When Stefanie Peng’s grandmother receives a dire breast cancer prognosis, Stefanie, a twenty-four-year-old journalist living in Illinois, promises to reunite her grandmother, who fled mainland China during the bloody Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, with her husband, Stefanie’s grandfather Peng Chongde, a charismatic Christian preacher who subsequently endured a lifetime sentence in remote government labor camps. With surprising ease, Stefanie secures a post teaching English at Beijing University, never suspecting that she is being lured to China by the shadowy Public Security Bureau, whose agents are certain that threatening Stefanie with imprisonment will convince the aged Peng to cooperate in the government’s efforts to track down an elusive Christian preacher known only as Lao, the Brother.
Troy Hardigan, a longtime Peng family friend whose life has been redefined by his recent embrace of Christianity after a lifetime of indifferent worship, works for an international communications corporation involved in delicate negotiations across Asia concerning satellites with intelligence-gathering capabilities. As Stefanie, once in Beijing, begins to negotiate her grandfather’s release, Troy acts as her protector even as he falls in love with her. With her instincts as a journalist, Stefanie becomes involved with free union agitators but, more important, with the Christians in the underground movement. Rejecting the government-sanctioned Christianity—which cannot baptize, cannot reference Revelation, and cannot preach Christ’s miracles—this underground movement thrives only by painstakingly translating smuggled Bibles and then copying them by hand. These valiant converts conduct services in caves, warehouses, and barns, always under the threat of police raids, usually prompted by informants, and the inevitable exile to “reeducation” camps.
Kong Qili, introduced initially to Stefanie as a university administrator, is actually a career government agent involved not only in the campaign to eradicate the underground Christian menace...
(The entire section is 846 words.)