CHONGQING, China – Madam Chen Lianzhen woke up early to head for church early that morning even though it was not a Sunday. It was because of a special event going on in church that day – she and 60 others will be attending their first Scripture Literacy class!
A sense of anticipation saturated the air as the booklets for the class were distributed. Teacher Zhang Jianhua, who is also a preacher at the church, began teaching the class the first lesson which was on God’s love. The sanctuary was then filled with resounding echoes as the whole class recited after her – “God loves me; God loves you; God loves him; God loves us.”
The Scripture Literacy class was held at Mengen Church in Baiyang, a town in Wan Zhou District, northeast of Chongqing. Mengen Church is situated at the upper reaches of the famed Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. “Baiyang”, a term which literally means ‘white sheep’ in Chinese, is a town with about 50,000 people, many of whom are the very old and young as most able-bodied adults have moved to the cities to find work.
According to Zhang Jianhua, 44, the only preacher at Baiyang town, the church serves about 400 believers. 70% of the church members are illiterate who had never dreamed that they would be given a chance to learn to read and write.
Like many others of her generation, Madam Chen did not have any formal education. “I was the eldest child in my family and being a female that meant that the chances of me going to school is zero!” remarked Madam Chen, 70, a retired rice farmer who was a part-time time keeper for her village in her younger days. “I am extremely happy to be given a chance to learn how to read and write at this age.”
Preacher Zhang Jianhua shared, “We are grateful for the support of the United Bible Societies in setting up the literacy class. The people here do not earn much. They are poor subsistence farmers who plant corn, carrots, potatoes, rice and rapeseed. Some of the church members who stay further away from church would walk four hours to get here, for spending 6 RMB (or 1 USD) on bus fare is a luxury for them.”
Importance of Learning to Read the Bible
Zhou Yinian, 66, who has been a believer for 18 years shared, “My spiritual disciplines used to be praying and listening to sermons. Now I can also learn to read the Bible. It is important to read the Bible because it is the Word of God and I want to put His Word in my heart.”
Madam Chen added, “Learning to read the Bible is important because the Bible teaches us to lay down our burdens and worries at the feet of God. We know that we have God’s presence with us, therefore we can depend on Him and trust in Him.”
Chen Guangju, 73, another student at the literacy class said, “God’s word is the lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path. If I do not learn to read God’s word, I would not know the right moral standard to follow. I would be lost. Scripture literacy is important for us who had never been to school before.”
Over the next three months, these 60 over participants will be learning 1000 new characters that would enable them to read a passage from the Bible with relative ease.
We pray for both students and teacher that they would have a blessed time of learning and cherishing God’s Word!
See photos of the Scripture Literacy Class here.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Edit: Pamela Choo
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership