Chinese farmers need more Bibles to meet church growth

120 believers baptised in China’s Henan Province

Hou Gengxian, a 53-year-old farmer, is a volunteer elder at Sunyingxiang Church in Tongxu County, in China’s Henan Province. He has been serving the congregation for 20 years, ever since his graduation from Henan Bible School. In that time, he has seen the congregation grow to about 500. Last year, more than 120 believers, mostly in their 50s, were baptised, leading to a great need for many more Bibles.

“We have many new baptised members and we can’t afford to buy more Bibles,” Elder Hou explains. “There are also seekers who would like a Bible, so they can read God’s word for themselves.

“Some of our Bibles are more than 20 years old and need to be replaced.”

The vast Henan Province encompasses three capital cities of ancient China – Luoyang, Kaifeng and Anyang – and is historically considered the cradle of Chinese civilisation. A major commercial and industrial base, Henan is home to more than 95 million people including an estimated five million Christians. However, most of the believers are rural poor who can only afford subsidised Bibles. About half of rural believers in some parts of Henan still do not have their own Bible and there is a tremendous unmet spiritual hunger.

In Tongxu County, there are about 30,000 Christians worshipping in 67 churches which are pastored by two elders and 200 lay preachers.

Last year, more than 120 believers, mostly in their 50s, were baptised, leading to a great need for many more Bibles.

When United Bible Societies made a Bible distribution trip to Tongxu County last year, Zhang Xiufu, a member of Wulipu Church, came to the event seeking a new Bible with bigger print. The 66-year-old farmer’s current Bible was 20 years old and quite tattered, so he was very happy to receive a new copy. The word of God is very important to Zhang. His favourite verse in John 3:16 as it talks about God’s love and grace.

In most of the churches in this district, the majority of members are elderly so the most sought-after Bibles are larger-print versions. More than half of these older believers do not own their own Bibles, either because they can’t afford one or can’t read.

Those who can read and write, but don’t own a Bible, copy Scriptures from the weekend service and bring them home to read.

Even though the Chinese economy has grown tremendously in recent years, the income gap between city and rural dwellers is huge. In Tongxu County, residents are mainly farmers who grow potatoes and carrots for sale. As competition increases, it becomes increasingly difficult for these small-scale farmers to sustain themselves.

The Bible Society Australia is providing free Bibles for these needy regions, making it possible for churches to give Bibles to believers for spiritual growth as well as to seekers as a means of community outreach.

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