Tumen Church, located in China’s ancient capital of Xi'an, Shaanxi has 3000 believers. But when the church began, it had only several believers.
The former location of the church was a gathering place in the western suburbs of Lianhu District, in Shaanxi province. The church was established by Elder Shi Sufang, who is now an 85-year-old director on the church council, and two other fellow workers. Initially, these three and their three children were the only persons who attended the church.
In 1968, Elder Shi was an unbeliever who suffered from many severe diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, malignant tumors of the breast, neurosis, and ovarian cysts. Eating only a little food every day, she became weaker and weaker and couldn’t even walk. She weighed only 35.5 kilograms and lay on her sofa waiting to die. At this time, some believers preached the gospel to her and told her about Jesus. From that day on she changed and began a new life. In 1977, she decided to return to the Lord. One year later, she attended worship services with two other fellow workers.
At the beginning they had only a partial Bible, which they borrowed from an old brother. They studied the Bible, worshiped and praised God together. They prayed for the western suburbs as there were only few believers there. Later, the number of worshippers increased.
With changes in religious policy, the Nanxin Street Church in the city reopened, Sunday services resumed and the three colleagues went there to worship. On Sunday morning, they set off at four o'clock and walked from the western suburbs to the municipal church. If they arrived early, they waited at the gate of the church. At that time, the pastors of the church presented them with Bibles and provided pastoral support for them.
Due to the long distance they had to travel, it was inconvenient for the elderly and ill believers to go there to worship. The fellow workers immediately contacted the municipal CC&TSPM. Later, the local government also agreed to prepare a gathering place for the believers in the western suburbs.
They found a small farmyard of about 100 square meters that they were able to rent for 50 yuan each month. At that time, they did not receive any contributions from believers. In order to raise funds, the church workers bought washing powder wholesale from the Xi’an Chemical Plant, and every night they would process about 300 kilograms. They sold it in the morning and returned home at 8 o’clock in the evening. They also sold soft drinks, cold noodles (liangpi) and wontons. When conditions permitted, they made money by raising scorpions, selling eggs, and planting grapes and vegetables. They continued to do this for five years.
In December 1985, the church began to lease a plot of land that had a nine-meter-deep hole in which water had accumulated over the years. In order to clean up the water that had accumulated, some old and ill believers worked in the pit day and night. At night, to prevent someone from stealing the equipment parts, Elder Shi even slept on the excavator.
During the day, many weak and sickly believers participated in the construction work. During the day, 22 vehicles were used to dump earth, and at night, Elder Shi led the volunteers in packing the dirt. However, due to the lack of money, they could only build a simple building in which to meet.
In order to build a new church, the local village committee agreed that they could purchase about 1.3 acres of land. Lacking the money to buy this land, they mobilized believers to borrow money. More than 300 participated, borrowing tens of thousands of yuan.
By the end of the 1990s, the congregation had grown to more than 800. Because of urban growth and the poor condition of the church building, the leaders planned to build a new church. They received contributions of 2 million yuan from the believers and the total project cost was more than 3 million yuan). Now it is the biggest church in Xi’an.
At present, in addition to four full-time pastors and more than 200 volunteers, the church has 3,000 registered believers, ten fellowships, seven church council members and 23 meeting places. About 150 seekers are baptized every year.
(This material was provided by elder Yuan Xiangzhong of Xiaozhen Church in Fenghua, Ningbo, Zhejiang and was edited by Wu Zhongyi, a special writer for Gospel Times.)
-Translated by Abigail Wu