The gospel was first introduced by the Catholic church into this small town in the 1870s. However, Catholicism has disappeared. Twenty years after the Catholic evangelistic efforts, James Hudson Taylor came to the place where he purchased three houses and founded the first Protestant church.
Unfortunately, although the church was destroyed in the barrage of the Japanese army in World War II, Christianity tenaciously survived. It was not until the reform and opening up in the 1980s that the local church saw a real revival.
The story began with a pastor who led a reviving church in the new era. People called him Rev. Dong.
When my mother shared with me church stories, Rev. Dong was an indispensible character. My grandfather had not been feeling well, finding no relief in praying to Buddha and was not able to afford to see a doctor. In his weakest moment, an old woman attempted to convince him to believe in Jesus, saying that many sick people recovered soon after converting to Christianity. On a Sunday, my grandmother dragged my grandfather along with that woman to the church. Since that time, he started getting better and did not easily lose his temper. The whole family began moving in a good direction. They became Christians and were baptized by Rev. Dong.
Rev. Dong founded the church from scratch and served for more than twenty years. At that time, he thought highly of my mother and uncle and wanted to train them to be the church's next leaders because there were few young members in the church. Soon after, my uncle migrated to Shanghai to make a living however my mother was active in the church, attending Bible studies and prayer meetings and joined the choir after finishing the farm work.
The membership kept increasing as Rev. Dong preached passionate sermons and he also had the gift of healing and casting out demons. Ostensibly, the church functioned as normal, but the old pastor did not have enough energy to manage a big church. Moreover, no one could be the potential mainstay in a church in which the majority were elderly people and women.
Shortly after the church prayed for its next leader, two young, eloquent and zealous brothers joined the church. They were regarded as the right persons, especially by my mother, who felt relieved to have taken a load off her mind.
The two men treated the church as their "home" and they boarded for free. However, the experienced pastor saw that something was wrong and stopped their free accommodation in the church. He exhorted them through his preaching to be humble and for example, to take the lead in cleaning the bathrooms. He also no longer spoke about someone "succeeding him in his position".
The two men finally lost their patience and began to "stir things up". They started a rumor saying that the pastor had stolen money from the offering box. The gossip grew ever larger. Rev. Dong behaved as a parent of the church, having the final say in almost every matter. So some members took exception and began to grumble. They took undue advantage of the situation and the church slowly split into two camps. However, it was difficult for the old pastor's leadership and authority to be relinquished.
They then produced an even more serious rumor that said that the pastor had committed a sexual sin. This made him really angry. He was determined to meet with the two men and the other core staff face to face to deal with the issue. Unexpectedly, the two brothers said that that was what they had heard and that they had had no intention of starting a rumor. They apologized to the pastor and stayed to do the cleaning work in the church.
After the people left, my mother returned to the church to find her key. When she was at the church door, she happened to encounter the two brothers and greeted them. They literally passed by her and walked away in a rage. My mother saw Rev. Dong climbing out of the bathroom with shit all over his body. She took him to a chair and cleaned him up. He ordered her repeatedly not to keep tell anyone about this.
Soon after the issue, the pastor passed away. The young men took over the church and randomly organized the ministries and the preaching of sermons. Many members dared not to protest and some elderly women started to gather in their homes. The church became divided and the choir was disbanded.
Feeling sad and disappointed, my mother chose to attend a gathering held in an elderly sister's home that was nearby. My mother has been away from ministry ever since. She has rejected any ministry opportunity and insisted in only attending the church and punctually giving tithes.
She often sighs deeply when she thinks about the schemes that brothers and sisters in the church of God have devised against each other. She wonders why Christians fight for fame and position in such sophisticated ways.
- Translated by Karen Luo