Three years ago, together with a fellowship, I attended the wedding of a son of an elderly pastor. As it was the day before a market day, the whole family went out, busy with slaughtering pigs, selling pork, and making tofu. Without anyone entertaining us, we had to cook dinner by ourselves, waiting for them to return before eating.
On Saturday evening, the old pastor's family was even busier, saying, "You’ve come just at the right time! Tomorrow can you give a sermon and lead the worship with a group sharing session?" I was temporarily appointed to preach that Sunday. At that time, I thought to myself, "Is their own business more important than pastoring the family of God?"
It was just after the Sunday service the next day that I realized all the young people here had gone out to work, leaving old believers to make a living on some infertile land. So how could the old pastor survive if he was not busy raising and selling pigs? Could we say he did not love the Lord when he had opened his three principal rooms as meeting places and sent his son and daughter to study theology?
Another disabled female believer named Z received several hundred yuan a month from the government as a subsistence allowance. The church couldn't pay her any salary, let alone endowment insurance and medical insurance.
Every year when the Spring Festival was approaching, Z made some handmade items such as headdresses and car hanging accessories to sell at the market. "I can earn in four days five thousand yuan as next year's pocket money," she said with contentment and gratitude.
Recently, as the head of the church fell ill, Z who used to preach in the pulpit once a month has had to prepare sermons every week, having little time to do handicrafts. Some pastors and church staff gave her some money after learning about her current situation. Receiving these donations that she refused several times, she was inspired to serve God better.
Another male Christian called W for short originally rented with others a large house with three bedrooms and one living room, providing space for fellowship and Bible study every week. Recently, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, he could not afford the high rent, changing to a small house in the suburbs.
"I should work to support myself, otherwise I will experience poverty." He went back to his old business of writing articles on an official WeChat account. "Though earning less money, doing this work can prevent financial temptations," he said.
Today, I have also become a "poor pastor", studying theology to equip myself and planting a new church at the same time. In the same position, I can better understand the old pastor and the other two servants of God mentioned above. Recently, I have often asked myself why I leave my comfort zone to serve in the countryside.
I think it is because of the renewal by the Holy Spirit every day after constantly experiencing brokenness; it is hearing the Lord’s call: do you see the lost and empty souls heading for death and the house of God is desolate day by day?
(The author is a seminary student in Yunnan, and the article is originally published by the Gospel Times.)
- Translated by Abigail Wu