In a remote rural village in Henan Province a Bible distribution van winds its way along a bumpy dirt road. As it reaches its destination at a small church, local Christians, many of whom have walked and biked for long distances to be here, rush to unload its precious cargo of Bibles.
The church is packed and there are rows and rows of people standing as the pastor explains to the congregation about Bible Society and how the Bibles are paid for by Christians in other countries, such as New Zealand.
As the free Bible distribution begins, people lean forward to receive one, eager not to miss out.
“People here are very poor,” says Pastor Li Cui Zhi. “They struggle to scrape a living from the crops that they raise, earning only about $185 a year.”
This means that the cost of a Bible even at the subsidised price of $2 is still beyond the reach of many.
Yet the number of people at this distribution is evidence of the crying need for Bibles in China’s rural districts. One of the problems is the desperate shortage of trained pastors. In Henan Province, for example, there is only one trained pastor for every 15,500 Christians.
Often it’s only through Bibles that people are able to maintain and grow their faith.
On this day, 700 Bibles were distributed. The delight on people’s faces was clear to see as they opened their new Bibles, smiling warmly as they looked through the pages.
This article is from The Word at Work – Summer 2011.
As a little girl, Mrs Bala wanted to learn to read and write, but owing to her family’s poverty she was unable to. Now, at the age of 75 she has been attending Bible Society literacy classes at the Chourkhuli Church of Bangladesh in Kotalipara in southwestern Bangladesh.