Henan Province: In one of the major cities in Henan, the 140,000 Christian residents of this city gather in 425 meeting points led by 9 ordained pastors, 27 elders and 1,100 lay preachers. Every year about 20 people from this city apply to enter the Henan Bible seminary but only half are accepted. Graduates of the seminary return to the churches and preach, thus providing more needed help to the over-worked pastors.
The main city church lies in the heart of a busy road. Every Sunday, church members come by bicycles, scooters, on foot or even by pushing a portable seat, like one old lady. There are so many bicycles and scooters every week that they can fill an entire section outside the church. As people enter the church they put money into one of two large blue collection boxes at the door. This is a common feature in most churches in China. There is also a welcome team to smile and greet people arriving at the church.
The church has 2,000 members, and today, about 1,600 people fill the church building. A large picture of a red cross stood tall in front of the pulpit, with some words written above. The service is also shown on TV monitors in different parts of the church and the audio can be heard all over the church compound.
Church Prayer Life
This is a very active church with activities every day. They have prayer meetings at 5.30am attended by 150 people. Prayer meetings are scheduled to be on Tuesdays, while there are services on Wednesdays and Fridays. There is even a praise and worship service every Saturday for those below 50 years old.
The pastoral team headed by Rev Wang places a strong emphasis on prayer life. There is a personal reason behind it which can be explained by Rev Wang’s own conversion testimony. Rev Wang embraced the faith in a dramatic story when he was healed from severe arthritis through the persistent prayers of the believers. The prayer ministry team consists of 60 members. At every of the two daily prayer timeslots, Mondays to Saturdays, there will always be 4 people on standby to pray for those in need. Prayer, particularly healing prayer, is the way that many people in China come to the faith. Prayer is important in the service, too, and people pray very loudly and passionately. The woman preacher who led the prayers at the service today is 42 year-old Ms Wang. The congregants respond in unison, very loudly and fervently.
Sunday Classes for Children
It is the very vibrant Sunday classes for children that caught our attention. There are at least 3 different children classes based on age groups. The children classes are overseen by Rev Lu, age 60, while the main teacher is Ms Liu, age 40, assisted by Ms He, age 43 and Ms Zhang, age 50.
The older children are taught separately in a room upstairs while the toddlers are in a smaller room, mostly with their grandmothers. They are sitting together singing songs. It was a joyful sight to see dedicated grandparents and parents teaching their young ones about God and joining in the singing of gospel songs!
The children in Ms Liu’s class are between the ages 6-10. They simply love to sing and dance. While Liu plays the piano, they sing from their hymnbooks and even do a dance with great enthusiasm. We saw the children’s delight when they opened and read to us the Pictorial Bible Stories. The Pictorial Bible Stories is a compilation of 100 Bible stories written in an English-Chinese format so as to encourage children in their learning of English as they read the Bible Stories. Copies of the Pictorial Bibles Stories sponsored by Henan CC/TSPM and the United Bible Societies were given to churches in the Henan district.
“Previously, we had to use the adult Bibles to find verses to copy out for the children to read. We had to craft out Bible stories from these verses on our own for the children. It is so much nicer to have the Pictorial Bible Stories and the children love them, as you can see,” Ms Liu told us. “We did not have the same Sunday school materials in the past. We had to translate for the kids from our own Bibles. As I am a Primary (or elementary) school teacher, it is easy for me to translate. Unfortunately not all Sunday school teachers have a teaching background hence we are very happy to be given these copies of the Pictorial Bible Stories. We use them every Sunday with the children.”
“I love being a Sunday school teacher because the children are so innocent and open to Christ. It’s wonderful too to see that many of the children bring their friends along to these classes. When I ask the children why they came they would say, ‘my parents took me’. It is so easy to talk about Jesus with the kids. We never had a negative reaction from their parents. When they are home, they talk to the children about Jesus too. Praise God!” exclaimed Ms Liu with great gusto.
Written by Ms Andrea Rhodes
Edited by Pamela Choo
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership