HENAN, China — Pastor Jiao Xuewen, a cheerful and gregarious young man in his thirties, hails from the city of Zhoukou in Henan Province. Despite his age, he has already accumulated nine years of church service experience under his belt before pursuing his Masters of Divinity degree at Singapore’s Trinity Theological College (TTC) in 2013. As a young pastor, he had assisted UBS in Bible distribution trips to Henan province and was assigned by the provincial Christian Council/ Three Self Patriotic Movement (CC/ TSPM) to start Bible Literacy classes to complement these Bible distribution projects. It may surprise some then that he was not always fervent about the teaching and sharing of God’s Word. (Photo: Rev Jiao (right) presenting a hand copied Bible by Zhoukou believers to UBS CP staff Jock Foo)
Dedicated for Christian Service from Birth
Pastor Jiao’s mother was the first in the family to convert to Christianity. She was a founding pioneer of their church situated in the Luyi district, one of the earliest outreach posts of the China Inland Missions. In the village where he came from, sons were favoured over daughters. Before he was even conceived, his mother had prayed to God to bless her with a son and if He did, she would dedicate him to full-time Christian service. After Jiao’s birth, his mother was determined to keep her promise.
‘Pushed and Shoved’ Into Bible School
So, despite Jiao having done well in the provincial high school examinations and being one of the only two candidates who made it into a reputable senior high school, she insisted that he pursue theological training and serve in vocational Christian work.
The young man was very reluctant. However, his mother and a church elder warned him that insisting on having his own way would land him up with God’s punishment for his disobedience.
Fearing such divine retribution, Jiao dragged his feet into Bible School. Because he had not experienced spiritual regeneration, he was a pre-believer in a Christian environment, struggling and rebelling against the establishment. His first year there was spent arguing with peers and teachers about the existence of God. This led the school to contemplate expelling him for the reason that he did not embrace the Christian faith. This suited Jiao’s wishes because he too was entertaining the thought of leaving Bible School.
God’s Grace to a Wayward Child
Nevertheless, because of all that his mother and church elder had told him, a lingering hesitation plagued him. Would he be able to bear it if God really punished him?
With that fear at the back of his mind, he prayed to God saying, “If it is Your will for me to stay on, send someone to persuade me not to go. If you do, I will believe You are really there and I will continue my studies.”
True enough, his teacher asked to see him and encouraged him to stay on. In this way, God convinced Jiao that He not only existed, He also listened to prayers. After that encounter, Jiao’s attitude towards faith and God took a turn for the better. He became an honest seeker who eventually accepted the Saviour into his heart. After three years in Bible School, he went on to Zhongnan Seminary to pursue a four-year Bachelor Degree in Divinity.
Influence of the Bible in his spiritual life
Even as a pre-believer, he seemed to have the gift of preaching. He felt proud of himself that without having to read the Bible, he could still preach an impromptu sermon. In his youthful arrogance, he thought he could get through life without God’s Word.
Now, having come to repentance and faith in Christ, he was humbled by a realisation of his past misconceptions. Put right by God, he now read his Bible in earnest. At the encouragement of his Bible School teacher, he began to memorise Scripture as well. Starting with Romans, then 1 Corinthians and the Psalms, he systematically committed verses from these Bible passages to memory.
God used such spiritually formative experiences from his younger days to shape his church ministry later in life. During his early involvement with UBS work, he was always moved by the vast needs of his people for Bibles and Bible knowledge. For example, at an event where there were 500 Bibles to be distributed, 2000 turned up, many of whom were elderly and had travelled a long way. Today, more believers have their own copy of the Bible but the challenge is now to promote Biblical literacy. At the initiative of the provincial CC/TSPM, with the support of UBS, many of the churches and preaching points in Henan province now have Bible literacy classes. These classes have helped many believers build a firmer, surer faith foundation based on God’s Word.
Pastor Jiao graduated from TTC in May 2014 and has since returned to his church ministry in Zhoukou, Henan. May God use this young pastor to build up the foundation of Biblical literacy in Chinese believers of all ages.
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: UBS CP
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership