Rural Christians welcome China’s first Bible and medical van

Chen Guo Zi, 80, got her first Bible by the Bible-cum-medical van. Photo:UBS/ Dag Smemo

“I have been a Christian for 14 years but I have never had a Bible before. Today, I have received my very first Bible,” said Chen Guo Zi, 80, as she held her new Bible and cried.

Mrs Chen is one of about 300 people who benefited from the debut journey last month of China’s first Bible and medical van, which has been deployed in Jiangsu Province. About 300 Bibles were distributed and about 70 people received basic medical care during the van’s visit to Shang Dang village, just over an hour’s drive from Nanjing, the provincial capital.

The village church welcoming the van with balloons and flags.Photo: UBS/ Dag Smemo

The village church, set amid beautiful and fragrant fields of yellow rapeseed plants, was cheerfully decorated with pink balloons and colourful flags in celebration of the van’s visit. As it arrived, the church band began playing and members of the congregation came out to warmly welcome the two volunteer doctors and a group of visitors from the Bible Society fellowship. They also helped to unload the boxes of Bibles and medical equipment.

A man carrying boxes of Bibles from the Bible-medic van (background). Photo:UBS/ Dag Smemo

After a short service, preacher Qiao Hong, 46, announced that the Bibles would be distributed to everyone who wanted one. “These Bibles are given to us by friends from different countries who have a mission in this world to share the Word of God,” she told them. “As Chinese Christians we want and cherish the Word of God.”

When the Bibles were given out, people immediately opened them and started reading. Some held their new Bibles to their chests, closed their eyes and prayed silently and tearfully.

55-year-old Qiu Chang Lai was particularly delighted with her copy. “Have you seen my old Bible?” she asked. “It’s falling apart and I’ve had to sew it together! I’ve been wanting a new one for some time so I am very excited to get this new Bible today.”

Like many people in this area, Mrs Qiu struggles to make ends meet. Her husband died seven years ago and she does not have a job so she spends much of her time praying and sharing her faith with others. She has been suffering with pain and a swollen neck so was one of the first people to join the long queue to be seen by the doctors in a small room at the back of the church.

Dr Li giving an eye-examination. Photo: UBS/ Dag Smemo

Dr Li Xiao Fei, 36, examined her and did various tests using the equipment from the van.

“The tests showed that my heart is fine,” said Mrs Qiu afterwards. “But I now know that I have a problem with my thyroid and need to seek treatment for it.”

Another patient, Rong Yao Mei, 63, was anxious about her heart, which she said has been beating too fast. She was examined by Dr Hong Bi Hua, 71, who is retired.

“Your blood pressure is 200 over 104, which is far too high,” Dr Hong told her. Confirming that Mrs Rong had access to the correct medication, she told her to start taking two tablets regularly. “This will lower your blood pressure and you will start feeling much better,” she advised.

Retired Dr Hong doing an examination. Photo: UBS/ Dag Smemo

“We saw about 70 patients with problems similar to Mrs Rong’s,” Dr Hong noted later. “Problems like high blood pressure, dizziness, headaches and problems associated with old age, such as arthritis. The equipment we have is very useful in helping us diagnose problems and give good advice.”

Although the Bible and medical van cannot offer comprehensive medical treatment or supply medicine, it can give patients an accurate diagnosis of their condition, prescribe medication, and advise them how to seek appropriate treatment. For instance, when Dr Li used the ultrasound scanner on one man he discovered signs of a growth on his liver. Suspecting cancer, he advised him to go to a hospital urgently – advice that could help to save or prolong his life.

“People in rural areas get very little medical help,” said Dr Li, who himself comes from a deprived background. “Most of the medical resources and services in China are based in cities, and many rural people are so poor that they cannot afford to travel to see a doctor or pay for medical advice. Seeing a doctor is a luxury for them. I want to help them because I know what it is like to be poor.”

“Christians in rural areas have been asking us to bring them medical help when our Bible distribution van goes to the villages, because it is difficult for them to see doctors,” said Rev An Xinyi, Chairman of the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in Jiangsu Province.

“So, with funding from the Bible Societies, we have gone ahead and bought this van and medical equipment. There are Christian doctors who are willing to volunteer their time and skills. We have bought things like blood pressure kits, an ultrasound scanner and an ECG machine.”

Jiangsu’s Bible and medical van is the first of 10 that the National Committee of Three Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China/ China Christian Council and UBS hope to roll out in different provinces.

Project Number: 71241

Written by Andrea Rhodes, United Bible Societies