Interview: Chinese Elder Serves God with Devotion and Fervor Despite Persecution, Hardship

Elder Zheng Fengyin and the author Zhang Xiaohua
Elder Zheng Fengyin and the author Zhang Xiaohua (photo: Provided by Zhang Xiaohua)
By CCD contributor: Zhang Xiaohua September 16th, 2020

Elder Zheng Fengying is a seventy-seven-year-old leader in the Yaodu District Church in Linfen, China’s northern Shanxi province.           

Born into a Christian family, Zheng came from Henan to the distant Shanxi at the age of 18. She was confused why God took her to what seemed like a foreign province. 

Despite enduring much persecution, she held on to her Christian faith. She devoted herself to the church, preaching sermons and sharing the gospel at different places. She worked to have church property returned and to have new churches constructed. Now in her seventies, she lives at the church, looking after its security, despite her physical difficulties.

Growing up in a family where her parents were pastors in Yiyang County, Luoyang, she often went to church. During the summer of 1960 when in the sixth grade, she was sent by her middle school to support agricultural production. Seeing that she was too thin to do farm work,  her uncle brought her to visit relatives in Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan. Unexpectedly, she was taken to a small village in Linfen to be married. Her uncle disappeared.

Only 18, she cried silently many times. She constantly asked God in her prayers, “God, why did you bring me to this strange place?”

Afterward, she came to know that “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Though her husband’s family was not Christian, she firmly depended on God. She kept on praying in the morning and evening, also praying for grace. Disgusted with her faith, her husband often beat or verbally abused her. Her mother-in-law always blamed her. Sometimes her mother-in-law hit her, saying she could strike her whenever she wanted. 

During Spring Festival one year, her mother-in-law threatened to allow her to if she refused to kowtow to the ancestors. She didn’t compromise her faith even though she was forbidden to eat during the biggest festival in China. The mother-in-law punched her, but she overcame Satan through prayer. Later she was able to eat at a relative’s home.

With difficulty she gave birth to two sons and three daughters, praying continually for the whole family. God’s amazing grace was revealed when her husband, who had persecuted her many times, repented of his sins and became a Christian.

Three things led to his conversion and to truly seeing God, even though his ears had often heard of Him. When their youngest daughter, who was one-year-old, caught a fever, the central hospital was closed on a rainy day. Zheng rode a bicycle to the hospital in a hurry. At the sight of her arrival, her husband hugged her in tears. Then she prayed loudly, singing a hymn of faith. Afterwards, the fever went down, astonishing him as well as a chef working in the hospital’s canteen who believed in Jesus.

Another time he had returned home late after pulling carts filled with charcoal from a mountain. He left early in the morning with their eight-year-old son. When he returned with two donkey carts full of charcoal, the second cart and donkey fell into a more than a two-meter deep, wide opening. He was worried because he had borrowed the donkey who was pregnant and would be unable to pay if the donkey were lost. The donkey suddenly shook off the harness and stood beside him. He started to think if this was protection from the God whom his wife believed in.

Another time he was suffering from a headache. Before feeding the cattle every morning, he prayed for healing. God really answered his prayer, making him more convinced. Eventually, he determined to become a Christian, but his boss disagreed with his converting as there was a monthly subsidy of 0.6 yuan (not a small amount of money at that time) for atheists. He would rather follow Jesus than to receive that subsidy. His boss talked with the couple, asking what religion they believe in. Zheng shared the Ten Commandments in Chapter 20 of Exodus, which convinced the boss. 

God called Elder Zheng to be involved in evangelism. She had to farm and look after her children, but God’s grace was so amazing that her husband suggested she go out each time she felt weary with her work at home. Then she became an evangelist. On a trip for some days, she became refreshed and found new energy and strength.

In the beginning, she worked with an elder and a woman pastor. Later she preached alone since every trip lasted about half a month. She traveled from one village to another. As there were not many roads in those days, she used both her feet and hands—she climbed over hills and jumped over ditches. At times she walked through uninhabited pine forests, often chasing away snakes or wolves with sticks. While walking, with great fervor she sang hymns with other woman preachers.

Arriving at the first household in a village, they sang a hymn on not worshiping false gods, attracting locals to gather around. Then they sang another song on worshiping the true God. People said it was more interesting than storytelling. On the day that they left the village, many villagers chose to become Christians and the first household became a place for the believers to meet. This was their preaching style. They traveled through many villages in the areas of the Lüliang Mountains and Taiyue Mountains. Sometimes they walked or rode a bicycle. 

Once a mountain pass was shut due to snow, she went out to preach again. Losing sight of the road, she prayed to God to lead her way. When she came across a family, the woman promised to lead her if she sang a song about Jesus. Then she stayed in their house, singing hymns, reading the Bible, and praying. The home became a host family who holds meetings.

In the early 1980s when churches were reopening, a church in Xiyi Village where she served was built, along with the construction of another church downtown that had been founded by western missionaries in the late Qing Dynasty. Though the downtown church was returned to the Christians, the rural church was occupied by the village committee. As the leader in the church, she ran everywhere for years to work at solving the church property issue. Working part-time as a cook, she went to the local authorities. After a long search, she was able to find the old church property deeds in the government archives. After many twists and turns, a new big church was completed.

She served in Xiyi Village Church until the age of 70, often preaching sermons and visiting believers in new places. After preaching a sermon in 2013, she stumbled over a speed bump. Her abdomen and kidney were injured and she broke three ribs, which could not be treated. She kept praying and preaching in the next months. She miraculously recovered from her injuries and regained her mobility.

She lives in the church, still preaching sermons, praying, and serving the congregation with encouragement and visits. During the coronavirus pandemic, she prays for other believers and counsels them. 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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