Li was born in 1920 in Black Mountain County, Liaoning Province which is in the Northeastern part of China (Manchuria). He became a Christian when he was a teenager, under the guidance of a Christian teacher. Due to extreme poverty and the death of his mother when he was sixteen, he had to discontinue his studies and left his hometown in order to survive. He fled to Shenyang to be an apprenticed in a seal-engraving shop, where he remained for three years. Then in 1942 he went to Fuxin City to open his own business. It was there that he married Liu You-jie and started their family in 1945. Altogether, they had seven children, including twin sons who died during the time of persecution.
From the day of his conversion, Li proclaimed the Gospel to his countrymen, no matter what the conditions—-regardless of success or in adversity. He started to preach at the age of seventeen and established the church in Fuxin when he was twenty-five. Soon after that, he was ordained as the Elder of the local church. Since he was the founder of the church and was an upright Christian who feared God, preferring to die rather than give up his faith, he was persecuted severely from the 1950s onward. In each political movement he suffered for his faith. Starting in 1955, he was arrested three times and spent eight years in prison and labor camps. During this period, his wife had to support a family of nine people, old and young. First Li’s father and then his twin sons died; they just could not survive the harsh conditions.
Li did survive and returned home alive from the labor camp in the “Great Northern Wilderness” in 1963. But his wife could no longer sustain herself, and died at the age of 40 after Li’s family had been driven to a remote mountainous area in Inner Mongolia to do manual labor. Soon after the start of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the church was destroyed, all Christian homes were searched and all Bibles and Christian literature were burned. During the Cultural Revolution, Li was chained and humiliated on the streets, or put into prison cells many times.
He was compelled to wear an extremely humiliating sign—-a white-cloth armband with five bold black Chinese characters which said “COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY.” When his children were scorned and insulted for this, Li said to them, pointing at his armband, “My children, don’t feel ashamed for this. It is actually the sign of the glory of the Cross. I will exchange it for a crown one day.” Despite great danger, he always kept his loyalty and love for God, and led his children to the Christian faith and discipline.
In the latter years of the Cultural Revolution, Li was restored to fellowship with other Christians and started to worship God in secret in his home. Many Christians would come from long distances to visit him, and his home became a house church. When the underground church was discovered by the authorities, Li was arrested again and put into prison for almost three years, not being released until the church was allowed to reopen at the end of 1980.
Li was rehabilitated in 1981, and all the false charges against him over the past years were repudiated. From 1955 to 1980—-a quarter of a century—-he had been persecuted and had suffered for his faith. Although he spent many years in prison and in labor camps, he stood even firmer in the faith. After he was reinstated, despite all difficulties, he threw himself into the reconstruction of the church, which now had more than five thousand members.
Li rested from his labors in this world in November 2001 at the age of 81.
- Sources for this story are directly from the author’s personal experience and his father.