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JIANGSU, China – Thirty-six years ago, Xiong Juanfen (left) was working in a textile mill in her hometown when the chance to enroll into Nanjing Theological Seminary came. Her church had planned to send six members for enrolment but the response was not good. She was the only person who signed up for the entrance examinations.

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Believers during a prayer meeting at the main church at Luhe district. (Photo: UBS CP/ Cynthia Oh

NANJING, China – When Rev Liu Xiaofan, 57, was working as a carpenter in his younger days, he did not expect himself to be repairing and restoring chairs for his church a decade later. “This church was built in 1924. It has an eventful history and there’s an amazing story behind the pews too,” shared Rev Liu from the dining cum living room of his home, adjacent to the church building.

Of Chairs The greyish two-storey church building, having stood for the past 90 years is awash with history and charm. It saw the ravages of the Sino-Japanese War, rise of Communism, onslaught of Cultural Revolution, and the open door policy of Deng Xiaoping, with her fate rising and falling according to the times. Besides being used as what it is in the beginning as a church, it was also used later as an exhibition hall, then a community hall where movie screenings and other mass gatherings were held and even as a commercial warehouse before it was eventually reinstated for religious activity in 1984. “When it was reinstated as a church in 1984, there was even a life-sized statue of Mao Zedong in the middle of the sanctuary that had to be moved to another place!”

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JIANGSU, China On the east of Sihong County, four hours’ drive from Nanjing, is Hongze Lake, the fourth largest fresh water lake in China. ‘Hong’ means flooding in Chinese and ‘Ze’ marshland, owing to incidents of flooding in ancient times and a vast area of wetland in the surrounding. A sea of pinkish lotus flowers and green leaves could be seen blanketing the lake during the blooming season.

A Great Need Among the Elderly Believers

A short distance away (about 10 minutes’ drive on mud road from the lake) is a fishing village where Life Spring Church is located and Scripture Literacy classes have been launched recently. On the blackboard are phrases like “Lesson Seven”, “son and daughter-in-law”, “believe in Jesus”, “we love one another”, reflecting what the participants are learning that day.

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