No Longer Word Blind

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CHONGQING, China – “The more I learn to read the Bible, the more faith increases in me!” exclaimed Yin Suzhen (right), 75, who has been a Christian for 10 years but has only learned to read recently. Yin is from Dianjiang County; northeast of Chongqing, a 90-min drive from the municipal city center. The bespectacled elderly lady is one of the 40 participants of the Scripture Literacy classes held at Dianjiang Church last year.

Home to the beautiful peony flowers, Dianjiang County has a population of nearly a million out of which about 7000 are believers. Rev Tan Xiaoping, Dianjiang CC/TSPM Chairman, who has been serving in the Dianjiang Church for the past 23 years, said, “At least one fifth of the believers here are illiterate. As conditions were very poor in the past, most of the elderly believers did not have a chance to attend school when they were young. There was not enough to fill people’s stomach, let alone go to school. So we are very thankful for the literacy classes to help the believers to read God’s Word.”

Yang Qinggu, 66, another participant of the Scripture Literacy class shared, “Before attending the class, I used to feel anxious during service not knowing how to turn to the Bible passages and so I cannot follow the sermon well. I lagged behind the others who can read. I can’t follow the rest. Now I am very happy that I can read and turn to the right Bible passage.” A corn and potato farmer most of her life, Yang, like many of her peers, did not attend school when she was young.

Teachers and participants of the Scripture literacy class. First row (L-R): Elder Cao Zengqiong (teacher), Yang Qinggu, Gou Yubi , Yin Suzheng. Second row (L-R): Rev Tan Xiaoping (teacher) and Liao Tingrong. Photo: UBS/ Cynthia Oh

At the end of the Scripture Literacy class, participants will have completed three booklets and be able to recognise 1000 Chinese characters. To demonstrate their ability to read, both Yang and Yin diligently read from the Gospel of Mark 1 and 1 Corinthians 13 with much joy and smiles on their faces. Although they stumbled upon some words, they were glad to be able to recognise most of the words in the passages. “Thank you for your kind help and support that has enabled us to read God’s Word. From being illiterate to being able to read the Bible, and in the process to have our faith strengthened, we are very grateful.”

Besides reading the Scriptures, participants also discovered that they could understand their surroundings better. “After attending the class, I could slowly recognise the words on signboards, street names and flyers I received from people. I am so happy that I am no longer ‘word blind’ (illiterate in Chinese),” shared Liao Tingrong, 76, a retired rice farmer.

Rev Li Dajun, Chongqing CC/ TSPM Vice Chairman, shared on the importance of Scripture Literacy classes, “Firstly, illiterate elderly Christians can become literate and can interact more meaningfully with their environment. Secondly, their faith is strengthened through reading, listening and writing Scripture. Thirdly, they are able to integrate with the rest of the church during service. And last but not least, it is a defence against the influence of cult groups. So we are really thankful for the support of UBS in making the classes possible and look forward to having more classes.”

Indeed Dianjiang Church has been seeing growth these past few years and is expecting a greater need for such classes. “The Lord has been adding new believers to our church. In fact, we are in the midst of awaiting permission to start another four new meeting points in various parts of the county,” shared Rev Tan who also teaches at the Scripture Literacy class. “When we see the deepening of the faith in the participants as they attend the class, we know that what we reap is much more than what we have sown. The effort is definitely worth it.”

Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Angela Teo
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership