China (MNN) — In early April, the origin of most COVID-19 cases ended its lockdown. Wuhan’s reopening marks the beginning of a move back to normalcy for most of China, but some experts suggest celebration would be premature. The northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, for example, is now seeing its own outbreak.
Kurt Rovenstine of Bibles for China says the future is difficult to predict. “I wish we all had a crystal ball and could tell when this was going to end and how we could get on top of things,” he says.
“The flattening of the curve… may not be as flat as we thought, [and] we’ve heard some of those things about continued outbreaks and new hot spots over there in China where the virus is again, starting to move.”
What’s more, many local Christians are not returning to the same China they thought they knew. Rovenstine reports that their organization has regular conversations about what the future of Scripture in China might look like as sinicization efforts increase. Among other things, they monitor Scripture printed in China for any changes or adaptations that may have been implemented.
So where does that leave organizations like Bibles for China? Although distribution has been difficult, Bibles for China still has Bibles ready for when travel restrictions lift. They’re in regular conversation with local leaders and government officials to ensure their efforts are both legal and effective.
“We work with government officials; they know we’re there and what we do,” Rovenstine says. “We have letters of permission for those scriptures to be distributed in the areas in which we work… we’re not smuggling them in.”
Bibles for China focuses on resourcing locals to purchase and distribute Bibles. Even if they can’t move Bibles from town to town right now, they can make plans to take action the moment restrictions lift.
“This too shall pass at some point in the future, and God [will] give us the wisdom to know how and when to push for the distribution of those scriptures that are in place and ready to be handed out,” Rovenstine says.
Like many other ministries, Bibles for China hasn’t been idle while their ministry is limited by health restrictions; they’ve found the silver lining in making their work digital.
“People that are joining online… the services that aren’t meeting [who] maybe wouldn’t have shown up otherwise, and that seems to be a dynamic that’s happening all over China,” he says.
One woman they’ve been in contact with says she didn’t have a local church and missed having opportunities for communal worship. When churches and small groups went online, she seized the opportunity to plug into her own group.
Similar stories have cropped up all over China. Small groups, bible studies, and worship services have all found life in creative digital efforts. In many ways, Rovenstine says the Chinese Church has grown stronger, not weaker, during this health crisis.
But there’s still a long way to go, so Rovenstine asks for prayer on three fronts:
1. Churches would open again. Some Chinese believers are concerned that they could face unexpected religious restrictions or that church openings would continue to see delay. Pray that they would open quickly and that local believers would see freedom in their worship.
2. Trust in God. In a rare historical moment, the entire world has been impacted by COVID-19 on some level. Pray that the world would find hope and faith in Christ and that God’s healing would sweep across the globe.
3. God would prepare people to become His voice. When the world does return to some level of normalcy, pray that many believers would have spent time in the Word and would be ready to advance His kingdom of compassion and justice around the globe.
Header photo courtesy of Bibles for China.