Zhang Rongliang is a Chinese Christian who was recently released after spending more than seven years prison in China. While he was in prison, Christians around the world prayed for him and wrote letters to Chinese officials on his behalf.
But they failed to get Zhang released early. Zhang recently talked to a VOM contact, and he had some surprising thoughts about Christians’ attempts to free him.
“I am happy that you and others tried to arrange for my release, but in one way, I am happy that you failed,” Zhang said to the contact. “You almost made a big mistake. If you had been successful, there would be no church in that prison today.”
Chinese Christians are not allowed to visit prisons to do prison ministry, so many prisoners do not have the opportunity to hear about Jesus. More than 5,000 men were in Zhang’s prison, and many of them were able to hear the good news of Jesus Christ while he was there. Fewer would have heard the good news if Zhang had spent less time in prison.
“Missionaries leave their homes to go to a new environment,” said Zhang. They preach the gospel in the area where they are called to preach. I consider myself and I treat myself as one who is a missionary. The difference is that God called me to preach to the prisoners.”
The VOM contact then went on to ask Zhang how his two sons reacted to his being away from them for so long while he was imprisoned, and what advice he had for fathers who might be facing time away from their family.
“First, try your best to spend time with them, as much as you can,” said Zhang. This is important and it is your responsibility. Then during those times you must be away, you must pray for them. You must put them completely in the hands of God. Remember, he will take better care of them than you can. Finally, always remember that the Word of God promises us that the children of the righteous will become like the oak tree in the hands of the Lord.
“I have spent a lot of time in prison, but the children know why their father is being kept in prison. We have taught our children that this lifestyle is our duty. When we teach, we put more focus, more emphasis on the will of God and on the position that he has given to us. God wants us to do a bigger thing for him. All who are called to ministry are different people. We are not like other people. The world does not understand us. But our lives and our calling are a precious thing in the eyes of God.
“God is number one. God and his will must always be first in our lives. After that, he will take care of all other things.”