China (BFC/MNN) — It’s often during the “breaking of the bread” that you really get to know people.
Whatever the culture, sharing a meal is the time to linger, to listen, and swap stories. It’s where relationships are built.
Over the last year or so, Bibles For China has expanded their ministry scope to include relationships with the Church they’re helping in China. BFC President Wendell Rovenstine explains, “We want to fix things, but we don’t want to listen to what people’s needs are, where they hurt. We’re real anxious to let them know what we know, but seldom do we sit and listen to what they need.”
That lesson came during the most recent trip to China where the BFC delegation sat at a dinner table and shared a pizza with the Chinese church leaders. Rovenstine was touched because the Chinese leaders went out of their way to find American food for the meal. Then, he expressed his appreciation to one of the leaders for the work he was doing with the rural church in China.
The man’s response was humbling. With tears in his eyes, he told Rovenstine it was the first time a foreigner had praised what was being done right. It struck Rovenstine that a little encouragement from a friend went a long way in a vocation that can be extremely discouraging.
Then he examined the thought, “What makes a friend?” Investment and time.
Over most of its history, BFC came alongside the rural church in China and helped them with Bibles…but they rarely made a return visit. More recently, though, church leaders were asking for a little training, a little more time; and as BFC began spending that time, trust built. “Each time that we go back to an area, it’s kind of like you peel back another layer of an individual’s life,” notes Rovenstine.
Sometimes, that meant learning from each other and not worrying about the schedule. Pastors began sharing their hearts. In one case, a church leader shared a very personal story about challenge and growth in his life and ministry–a story Rovenstine would never have heard a few years back. He learned this: “‘Because I trust you, I’m willing to share and open up my heart to you.’ So the trust came by our willingness to linger and go back and spend time with those relationships.”
While listening and lingering, Rovenstine says the ministry team learned something else: “Sometimes, our Western mentality is that they ‘need’ us to help them do what they do…. [However] the answer for China exists in China.”
Many villages are becoming more Christian through the faithfulness and passion of those who are distributing His Word. BFC’s heart is to provide Scripture in the Bible and Scripture engagement for these believers. Hundreds of thousands of Bibles are making their way into the hands of Christians who know there are Bibles available, but they just can’t get to them. “We’ll continue to be back as long as we continue to see a need for Bibles. What is the need for Bibles here? We still need 270,000 Bibles to provide for the Christians that we know of that don’t have a Bible yet of their own.”
More than a hand-out, this new process of lingering and listening becomes a handshake–the embrace of the unity in Christ. As a result, Rovenstine shares that 2016 is going to be an exciting year. “We have six trips lined up for next year. There are trips to places that we’ve been, and we told them, ‘We’ll be back.’ It just increases the confidence they have in us and that we have in them.”
$5 gets a Bible printed and shipped in China. Sign up to go and help distribute God’s Word. Trip registration is open now. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself what God is doing in the rural parts of China, click here.