Sister Peng pays a high price to be a Christian in China. She has been arrested many times, and she will go to jail again if the police catch her preaching the gospel. Forced to live as a fugitive, she must sneak into her home at night to visit her husband and young daughter.
The first time Peng was taken into custody, just after the Tienanmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989, she was delivering a fresh shipment of Chinese Bibles to some unregistered pastors. She was thrown into a dirty detention cell and tortured with an electric cattle prod to force a confession of her "crimes." She shivered in that cell for months. Guards offered no coats, blankets or feminine hygiene supplies.
"For eight months I had no contact with anyone. I just ate soup in my cell," Peng told me when I visited China two years ago. "It is really God's mercy that He fed me and kept me warm."
Peng later was transferred to a women's prison, where she spent two lonely years. But during that time she led 32 female inmates to Christ. Upon her release, she immediately resumed her itinerant preaching ministry.
Now 43, Peng doesn't let her thin frame or her femininity stop her from taking on dangerous assignments. And she is not alone. She is one of the many female heroes of China's underground church movement.
When I visited a group of unregistered church leaders in a city near Hong Kong in the year 2001, I discovered that between one-half to two-thirds of all church-planters in China today are women, most between the ages of 18 and 24. These women, along with their male colleagues, lead an estimated 25,000 people to Christ daily.
One evening after a meeting with these humble Chinese apostles, I returned to my hotel room and discovered two of the female leaders waiting at my door with a translator. "They would like you to pray for them," the translator said.
"Are you pastors or evangelists?" I asked, hoping to better understand their needs.
They smiled and replied, "Yes."
"How many churches do you oversee?" I inquired.
The translator pointed to the woman on the left. "This one oversees 2,000 churches, and this other one oversees 5,000 churches," he said.
I was stunned. Some denominations in the United States are still arguing about whether a woman can stand behind a pulpit, I thought to myself. Meanwhile, women in China are engaging in dangerous missions and governing thousands of new churches. There's something wrong with this picture!
Sister Peng is a woman on assignment, and her passion is not waning. On the last day of my visit, she shared with me her plans to take teams of Chinese Christians into the Muslim republics on the Western border of China--where she expects to encounter harsher persecution than anything she experienced under the communist police.
Her ultimate goal, she told me, is to see the Chinese church "march from China to Jerusalem until all the Muslim world hears the gospel."
Peng added: "I used to think that missionaries going from China would not happen until after I die. But God has shown me that it will soon be time. I want to raise up 700 missionaries. It's our time to go to the world."
GOD NEEDS A JUNIA Since my trip to China I have met many brave women who face incredible hardships as they engage in bold apostolic ministry. Like the female apostle Junia, who served alongside the apostle Paul and was imprisoned with him (see Rom. 16:7, NKJV), these women are willing to die for Christ.
One of these modern Junias is Natasha Shedrevaya, a Russian church-planter who was recently appointed to head her Moscow-based denomination. She oversees 30 churches in Russia and another 300 churches in the former republics of the Soviet Union.
Like Peng, Natasha is a woman on a mission. Her goal is to plant a church in every village in the Siberian north--a region spanning several time zones. She is fulfilling her vision with little aid from the West and no help from the Orthodox religious establishment in her own country.
I met another modern Junia two years ago when Kayy Gordon visited my office in Florida. Kayy spent 40 years in the far north of Canada, reaching the isolated Inuit people, sometimes called Eskimos. Never married, this dedicated woman obeyed God's call and went to live in a desolate place most men would never dare visit.
Kayy had to travel from village to village by dog sled during the first years of her difficult ministry. Later, after more workers joined her team, she lost one of her best staff members in a plane crash.
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