JIANGSU, China – On the east of Sihong County, four hours’ drive from Nanjing, is Hongze Lake, the fourth largest fresh water lake in China. ‘Hong’ means flooding in Chinese and ‘Ze’, marshland, owing to incidents of flooding in ancient times and a vast area of wetland in the surrounding. A sea of pinkish lotus flowers and green leaves could be seen blanketing the lake during the blooming season.
A short distance away (about 10 minutes’ drive on mud road from the lake) is a fishing village where Life Spring Church is located and Scripture Literacy classes have been launched recently. On the blackboard are phrases like “Lesson Seven”, “son and daughter-in-law”, “believe in Jesus”, “we love one another”, reflecting what the participants are learning that day.
Life Spring Church serves about 500-600 believers who are mostly working as fishermen and shellfish farmers. Elder Ma Cuihong (picture above), 47, overseer of the church as well as the literacy class teacher shared, “Due to the poor economic conditions especially in the past, about two-thirds of the believers here are illiterate or semi-literate. So there is a great need for Scripture literacy classes to help the believers read God’s Word.”
One of them is Duan Guanghua, 72, a retiree, who had only three years of school as a child. He missed the opportunity again when the Chinese government promoted literacy in the villages after the Cultural Revolution. As life was difficult, he was busy working to support the family and was unable to attend those classes.
“Schooling in the past was not the priority and even my children did not go to school, which makes going about our daily life difficult. Simple tasks, like getting from place to place, are made harder. Scripture Literacy classes are good and necessary as they teach us how to read God’s word as well as words we use daily. I know a few simple words but whenever I come across words in the Bible I do not know, I feel discouraged from continuing on. Now I am so happy I am able to learn more words through the class,” said Duan.
For Those Below 60s Too
The church is seeing not only elderly sixties and above coming for such classes, they are also having believers below sixty turning up. Rev Zhao Huijuan, Jiangsu CC/ TSPM General Secretary said, “In our visits and survey, we were surprised to learn that there is indeed another group, those in their 40s and 50s who would also benefit from Scripture Literacy classes. Hence, enrollment has tripled from 50 to 150 participants.”
One of the younger participants is Duan Yujing, 53. “For people who are illiterate like us, we are not able to even finish reading a verse from the Bible, let alone trying to understand its contents. So the literacy class is like a banquet for us, to feast on God’s Word by learning to read and write. Our spiritual life is greatly nourished and enriched as a result. We thank UBS for preparing such a sumptuous feast for us!”
Many of the illiterate believers desire to draw close to God by reading His Word but they are often discouraged by the many words they do not know. Liu Guanxian, 58, a crab farmer, relishes at the opportunity to learn how to read and write God’s Word. Coming from a big family, Liu did not have a chance to go to school. After knowing the Lord a few years ago, Liu began learning to pray and sing hymns at the meeting point where he and other believers gather, but they stop short of reading the Bible, as they are illiterate.
“It used to be impossible for us to read the Bible on our own. With the class, thanks to the donation of UBS, we are able to read and understand the Bible better! Bible reading is important as it will enable believers to resist the assaults of the evil one. Because we have a better knowledge of the Word of God, we experience more peace and joy. Now, I am so glad to be able to make simple notes during sermons and review it at home after the service!”
On the walls of the church sanctuary is a banner that reads, “May the Fountain of Life Flow Unceasingly”. Indeed, may Word of Life continue to flow in Hongze Lake and beyond.
Please pray for additional funding to run more Scripture Literacy classes in response to the increased in demand and need.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Angela Teo
Photos: UBS CP
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership