Literacy Classes with a Biblical Twist

Mentoring System: The younger lady (R) helping an older lady in a literacy class. Photo: UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan

SHAANXI: Many poor people in China have never been to school before. One 17 year-old girl from a rural area in Shaanxi province did not even know how to hold a pen, let alone write her name. Another elderly lady had problems knowing which public restroom to go into as she could not read the Chinese character for “male” and “female” written on the door of the cubicle.

These real-life stories told to us by 24 year-old Bible School student Meng Juan were just some of many reasons why it was expedient to run a Scripture Literacy class at the local church.

“While I was at the Bible School, I met many believers from different parts of Shaanxi Province who had such a great thirst and hunger for the Word of God. However, when I went back to my hometown church, I saw a great contrast. The believers in my local church do not have a strong grasp or understanding of the truth. I realized that they do not read the Bible because they were unable to do so; many of them are illiterate. So a desire began to stir in my heart to start a literacy class based on teaching the Bible,” explained Meng Juan, who volunteered to start a Bible literacy class at her church during her 2nd year vacation time at the Bible School.

Students in a literacy class using their literacy booklet. Photo: UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan

The opportunity came for Meng Juan to kickstart a Bible literacy class when the United Bible Societies (UBS) donated materials (comprising Bibles, literacy booklets, pens and notebooks) for its first run, with the support of the Shaanxi Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Obstacles Overcome by Prayer
The week Meng Juan was about to start the literacy class, she fell ill. The class had to be postponed. Then she found out that although there was a desire to learn, many of the church members had to work at the fields. They gave many excuses, one of which was that they could not find the time to learn.

Meng Juan took to God all these discouragements in prayer. God answered her prayers: He gathered many prayer warriors together every Saturday for two hours to pray for the literacy class. Eventually, more and more people were signing up for the literacy classes and many more were waiting to get into the class. “I wish I had asked for more sets of materials …” thought Meng Juan, when she had to turn away many students for the inaugural run.

The Inaugural Run
“For the first run of the literacy class, I divided the students into 2 groups. One group was made up of students who had never attended school before; the other group were those who had some sort of basic education, “recounted Meng Juan. “After the first lesson, I realized that it was too difficult to teach in this way. The first group found it too difficult, whereas the latter group found the lesson too easy. In the end, I decided to modify the teaching method by pairing each illiterate person with one who had had some form of schooling.”

The method proved to be a success. The learning atmosphere in the classrooms was immediately heightened. “Some would be holding their partners’ hands to show them how to write the Chinese characters. As I check their homework each week, I saw much improvement in both the “stronger” and “weaker” students,” Meng Juan said with a smile.

Grateful for Opportunity Given

Meng Juan watches as her student learn to write the 4 chinese characters “Love One Another”. Photo: UBSCP/ Yeo Tan Tan

“In the past, I did toy with the idea of coming up with a literacy class to teach God’s Word. But it remained an idea, until UBS came along. UBS gave us the opportunity and the confidence to put an idea into a reality. When I was holding the hand of the 17 year-old girl who didn’t know how to hold a pen, to guide her to write, I am deeply grateful to God and to UBS,” thanked Meng Juan, who had grown so much spiritually herself since the start of the literacy program at her church.

As for the old grandma mentioned earlier who could not even differentiate the Chinese word for “male” and “female”, since attending the scripture literacy classes, she is now not only able to read, but also to hold a pen and write those very characters herself!

Written by Pamela Choo
Based on an interview with Meng Juan by Ms Yeo Tan Tan