Bible and Medical Van for China’s Minority People

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Bible Medic van up a muddy road to a Miao village church.

Up and up, the van pushed itself onwards, on a narrow, windy mud-path. It has been traveling on the road for more than an hour since leaving Kunming City, and then up a muddy mountainous trek for another 1 hour before arriving at its final destination –Gospel Church, a remote Miao (ethnic group) village church at Lu Feng County in Yunnan Province.

This was no ordinary van in China. This was a Bible Medical van, the fourth Bible Medical van donated by United Bible Societies through China Christian Council/TSPM, carrying onboard Bibles for the ethnic minorities living in rural parts of China.  The van was also equipped with basic medical equipment for the volunteer doctors travelling with the van to carry out medical check-up and tests for the villagers.

This was also Yunnan’s first Bible Medical van, the first of its kind to cater to the ethnic minority groups in China. Yunnan Province is home to 25 of China’s 55 officially recognized minority groups, with an ethnic population of over 15 million, making it the second largest ethnic-inhabited province in China.  85% of the Christians in Yunnan are from the ethnic minority groups.

The majority of China’s ethnic minorities reside in rural remote parts of the country. Although there are doctors serving these rural communities, the reach of medical care remains very limited and inadequate.  Most of rural villagers, especially those living in mountainous and other remote areas, find it inconvenient as well as barely affordable to visit clinics or consult with doctors. That is why a Bible Medical van would bring the much needed basic medical care to the rural villagers.

As the Bible Medical van come to a complete stop, guests from the United Bible Societies were greeted by close to 80 Miao villagers, dressed in their traditional costumes, singing their hearts out as they lined up a pathway from gate to the church entrance.

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Clockwise fr left:Mr Kua, Archbishop Chew and 2 Miao women posing with van.

Today was December 11, 2010 — the launch of the Yunnan Bible Medical van, one of the ten that the National Committee of Three Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China/China Christian Council and UBS  planned to roll out in phases to different provinces in China. This launch was officiated by the Anglican Primate of Southeast Asia and Vice President of UBS, Archbishop John Chew.

During the ceremony, Archbishop Chew who thanked Yunnan Religious Bureau Affairs and CCC/TSPM for the privilege to be part of this launch also encouraged the Church with a scriptural passage from Luke 15: 3-7 (“Parable of the Lost Sheep”). He said that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who would not hesitate to go out in search for the one lost sheep in the mountains. He then challenged the Church to be a Good Shepherd like Jesus.  Archbishop believes that the Bible Medical van can be used by the Church as an effective means for reaching the lost in Yunnan.

In his speech at the launch, Mr Kua Wee Seng, UBS China Partnership Coordinator, quoted from Psalm 121: 1 (“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”) He said, “Help ultimately comes from God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Today the Bible Medical van is a timely help from God, a gift and a blessing from God. Through the van, we hope to be able to deliver Bible to you and to meet your spiritual needs.  At the same time, we hope this program will also help meet your health needs through the doctors and medical tests. We pray that the van will be used by the Lord to bring His Word and medical care to people throughout Yunnan.”

Mr Kua expressed gratitude to the Bible Societies’ donors who provided the van and the medical equipment, to the Chinese authorities for their support, and to the Chinese Church for running the program.

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Villagers queuing up for their ultrasound scans.

Finally after the official ceremony was over, the Miao villagers looked forward to the much anticipated giving out of 328 Bibles and medical check-up. Six doctors conducted the medical screening and scans with the donated blood pressure kits, ECG machine, an ultrasound scanner and a blood-sugar test apparatus to about 100 adults and 40 children. For most of the ethnic villagers, it was the first time they have benefited from a free medical check-up and they were very grateful for this.

The Yunnan Bible Medical van has since run three rounds traveling to a different village every month.  Yunnan Christian Council/TSPM hopes to send the van to Yingjiang County, where a 5.8 Richter scale earthquake struck on 10 March 2011, to provide medical help.

Written by Jock Foo and Pamela Choo
Photos taken by Jock Foo
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership

This story relates to Project No: 71241