YUNNAN, China – Etched on the memorial tombstone of James O. Fraser, the British missionary pioneer to the Lisu people in the early 1900s, reads the verse from John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Today more than a century after, we continue to see the fulfilment of this verse as another milestone was added to the history of Lisu Church in China– the launch of the Lisu Annotated Bible on 1 Feb 2015.
Remembering the Pioneers Of Faith
The thanksgiving service saw more than 700 Lisu believers turning up at Dong Fang Hong Christian Church in their vibrant ethnic costumes and embroidered sling bags. The church, surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges, is located in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan.
Nujiang (literally ‘raging river’) River valley, the world’s second-largest gorge after the Grand Canyon, is home to the Lisu people. The river runs through four counties – Lushui, Fugong, Gongsan and Lanping, which together form the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. Besides Yunnan Province, Lisu people in China are also found in neighbouring Sichuan and Tibet.
“This is a historic moment for us, the Lisu people, to remember our pioneers and look ahead to where God is leading us for the future,” said Rev Yu Wenliang, Yunnan TSPM Chairman, at the thanksgiving service.
According to the National Census in 2010, there are 702,800 Lisu people in China out of which 668,000 are in Yunnan. It is estimated that nearly 50% of the Lisu people are Christians. Lisu believers are also known to share their faith with other ethnic groups.
“James O. Fraser was the first foreign missionary to reach the Lisu people. He also invented a script for the Lisu language which was later used to translate the Lisu Bible,” said Rev Yu, paying tribute to the missionary pioneer as well as later missionaries such as A.B. Cooke, John and Isobel Kuhn, in his thanksgiving speech.
The Need to and Importance of Translating the Annotated Bible
As more and more Lisu people are turning to Christ in recent decades, more Lisu Bibles are also published. “Since 1990, 135,000 Lisu Bibles have been printed and distributed. At the same time, we also see the need for annotated Bibles, study Bibles and other spiritual resources to aid the spiritual growth of the Lisu believers as well as strengthen their biblical foundation as a defence against cult groups. Hence, in 2009, with the support of UBS, we started the work of translating the Chinese Annotated Bible into Lisu,” shared Rev. Yu, who also serves as the leader of the translation team.
Amongst the 700 Lisu believers who attended the thanksgiving service was Li Chunxiang, 30, a Lisu pastor serving in Gongsan County. He readily welcomed the Annotated Bible. “Lisu people are coming to know God but the church is lacking in good pulpit ministry. Preachers usually rely on limited Chinese resources, which are not in their mother tongue. So the translated Annotated Bible is a very valuable resource for pastors and preachers. It will improve the quality of our sermons!”
One of the special guests at the thanksgiving service was Rev Bao Jiayuan, the former Associate General-Secretary of China Christian Council. He also welcomed the Annotated Bible saying that from his years of ministering amongst the Lisu Christians, he sees a need for better teaching and preaching of God’s Word. The Annotated Bible would come in handy for this purpose.
Rev Yexi, a member of the translation team added, “In the process of translating the Annotated Bible, we also made some corrections to the Lisu Bible and hence revised it. This helps the believers to have a more accurate translation of the Bible on top of having some explanatory notes.”
In closing, Rev Yu thanked UBS for providing not only Dr Yu Suee Yan as the translation consultant but also the financial support in this translation project so that the Lisu people can have the heavenly manna of God. “May the Lord continue to help the Lisu Church to be more anchored upon His Word and bear more fruits for Him!”
See photos of the Lisu Annotated Bible Thanksgiving Service here.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Angela Teo
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership