YUNNAN, China: Forty students donning their ethnic traditional costumes sang a welcome song for me, a visitor from a faraway land. I was touched by their warm hearts, not to mention their beautiful voices. This welcome reception made my grueling 1.5 hours drive, up and down mountainous terrain from Kunming city, worthwhile.
I was in Xun Dian County, tasked to visit and observe the execution of a White Yi language scripture literacy class supported by Yunnan CC/TSPM and the United Bible Societies. A total of 88 White Yi (also known as “Bai Yi”) ethnic students attended this inaugural scripture literacy class. My host, Elder Li Wanxing, the leader of the White Yi Bible translation team, met me at Kunming and brought me to a church at Xun Dian County where the class was conducted.
These 40 students serve as elders, deacons, preachers or choir leaders. There are a total of 88 churches and meeting points among the White Yi people group. The first known foreign missionary came about 100 years ago to reach out to the White Yi. Traditionally, the White Yi people reside in mountainous areas, dwelling among the Miao and Hui people groups. The official estimates on the number of White Yi Christians are about 20,000 to 30,000 out of a total of 52,000 White Yi, but unofficial records has it that up to 80% of the 52,000 are Christians.
My first interview was with Elder Pi Changzu, 46, a member of the White Yi Bible translation team. Elder Pi serves in a church with 150 members. There are 14 churches and meeting points in his village of 1500 Christians, each ranging from 50 to 300 people. He first came across the Bible at age 19 when he attended a Bible Study session. After he was baptized, he went back to his home town to share Christ with others. “I remembered in that year alone, about 50 to 60 people received Christ,” he added.
In Feb 2009, Elder Pi became a member of the White Yi Bible translation team. “My sincere thanks to the donors from the United Bible Societies for their support in the White Yi Bible translation work. My prayer now is for the successful completion of the Bible translation and that more White Yi people in my village would learn to read the Bible for themselves,” Elder Pi told us earnestly.
Story and Photos: Ng Hwee Hong
Edited: Pamela Choo
2014 © United Bible Societies China Partnership