Huize, located in the northeast of Yunnan Province, was an ancient Yelang land in the Qin and Han dynasties as well as an important town for copper mining and smelting in the Ming and Qing dynasties. It has a history of more than 2,000 years and is a national historical and cultural city.
Based on the book Christianity and Christian Mission in Yunnan, the gospel was first introduced in Huize in 1883 by British and French missionaries, who led the church ministry. Activities at the time were limited to parts of the surrounding area. In the 1880s, the Methodist church sent Samuel Pollard and Frank J. Dymond to evangelize in Zhaotong and Huize. Churches and schools were built. This was the first missionary station of the British Methodist Church in Yunnan. According to Brother Y of the Huize Church, Huize is a major transportation hub, located between Kunming and Zhaotong. During the missionary years of Rev. Pollard, Zhaotong and Huize were his base camps. The Hmong region, known as the Shimenkan in the Bijie area, did not become the focus of his mission until the last ten years of his service. The first chairman of the Southwest Methodist Parish was a native of Huize, named Zhu Ruiguang.
After 1950, many pastors were suppressed because of their faith. People across Huize became frightened by Christianity. Foreign missionaries were repatriated after 1952, and the activities associated with Christianity were ceased in Huize. Six years later, with the assistance of Soviet experts the state built hydropower stations in Huize, Nagu, and other places. "My grandparents participated in the construction of the dam, so did many workers and educated youth from across the country," Y said. Some of the workers, about 20 of them, from other provinces were Christians. One of them was David Yan, who preached at the Trinity International Church in Kunming; another was Jiang Tianxi, who used to work in the Yunnan Christian Council. According to Pastor Y, both of them paid visits and presented gifts such as Bibles, an organ, and funds to the Yunnan Christian Council as representatives when the Huize Church was flourishing in the 1980s and 1990s.
He continued, "In the 1950s, there was a brother Liu, who worked in a power plant. His family had been believers for generations. Later, Liu’s brother also came to work in the Supply and Sale Cooperative on Baiwu Street in Nagu, Huize. He was assigned to his position after he graduated from junior high school at a young age. He was a beautiful testimony, very enthusiastic and diligent at work. He often helped the elderly who lived alone in the village carry water and with other tasks. He held fast to the faith even during the 'Cultural Revolution'. He was denounced because of his faith, so was a physician, who once served as a Methodist pastor. The old fellow’s name was Liang Xiaochuan, who studied abroad in the UK, served in the Zion Church in Kunming, and ran the ‘Wude English After-school Academy’. He later returned to Huize to practice medicine in Baiwu Village. Both he and my grandfather were from Huize and worked together in the Forestry Bureau before. Thus, he had a close relationship with my family.”
In 1978, an employee of the fourth-level power station of the Yili River Power Plant in Huize, Wang Jiashui, developed liver cancer. He went to Kunming for medical treatment and met the family of the old Lutheran Church Pastor Du Xinfu. After becoming a believer, he recovered and returned to Huize to evangelize and develop the church.
“In the 1980s when my grandfather suffered a stroke, old brother Liu shared the gospel with my family. Thereafter, my grandfather experienced miracles and was healed. My family began to trust in the Lord. I was baptized when I was a baby, and grew up in a godly environment.”
Pastor Y recalled that "our church back then often spent Christmas in the wilderness and by the reservoir. People came to join from every village and town. Sometimes there were 1,000 or 2,000 people participating. Non-believers also came to visit. It was remarkably boisterous like going to a bazaar."
According to the report in Christianity and Christian Work in Yunnan Province, there were more than 500 believers in Huize County by the end of 1981. The churches were influential, but none of them joined the Three-Self Patriotic Movement at that time. Those churches came to the attention of the governing authority. In May 1982, the Christian organization developed by Wang Jiashui was publicly banned with the order of the Provincial Public Security Department. After he was released from his detention, he continued to evangelize. He had held 16 pastoral training courses with more than 320 trainees since 1989. Most of the believers in the County were discipled by Wang. The number reached a peak in 1993-1994. Based on the original survey and statistics organized by the Qujing region in October 1995, there were 72 activity sites operated in 17 towns and 105 villages across the County, with more than 8,000 believers.
Pastor Y shared that Wang Jiashui was very talented in organization and management. He conducted various training courses such as healing through acupuncture. He gathered the believers to learn the techniques of repairing watches so that they could make a living by setting up a repairs stall. Wang also mobilized the believers to raise funds and started a pharmacy, where retired doctors were invited to be consultants. He even built a rice noodle factory. He was creating an industry while developing the church. He had high prestige among the believers. After Yunnan Theological Seminary reopened in 1989, the Huize Church had been well established. Although it did not join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement at that time, it sent five or six seminary students to Yunnan Seminary in the name of the Huize Church, including Wang’s son and daughter-in-law.
Wang's son, Wang Xinliang, and his daughter-in-law, Gao Mingzhu, published an article in the official church’s Tianfeng magazine in 1999 about their development plan for the Huize Church, "The Church Should Take Concrete Actions to Overcome Poverty First." The plan mentioned the size of the Huize Church. "There are 15 larger churches with 170 meeting locations in Huize, Yunnan. All belong to one church of the same belief and unified teachings, exalting the Triune God. The entire church has 47,000 registered believers, of which 42,000 are rural residents. Most of them live in the cold alpine mountains. The rural believers have little income. All the pastoral staff members are volunteers.”
