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Pastor John CaoChinaAid

(LifeSiteNews) – A Chinese Christian pastor just published his first testimony after seven years of suffering in prison for his faith under China’s totalitarian, atheistic, Communist regime. What sustained him in his long isolation, he said, was the power of prayer.

Protestant Pastor John Cao, who was thrown behind bars in 2017 in Yunnan, China, for the missionary work in which he was engaged in the region, was released March 4. ChinaAid, a religious liberty advocacy group, translated and published his first testimony since his release just days ago.

Cao, a permanent resident of North Carolina and husband to American citizen Jamie Powell, spent time serving as a missionary in Myanmar, which borders China. He worked among poor minority children, building 16 schools that reached more than 2,000 children. He would often cross the border into China on account of his work and was left unhindered for three years by Chinese authorities until they decided to arrest him in 2017 on allegations of “illegal border crossings.” The charge brought Cao a seven-year prison sentence.

Upon examining the evidence of the case, in September 2019, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that Cao’s detention was indeed arbitrary and demanded the Chinese government release him at once, a call that went completely unheeded.

The religious nature of the persecution to which the Protestant pastor was being subjected was evident throughout the years of his imprisonment. He was refused a Bible when requested, letters from his own mother were confiscated if they contained too many verses of Scripture, and at the mention of prayers from certain persons, visits from his mother would be abruptly ended.

However, Cao never wavered in his faith during his long isolation, which he attributes to the power of prayer. He began writing poetry in 2021, which ChinaAid published as Living Lyrics: Poems from Prison.

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Below is the first part of ChinaAid’s translation of Cao’s first testimony after his release, transcribed from an audio recording. The full testimony can be found here.

Pastor John Cao’s testimony:


I have been separated from you all for seven years, but these seven years have been filled with joy, filled with God’s grace, and everyday God’s special presence has been with me. Truly, even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for we know that the Lord Jesus is with us, and brothers and sisters are with me too!


I wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m., automatically waking up; there are no clocks inside the prison, but I always wake up at 5 o’clock; sometimes even earlier at 4:00 a.m. They [the surveillance personnel] don’t allow me to pray, so I pray by turning sideways, because I can still pray while lying on my side.

Every day, there are three people with me during the day – around me, and they don’t allow me to talk to anyone. At night, one person is standing beside me, watching me sleep, afraid that I might get up at night to pray, or do something else? So, there is always someone with me 24 hours a day. It’s not allowed if someone greets me when I go out, they will be punished, but of course, they don’t punish me, they punish the three people who are in charge of me and say that they’re not doing a good job monitoring me.

In this very lonely and isolated situation, I have never lost my joy, nor have I ever felt very lonely. I know that behind me, the Holy Spirit provides me with strength, and I have brothers and sisters from all over the country and the world with me.

My mother comes to see me every month, and my sister sends me letters every month, and every letter mentions that everyone is praying for me. Half a month ago, I took out all the letters my mother sent me. There were 90 letters written to me in Kunming Prison, but I only received 31 letters. What happened to some of the letters? They were intercepted and not given to me. But why weren’t they given to me? Because the letters mentioned that so and so were praying for me, they were not given to me.

On May 7, 2023, my mother came to see me for the first time after the pandemic. She couldn’t visit me during the pandemic. She said, “Pastor Yuan is praying for you.” The monitoring center was listening in, and as soon as they heard that, they cut off my call. The visit was interrupted. My mother took a train from Changsha and traveled for twenty hours and could only see me for three minutes. Why? Because she mentioned that Pastor Yuan is praying for you, and these people are very afraid of the word “prayer.” I don’t know why.

My mother started to cry there because we hadn’t seen each other for so long. We used to video chat, but now we can meet face to face, of course, separated by a window.

Since some people are so afraid of prayer, it shows that prayer is effective. Otherwise, why would they be so afraid? Although we only said a few words, two words are enough, that is, prayer for each other, communication in the Lord, and together we testify for the kingdom of God.

The greatest joy of God’s children in this world, the only hope, the meaning of our lives, our greatest hope is not in this world. Every morning when I wake up, all I can do is pray. The first thing I did when I entered prison was say to them, would you please give me a Bible? They laughed contemptuously, “How could you make such a request, as if it’s unthinkable, You have no rights in our prison.” I said, “Okay then.”

So I rely on my mother’s letters. She writes a few sentences of the Bible to me each time, but if she writes too much, they won’t give me the letter. If it’s just two or three sentences, it’s okay. In the end, I received ninety letters, but I was not allowed to take them with me when I was released. I said, “Are these not my things? The letters are from my mother, and the envelopes were bought with my mother’s money. The things are for me, and when I want to take them with me, I’m not allowed to? These are my most precious things.” But I still couldn’t take them with me.

During the seven years in prison, every day was filled with joy. I woke up at five o’clock to pray and sing hymns, and God would also speak to me. I greatly admire Sister Xiaomin; she wrote many hymns of praise. I don’t have her gift, I just write a few lines of poetry. During the day, I record them and send them to my mother, but she often doesn’t receive them.

In 2023, I wrote a three-page letter to my mother every week, there were at least 52 letters. My mother probably received about 30 letters, so some were not received. But that’s okay; we had a few letters sent out, and are very grateful to the Lord for that.

I know that brothers and sisters are praying for me, and the Holy Spirit gives me strength; for seven years, everyone has been praying for me continuously; this is the motivation that allows me to pass through the valley of death joyfully and triumphantly.

LifeSiteNews’ extensive reporting on the persecution of Christians in China can be found here.


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