After hitting Dominica, Hurricane Maria turns to Puerto Rico.
By Yi Yang
on August 10, 2017 06:08 AM
In 1894, the Gospel was first introduced by a Methodist missionary to Chibi, a city famous for being the site of the Battle of Red Cliffs that occurred at the end of the Han Dynasty in southeastern Hubei province. After China instituted the policy of religious freedom in the 1980s, Rev. Tian Juhua led the construction of the first church in the city overcoming hardships and difficulties.
Growing up in a Christian family, Rev. Tian followed her mother to church and accepted Jesus in 1986. She began to study theology for her future ministry at 21 in 1987.
She recalled that the church had very few believers, especially among the younger generation at that time. Two young people in her church were supposed to enroll in a two-month long theological training class hosted by the Hubei CCC&TSPM, but one of them decided not to go so she went instead. When she arrived at the provincial CCC&TSPM office, a pastor immediately suggested she apply to a seminary after learning about her high school education. She followed his advice and applied for Zhongnan Theological Seminary, starting her two-year theological study. She believed that it was God's will. Moreover, all her family members were Christians. What's more, both her elder sister and sister-in-law were preachers.
She went back to serve in Chibi Church after graduation in 1989 before the church property was returned. The congregation gathered in believers' homes and she stayed at the homes of at least seven local believers one by one due to the poor economic conditions.
In 1992, the local authority returned the land to the church and the new church construction kicked off in a mountainous place.
In addition to serving in the city, she often preached sermons and visited people in rural areas where she could rest after 3 a.m. In 1993, the new church construction was completed. She confessed that the ministry was very hard in the first few years when her monthly salary was just tens of yuan. "I planned to work outside the church and make money after the establishment of the first church in Chibi. At least I wanted to improve my living conditions." "I was tried during the construction. Wanting to live better sometimes, I accidentally ate bad pork and later my body itched and turned reddish. I was diagnosed with lupus erythematosus in a hospital. The disease couldn't be cured, only controlled. Any traditional prescription is useless."
When she felt better, she wanted to leave the church for work. Each time she had the idea of leaving, the disease flared up or something occurred to her, like a thorn. God didn't give her a chance to go out to work. Her mother said, "You will die if you choose to work outside (the church)." Holding that she could live better by finding a secular job, she fought with the idea for two years.
When she had just returned to Chibi after graduation from the seminary, barely more than twenty elderly believers gathered in families' houses. Now Chibi Church has more than 500 members.
Although they wanted to expand the current church in 2007, the formalities weren't finished until 2012. "Despite a debt of 900,000 yuan, we're grateful that the construction was supported by donations from believers with almost no foreign aid. "
She remembered that a huge utility pole behind the church had to be relocated during the church's expansion, and the local authority claimed that the church had to pay more than 20,000 yuan extra for the idle time of the nearby transformer substation. The congregation kept praying for this. It turned out that a person who wanted to build a house there pulled down the pole, which solved the problem.
During that period, Rev. Tian lead the construction project every day to keep informed of the progress and ensure the safety of construction workers.
The current church can hold over 1,000 people. The church staff includes six full-time workers who have received education in seminaries or pastoral training classes and volunteers who are unpaid. For the local church development, the key workers left Chibi Church to build Muen Church in 2004. "Our church was like an empty shell and everything had to be started again, but it was for the sake of the gospel. The two churches enjoy a good relationship even now, together working on problems."
When it comes to the church's internal construction, Rev. Tian shared that they emphasize pastoring. However, the church focused on the expansion project from 2012 to 2015. After the completion, she wanted to put the focus on training workers, evangelism, and pastoring.
Having been in ministry for about three decades, she stated that it's good to be loved by the congregation in spite of the hard beginning. Speaking of livelihood, she says that the keyboard player and the sisters who work with the computers in the church all graduated from college.
A brother who used to serve in the church left because the low salary could not support his family after marriage. He found a job. She added that the church will hire some young workers after paying off the debt. "After all, the church has to grow. As we grow older it seems we fail to keep pace with the world, incapable of using computers and not knowing young people, so we need to raise up young workers."
It was moving that her mother became a Christian at around 50 and has supported her ministry for the latest eighteen years.The pastor claimed, "She says that the reason why she help me is nothing else but that serving me equals serving God."
"You should serve God hard and have faith! I was hard up after giving a birth to a baby, but the believers loved me, gave me more meat, fish, and eggs than I could eat. This is the life of the house of God. My demand is not high so I'm satisfied with enough food and clothes." Rev. Tian said.
-Translated by Karen Luo
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