INNER MONGOLIA, China - Bao Xiaolin, a 51- year-old Mongolian preacher, serves a congregation of 70 at a Mongolian Christian fellowship in Hohhot City of Inner Mongolia. Bao became a member of the Mongolian translation team in 2008 and participated in the checking of the Mongolian New Testament (NT) translation. The Mongolian Four Gospels trial edition was released in 2011. Recently, the New Testament was released on 23 September 2013 in a ceremony held at Baolongshan town, a farming community with many Mongolian believers.
Bao’s surname links her ancestry back to the royal family of Genghis Khan, specifically to his brother, Hasar. But Bao takes her heritage lightly. She is more concerned about the salvation of the Mongolian people. Bao said, “The most meaningful part of my work is that more people can be saved. In the past, after sharing the gospel to a Mongolian, we would want to leave them with a copy of God’s Word but we had nothing to give them. Now that we have the New Testament, we can finally bless them with God’s Word.”
For many generations, Bao’s family were all Buddhists. She accepted Jesus in 1990, after her first child was born deformed and died. Riddled with guilt, she went to her friend’s church in Hohhot City where she accepted Christ and found forgiveness. The doctors advised against another pregnancy because of a genetic defect that causes deformed births. Unfortunately, her condition put her marriage on the rocks. Bao pleaded with God for a healthy child and He answered with the gift of a healthy son. He is 19 years old today. The doctors were surprised by this miracle. Bao knew that this was God’s work and gave herself fully to His work. In 2000, Hohhot City church started their first Mongolian fellowship with 20 people. Bao was one of the important key leaders. She started to translate Chinese worship songs into Mongolian to be sung at the fellowship. In 2007, along with preaching in the Hohhot Mongolian Fellowship, Bao enrolled and was trained at the Inner Mongolia Bible School.
Translation Changed a Preacher
Some Mongolian primary and middle schools, with the recognition of China’s Ministry of Education, teach in the ethnic Mongolian mother tongue. A few designated universities in Inner Mongolia also conduct lessons in the Mongolian language. Bao was educated in her mother tongue until middle school. She shared that it was very difficult when she had to study her subjects in Chinese in high school and vocational school.
When Bao became a Christian, she read and studied the Bible as well as shared and prayed in Chinese. In fact, she had never attempted to preach in Mongolian because there was no Mongolian Scripture available. In 2011, an ethnic Mongolian visitor from another province visited the Hohhot fellowship. He chided Bao for not preaching in her mother tongue. The visitor challenged her to start doing that for the sake of the Mongolian Christians, even if she had to read from a written script. The words of the visitor were strong, “If you want to save the souls of Mongolians, you cannot use Chinese.” Bao took the rebuke seriously. The Mongolian Four Gospels (trial edition) was newly available in 2011. Bao copied Mongolian Bible verses, pasted slips of paper on her bicycle and memorized as she cycled to work. Today, Bao is able to preach and pray in Mongolian. She finds it very convenient and easy to preach directly from the Mongolian New Testament.
“I gained the most as a translator. Even though I was partly educated in Chinese and I can recognize Chinese characters, I do not always fully understand the Chinese Bible. Many times during the checking of the New Testament, I was enlightened as I listened to the verses read out in my own language. I could finally say, ‘So that was what the verse meant!’ My foggy concepts are cleared up immediately. For the ethnic Mongolians who cannot read Chinese, they treat the Mongolian New Testament as a precious treasure.” said Bao.
Bao said that Mongolians are tenacious people. They hold firmly to their convictions and do not change their beliefs easily. But once they do believe in God, they are very faithful. With 30,000 ethnic Mongolian Christians among a population of 4.2 million Mongolians in Inner Mongolia, the Mongolian Bible translation work is crucial for bringing the good news of salvation to the people.
“We still need the Old Testament. Without the Book of Genesis, how are we going to know the origin of sin? How did Israel come about? Without the Old Testament, how are we going to answer these questions clearly?” asked Bao.
As the translation team gathers feedback from the readers of the trial edition, please pray for the editing, typesetting and approval for the final official printing of the Mongolian New Testament. Please also pray for the commencement of translation work on the Old Testament.
See more photos here.
If you would like to make a financial contribution towards Bible translation work in China, please contact us or the Bible Society in your country and designate your gift to “UBS China Partnership — Bible Translation in China”.
Story and photos: Ms Yeo Tan Tan
Edited: Angela Tay
2013 © United Bible Societies China Partnership