We conclude this chapter by reprinting a selection of letters that were received from Guizhou by various Christian ministries during the 2000s. These precious communications reveal both the strengths and weaknesses of Christianity in Guizhou, and provide insights into the daily lives and personal struggles of believers as they followed God. Their letters offer a fascinating snapshot of the ever-changing conditions experienced by the body of Christ at this time.
"We have just started a Sunday school for children. The Lord has been bringing more and more children to us and we are faced with many practical difficulties, such as the shortage of teaching materials, the teachers' inadequacies, and their lack of experience. All these factors affect the further development of the ministry."
"Many young people in our village have been converted, but they are facing opposition and suppression from their families on the grounds that they are forsaking their ancestors because of their Christian belief. A sister woke up one morning and got ready to take a four-hour ride to attend a church with other believers. Her father slapped her on the face several times and would not let her go. In fact, many pagan parents in this village force their converted daughters to marry non-believers so their husbands will have control over them. Some sisters in Christ attempt to escape these forced marriages by finding jobs in the city."
"The gospel has spread rapidly in our area over the past several years and the number of saved people has continually increased. However, the church here cannot afford to support their workers. There is a great lack of shepherds and those who serve are not well qualified. In this poor mountain region, the farmers earn so little that they do not even have enough money to buy salt. Since we do not have enough Bible study tools and Christian literature, our needs are not being met. As a result, some believers have been led astray by cults."
"After I accepted the Lord I kept looking for churches in my area but could not find any. I heard you teach that someone should be baptized after they accept Jesus Christ, so I told my mother to baptize me. Was what I did okay? I really worry about what I got my mother to do. Please pray for me. I have had a stomach ache for years and I need God's healing touch. I also plan to go to a short-term Bible school."
"We have become Christians because of your program. I am 28-years-old and have four children. I have always had a short temper, selfish heart, hatred and many other feelings that I cannot control by myself. What should I do to overcome such bad habits? I know that God is able to change my heart but my feelings come back and I explode. What should I do?"
"Can you help our housewives in the area where I live? Our husbands are crazy about bird-hunting. Even on Sundays they will skip church to go bird-hunting. They go around showcasing the birds they have captured and boast about how beautiful some of them can sing. We women really despise what our husbands and church leaders are doing. Can you give us some advice that will turn our husbands around?"
"Most of the brothers and sisters in our churches are old and very poor. Some of them eat what they have in one season and cannot store anything for the next. There are even brothers and sisters who are so poor that there is only one pair of trousers in the entire family. I thank the Lord who gave us eternal life, for under the careful nurturing of a good shepherd, our spiritual lives have been gradually improving."
"It has been ages since the church workers here had fellowship. They only care about their own ministries; unity doesn't seem to matter. Pastors appoint volunteers to lead fellowship and Bible study groups instead of involving themselves. Worse still, the church workers never care about the effectiveness of the volunteers, the difficulties they face, or their spiritual condition."
"A shared opinion among our pastors is that youth ministry is difficult, and we often fail to answer the questions raised by young believers. We lack pastoral advice and counseling on how to put the faith into practice in our daily lives. We generally have problems regarding emotions, marriage, co-habitation, and interpersonal relationships."
"The livelihood of Christians among the minority groups is especially poor. These believers often go hungry. Some church workers can't even afford to pay 5 Yuan (US 62 cents) to pay for the bus fare to attend a training session. Instead, they walk for several hours to the center. Worse still, some believers don't have a basic understanding of the truth of God's salvation. Some assume they are born-again at birth because their parents were Christians. As they live in remote mountain regions, it is impossible to obtain the large volumes of resources they need to understand the truth."
"Recently, Eastern Lightning cult members have sneaked into some churches. The leaders of these churches are aware of this, and one pastor sent several cult members away in the Name of Jesus Christ. Following that, there were rumors that this pastor had accepted bribes, which caused confusion and split the congregation. Those who are against the pastor are now meeting at another location. Some believers have even left for other churches, while others are caught in the middle, not knowing what to do. Worst of all, the circumstances have caused some believers to stumble and not go to church at all."
"After graduation, a theology student returned to the Miao area to pastor a church. Because they are very poor, the church was unable to support the evangelist. The 500 believers decided that each of them would give an annual offering of one Yuan (about US 15 cents) to support him, but after a year, the church could not even raise that amount. Instead, the believers gave their produce to support the evangelist."
"A pastor was sent to a mountainous area, where he had to trek nine miles (14 km) to preach. When he arrived at the site, he only found three believers. Afterwards, he walked another nine miles to another hilly area. As the area is remote and no other preacher had gone there before, the people had a great thirst for truth, so when the pastor arrived he was kept by the enthusiastic believers for two hours of worship. He preached for another two hours before the crowd grudgingly let him go.
The pastor had spent the whole day going from one hill to another; he also slept in the mountains at night. There were many fleas and unknown insects. Later in the year he was often tired and had no appetite. His digestive system was ruined and he has frequently been admitted to hospital."
"One of our sisters in the Lord has opened a supermarket in Guizhou and has gained certain influence there. While running her business, she also spreads the gospel. She has already set up a number of meeting points at her supermarket and several other places nearby, which serve a total congregation of more than 100 people. Our major mission is to provide training for fellow Christian workers, to help them solve difficulties in their lives, and to supply them with rich spiritual resources."
"We are an ethnic minority church with a congregation of 600 mostly elderly believers. Our workers have had little training, and therefore face difficulties in doing pastoral work and teaching the Bible. There is also much room for improvement in our church management. We greatly need Bible teaching in order to train believers who have a low level of education. Our workers also need to be equipped with more Bible knowledge. Please pray for us."
"Our church does not have a sound system. During Sunday services, people sitting at the back cannot hear what is said from the pulpit. Gradually, some believers have preferred to stay home or have worked in the fields rather than walking 2-3 hours to attend the service. The pastor is sad to see their weak spiritual lives and feels indebted to God. Please pray for us. May the Lord provide a basic sound system for our congregation of about 2,000 people."
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Guizhou: The Precious Province'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.