The arrival of a new order
When the ‘80s arrived, winds of change adjusted the political climate and opened the country to the outside world through socio-economic reforms. Churches were being reopened in succession. “Some days, a few churches would reopen at the same time,” Rev Bao mused. Christian leaders like Bishop K.H. Ting began to look for pastors and theological students they had known in the past to lead and shepherd the newly reopened churches. It was also at this time that the Chinese Church began her partnership with organizations like UBS that began with Bible printing and distribution and then subsequently in other Scripture programs as well.
(Photo: Rev Bao in his CCC Office at Nanjing, taken about 15 years ago)
However, Rev Bao was not immediately available. Because he spoke good English, he was recruited by the national tour agency as a tour guide in 1980 and was later assigned to work in Kuwait from 1984-1986 as a Chinese engineer’s personal interpreter. These jobs paid well. “It was God’s way of helping me build a financial base for my future Christian service,” he reflected with hindsight.
God’s renewed calling
In 1986, Dr Han Wenzao invited him to join the CCC/TSPM Nanjing office. “I remembered how I had been dedicated to God for service from young, how He had unexpectedly given me theological training in my youth and the calling was clear. I had to use my life to serve Him!” Rev Bao said with conviction.
When he tendered his resignation, his employers were not pleased at all. “They asked me what I was unhappy about since they paid me a good salary and treated me so well!” Rev. Bao said with a laugh. But his heart was set, his mind made up. Which Scripture verse was it that moved him to this radical decision? “Of course it’s that statement Paul made in Acts about obeying the heavenly vision,” he declared, referring to Paul’s words in Acts 26:19.
Part of history making in China’s Church
It was in this unprecedented period of China’s Church history that Rev. Bao made his contributions. He began work in the CCC/TSPM Nanjing office in 1986, and was instrumental in many aspects of the Chinese Church’s work from Bible production and distribution to training for clergy and laity to rural and ethnic minority church ministry.
Rev Bao played a major role in the reformatting of the Chinese Bible, overseeing the conversion of the conventional vertical reading layout in traditional Chinese characters to the modern horizontal layout in simplified characters. The opening of Amity Printing Press in 1987 for the production of these new Chinese Bibles was an exciting time for Chinese believers and the beginning of a close working partnership between UBS and the CCC/TSPM.
“Bibles were very scarce then, so the demand was great,” Rev. Bao recalled. “Believers would go to great lengths to obtain one. For example, they’d sell their farm produce instead of keeping them for self-consumption to earn money or if they fell ill, they won’t see a doctor so that they can save the money. All these sacrifices were just so that they could buy their own Bible. One very moving phenomenon was that many illiterate believers became literate through reading the Bible. In the process of memorizing Scripture and matching the words to the actual passage in the Bible, they learnt to read.”
The memory of how Bible verses helped him during the Cultural Revolution inspired him to design a Scripture calendar that helped believers learn Scripture everyday. The calendar, which had two verses for each day, was designed in traditional style with pages that had to be torn off daily. “It was very popular and some believers could not bear to tear off the pages. Having a Scripture calendar at home means God’s Word is displayed prominently in the home so every member can easily learn it and any visitor will know this is a Christian family.” Rev. Bao explained.
In 2004, Rev. Bao was put in charge of the China Bible Ministry Exhibition, which eventually travelled to various parts of America in 2006 and 2011. Accompanying the exhibition then as the Associate General Secretary of CCC/TSPM, he became the good-will ambassador who helped bridge American and Chinese Christians.
An Example for All
God has used Rev. Bao Jiayuan to accomplish several important projects, advancing the development of the Church in China and Bible ministry because he chose to be obedient to the heavenly vision he had received. Now, one of his heart’s burdens is for the training and equipping of poor preachers in the provinces, especially in Yunnan Province, where many of the ethnic minority groups are found. Thus far, he has organized and given several trainings amongst the West Lisu pastors and lay preachers. One of the recent trainings supported by UBS, at Fugong County, Yunnan Province, saw more than 700 preachers and lay leaders attending.
Rev Bao’s lifetime spans the history of the Church in China over the past seven decades. He has witnessed the ebb and flow of Christianity in China; first the Church’s decline in the ‘50s, then the suppression in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and finally her explosive growth since the early ‘80s. God has used this humble and faithful servant to contribute significantly to the growth and ministry of the Church in China, especially in Bible ministry and partnership with the UBS. His story is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and the power of His Word! May we all be inspired to obedient servanthood so that like Rev. Bao, we too will be found faithful to our call.
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Jared Wong /UBS CP
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership