China is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of its first autonomous region this year. The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was formed on 1 May 1947. Historically, Inner Mongolia is associated with its famous leader, Genghis Khan (1162-1227), who founded the Grand Mongolian Kingdom.
The total population of Inner Mongolia as at 2006 is recorded at 23.9 million. China Internet Information Centre reports that 77% of the population is of Han ethnic group and 17% are Mongol. Out of the total 5.2 million Mongolians in China, 4.2 million are living in Inner Mongolia.
There are 3 Bible distribution centers in Inner Mongolia, namely, Hohhot City, Baotou City and Linghe City. According to official statistics as at 2004, Inner Mongolia has
* 147,000 Christians
* 11 Pastors
* 23 Deputy Pastors
* 97 Elders
* 403 Preachers
* 306 Registered Churches and meeting points.
Inner Mongolia, spanning an area of 1.18 million square kilometers, taking up one-eighth of China’s total land area, is ranked the third largest among all Chinese Provinces, Autonomous Regions, Municipalities and Special Administrative Regions. It is not hard to imagine the struggle of Inner Mongolia Christian Council/ Committee of Three-self Patriotic Movement (CC/TSPM) trying to deliver Bibles across this sizable region.
In 2003, the United Bible Societies sponsored a Bible van, to help Inner Mongolia CC/TSPM cope with this challenge of delivering God’s Word to the Churches, meeting points and ultimately into the hands of people in the region.
TONGSUN STREET CHURCH BIBLE DISTRIBUTION POINT
There are four registered Churches in Hohhot City. One of which is located at Tongsun Street where low level shop houses and residents live in ancient looking houses. Tongsun Street Church was started with the help of Swedish missionaries in the early 1900.
During the Cultural Revolution, Church services were completely banned. The Church door did not open again until early 1980s. Mdm Wang Jinghua, now a Church worker, was among the first group of Christians who returned to Tongsun Street Church. From a humble beginning of a few hundred people gathering when service resumed, the Church has grown to its current size of around three thousand with many on-going ministries, including, a bible distribution point. The Bible van now delivers the Bibles, which are also subsidized by the United Bible Societies, to this distribution point.
Pu, Wang’s husband, also serves together with her in Tongsun Street Church. He has been managing the Bible distribution point since 1997. When Pu was asked which type of Bible is popular among the Christians. Pu replied that it is the standard-sized one selling at USD2.00. Many senior citizens also love the large font Chinese New Testament because it is easy to read. Pu shared that on popular occasions, like Christmas, they normally face a surge of demand for Bibles. These popular Bibles receive Bible paper subsidies from United Bible Societies so as to keep the retail price affordable for the people.
BIBLE DISTRIBUTION IN TUOKETUO COUNTY
The Bible van also travels out to deliver Bibles to a county distribution point located at Tuoketuo County Church. The county has a population of 190,000 and a third of them are farmers. The Church has around 1000 Christians, out of which around 60 of them are Mongolians.
In the afternoon, the Bible van arrived to deliver Bibles to one of Tuoketuo County Church rural home fellowships. A simple wooden cross is found on an old 80 year old rural house. Around 30 people were squeezed into a room to study the Bible. Shoulder to shoulder but the people did not seem to be bothered as long as they could study God’s Word.
Ms YEO Tan Tan, Program Manager
United Bible Societies, China Partnership