Empowering Believers With Limited Literacy Skills


Anhui, CHINA - “When he was nearing the end of his life, the Apostle Paul had only one coat and one Bible, yet he continued to work for the Lord. Is there anything we cannot give up for our Lord?" 82-year-old Elder Shen Leyuan of Jia-le Church, Anqing City, Huaining County, alluded to 2 Timothy 4:13 as she shared her faith journey and how the Lord has laid on her a burden to serve as a Scripture Literacy class teacher.

Elder Shen Leyuan teaching Chinese characters using the old-fashioned blackboard

In China, a significant portion of Christians reside in the rural areas, and many of them lack formal education. Recognising the urgent need for a solution, various provincial Christian Councils in China have conducted Scripture Literacy classes with support from the United Bible Societies (UBS) to help believers read the Bible and empower them to engage with God’s Word.

The story of Elder Shen exemplifies how Scripture literacy is making a difference and how Christians in China desire to read God's Word despite various challenges.

The Faith Journey with the Bible

Elder Shen was raised in a Christian family. Every morning, without fail, her mother would gather Elder Shen and her sister to kneel by the bedside to pray. Her mother’s example and devotion laid the foundation for Elder Shen's own faith journey.

Elder Shen vividly recalls a pivotal moment when she was eight: "One day, my older sister told me to believe in Jesus. She gave me a Bible and instructed me in a serious tone, ‘Read a chapter every day’.”

Even though Elder Shen couldn't fully grasp what she was reading, she obeyed her sister’s instructions and read the Bible every day. This act of faith at eight years old would eventually shape the purpose of her entire life.

Elder Shen’s faith journey has been nothing short of remarkable. She played a pivotal role in the founding of her church in 1993, encountering many challenges along the way, but her unshakable belief in God's calling kept her steadfast.

Elder Shen Leyuan was pleased to talk about the Scripture Literacy class's impact on believers
Addressing Literacy Needs

A few years ago, when Elder Shen taught from the Bible, she noticed that many in the congregation struggled to follow her. They couldn’t locate the Bible passage. "By the time they found it, I would have finished reading the passage. I thought to myself, this cannot continue. The believers need to be literate."

With a deep conviction about the importance of reading God's Word, Elder Shen felt the burden to help her fellow believers to read. Moreover, she could leverage on her 40 years’ experience of being a primary school teacher.

However, when Elder Shen invited them for the class, some in the congregation told her that they were too old to learn. Also, due to their farm work and household duties, they felt that committing to the classes would be too challenging. 

Undeterred, Elder Shen worked around the issues to help the believers. Firstly, she held her classes on Fridays when believers would have wound down their farm work for the week. Secondly, Elder Shen and her assistant teachers tailored the classes according to the learning abilities of her students. They started from teaching simple Chinese characters and made the classes practical and engaging.

"Through the literacy classes, it is gratifying to witness the believers growing and improving. I am very happy to be able to serve the Lord and do His work.”

Over time, Elder Shen's determination and efforts paid off. As believers improved their literacy level, they were able to read and engage more with God’s Word, leading to a deepening of their faith. Many even started joining the church choir, using their newly acquired reading skills to worship and praise God.

“God wants all believers to be able to read His Bible, be literate, and sing hymns to praise Him," she shared with a joyful and convincing tone.

Years of faithfully teaching Scripture literacy has made Elder Shen all the more convinced that believers need to study and learn to read God’s Word themselves so that their lives can be powerful witnesses for the Lord.

A Heart of Content and Appreciation 

Though still working hard at an old age, Elder Shen is a happy teacher and servant of the Lord. "Through the literacy classes, it is gratifying to witness the believers growing and improving. I am very happy to be able to serve the Lord and do His work.” Thank God for the example of Elder Shen who, through her labour of love for the Church, is following the footsteps of her mother, her elder sister and many faithful men and women in the Bible. 

Finally, Elder Shen expresses her gratitude for the generosity and support of UBS towards the Scripture Literacy class: "It is not just about giving free booklets or Bibles; it is about love. It is not just love for people, it is also love for God. I am grateful to God. I think I haven't done much. I feel inadequate before God. There is still much to be done and I will do what I can."


Story: Marcus Xiao
Photo: UBSCP
© 2024 UBS China Partnership