China is a country that fascinates many Jehovah’s Witnesses, who see it as a vast territory of untapped evangelical potential.
Home to 1.3 billion people, China is seen as the perilous final frontier of preaching the good news. It is one of the so-called “30 Other Lands” where the Witnesses are under ban. Local Witnesses therefore operate covertly, attending secret meetings and discreetly trying to convert people under constant threat of exposure.
Amber Scorah was once a pioneer working undercover “where the need is great” in Shanghai. The possibility of being followed, watched, bugged, or deported by Chinese officials was ever-present.
Now a writer living in New York, earlier this year Amber had her incredible story published in the Believer magazine under the title “Leaving the Witness: A Preacher Finds Freedom to Think in Totalitarian China.”
As the title suggests, though Amber arrived in China as a pioneer brimming with optimism and devotion to her faith, her experiences in that country forced her to re-evaluate her religious upbringing. When she found herself explaining doctrines such as Armageddon or disfellowshipping in simplistic terms in a foreign tongue to her bemused bible students, she began to question her own beliefs, which started to seem narrow-minded and elitist. This forced her into doing objective research, which in turn left her with a big decision to make.
Amber’s story is important, because it shows the value of being true to yourself, and honest with those you deal with. It also shows that Witnesses operating undercover in totalitarian regimes are just as prone to discovering the real truth as they are anywhere in the world – if not more so.
As Watchtower continues its attempts to gain a foothold in the “30 other lands,” a vast territory that accounts for approximately a third of the world’s population, it is encouraging to consider that even Witnesses in these precarious frontiers of the global preaching campaign are gaining access to the facts about the organization and finding the support needed to leave. And it is because of people like Amber that we know it is possible.