Brother Yun was born in 1958 in the Southern part of Henan Province among the simple farmers and pheasants of Liu Lao Zhuang, Nanyang County. Brother Yun’s mother had believed in Jesus years before through missionary witness, but after the missionaries were expelled and churches shut down in the Communist take-over, she had grown cold towards the Lord through lack of fellowship. There were no Bibles to help the Christians grow.
In 1974, Yun’s father lay dying of cancer. Such a loss would have left the family in dire straights, and things were so hopeless that Yun’s mother even contemplated suicide. One evening as she lay in bed, she heard a voice say, “Jesus loves you.” In tearful repentance, she rededicated herself to Jesus Christ. She gathered her family around and they all prayed, “Jesus, heal father!” The very next morning, Yun’s father began to get better. Everyone in the family believed on Jesus, and they all began to experience revival.
Brother Yun was 16 at the time. The family did not have a Bible, and it had been many years since Yun’s mother had heard any teaching about Jesus. Yun began to ask his mother who Jesus truly was. She would reply, “Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for us, taking all our sins and sicknesses. He recorded all his teachings in the Bible.” Yun would ask if there were any way he could learn of the teachings of Jesus for himself. His mother would say, “No. All his words are gone. There is nothing left of his teaching.” Imagine a family hungering and thirsting for some knowledge of the words of God, and no way to find out what they were!
Yun’s mother took him on a long walk to see a man in another village who she remembered had a Bible. The man was too afraid to show Yun his Bible, but he told him, “The Bible is a heavenly book. If you want one, you’ll need to pray to the God of heaven. Only He can provide you a heavenly book. God is faithful. He always answers those who seek Him with all of their heart.”
Yun decided to fast and pray for a Bible, and for the next 100 days ate only one bowl of steamed rice every day. He cried out to the Lord for a Bible. His parents thought he was losing his mind. One morning, there was a knock at the door. Two men had brought a Bible to Yun.
Three months before, an evangelist in another town had been instructed by the Lord in a vision to give his Bible to Brother Yun. Although he did not know this young boy, the Lord had showed him the village and house where Yun lived in a vision. It had taken him three months to decide to obey the Lord.
Yun began to devour the Word of God. Even though he could hardly read, every day, he would painstakingly look up one character at a time as he advanced through the Bible. When he had finished reading in this way through the whole Bible, he started memorizing one chapter per day. In 28 days, he had memorized the gospel of Matthew, and then started on the book of Acts.
Called of God
Obeying a vision from the Lord to preach the gospel to the South and West, Yun left his home one day to travel to a town that had never heard the gospel. These people had heard how Yun had prayed to receive a Bible, and they were fasting and praying for him to come to their village. When Yun arrived, they all gathered around to hear him. He did not know how to preach, so he recited the whole book of Matthew for them. The Holy Spirit fell upon the people. They all knelt down and repented of their sins and received Jesus.
These were the beginnings of the house church movement in China. God began to pour out His Spirit to the spiritually hungry Chinese people.
Brother Yun and his co-workers started a ministry of “fleeing evangelism”. Everywhere they went people were hungry to hear the gospel. They could not stay in one place for very long, however, because preaching the gospel in China was and still is illegal. In those days, the Word of God was very scarce. Amongst hundreds of church members, they only had one New Testament.
Fiery Trials and Miracles
In his 23 years of ministering in China, Brother Yun was arrested and sent to prison three different times. He spent a total of seven years in prison for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On the occasion of his first arrest, Brother Yun was ministering at a meeting away from home. He was caught by the Security Police and thrown into a freezing cold prison cell with 4 of his co-workers. There was no heat in the cell, and outside, the temperature was below freezing.
They had thrown Brother Yun’s coat in the snow. He began to beat on an old drum with his handcuffs and sing in a loud voice Psalm 150. He says, “The more I sang the more I was filled with joy. I stood up and praised the Lord. Gradually my frozen hands and feet regained feeling and I wasn’t cold any more.”
