We planned our recent honeymoon around visiting my long-time Chinese friend, Brandon*. It might seem like we bent over backwards to visit him, but since he had gone through the trouble to come work in the States for a while, and was already spending a ridiculous amount of his own money to fund his stay here, it seemed like the right thing to do.
So the first night on our honeymoon was spent touring a small town in the South, eating local Chinese-American food, and reminiscing about the three times I’d been to China while in college as part of a cultural exchange team. Brandon was also a college student at the time, and he served as one of our tour guides/interpreters during much of the trip. In addition, we became great friends in a short amount of time. We shared a common belief in Christ, and we learned a lot from each other.
While we share a common faith, we don’t share the same abilities to express it freely. Being a Christian in China is a very different experience than being a Christian in America. In many parts of China, those who proclaim to adhere to any sort of faith or belief system face various levels of persecution, ranging from limited job opportunities to imprisonment or death. While my friend Brandon lives in a relatively tolerant area of the country, he still doesn’t have the same kind of freedom I have to express my faith, worship, and share my beliefs with others. In a sense, in order to survive and maintain the safety of himself and his family, he must bury his faith within himself at times and keep what is most personal under lock and key. He must quiet the song within his heart from reverberating too loudly.
I pray for him and others like him across the world who, because of political restrictions and lack of basic freedoms, must constantly monitor their words and actions–not to avoid offending people, but to avoid facing persecution. As cynical as I am about the government and as little faith as I possess in its ability to change for the better, I’m still grateful for what precious freedom we do have in our country. I’m grateful for the individual people who willingly sacrificed their lives, time with their families, and their own freedoms in order to preserve mine.
Maybe someday, Brandon’s faith can sing out loud.
* Brandon’s name has been changed for privacy purposes.