GANSU, China – Nestled in the Weinan district, is a small Catholic community that treasures God’s Word and loves reading it. In 2014, six members of this Catholic Church started a Bible Reading Group that gathered in different neighbouring villages from Monday to Thursday weekly in the evening to read the Bible, share and pray together. The sessions are open to all, including non-believers. Currently, they are reading the Gospel of Matthew, one chapter at a time.
Here are stories of how two Catholics experience transformation of their lives through reading the Bible.
Passing from Death to Life
Guo Jiangyun, 43, is the leader of this Bible Reading Group. She is a teacher by profession and has been with the group since its inception. Baptised four years ago, she especially enjoys reading the Bible and praying. She shared candidly about her gradual spiritual transformation after continued exposure to Scripture.
Guo used to be plagued by sorrow and bleakness in her life. Before her conversion, she was an introvert who suffered from an inferiority complex because both her mother and grandmother were mentally unsound. All their relatives shunned them, the talk being that insanity ran in their family.
As a result, Guo withdrew from social life and kept to herself. Even after marriage, she continued to be rather depressed and even entertained thoughts of suicide. The final straw was when she was diagnosed with a rather serious medical condition. She was at her wit’s end and utterly dejected. At the same time, horrifying nightmares of her home being filled with evil spirits plagued her every night.
An elderly Catholic friend had been accompanying her for hospital visits and thinking her life was ending soon, Guo told this friend that she wanted to get baptised. Immediately the district priest was contacted and the necessary arrangements made. This was really God’s way of ushering her into a changed life. “After my baptism, when I entered into life in faith, God’s love touched me in very real ways. I realised how good He is to me.” In grateful response to God’s grace in her life, Guo has been faithfully serving in the Bible Reading ministry since 2014.
“One year after my baptism, I started reading the Bible more regularly. Scripture did not change me overnight but I noticed I was desiring God’s Word and prayer more and more. In fact, if I did not read the Bible or pray for a day, I would feel like something is missing. The ability to love, forgive and show empathy towards others came slowly. I used to be a very proud person. As a schoolteacher, I did my job well and that made me very full of myself. But through the lenses of the Bible, I saw my own sinfulness. Coming face to face with my weaknesses humbled me. I realised I could only overcome them with divine help. Every Word I read has life and I understand now why the Bible teaches us to feed on His Word. It is really food for my soul. I am very moved each time I read the Scriptures. It is like passing from death into life”
He Sought for Me
Lu Fuhua, 51, who received baptism in 2005, and now a member of the Bible Reading Group, shared her testimony too: “Before coming to the Christian faith, I was always unhappy. Having two daughters and no sons made me feel inferior to others and I was miserable most of the time. Knowing my situation, a friend invited me to attend Mass.” Lu shared what she realised after that first encounter with God. “Through the Mass, I learnt that instead of people searching for God, He is searching for us! This is what makes the Christian faith so different from others.”
So Lu started to attend Mass, earnestly seeking God and God sent her signs of encouragement. For example, a priest introduced her to spiritual songs written by a Protestant Christian, Xiao Min, who only had Primary education. “I was encouraged by the way God used her. I too only had Primary education. Maybe this God will accept me too. Some time later, I invited the priest to our new home to have dinner and to conduct Mass.
After that experience and with the encouragement of other believers, Lu requested to be baptised. On the day of her baptism, she wept right through the Mass. “All my life I had felt wronged because of the discrimination my daughters and I received from a traditional Chinese society that values males more. It has made me miserable for so many years. But now I realised, Jesus has suffered even greater injustice. He did no wrong and yet was cruelly nailed to the cross.”
God’s Word was also her guiding light when Lu contracted cancer in 2012. The verse from Philippians 1:21, ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ became even more meaningful for her. Now she had to live out her faith by committing her life to God daily. Lu promised God then, “If you heal me, I will offer myself as a living sacrifice to you.” By God’s grace, through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she is now in remission.
The Bible has also helped her in her relationship with her husband. “I used to have a terrible temper. I will quarrel with my husband over the slightest matter. But now, when he gets angry, I pacify him and ask him to tell me about it and not be upset. This is how God’s Word has changed me! Now my husband is attending church regularly with me.”
For many years, the Catholic Church in China had been using the Catholic Bible in vertical layout format in traditional characters. This version is rather difficult for layman use as people were starting to read in horizontal layout in Simplified Chinese in the 1950s. In 2009, UBS converted the vertical to horizontal layout format in simplified Chinese as well as supported the printing and distribution of these new versions. This move has made Bible reading easier and encouraged more Catholics to engage in it, bringing about many testimonies of changed lives and invigorated spirits. With continued prayer and funding, more Catholics in various provinces can benefit from the reading of God’s Word.
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Cynthia Oh/UBS CP
2017 © United Bible Societies China Partnership