Before the 2018 Chinese New Year that fell in mid-February, I visited a few churches in Zhangjiajie and Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, the western Hunan. Some aged Christians shared their stories of how they went to church under difficult conditions in the 1990s, like walking to church with torches in the early morning or taking a long walk on the mountain road to attend Sunday services.
Miaoyuan Village is situated in a mountain of Longshan County, Xiangxi Tujia, and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, about seven or eight kilometers by road away from the foot of the mountain.
Brother Zhang Shengguo and Sister Zhai Jinyu, now in their seventies, were two of the village's earliest Christians. When they were new believers no road was built. They had to walk over 30 km to attend Sunday services held in a church of Longshan County. At that time there was no watch or flashlight in the village. They walked in the mountain with torches made of cedar bark and bamboo and reached the bottom of the mountain at daybreak. When they were back home after church services, it was time to make dinner.
Recalling the past, Zhai said, "The first confidence was good!"
At first, the congregation of Miaoyuan Church gathered in the house of Rev. Li Xiansheng who lived in the county. Rev. Li, 80, said, "The coworkers were all of one mind then. The staff came immediately when a church affair needed to be settled. They didn't eat until the discussion was over."
Rev. Quan Huizhi, the founder of the church in Wangjiaping Town, took a 65 or 70 km mountain road walk with her daughter to Zhangjiajie Gospel Church on Saturdays for worship when the town had no church. They stayed in Gospel Church on Saturday nights and walked back home after Sunday services. Later the town had its first church. Rev. Quan and a small number of believers constructed the second church in Zhangjiajie.
However, Christians living in remote mountainous regions of Zhangjiajie still have to get up early on Sundays. According to Rev. Fu Yuci from Gospel Church, some of them get out of bed at four or five in the morning then ride in private cars downtown. They arrive at the church at 7 or 8 am before the Sunday service begins at 9 am.
- Translated by Karen Luo