Never Too Old to Learn

A literacy class. Photo: Shanxi CC/TSPM

Shaanxi: Can you picture this? A  70-year old lady, bent with age, tottering into the classroom with a walking frame. She proceeded to choose a seat right in front of the class, holding up her Bible eager to begin the lesson. She waited expectantly for the teacher to begin, not knowing that she was actually holding the Bible upside down.

Like little children on their first day at school, these elderly students with ages ranging from 60 to 95 years of age, were earnest if not a little excited about embarking on their most often first learning journey of a lifetime. For once in their life, they get to learn to hold a pen properly, write legible and intelligibly, as well as to read with understanding.

With nothing short of sheer human determination, in just a short span of time, when once these aged students were unable to tell if the pages they were reading were inverted, or hold down their pens, they are now able to write down meaningfully their own thoughts and feedings!  This spectacular turnaround is all because of a scripture literacy class at one of Shaanxi’s rural church in China.

Problem and Solution
In most of the rural churches in China, it is not uncommon to find elderly Christians who are barely educated. In other words, the literacy rate amongst church-goers is very low. How can the elderly Christians be spiritually independent if they are unable to read God’s Word on their own?

It is with this in mind that Shaanxi Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CC/TSPM) got together some Shaanxi Bible seminary students to run scripture literacy classes to 43 rural churches last summer. United Bible Societies (UBS) supported this programme and donated Bibles, Scripture literacy textbooks, pens and notebooks.

Shi Linping. Photo: Shaanxi CC/TSPM

Their Remarkable Learning Spirit

“It’s not easy for an elderly person to attend a scripture literacy class, “says  Shi Linping (see photo right), a literacy teacher and a full-time seminary student. “Their eyesight and retention of information are not as good as the younger folks, and some of these students are nearing 90 years old.”

Xue Shirong. Photo: UBSCP\\Yeo Tan Tan

Xue Shirong, one of the summer literacy class teachers, tells us about an elderly woman in his class who comes to his class every day, rain or shine, on crutches. He asks this lady if she lives far away. Her reply: “No, not far. It’s only a one-and-a-half-hour journey on foot (or in her case, crutches).”

Xue is deeply moved. This meant that the old lady is willing to give up 5 hours of her time daily, including a two-hour class time, to learn how to read the Bible. “The old are so faithful—not only are their resilience and tenacity exemplary for the younger generation but also their thirst and hunger for God’s Word.”

“Many rural folks have never been to school their entire life. Non-Christians ridiculed our students, especially the aged students, saying their coming to class is a big joke,” Teacher Men Juan shares.

“But these old stalwarts are not at all discouraged. They are confident in their own learning and even quoted the Mark 10:27 (GNT) ‘This is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God’  So serious did these students take their learning that they not only completed their assignments on time, but they also did their assignments two or three times over!”

Their Tears of Thanks
In a letter, Bai Xiuxia, 75, wrote: “Thanks to the Grace of God, for enabling an old lady like me to read and write. Because I know (can read) very few words, when I became a Christian, reading the Bible on my own was a big problem. I thank God for His provision – for these church-run literacy classes, so that older people like myself can learn, step-by-step, one-stroke at a time, how to write and read. A special thanks to the Shaanxi CC/TSPM, and to the loving devotion of UBS.”

Some over 90 year-old students were so touched by the generosity of UBS donors that they fought back their tears as they struggled to read their Bibles using a magnifying glass. How they cherish this learning opportunity!

Written by Pamela Choo
Chinese Testimonies translated by Joey Choo
for United Bible Societies , China Partnership