Bibles for Migrant Workers

Madam Zhu toils long hours everyday.

NANJING, China — Nanjing has a population of eight million. It is estimated that migrants make up one third of the population.

Life is a struggle for many migrant workers. When asked if they would spend 16 yuan on an item of clothing or a food item like meat, the response was that it was too extravagant.

Migrant workers moved from their rural hometowns to the big cities, often leaving their young to the care of their elderly parents, to find jobs which provide them with a more stable source of income. In the cities, they live frugally while facing many untold hardships of city life—this is a lifestyle they would rather not choose but poverty leaves them with little choice.

Migrant Worker: Madam Zhu
Madam Zhu Yongnan, 41, is married and has been living in Nanjing with her husband for the past 8 years. Zhu has been a faithful believer since she was a little child. Her mother was the first to believe in her family. When Zhu was young, Christians had come to their village to share the gospel. Zhu’s mother heard and accepted. The Christians were welcomed in the village and stayed on for a few years, teaching and sharing the good news. Hence, Zhu grew up knowing that God is real.

Zhu comes from Anhui province and worships in a home fellowship. In Nanjing, Zhu lives in a basement room and pays 300 yuan towards rent. A basement flat is the basement store of an apartment block. Here, empty spaces are partitioned off with bits of plywood into rooms for the poor to rent. There is neither heating nor running water. They work overtime each day, enduring a 13-hour shift in order to accumulate some savings. Zhu says if she were to keep a regular 8-hour work day, their combined income would only just meet their monthly expenses.

Life for Zhu is one of being frugal with every yuan she earned. For the past ten years, Zhu has carefully put aside money from their wages to save towards a dream home in the countryside. Although a 16 yuan Bible (approximately USD 2.5 after  subsidy) is quite a luxury for her, she is prepared to pay for it. She is thankful to God for the donors whose donations to the Bible Societies helped to make the Bibles more affordable to Chinese Christians like Zhu.

Like many migrant workers, Zhu actually holds two jobs. She is both a farmer and a worker in the city. In China, land is allocated to a family according to the number of members in the household. However, the land allocated is not big enough to keep the farmers self-sufficient. Most families only managed to grow enough corn or wheat for their own consumption. There is seldom any leftover from the harvest to sell.

During the planting or harvesting season, Zhu returns home to help out and spend time with her fourteen year old son who lives with her mother-in law. This is a common practice in the countryside – the elderly are left to bring up the young while able parents venture out in search of a steadier income. Zhu goes home only three times a year. That is all the luxury she can afford.

Story: Jenise Lee
Edit: Pamela Choo
2014 © United Bible Societies China Partnership