Zhenjiang, China - Have you drawn up a bucket list of things you would like to tick off as completed, before you meet our Heavenly Father?
76-year-old Madam Tang Cuirong did and one of the items in her bucket list is to “read through the entire Bible on my own before I go back to my heavenly home.”
Madam Tang is a joyful lady; she always wears a smile on her face. One would not have imagined that some thirty years ago, a strange illness caused her to lose her ability to walk. What was more incredible was that God healed her miraculously and she has never stopped following and loving God passionately and wholeheartedly.
She opened her village home as a meeting point for a gathering of believers, and at one point, more than 70 to 80 people gathered there. Every Sunday for 30 years, she will make a two-hour bus journey from her village to her church located in town to worship God; since 2018, she has started a habit of fasting every Sunday as a dedication to God.
Yet despite her burning desire for God, she felt unfulfilled in one aspect: she is illiterate and cannot read the Bible on her own. She could only hear God’s Word being read out by others since she had never attended school and was therefore unable to read or write.
When a Scripture Literacy class supported by the United Bible Societies (UBS) was organised by the local church at the end of May 2022, she signed up for it without a minute’s hesitation.
In the Scripture Literacy class, she liked how the teacher always began the lesson by praising God and also praying for the class and the day’s topic. Using Scripture Literacy booklets supported by UBS, literacy students learned Chinese characters from the Scriptures and how to use them in their day-to-day life.
Madam Tang remarked that the duration of the lesson was too short for her. "I wish the lesson could be longer," she said wistfully.
Prior to the literacy class, she was unable to read any word and she had trouble signing her name for banking purposes.
After just a few lessons, Madam Tang is able to write her own name and some Chinese characters she has learned from the booklets. Whenever she rides the bus, she takes along hymnals to read. She gets so excited when she is able to recognise some of the words she has learned and she will commit these words into memory whenever she goes about tending her garden.
Now that she is beginning to read God’s Word on her own, albeit very slowly, Madam Tang’s faith is growing from strength to strength everyday.
Whenever she attends the Scripture Literacy class in church, she would bring along in her motorised tricycle the fruits and vegetables grown in her garden to share with the teachers and students. All can see her smiles and appreciate her warm generosity. She has inspired many in the class with her blessing and joy!
We can all share in Madam Tang’s joy by making more literacy classes available to others like her - whose item on their bucket list is to be able to read through the entire Bible on their own before meeting their Creator. Will you join us in prayer and support for the many illiterate Christians in China to be able to read and write God’s Word in their mother tongue one day?
Written by: Marcus Xiao and Pamela Choo based on interview notes by Caleb Xiao
Photos: Caleb Xiao
2023 © United Bible Societies China Partnership