 33 Christians are scattered in 33 different places. Two have managed to escape.
Hattaway said he has received an unconfirmed report from a Chinese church leader that one of kidnapped pastors was very vocal in witnessing to his captors and was praying loudly to the Lord. Despite threats, he wouldn’t stop, so the Eastern Lightning cut his tongue out.
“From a different location we received a confirmed report that after being kidnapped, men dressed in police uniforms came and took the believers away to different places,” Hattaway wrote. “Should this be found to be true, it could either show local officials worked together with the Eastern Lightning to stage this incident … or else the Eastern Lightning may have impersonated being police officers as part of their act.”
Hattaway said the kidnappings have shaken house church believers across China. “They have been fighting with infiltration from the Eastern Lightning for more than 10 years, but never before has there been such a coordinated attack launched against house church leadership,” he wrote. “Thousands of believers inside China are fasting and praying around the clock for God’s intervention. They invite their Western and Asian brothers and sisters to join them.
“Even though most of the kidnapped believers were themselves being hunted by the government for leading unregistered churches, it has been decided by some remaining house church leaders that they must take the risk of getting government involvement in this case. One of the two China Gospel Fellowship leaders who escaped from the kidnapping traveled to Beijing on April 28 where he hired a lawyer to represent them to the communist authorities. The government indicated they are willing to cooperate, and that they are willing to partner with the house churches to crush the Eastern Lightning, who they claim they’ve been trying to destroy for years with little success.”
Issuing an urgent prayer appeal to Christians around the world, Hattaway wrote: “Please pray the blood of Jesus will cover this plan, and that the house church leaders are truly being led by godly wisdom. Many Christians may question the wisdom of aligning with an atheistic government in a bid to help the church, especially seeing the China Gospel Fellowship and many of the other house church networks in China are already on the very same ‘evil cult’ list as the Eastern Lightning!”
In researching this cult, Hattaway noted, “I’m convinced that even though the central government in Beijing wants to smash the Eastern Lightning, there is strong evidence that many local government officials around the country (who are the organs Beijing must use to do their work locally), have either converted to or been bought off by the Eastern Lightning. The corrupted local officials use their influence to protect the cult.
“For example, when an order comes from Beijing for action against the Eastern Lightning, it goes first to local officials. Those who are under the cult’s influence inform the Eastern Lightning to relocate, thus making the plans of the central government almost impossible to fulfill. This suspicion of local government complicity with the cult is confirmed by an official government document, which notes that the Eastern Lightning has been able to ‘infiltrate into the inner circles of the [Communist] Party, the government, and the Three Self Patriotic Movement.'”
Hattaway then noted, “House church Christians in China are among the strongest and most effective in the world. Church leaders throughout the country believe they have entered spiritual warfare at its highest level. This action by the Eastern Lightning has roused them not only to pray for the release of these 33 leaders, but to mount a revolution to completely destroy the Eastern Lightning once and for all. They see this as a spiritual fight and are determined to win at all costs. One pastor has said, ‘The worst thing that can happen is the government will arrest us and send us back to prison, where we can still preach the gospel, but this cult needs to be destroyed regardless of the risk of more government persecution against us.’ …
“Since news of the kidnapping started circulating around the world, many people have written to me, asking me to shed some light on the Eastern Lightning cult,” Hattaway wrote, noting that he has compiled a report on the Eastern Lightning, titled “When China’s Christians Wish They Were in Prison,” which is posted on the missions agency’s website, www.asiaharvest.org. “We will be posting updates there as we receive them. We also have a feedback form where people can post a message about this situation, express their feelings, or pray for the believers in China,” Hattaway wrote. A book also is underway by a house church pastor exposing the Eastern Lightning, including nearly 100 pages of testimonies from believers across China who fell prey to the cult before God’s hand intervened for their restoration.
Used by permission from ASSIST News Service.