HUNAN, China – “It came like the spring rain and it is a symbol of God’s love to me,” shared He Yueling, 35, in the cool of the late winter breeze at the Hunan Bible School, referring to the set of Bible tools she had received from the United Bible Societies (UBS).
“I am very thankful to the brothers and sisters in Christ who had donated these books to us. These are not merely books but a life impartation and a call to motivate us to go deeper into God’s Word,” added Liu Hongxiang, 45.
He and Liu are first year students enrolled on a three-year Bible Studies program at Hunan Bible School. Together with 90 other students, they each received a Bible tools package given by UBS this year. The package includes a Concordance, a Study Bible, a Commentary and a Topical Analysis of the Bible.Their total cost amounts to about RMB 250 (USD 40), a price most students from a lower income background would find difficulty paying.
According to the Principal of the school, Rev Chen Zi, who also serves as Hunan CC/ TSPM Chairman, the students could only afford to pay for their accommodation and meals. “Tuition fees, books and other resources come from the sacrificial giving of Christians. We do not want to deny these students of the chance to study and be equipped just because they cannot afford the fees.”
Take Zhang Renhua and Luo Jinrou for example. Zhang, 45, served as a county preacher for 12 years before enrolling into the school. He comes from a village in Zhangjiajie, and worked as a truck driver to support his family of four. Luo, 49, farmed to support his family of seven, including his mother who suffers from a mental illness, while ministering to his 200-strong congregation at a village in Huaihua.
“On the same day when my application to the Bible school was accepted, my brother-in-law recommended me a job which promised a good pay. It was very tempting but I remembered how the Lord has called me into ministry and declined the offer,” recalled Zhang, illustrating the reality of financial challenges faced by many preachers who do not have a stable income.
“My family economic condition would not allow me to buy these resources. So I am very grateful to the donors. These Bible tools helped to answer some questions I have, especially those relating to Old Testament prophesies,” Luo shared.
According to these students, the Bible tools have become an indispensable part of their personal learning and service. “I used to be puzzled by Paul’s teaching of salvation by Grace and James’ teaching on works. After doing research using these Bible tools, I realized now that they are not contradictory,” remarked Xu Xueyi, 44, who serves in a church in Yueyang city.
“As my knowledge of the Bible is limited, I use the topical analysis to help me in sermon preparation,” added Xianghui, 30, who returns to her village church each summer break to minister to a congregation of 30 members.
The importance of having well-equipped preachers and pastors, able to handle God’s Word carefully could not be overstated, especially with the influence of cults in China. “I’ve come across people from both the Mentuhui (The Disciples) and Dongfang Shandian (Far Eastern Lightning) in my county. It is important that pastors preach the right teaching so that believers can handle the influences of these cults. We know the threat is there and the need for qualified pastors,” commented Zhang.
“There is also a dire need for well-qualified pastors and preachers to minister to the believers and manage the church where I come from,” shared Zhao Fei, who comes from a congregation of 1800 in Zhangjiajie.
With the exponential growth of Christianity in China in recent decades, there continues to be a need to equip pastors and preachers who often come from not so well-to-do family background.
May the Lord raise up more laborers for China!
Story and Photos: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Pamela Choo
2014 © United Bible Societies China Partnership