Touching Testimony: Grassroots Preacher Continues to Serve Despite Sickness

A church in Anhui
A church in Anhui
By Grace ZhiJanuary 9th, 2017

Recently, a crowdfunding article, "Build the hope of Life with love," is being forwarded in WeChat moments. The character of the story is Brother Ru Zongren, a grassroots preacher in Lixin County, Anhui Province. He has been serving in the rural church for over 10 years, but now with a serious illness and unable to afford treatment.

The article introduced the basic condition of Ru, 35, who lives in a state poverty county in North West Anhui. His parents are both farmers. He is married, raising two boys, 9 and 4. With no land or fixed income, he's been in great debt since his younger son got sick twice between 2013 and 2015 and even nearly died. One year ago, Ru was diagnosed severe damage to both his kidneys (renal insufficiency). The doctor suggested dialysis or transplant, but he hasn't been hospitalized due to lack of money. With the demand for the brothers and sisters and great pressure, he started this crowdfunding. In the meantime, Ru's classmates from 2004 in Anhui Theological Seminary also started a prayer request for him.

From another prayer letter that Ru wrote to the members of his church, we learned that he was born in Lixin County, Anhui Province.  He has been a Christian since young and both his parents are devoted Christians. After his conversion in 2001, seeing the church deserted, Ru was touched by the Holy Spirit to go to seminary.  In the first half of 2004, he studied volunteer ministry at Anhui Seminary.  In the same year, he was admitted to the Anhui Theological Seminary's junior college to equip himself for ministry.  After graduating in 2007 he was called to return to serve in his hometown church.

He has served in the church for 10 years but did not receive a wage until 2013.

It is not easy to serve in a rural church.  Ru served voluntarily from his graduation until 2014, and the church gave him a stipend of 500 CNY for living expenses starting in 2015.  "Because Ru Zhongwen's younger son was sick twice some years back, the church considered giving him a raise. Starting in 2016 the church gave him 1,000 CNY per month, but it was still insufficient for a family of four.  In addition, Ru still has debt since his son's treatment started. With this and his own sickness, life is difficult for him."  He is currently still serving in the hometown church even with his sickness.  During Christmas, when the brothers and sisters who care about him called to enquire of his health, Ru was busy measuring the land, because Lixin Church was planning to build a new church.  "He is so sick, and yet he is still worried about God's house.  Another reason he is not hospitalized is the building of a new church. He must sign for the new land to build on," Li Xiang, Ru's classmate told CCD.

Ru's situation is not uncommon in Anhui and other places nationwide, especially in grassroots churches.  After graduation, Li Xiang has served in two rural churches in Suixi County in north Anhui.  He said that some preachers only get 2-300 per month, and a few hundred to 1,000 is common.  In order to make ends meet, many theological students must have a second job or have a business.  "There was an alumnus who loved God in the theological seminary, but after he started serving in the church he received less than 300 CNY a month.  He died impoverished." 

Why can the problem of preacher's lack of wages not be solved?  Is it because the church is financially challenged, or because there is insufficient understanding?  Li Xiang said in church some people served for many years without wages, but theological students need wages and they couldn't accept this situation.  "It is not that the church doesn't have money.  There are hundreds of thousands and even a million donated each year, but the wages of preachers are just a few hundred or a thousand.  Many theological students live only by faith."

Some students have found alternate work in this situation.  Li has a classmate who, after three years of seminary, is now a city bus driver.  "It is sad to see the church spends a lot of effort and resources to nourish theological students, but many left like this." However, there are still many people who stick to the threshing floor with faith.

Translated by: Grace Hubl

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