This was only the beginning of his prison saga. During the times when Brother Yun was in the hands of the government officials, he was repeatedly beaten and tortured with electric batons. He was kicked and trampled upon. He was tortured with needles being jabbed underneath his fingernails. He was mocked by the other prisoners. He was hung by his handcuffs and transported so roughly that the cold cuffs sliced through his wrists until they were all bloodied and the wrist bones exposed.
Through all of these horrendously painful experiences, the Word of the Lord kept coming to Brother Yun, encouraging him, and strengthening him in his faith, until he could face pretty much anything without fear.
During his first imprisonment in Nanyang, Brother Yun felt instructed by the Lord to fast without food and water until he could see his family. This fast lasted miraculously for 74 days.
Although he had no Bible, he meditated on the Scriptures he had memorized. During this time, he was interrogated and beaten regularly. Though his body weakened, Jesus ministered to his spirit through the Scriptures.
From Nanyang, Brother Yun was sent to the Xinyang Prison Labour Camp. While in this camp, Yun’s wife Deling found creative ways to get the Word of God to him. One time, she smuggled in parts of the Bible in a loaf of bread! These Scriptures were precious to Yun and to the new Christians that were constantly being birthed as a result of Brother Yun’s witness.
After his second time in prison, Brother Yun felt the necessity of training the believers that were being added to the church by the 1000’s. So he and his co-workers established “oil stations”, where students could be trained in the Scriptures. The first oil station was held in a cave for two months. Within 2 months, the 30 students selected were required to read through the whole Bible, and memorize the book of Matthew. By the end of the first month, most of the students had Matthew memorized!
Brother Yun’s third imprisonment was a very dark time for him. The guards were determined that he would not escape from them, as he had many times before. So they took him into a room and beat his legs until they turned completely black below the knee. They wanted to cripple him permanently so that he would not be able to escape again. In prison, other Christian brothers had to carry Brother Yun around because he could not walk. The only way he could sleep was if he propped his legs up on the wall until he had no feeling in them. They beat him every day, even in his crippled state.
Of this time, Brother Yun says, “I had no Bible with me so I meditated on God’s Word from memory and prayed in tears for the churches. I shouted out Bible verses at the top of my voice, clinging to God’s promises such as Psalm 27:1-3. I sang loudly day and night.”
Through the Word of the Lord with confirmation from another brother, God instructed Brother Yun to escape from the maximum security prison. And so, on the morning of May 5, 1997, Yun miraculously walked out of the prison, past dozens of security guards. He didn’t realize until later that his legs had been healed.
Brother Yun eventually escaped China, but he wasn’t through with prison life—yet. Several years after he escaped, he was in the country of Myanmar to escort his family to Germany. He got caught at the border with an illegal identification card and thrown into prison. He received a 7 year sentence, but the German Embassy was able to get him out after 7 months. During this time, Brother Yun busily engaged himself in winning the prisoners to Jesus, and training them. He says, “Through song I taught many Bible passages to my new brothers in Christ.”
None of the Chinese pastors that Brother Yun worked with went to seminary. There are no seminaries to be had in China. Brother Yun’s assessment of the Western church is that we are overloaded with preachers and tapes of Bible teaching, but we have little of the sharp truth of the Word of God. He says, “If you truly want to see God move, the two main things you must do is learn the Word of God and have obedience to do what God tells you to do.”
Reflecting on his years in prison, he says, “In this prison seminary we have learned many valuable lessons about the Lord that we could never have learned from a book.” Jesus put a freedom in Brother Yun’s heart that could not be taken away with beatings and bars. “I feel so sorry that many Christians live in bondage even though Jesus has signed their release form with his own blood. When you’ve been set free, you should act like it.”
Written by Alicia Pearce.
This brief synopsis of Brother Yun's life is taken entirely from the book, The Heavenly Man, written by Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway, published by Monarch Books in 2002.
To purchase a copy of the Heavenly Man, click here.