China (MNN) — There’s a mission organization that distributes Bibles to rural churches in China. In many of the pictures on their Web site, whole congregations are seen holding up their Bibles and smiling. It’s a picture of a church in China that has (ideally) received enough Bibles for each family.
The Web site has other pictures, too. These are of individual Christians receiving their Bibles or reading them. Many times the Word of God is received with smiles and tears of joy. The organization is called Bibles for China.
Both types of pictures are wonderful to see but illustrate two different aspects of a ministry: mass distribution and personal impact.
For years, Bibles for China has operated under the motivation of getting as many Bibles as possible distributed in rural churches of China. This means that many times, churches receive Bibles but are not usually visited by the Bible for China teams again. While this work has been wonderful and necessary, it has struggled to provide the ingredient of affirmation to the workers. Over the last two years, Bibles for China has been working on establishing relationships with congregations by visiting them more than once.
It starts with the first meeting…
Bible distributions in China are nothing short of emotional. People who have been Christians for a number of years are extremely grateful to have a copy of God’s Word to call their own and to share with their family.
“It never ceases to amaze me how people walk for several kilometers to be in the villages where we are distributing Bibles,” says Wendell Rovenstine of Bibles for China.
There is a great need for Bibles all across China. Rovenstine gives an example of the difference between mass Bible distribution and Bible distribution followed up by relationship building.
On his recent trip to China, he spoke with a pastor he had met a few times. This pastor told him his story which was filled with pain and anger towards his parents. He had a difficult past with his mother. When she left the family, the man became even angrier with her. Her actions changed the course of his life. He began living a corrupt lifestyle. When his mother came back, changed from her old self, he fled. Somewhere along the way, somebody gave him a Bible and introduced him to Christ. Because of his new relationship with Jesus, he went back and restored the relationship with his mother. He became a pastor.
His story is quite remarkable and helps those who hear it connect with him.
“We didn’t hear that the first time or the second time. When we went back, we [found] that the people are open to us, and they start peeling back the layers of their ‘onion’ that let us see who they are and what they’re praying for, and that they’re real people that have real needs [and] real hurts,” Rovenstine says.
A shift in operation?
Rovenstine explains how Bibles for China is slightly shifting the way they do things.
“Bibles [are] very important–that’s our passion, that’s what we do. But [it’s also important] to be able to go back to the same place and start developing that strong and in-depth relationship spiritually, and realize that not only are they coming to Christ but they come to Christ with the same needs and the same affirmation and the same spiritual embrace that all of us need.”
This intentionality to build relationships will not only inspire workers for Bibles for China to keep doing their work, but it will help churches feel connected, too.
Previously, the focus was on covering as much ground as possible. Now, the focus is on relationships.
When a Bible is put into the hands of a rural Chinese Christian, it doesn’t just affect them. Rovenstine believes that each Bible they give out wins at least one soul to Christ. When he asked a church leader about it one time, they assured him it reaches an entire family for Christ.
“A Bible represents more than a soul: it represents a congregation, it represents a family, it represents a pastor,” says Rovenstine.
The most basic Bibles that can be distributed cost only $2. Those with features like maps and hymns cost around $5.
For Rovenstine, being able to see connections beginning to develop between the ministry and the churches is a huge blessing.
“It was a great affirmation that we’re in the center of God’s will and doing what He called us to do, and we want to continue to show up and be that vessel […] to make a difference in China for the Chinese Christian,” he says.
Answering a need
On top of sponsoring Bibles, prayer is a great need and presents opportunity for you to help.
“I would like for all of our partners to just be continuing to pray that the world together with us, Bibles for China, would embrace what we do and will pass that message to their friends under the relationships of their churches.”
Pray for more opportunities for Bibles for China to develop relationships that become mutually beneficial within ministry.
Ask God to use these congregations to reach out to their local communities with the Gospel.