China (MNN) — When you start talking about China, people’s ears perk.
For generations, there was no opportunity to openly distribute Bibles in China for fear of negative consequences from Communist authorities. That didn’t stop the Word of God from getting in, though.
Stories began to emerge of whole villages sharing the book of John and memorizing chapters, trading for new chapters with their neighbors. The next month, a preacher would come through and provide the next book of the Bible, and the process would start all over again.
Images began trickling out of handwritten copies of the Bible, notebooks filled with the precious Word of God that was in such scarcity…and the reverence for what it was. Christians around the world began to smuggle Bibles in, which triggered a strong response from the government. The age-old struggle to resource the Body of Christ in a restricted access nation began…and yet, no force can stop the direction of the wind.
Today, the Word of God is spreading through rural China. Ministries like Bibles for China raise funds, send them to their partner on the ground, and that partner, at the request of the registered church, purchases Bibles in Mandarin, printed at Amity Printing Company, in Nanjing, China. The purchased Bibles are then shipped to the preaching point location (a local church) and readied for a celebration.
Bibles for China’s Wendell Rovenstine says they work with the rural church, which often means the poorest and least educated in Chinese society. In these areas, the question isn’t availability of Bibles, but the accessibility. It can be nearly impossible for someone from a rural village to make a special trip into the big city to purchase a Bible.
“They make between $1,200 and $1,500 USD a year in the rural areas they’re a part of. It’s like $100 they get a month. They have to live on that; take care of their needs. If they’re going to have to pay $5 for a Bible, (by income percentage) it’s like $100.”
That’s why Bibles for China asks those who have the resources to give freely. At the invitation of the registered church, the teams go in to verify the Bibles were delivered and distributed at the local churches…and then the party really gets going.
On his latest trip, Rovenstine met with a man who lives in a rural, mountainous area, who exemplified the word ‘committed’. “One pastor that’s responsible for 13 churches — there are 50 preaching points. He didn’t have a vehicle to get there. He goes to those areas on public transportation.”
His ministry was just starting out, and wasn’t ready yet for leadership training…but it WAS ready for seed, he adds. “When we asked how many Bibles they’d need, they would say, ‘As many as you can bring.’ I was trying to push for a number…how many? What’s the number? The translator said, ‘He has a very clever answer: As many as you can bring, he can use.’”
Did you know when a believer there receives their own copy of the Bible, they rarely keep it to themselves? They share it with neighbors, friends, and family. In a separate meeting with a different church body, they want to provide both access and availability.
“What they’re wanting to do is to provide ‘public’ Bibles. For them, a public Bible is one they can place in the church pews so people [who] come to church will have a Bible they can use, or they can read from, garner (copy into their own notebooks) Scriptures they can then take with them back home and study.”
The cost? $5.00 USD per Bible. When you donate to buy a Bible, you aren’t just impacting one believer… but a community. Rovenstine is heading back to China in November. Plus, “We’re setting up our 2017 schedule and we’re planning on going back two times to this location because there’s such a great need.”
There’s a ‘je ne sais quoi’ about China that causes people to pay attention. Maybe it’s the rich history, inspirational stories, courageous endeavors, or dauntless believers that arouse the Body of Christ.
Whatever it is, it all comes together under this mandate: “A passion for Bibles. A heart for China.”