Henan: Seated on the cold, hard cement floor of a makeshift classroom was 8-year-old Zhang, listening attentively to her teacher reading a story from a pictorial Bible. Little Zhang was so captivated by the story-telling that she did not mind or even notice the freezing temperature in the cluttered room which was also used as a cooking and washing area for the church.
Zhang was just one of the many children in a district in Henan who were given access to copies of the Pictorial Bible Stories sponsored by Henan CC/TSPM and the United Bible Societies (UBS). As these copies were kept in the respective churches for reading by the children when they come to church, more than 5000 people benefited indirectly from the sponsorship according to Henan CC/TSPM, thus raising the faith level of the country folks.
The Pictorial Bible Stories is a compilation of 100 Bible stories written in an English-Chinese format so as to encourage children in their learning of English as they learn about the Bible Stories. The content is rich in meaning and pitched at a level comprehensible to young children.
“The church provided a copy of the Pictorial Bible Stories to every child like me. Although we cannot bring it home, we are allowed to read it in church. We are also given a notebook and a pencil so we can record our reflections. What a privilege! I could not have imagined that this would be possible…” exclaimed Zhang excitedly. “Through these Bible stories, the teacher taught me moral principles and truths so that I can become a better person when I grow up. These are lessons which I could not have learnt from school.”
The churches are located in a district that has a land area of 15,000 sqkm. It has a population of 6.3 million people out of which 300,000 are Christians (70% of them are farmers living in rural areas) congregating in 800 churches big and small. Church leaders have been very concerned lately of the recent influx of cult groups into churches. To counteract these influences and better nurture the next generation, training and equipping classes for children must be run well. By sponsoring children’s scriptural materials in churches such as the Pictorial Bible Stories, UBS offers the local church a “kickstart” in the running of scripturally-sound teaching classes for children.
“I thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve as a teacher. I would conscientiously prepare each lesson as I know how important and precious each lesson is for the children. We begin every class by praying for God’s guidance before a time of praise and worship. Then we will play some games with the children before we settle the children down for story-telling from the Pictorial Bibles Stories. After reading and explaining the stories, we will ask the children to share what they have learnt. We will usually conclude the time by doing scriptural memory for the day’s lesson,” recounted a teacher by the name of Wang.
“Through the past three months of learning, we noticed the varied progress of growth in the children. Some have learnt to be more caring and helpful, while others have become more obedient and patient. Some have learnt what it means to be quiet and many learnt the importance of being filial to their parents,” continued Wang.
Eleven year old David has been going to church with his mother since he was very little. “There are many things in the Bible that I do not understand, but since our church started a class for children like me, the teachers taught us all the 100 stories in the book and that has helped me gain a deeper understanding of the Bible,” said David. “Now I know that Jesus came to this world to save sinners like me. He wants us to love and care for one another. We need to be good witnesses for Jesus.”
“We were told that many Christian friends from overseas have been supporting us. We are touched by your generosity. We promise we will be diligent in our learning and hope to grow up to be a blessing to society, bringing Glory to God,” David added, “so as not to let all of you down…”
Written by Pamela Choo
Photos supplied by Henan CC/TSPM
Translation provided by Ms Chiong Min Lee
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership