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Rural Church in Linfen During Pandemic

Rural Church in Linfen During Pandemic

A picture taken in January 2023 shows Deacon Zhu Liqin (first right), the author (second right), and Shen Suqin (first left). A picture taken in January 2023 shows Deacon Zhu Liqin (first right), the author (second right), and Shen Suqin (first left).
ByZhang Xiaohua February 13, 2023
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The church in Linfen, China’s northern Shanxi Province, has a long history. A drought broke out in the province in 1878. British missionaries Joshua John Turner and David Hill settled down in a temple in downtown Linfen. They began a preaching ministry and also provided relief. 

A Christian writing contest started by Timothy Richard and David Hill honored a local scholar named Xi Zizhi. He converted to Christianity and successfully got rid of his opium addiction. He renamed himself “Xi Shengmo” (literally “devil slayer”) to demonstrate his repentance. Later, Xi set up more than 100 centers to help people who were physically and spiritually addicted to opiates. He was the first Chinese pastor to be ordained by the China Inland Mission in Shanxi. He then built the famous Wilson Memorial Hospital. 

The current church landscape in Linfen has seven parishes. Linfen CC&TSPM is in charge of administration and leading pastoral work, while local elders, deacons, and church councils carry out ministries. Zhang Yanqin, a senior pastor of Beijing Fengtai Church, worked in the city for several years. 

Deacon Zhu Hongli, the head of the third parish in her fifties, has been working as a doctor in her daily time. During her spare time, she serves as a volunteer preacher. Her father was an elder of the hometown church. After graduating from nursery school, she began to work at the Wilson Memorial Hospital and was even promoted to the position of president. She remained president until the hospital was forcibly closed down. 

But God provided her with a larger mission field. She preached in the church where Linfen CC&TSPM is seated on Sundays and was also invited to lead services in other counties. In her own clinic, she treats many people and also preaches the gospel to them. Later, she led a prayer fellowship and was appointed to serve in the third parish. 

There were more than ten village meeting points in the parish, and the former leader passed away in early 2022. Those who intended to work there full-time refused to be the successors due to their own jobs. What was worse, an important church became dangerous due to poor construction quality. At that time, she was appointed by God to serve there. 

She started to make friends with the congregation and shared God's word with them. During the past three-year pandemic, believers could not gather together and faced hardship in their lives. Despite their weakness in the faith, she saw a bright future with the conviction that God must open a way there. 

After prayer, Deacon Zhu Hongli and her congregation started to renovate the church building to remove safety hazards. 

Shen Suqin, in charge of Gaohe Meeting Point, has been hosting believers at her home for years. Her husband and two sons have been helping her. She and her sons joined the team and helped deal with the construction issues. After efforts spanning more than half a year, the hidden perils had been removed and the building had been greatly improved. 

Meanwhile, Zhu commenced building “the inner temple” of the congregation. To strengthen their faith during the church's closure, she organized members from various villages into teams, with each team assigned to listen to online biblical courses and continue reading the Bible. A special member was set up to supervise their “homework."

When Deacon Zhu went to these villages, she also told the villagers about how to prevent and treat common diseases. 

“It's God’s tremendous grace that I can be used by Him. My biggest wish is that God will build a central church on the outskirts of the northern city in His time. I discussed it with a few coworkers. I believe He has a perfect will in this,” said Zhu. 

(The article is originally published by the Gospel Times.)

- Translated by Karen Luo

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