Wang, Stephen Wang. The Long Road to Freedom: The Story of Wang Mingdao. Translated by Ma Ming. Ellel, Lancaster, UK: Sovereign World, 2002.
The author of this inspiring biography of the Chinese Christian leader Wang Mingdao was converted through Wang Mingdao’s ministry. The biography is a frank account showing even the weaknesses of this hero of the church who bravely gave leadership to the house church movement and had a powerful scripture-based ministry that influenced the church all over China. Twice he was imprisoned because of his faith for a total of twenty-five years. The first time, under severe pressure, he decided to confess things that were not true so that his sentence would be reduced. He was released, but he was miserable and had lost all his joy, for he was a man who had preached and believed in absolute truthfulness.
He was imprisoned again as he did not comply with the demands of the authorities. This time he decided to be absolutely truthful and, after eight miserable years, the joy of the Lord and spiritual freedom returned to him. But it meant life imprisonment which ended only when he was in his eighties after China adopted a more open policy. When he was released he refused to leave the prison! He said he was imprisoned wrongly and wanted to be exonerated before his release. He left only after the prison authorities craftily worked out a situation which left him with no choice but to leave. His godly wife also spent a long time in prison and in a labour camp. She was released shortly after her husband’s release. She exercised an important moderating influence in the life of her sometimes fiery husband.
Among their most painful experiences were having to face the accusation that they had been dishonest with money and used the ministry for personal economic gain and the accusation that he had collaborated with the Japanese during their repressive rule of China. Both these accusations were very untrue. He was accused of being a stooge of the west even though his movement was remarkably indigenous and independent of foreign funding and ties. His boldness is evidenced by his criticism of the way the positive contributions made by Communist political leaders were ignored after they fell out of favour with the group in power.
An incurable writer, he kept writing sermons, reflections of current religious and political trends and personal reflections until the end. Several English translations of his books are in print.
Here was a man who was mightily used by God, but who also failed God seriously for an eight-year period in his ninety-one year long life (he died in 1991). He never seems to have been totally freed from some of his personality weaknesses such as stubbornness and a quick temper. After his release he felt he needed to be exonerated and that the government should admit that injustice was done to him. His wife and most of his friends tried to persuade him not to follow this course, but after initially agreeing with them, he would persist in this course. This process was never completed because of diminishing strength and ability with the advance of age.
Though the government supported Three-self Church must surely have changed during his many years in prison he viewed it from the perspective of his early bitter experiences with it when it was clearly a tool of the Communist regime’s attempts to stamp out other forms of Christianity. He held his hostile attitudes towards it to the end and refused to accept that there were true believers in it. The author thinks that his imprisonment was providential in keeping him out of the limelight during the severe years of the Cultural Revolution. He would surely have spoken out and been killed had he been free.
On the other hand this book gives a detailed descriptions of the severe way in which the Chinese government reacted to dissent or non-compliance in the mid-1990s when they used patriotic slogans to achieve their goal of crushing resistance to it. As we see similar strategies being adopted by governments in Asia today we are warned afresh of the powerful effects and the dangers of using nationalist slogans to push a party line.
Those of us who struggle with severe weaknesses and marvel at the fact that God can use us in spite of them are encouraged by the life of this great servant of God to persevere without giving up and trust God to keep us faithful to the end.
Ajith Fernando, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka