Feature: Revival in Mountain Valley

A picture of Chengguan Church on the outskirts of Fenxi County, Linfen City, Shanxi Province, with a mountain valley behind it
A picture of Chengguan Church on the outskirts of Fenxi County, Linfen City, Shanxi Province, with a mountain valley behind it
By Thomas ZhangMarch 14th, 2024

On the first day of the Year of the Dragon while many people enjoyed family reunions, a county church in a mountain in Shanxi hosted a New Year gathering. However, behind this gathering was a revival story, rising from the shadow of the pandemic.

Located deep in the Lvliang Mountains in the central-southern part of Shanxi Province, Fenxi County in Linfen City only shed its label as a poverty-stricken county in 2020. Many young adults from the mountains chose to work in big cities, and due to the impact of the pandemic, the number of worshippers, once over two hundred, has now dwindled to half. Apart from the loss of believers, some dedicated volunteers in the church fell ill, passed away, or left.

A Christian woman who has sent her daughter to a theological college for further education, despite being in her late seventies, is still engaged in serving at a family gathering site. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she suffered a stroke and has since lost the ability to care for herself. The meeting point she used to lead also faces the dilemma of being without pastoral care due to her illness. With believers in this gathering site falling ill or passing away, the family gathering site, which once had more than ten elderly believers, has now halted activities.

Before the pandemic, Elder Pang, leader of Chengguan Church in Fenxi County, paid a visit to this family gathering site. The senior woman in the family is a longtime believer who lost her vision due to an eye disease in her early years and can only manage to live independently. "Unexpectedly, this sightless Christian sat on the bed and shared a sermon with us. We, the visitation team members, became the inspired ones," said Elder Pang. She has spent seven or eight years sitting in the courtyard listening to sermons and hymns on a Bible player.

In early 2020, Chengguan Church suspended its gathering activities due to pandemic control. During the entire three-year period, two or three elderly Christian women in their sixties and seventies came to the church every day for vigilant prayers.

Elder Pang stated that although the number of believers is not large in Chengguan Church, it is these passionate and simple elderly believers who always bring reassurance and hope to the church.

"Externally, these ladies are aged with disabilities or illnesses and are looked down upon in society. But the power of God is manifested more fully in those who watch over our church. Although the church has encountered many difficulties, we all feel hopeful while watching them."

Due to the long-term suspension of services, it was a challenge to financially support three full-time theology graduates. However, Elder Pang continued to pay their salaries monthly throughout the three-year pandemic. The church not only did not face any shortages but also had a surplus when the pandemic ended.

The elder recalled that during the pandemic, the church's offering box almost fell victim to theft, but the majority of the offerings were retained. As a result, the offering box, which used to be open monthly, is unlocked after each gathering. The average weekly offering could reach several hundred or even over a thousand yuan, surpassing the previous monthly amount.

After the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2023, Pang initiated the training of evangelists and rebuilt meeting points with pastoral care in remote rural areas. The church also started weekday activities for youth fellowship and couples fellowship.

"Last year, we held training sessions lasting about a week around Easter, during the Spring Festival or the summer vacation. The county specifically invited effective pastors from the city to give theological courses and in-depth training. After the training, the county church sent workers directly to conduct pastoral care at gathering sites in villages. The training plan for Easter 2024 is almost arranged, and this year is the most attended training session in recent years, with about 60 participants," added Elder Pang.

In the county church, the youth fellowship and couples fellowship have attracted more young people to participate in service, and several "promising candidates" for future pastors have emerged.

"Thinking back, it is truly the grace of God! Even in such a remote and humble church, the grace of God has never left us in such difficult times. What do we have to be discouraged about when he has blessed us beyond our expectations?" Elder Pang concluded.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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