Three Generations’ Bible Stories

The Bible of Zhang Xiaohua's grandfather
1/2The Bible of Zhang Xiaohua's grandfather (photo: Zhang Xiaohua)
The Bible of Zhang's grandfather
2/2The Bible of Zhang's grandfather (photo: Zhang Xiaohua)
By Zhang XiaohuaDecember 15th, 2020

Our family cherished a very precious Bible written in traditional Chinese characters. This Bible has a mottled leather cover and yellowed pages. It has witnessed the vicissitudes of the years and become a family heirloom because it is a testimony of grandfather's service in the church. On the title page was written, "A Memorial to Pastor Liang Yongquan's Calling", signed by the Bamiancheng church, which was located in Changtu County, Tieling City, Liaoning, and dated September 17, 1933.

My grandfather studied at the North China Theological Seminary, a well-known fundamentalist seminary in the first half of the twentieth century then was sent to many places to preach the gospel. Though there is no data to verify the specific places, this Bible, preserved by my uncle and my aunt, has become the best evidence of grandfather’s service.

This Bible is marked in teeny lower letters, which are my grandfather’s reading notes, recording his spiritual journey. To explore my grandfather’s life, I wrote to the Bamiancheng Church, but I did not get a reply. Later, I published the story of this ancestral Bible in the Gospel Times. Pastor Li   Shizheng from Shaanxi contacted me, saying that grandfather’s story mentioned in the article reminded him of when he was a child in his hometown of Jiaxian County, Shaanxi. He had heard a pastor who was preaching in a similar situation, and he was able to confirm that this pastor was my grandfather. I would like to continue to explore my grandfather’s footprints.

Bible reading guides my ministry path

My mother also became a Christian. During the Cultural Revolution, Bibles were prohibited and burned. Several believers in my village could only gather secretly, and they were very satisfied to be able to listen to a senior believer (later ordained elder) who read from a hand-copied Bible. After the church activity was resumed, believers were very happy to have the first New Testament with Psalms attached. They passed the Bible to each other and took turns reading it during the weekly service. Later, believers had Bibles in traditional Chinese characters. The senior elder was over seventy years old, and he could even memorize passages from the Bible by heart. Bibles at that time were arranged vertically, regardless of paragraphs, and each paragraph was separated by just a circle. When the elder read the scriptures, he remembered it by heart and even knew where there was a circle. He wrote Bible verses and many poems on white paper with a Chinese brush. People were very fervent in their beliefs at that time. I started to go to church at that time, and I didn't understand anything about the Christian faith and the Bible. But I felt that the words in the Proverbs were very well written and had enlightened my life.

At the age of 17, I underwent two corrective surgeries on my legs. During the recuperation period, I sat quietly on the bed every day and had the opportunity to read the entire Old and New Testaments. After that, I was encouraged by the senior servant of God to study ministry and lead small worship services. In order to prepare for sharing, I continued to read the Bible. Later, I read the church periodicals Tianfeng and Jiaocai, and some books on Bible interpretation. In this way, I started my thirty years of evangelical work. I read the Bible again and again, trying to understand its true meaning.

Since then, I have subscribed to Tianfeng or the Heavenly Wind, the magazine of TSPM church in China, and Jiaocai, a brochure compiled by the Jinling Union Theological Seminary for local Chinese churches for more than 20 consecutive years. I have also purchased various versions of the Bible, which have equipped me well for my preaching ministry. In recent years, I'm engaged in a writing ministry in response to God’s calling, which required me to benefit myself with God's words. Following the spiritual reading manual compiled by the Jinling Seminary, I read the Bible every morning, just like doing compulsory homework.

Hand copying the Bible brings joy

Some scripture copying has become popular in recent years, mostly copying some other religious classics such as the Heart Sutra. I thought about hand copying the Bible. Beginning in 2017, I started copying the Bible at our meeting point. At that time, more than a dozen believers started to handwrite the Bible. We started from Psalms, one chapter a day. Believers gathered together during the service, exchanged their feeling and understanding, and memorized a lot of God's words through copying the Bible. In 2018, when the Linfen Church held an exhibition commemorating the 140th anniversary of the introduction of the gospel to Linfen, some hand-copied Bible works were exhibited and attracted people's attention.

During the COVID-19 pandemic period this year, I had some free time to start hand copying the Bible again. I have persisted until now. Copying the Bible makes people gradually love God's words, exercise their will to be still, comprehend God's words, and develop perseverance. Sometimes my hands were tired and my eyes were fuzzy, but I still feel like to insist on copying. Sometimes when there are mistakes, missing words, or repetitions in copying, I can't help but feel guilty for my carelessness. However, I find great pleasure in copying scriptures. Some scriptures that I have read in a hurry in the past bring me new inspiration through hand copying.

Cherish the Bible and pursue it in our lives

In recent years, I visited some waste collection stations where I often see precious Bibles being sold among the piles of old books and newspapers. Some of them are still very new. This fills me with regret and makes me sad. Most of these Bibles belonged to senior believers. After them being taken to the Lord, the younger generations who do not believe in God sold the Bibles. So I often bought them back and found many treasures, such as the Bible for foreign students and the English version of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I know another believer from Linfen church who also goes to the waste collection station and often buys these discarded Bibles. We should not let this most precious wealth fall into trash and turn it into pulp.

 (The article is originally published by Gospel Times.)

- Translated by Xiaodan Zeng 

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