Part 2: Our Practice Run
by Phil Martin
We’ve been looking for a Chinese church to attend since we’ve arrived. A few churches that we contacted asked us to wait until after the new religious laws have been implemented in February. One of the government’s main goals is to make sure there is no foreign influence in Churches, so some churches have been told they should not allow foreigners to attend. Finally, we were connected with a church that joyfully welcomed us to join them, although they did warn that they have had some government oversight in the past. It is very close to where we live, so we decided to go. Unfortunately, the first week we wanted to go, Avery and I both got sick. Two weeks later, we decided to try again.
After some trouble finding the entrance, we arrived very late and the service was almost over. Not wanting to cause any disruption we were careful not to make much noise as we entered. Since we were concerned about distracting people from the service, we didn’t notice that two police officers were seated in the back row. By the time we realized it, we were standing right next to them. They didn’t say anything, and in fact looked quite bored. A member of the church came over and spoke to us in English and motioned for us to step outside. She apologized and told us that a visit like this is very rare for their church, but because they were they to check if foreigners were involved, we shouldn’t stay. As we were waiting for the elevator, an officer came out and asked her if there was a problem. He didn’t ask us anything and so we left without saying anything to him.
Two members from the church contacted us that afternoon. After apologizing for the hassle and any further trouble we caused, we had a chance to ask them a lot of questions. Both stressed that there is no need to apologize as it wasn’t our fault. They invited us to come back to the church, but not for a few weeks. They instead suggested that in the meantime we attend their weekday bible studies.
The officers did ask the church about us and instructed them to contact the police if we show up again. From their questions and lack of reaction when we arrived it seems pretty clear that their presence wasn’t related to us. It appears to have been a coincidence. (Not in the sense that the police were at a house church, but in the sense that there is no connection to us or our plans.) The church thought the police would probably continue coming for a few weeks to see if we came back.
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