Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, is in southwest China, next to Myanmar. Most of its population are from ethnic minorities. James Outram Fraser, a British missionary, spread the Christian faith among the Lisu people in Yingjiang beginning in 1916. Some Jingpo people were converted to Christianity in 1918. As a result, it took root in Yingjiang. Today there are 34,000 Christians amongst a total of 310,000 Yingjiang people in 240 churches, 1 Burmese Church for foreigners, 7 ordained pastors, and 52 non-ordained pastors. These clergy and other Christians consist of Han and national minorities such as Lisu, Jingpo, Dai, and De'ang, who have settled there many generations ago.
The Yingjiang Christian Training Center was established in 1994. It offers four kinds of education: a three-month training class, a Bible learning class, a three-year full time bilingual theology class and other short term training. At present there are 78 students in the three-year class and 89 in short term training class. The three-month training class requires students to study three months per year over four years. Two languages are spoken in the class: Lisu and Jingpo. The first group of students was recruited on January 4, 1994 for the three-month training class. During the last 25 years, the center has recruited 4000 students, 150 plus per year on average, and 480 of them graduated after four years of the three-month training.
The two-year full time theology class started in 2008. Its courses are similar to those of regular theological schools. It lasted only two years and closed in 2010 because the school was severely damaged in an earthquake and was short of funds. Of the 64 students who were recruited for the class, 59 graduated.
The full time three-year bilingual theology class started on September 6, 2017. Students were taught in either the Lisu or Jingpo languages along with Chinese. Graduates are able to teach Christians in the church and manage the church in two languages. There are now 78 students taking the class. There are 14 staff members who teach, are involved in the kitchen cooking or are security guards at the school gate. All students come from the mountainous border area next to Myanmar and are from poor families.
Every year, the center also holds a one-week ministry training for women and youth, so as to educate as many Christians as possible from varied levels. In total 8800 persons have taken time to be part of the training.
The Yingjiang Training Center has 10 teachers. They take class in Chinese and in either the Lisu or Jingpo languages.
Around 90% of the believers in the frontier area are from villages. The center wants to train them to become young pastors. Of the more than 240 churches in Yingjiang, most are located in mountainous areas. The theological students who graduated from the center could serve in these churches.
Graduates are appointed as elders, pastors, worship leaders, deacons and other core members by the churches of the county. Among those who are in main positions in the churches, about 70% are students from the Yingjiang Training Center
However, the center face challenges. Yingjiang County is in a seismic belt, on the frontier of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates. Earthquakes are quite frequent there. The earthquakes in 2008 and 2011 severely damaged 70% of the churches. Most of Christians' homes became too dangerous to live in. This was also with the training center. Students' and teachers' dormitories, classrooms and canteens were no longer safe. The center had no other option but to hold class in these dangerous buildings. In 2014 another earthquake took place. Most houses and churches in the seven towns of Yingjiang were badly damaged. The dangerous building at the training center could no longer be used. After much discussion, pastors and teachers decided to build a classroom building for the center.
They began construction in July 2015 and started to use it at the end of 2017. The five-storey building is 2500 square metesr. However, they are still in need of more money.
They need to buy 50 sets of desks and chairs, for the nearly 120 students who will attend the three-month Bible class, and there are 210 students in total who will be at the training center from January to March.
The training center has made an appeal. "We hope that everyone will pray for and support theological education in Yingjiang."
-Translated by Lin Changfeng