SHANDONG, CHINA — Li Wenlan, 67 years old, is the leader of a church in Tengzhou city. She began her journey as a Christian in 1986, at a time when her health was threatened by a serious condition. Then, there were only 20 Christians in the church in Tengzhou city.
As most of the believers were illiterate, it fell to Li, who was the most educated amongst them, to read the Bible to the group. Li naturally felt nervous about reading. After all, she had not even completed her secondary education but she pressed on despite her anxiety because she also felt a sense of peace from God.
So, Li started to read to her friends. To better equip herself and to shepherd the church, she attended Bible training classes in Tengzhou city as well as the Shandong Theological Seminary.
“To be a good shepherd, I must lead the sheep to quiet waters, to feed them, to care for them and protect them… I want to take responsibility to care for their souls.” Not surprisingly, John 10:11 is Li’s favourite verse: ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’
In the early days, the room where the group of 20 believers met could only fit 10 people. Not only was the space limited but when it rained, people got drenched. Li started to dream of building a bigger and better space in 1986 and by 1990, they realised their dream.
In the 1990s, the group of believers grew to a size of about 50. As the leader of the church, Li has the responsibility of not only looking after the believers but also ensuring that there were sufficient financial resources. She herself took the lead in giving her own money to the Lord for the church building project. Her message to her fellow believers: “Everything we have belongs to God.” When people saw how Li gave despite her own limitations, they also started offering up their own money.
For the sake of building the church, Li, her husband and their four daughters had to live frugally. “Whether it was my family’s financial difficulties or the challenges of building the church, God always gave me the confidence so I could carry through those tough times.”
Presently, there are more than 100 worshippers weekly, but when the local believers return from their work places in the cities during the Spring Festival, another 100 would be added to the church attendance.
While much has been done, there is still plenty of work ahead. “I know I have not done enough, I still need to work hard.”
Story: Lydia Zhang and Jenise Lee
2021 ©United Bible Societies China Partnership