CHINA—In a walk-up apartment in China, house church pastor Bill Zhang* offered me a seat at his dining table and pulled out two thick photo albums filled with family photos. Unlike the albums of most families in the country, the pictures showed two smiling teens posing with Zhang and his wife, rather than one.
While China enforces a one-child policy, Zhang felt convicted about the sanctity of life on the night his wife gave birth to his firstborn daughter in 1997. He remembers waiting at the hospital and being woken up in the middle of the night from the sounds of pleading and crying in a neighboring ward. The next day he found out the pregnant women who entered that ward had to abort and bury her unborn babies, and it left a deep impression on him: “They all look the same, like my child. How can you do that?”
Six years later, his wife came down with a cold that wouldn’t go away and medication didn’t seem to help. They hesitantly wondered if she could be pregnant, but given their circumstance, that was “unimaginable,” Zhang said. A test confirmed the pregnancy and suddenly they were confronted with a big decision. Zhang’s in-laws, friends, and even church members told them they should submit to the government and abort the baby. His in-laws even tried to persuade the couple’s doctor to tell them the baby might be deformed because Zhang’s wife had taken medication while pregnant.
“It had been a difficult time, but that moment, my wife and I, we agreed on one thing—that we are Christians and God is very clear that you cannot murder,” Zhang said. “We really decided that we will keep this child at any cost and we think that it’s a gift from the Lord. If I don’t keep it, my faith would be in vain, my faith would be a lie. I cannot do that.”
Just then, the SARS epidemic broke out, so most people were too scared to leave their homes and didn’t notice Zhang’s wife getting bigger. And it was wintertime, so she could wear thick sweaters and jackets that hid her belly when she did go out. When she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, the couple realized how important it was for Christians to protect life. Zhang started sharing his testimony from the pulpit of his 100-member church and preaching that all human life is from God. Since then, at least 10 families in his congregation have given birth to a second child.
Zhang and his wife went to the family planning bureau to try to pay the fine for the second child three times. Each time they were given drastically different prices, and the person they needed to talk to wasn’t in. Finally, a friend helped them purchase a hukou, or household registration, on the black market for 3,000 yuan (then about $360), much less than the fine.
Zhang doesn’t think Chinese Christians should openly challenge the government. They should quietly follow the Bible instead. But that doesn’t mean Christians should go along with policies at odds with God’s Word. He sees the current situation in China as comparable to that in Exodus 1 where Jewish midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s order to murder all Jewish male children.
“Christians need to get rid of fear,” Zhang said. “We still abide by the government’s law, but I would empower them to be filled with the spirit of God; God can make a way within the framework of the administration.”