Old Church, New Life

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Sister Meng (in white top), 2nd row, extreme left, and the parishioners

SICHUAN, China – Southwest of Sichuan Province is Leshan, a city located at the confluence of three rivers; well known for its historical and cultural heritage. Popular among tourists are the scenic and famed sites of Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha, both of which are in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Leshan City is also where Sister Meng, a Catholic nun from Hebei Province, calls home. In fact, home for her is an old rustic light blue courtyard house (四合院) adjacent to the church she serves. The church, situated at the end of an alley in a small village named Longchi (龙池,Dragon’s Lake), is about 2 hours’ drive from the city.

Sanctuary of the church – still intact after more than a century.

Remembering the Work of Past Missionaries
“Early missionaries serving in the village had built the church together with the courtyard house more than a century ago. And by God’s grace, both are still intact and standing strong today. The missionaries even established a school and an orphanage here but the buildings are no longer around,” Sister Meng said.

Today, two of the rooms in the courtyard house serve as the church’s activity hall while Sister Meng lives in the third. In the middle of the courtyard is a quaint garden alive with a variety of shrubs, plants and a small pond with fishes.

“However, because of the dire lack of priests and nuns in China, this church did not have a permanent priest or nun and was not able to sustain itself in the past few years.” Sister Meng shared. Thanks be to God, things began to change when Sister Meng was assigned to serve there in May 2016. She began making home visits to believers’ households in the village and encouraged them to return to church.

Parishioners gathering for Bible Reading.

Continuing the Legacy
“In the 30s and 40s, the parish used to see 500-600 believers coming for Mass, now I’ve only been able to encourage about 50 to come,” shared Sister Meng, who is in her forties. Besides attending Masses, the believers also come to church for fellowship when they will have a time of sharing, singing, dancing and Bible reading every evening.

“I believe strongly that the Word of God is very important in the lives of believers,” shared Sister Meng, who has read through the Bible seven times. “Coming together for fellowship and Bible reading is therefore important as it bonds us as a community.”

Jing Wei is excited about her baptism this Christmas.

One such participant is Jing Wei, 34, who came from Hebei Province 12 years ago and married a Catholic from Longci village. She has since learned more about the Christian faith from Sister Meng who comes from the same province as her. “Bible reading sessions have also helped me a lot. Things are livelier now with our singing and dancing sessions. I look forward to my baptism as well as my two sons’ baptism this Christmas!” shared Jing whose husband works as a vegetable seller.

Besides the elderly and adult believers, Sister Meng is also helping the youths. “The young now are inundated by worldly influences. I am in the process of organizing a Bible training class for them to anchor them in the faith and prepare them to face the world.”

Need for Bibles
Since 1994, United Bible Societies has been funding the Bible paper for Studium Biblicum Version (SBV) Bible. First appearing in traditional Chinese characters in vertical layout format in the 90s, it was later updated by UBS to the simplified Chinese characters in horizontal layout format and published in 2009. Today, UBS continues to support the publication and distribution of 50,000 – 100,000 copies of Bible and New Testament annually for the Catholic Church in China. According to China Catholic Patriotic Association, there are 6 million Catholics in China today. With Catholicism growing in China at an average of 100,000 baptisms per year, there is still a great need for Bibles among the Catholics.

“In Longchi village, we need Bibles both for the adults as well as youths. Majority of the believers here are farmers. From my estimate, only one out of five believers here has a Bible. The need for Bible is great here. Please remember us!” shared Sister Meng.

If you want to give towards Bibles and New Testaments for the Catholics in China, please contact us at [email protected] Thank you!

 

Story: Cynthia Oh
Edited: Angela Teo
Photo:  Cynthia Oh/ UBS CP
2017 © United Bible Societies China Partnership