We Couldn’t Even Afford to Die!

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Li Jiaxing (L) and another Gan Yi Bible Translator

YUNNAN, China – Growing up in mountainous Yunnan, Li Jiaxing, saw his own ethnic tribe people having to perform costly ceremonial rites whenever there was a wedding or funeral in the village.

“Huge amount of money is spent on buying goats, pigs and cows which are slaughtered to host the villagers who have come to ‘send the deceased off’. They will be set back by 30,000RMB (about USD4,700). This is 2-3 times more than an average year’s income of a farmer!” shared Li. “People couldn’t even afford to die!”

At the same time, Li was observing another group of people in his village – the Christians. They did not have lavish rites to conduct and were friendly and loving people who did not smoke, drink or get into fights even though they are of the same Yi ethnic tribe.

At age 16, he was so touched by a group of elderly believers who shared from the Bible with him that he decided to become a Christian. His parents came to faith two years later.

Li recalled, “The elderly Christians shared with me about the blessings of being a Christian and the hope of eternal life. It got me very drawn to the teachings of the Bible.” 

To learn more, Li enrolled himself in a Bible training class in his county and subsequently went on to do his seminary studies at Yunnan Theological Seminary where his relationship with God grew and deepened.

Today, Li is 30 and serves as a Gan Yi Bible Translator, a project supported by UBS. He has the same two groups of people in his mind – the elderly believers and the non-believers.

“What motivated me to be involved in Bible translation is so that elderly Christians can have a chance to read the Bible in their own language and hear God’s Word read and preached in their own tongue.”

In the rural areas in China, the literacy rate is low and most elderly believers cannot read Chinese, and hence have no access to God’s Word. Therefore, there is a pressing need to translate the Bible into the Gan Yi language.

Another group of people on Li’s heart are the non-believers in his tribe. “I believe God’s Word has the power to shape and influence the entire Yi tribe people, and for generations and generations to come.”

Gan Yi Church Choir in Yunnan

In the past, due to animistic practices, people could not afford to die. Li hopes that now with the Bible being translated into the Yi language, many more Yi people would come to receive the hope of eternal life.

“This is the most meaningful work I’ve ever done. It is a great honour,” says Li.  

Story: Cynthia Oh
Based on interview and notes by Zhang.
Edited: Angela Teo 
2019 © United Bible Societies China Partnership