China (MNN) – People living in the high-rise buildings of Rings 1 and 2 have access to pretty much anything they want or need. The streets bustle with vendors hawking the day’s offerings.
In Ring 3, there’s a hint of desperation as availability of the basics starts to get scarce, and by the time you hit Ring 4 or 5, people live in huts, scraped together from the materials they’ve scrounged from the earth. Their poverty means, outside of what they need to stay alive, there are no extras.
Sounds almost like a community you might read about in a science fiction novel, but in this case, it’s describing a typical Chinese city. Bibles For China’s Barry Werner says, as it applies to their mission, “We hear all the time about the Chinese economy and the growth of that. The Bibles are sold in the larger churches in the cities (Rings 1 and 2). I think what’s happened is, as people in the cities have become more economically-stable, they’re able to purchase a Bible.” So, there’s more Bibles being seen in the urban setting.
In Rings 4 and 5, he says, “What we find is a lot of economic instability in the rural areas. They’re still living on much lower incomes. Even though they’re not totally poverty-ridden, they just don’t have the resources to purchase the Bibles, and the churches in those rural areas don’t have Bibles available to them.” What a difference a mere 40 miles can make!
Life in the outer rings
While those living in the city may have traveled and seen Western people and culture, that’s not the case for those living in Rings 4 and 5. If no one reaches out to them, they’ll spend their entire lives only knowing what is in their immediate vicinity. “When we get into the rural areas, most of the people have not traveled 30 miles from their home. Most of them haven’t traveled 10 miles from their home unless they walk or take a bicycle.”
But, God. Even though there would be no reason for the hope of God’s Word to reach ears in Rings 4 and 5, it does. It’s a draught for a parched soul. These are the groups of Christ-followers that you hear about sharing a book of the Bible among a village—memorizing it, and trading it with another village for the next book of the Bible. To them, Bibles are precious.
Bibles For China connects with the local Church leaders who oversee these smaller villages. Werner says there is no reason for these people to NOT have access to what’s already there.
“Bibles are available. They’re printed in China at Amity Press. We purchase them in China. And then we have them shipped out to the rural areas”, where ministry teams help the local church get them into local hands.
Now, let’s run the numbers. China is huge. Bibles For China helped the local church distribute nearly 110,000 Bibles this year. Teams did 10,000 last month alone, and there’s a distribution this month and one more next month to wrap up 2015.
Pretty amazing statistics, and they’re only increasing because more people are coming to know Christ as their personal Savior. That brings up another issue, says Werner. ”The struggle that they’re beginning to face is, even when the Bibles land in the rural areas, there’s not really the people to train them from the Bible.”
In other words, church leaders in China want some guidance on how to do the job they’re doing. “They really need training from their own people so that it’s culturally relevant, but the few pastors that are in the area are so overworked that they’re asking for help from just about everywhere. One of the groups that they’ve asked for help is Bibles for China.”
Stepping in to help
Before we get into the ‘what’ of the training, here’s a quick explanation of ‘why’. “[There are] about 43,000 Christians around this smaller city,” says Werner. “[There are] 17 pastors–300 churches, with 17 ordained pastors. They have several hundred leaders, but the leaders are mostly newer Christians that have a year or maybe two years of training, tops.”
Bibles For China decided to help out. They set up a time after the distributions were over. Two hundred people showed up, many of them young people.
Most of the preaching, teaching and training is done by moderately-trained leaders. Their training was primarily in Biblical studies and no leadership training. The leadership training comes as on-the-job-training. Werner said Bibles for China provided tools: “We gave each leader a John Maxwell Leadership Bible and we went through how to use that Bible, which has the leadership notes and so forth.” Then, they provided the jump-start: “When people can read, they don’t need us to tell them how to read their Bible, but sometimes, inspiration, and a challenge to do, it is as important.”
The response was enthusiastic, he adds.
”We’ve already had contact from several seminaries that are in a church—that would be a two-year seminary—the leaders have contacted us and said, ‘could you provide a leadership Bible and one day of training for our students?’” Bibles For China is planning another visit and is asking you to consider coming alongside them to provide either Bibles ($5 USD) for the Church, or John Maxwell Leadership Bibles for the leadership at $12USD.
Pray for God’s provision for believers in China. Pray that those who receive Bibles will share with other believers who do not have a Bible. Finally, pray that the Christian revival in China will continue.