At that time, they suggested that the Huize Church should take concrete actions to overcome poverty first. They raised 12,000 yuan to purchase new species of potatoes and chemical fertilizers, which were distributed to those who couldn’t afford it.
Wang Jiashui lived in Dabanqiao, Kunming later on, preaching and ministering to the believers mainly through audiotapes. Sadly, the flourishing Huize Church was drastically changed due to the intrusion of the cult, "The Church of Almighty God." More than 90% of the believers were poached. The leader of the church, Wang, was converted by the "The Church of Almighty God" in 2003. Converted with him were the ministers in the 40 meeting locations in Huize that he established through his evangelism. There were less than 1,000 people remaining in faith. Minister Y and his parents in the Huize Church were witnesses. To share about the history, Minister Y interviewed several elderly brothers and sisters, and collected related information.
The cult "The Church of Almighty God" was introduced to Huize from outside of the province. According to Pastor Y, the "The Church of Almighty God" learned that the church in Huize was flourishing and that Wang was very influential in the local area. A strategic plan was created to win the person in charge first. They conducted research on him in advance and collected his basic information. When they communicated with Wang and shared much information about himself, Wang felt that these people were like prophets. He was convinced of and accepted the teachings of the "The Church of Almighty God". He then took co-workers from various townships to Kunming for training. Wang not only led them to join the "The Church of Almighty God" but publicly interspersed and preached its teachings in his sermons. He even announced the dismissal of the co-workers and the believers who expressed different opinions. This was questioned by some believers, who stood up for the truth and fought for the pulpit.
"My parents were dismissed by Wang because of their questioning. Those who participated in the training organized by Wang Jiashui used to be faithful workers or intellectuals in the church. They all followed Wang stubbornly, stating that 'we’ll follow Wang Jiashui even if he is going to hell’.” Pastor Y indicated that his parents and other co-workers went to various churches at that time to uncover the propaganda of the "The Church of Almighty God." Later, the believers moved to his grandmother's house for meetings. Conflicts and disputes happened oftentimes in the church in Nagu Town. The group that believed in the heresy was excluded after its propaganda was uncovered. The group took away everything in the church overnight. The vacant place was rented again after that, and the believers began to meet. The believers dismissed by Wang Jiashui have reunited and been meeting together until now. Other believers began to flee Wang's church as well after noticing the problem. Unfortunately, some faithful church workers believed in the teachings of the "The Church of Almighty God" after arriving in Kunming. They were lured by financial gains and even sent to serve in local churches.
Pastor Y also read about the two cases of the victims of the "The Church of Almighty God," written by his father. Sister L, who used to work in Huize Tobacco Factory, was well educated and talented. She was good at painting and writing poetry. Her ability at work was recognized as well. Since she believed in the "The Church of Almighty God", she had given up her job and high income. She swept away the 200,000 yuan cash savings of her family and then disappeared. Her husband and children were devastated and waited for her to return every day. There were many such cases in the local area. For instance, a son held fast to the truth while the father drifted away; one brother held fast to the truth while the other went astray and abandoned the family. Sister W was another example. She ran away from home when she believed in the "The Church of Almighty God." Her husband, working at the Waterworks Authority, became furious whenever he talked about what happened. Moreover, some workers at a mine in Huize left their jobs to follow the cult, causing pain to their wives and children.
The backbones of the churches in several towns and villages in Huize were deceived by the "The Church of Almighty God" cult. To join, they sold their pigs, chickens, cattle and sheep, and family property. They were abandoned when no longer of use. Some of the former pastoral staff were deceived and suffered ultimately. "People who were exploited by the cult abandoned their families, estranged from their wives and children. They were unwilling to return to the truth. It was difficult for them to leave the cult." In Kunming, a group of the ministers of older generations intended to restore the bewildered believers but were lured to follow the "The Church of Almighty God" instead. "The harm that the cult caused to believers and churches was indescribable. My church members and I once visited the victims of the cult. A co-worker who participated in the cult’s training in Qujing was unable to escape. He was watched closely by the followers of the cult. He was able to escape later by giving an excuse that something had happened to the senior at home. After coming back, he fell into a coma and was sent to a hospital by the brothers and sisters from the church.”
These have had a negative impact on the orthodox churches. "The harm that heresies and cults have caused to believers and churches is indescribable. It leads to misconceptions about Christianity among nonbelievers and makes evangelism difficult." In this regard, this minister believes that in order to prevent the spread of heresies and cults, churches and believers should avoid worshiping the church leader. The church should develop a balanced governance model and supervision mechanism in place of authoritarian leadership. The negative impact may be minimized this way if the leader goes astray. Due to the limited resources and lack of theological reading materials at that time, the believers were isolated from the outside world. They received teachings solely from Wang and were not able to discern right from wrong. Many stumbled when the heresy pervaded. Some have been worshiping Wang Jiashui to this day.
Today, there are still believers of the "The Church of Almighty God" in some villages in Huize. Pastor Y added that people would mention the "The Church of Almighty God" and the two taels of grain when he was evangelizing. They also commented that the believers of the “The Church of Almighty God” neglected their families and job duties.
- Translated by June I. Chen