JIANGSU, China – For most people in the developed world, a large part of their childhood is usually made up of school days. Images of time spent in the classroom, talking, laughing and gathering with other children listening to the teacher can bring back fond memories for many.
However, back in the 1960s and 70s, not everyone had a chance to go to school in China. Xue Fengqin, now 54 years old, was one of them. Her mother suffered from mental illness and this meant that the responsibilities of taking care of her younger brother and working in the fields fell on Xue’s shoulders; as such she could not go to school.
Childhood memories for Xue were filled with doing household chores like washing and cooking, care-giving, and squeezing in some rest in between for herself. Being in a classroom with other children her age was not part of those memories.
As Xue grew up, she struggled with a sense of inferiority and low self-esteem. Being illiterate, she could only take up menial jobs like cleaning and washing. How inconvenient and frustrating it had been for her when she could not read road names and menus! Imagine her fear and anxiety when she could not read current news reports during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apart from the daily inconveniences, one of the greatest regrets for Xue was that when she became a Christian, she could not read and understand the Bible. It affected her spiritual growth as she was unable to complete reading a sentence, let alone understand the meaning behind it. She had joined a Bible reading group to learn to read God’s Word but was plagued with self-reproach. “Despite going through the chapter on my own before the session started, I still couldn’t read well so I ended up slowing down the whole group. I felt so lousy inside.”
But things changed when Xue started attending a Scripture Literacy class in the summer of 2022 organised by her church, Zhenjiang Gospel Church. She was overjoyed to be able to learn how to read and write using the Bible.
After all these years, her dream finally came true. She now has classmates around her age who are also learning together with her.
“Going to church for literacy classes is like attending school in my Father’s house. Heavenly Father is our teacher and He is teaching us how to read His Word! What incredible joy!”
Xue’s excitement is palpable. To Xue, attending literacy classes now is akin to that of a young child going back to school. “I can’t imagine I’m still given a chance to attend school. I want to learn to read and write so that I can read the Bible and share the gospel with others. I wouldn’t miss a class even if I need to take leave from my work!”
To help illiterate or semi-illiterate Chinese Christians read God’s Word, the United Bible Societies (UBS) supports Scripture Literacy classes run by the Churches in China. UBS support includes the free distribution of Chinese Bibles and a three-part textbook, which helps believers recognise at least 1,000 Chinese characters at the end of the class.
Would you pray for the many illiterate Chinese Christians who are learning to read and write through Scripture Literacy classes, that they may continue to grow in their faith and encounter God in the Bible as they “attend school in the Father’s house”?
Story: Cynthia Oh
Photos: UBS CP / Jared Wong
2023 ©UBS China Partnership