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"God Opened My Eyes to Read the Bible before I Die"; An Interview of the Literacy Class at Pingliang Church

"God Opened My Eyes to Read the Bible before I Die"; An Interview of the Literacy Class at Pingliang Church

Zhao Cuiping was teaching senior believers in the literary class held in Kongtong District Church in Pingliang, China's northern Gansu Province. Zhao Cuiping was teaching senior believers in the literary class held in Kongtong District Church in Pingliang, China's northern Gansu Province.(Provided by Jonah Li)
ByCCD contributor: Jonah Li October 13, 2020
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"Before I died, God opened my eyes to read the Bible," said Sister Liu Xiuqin, now 72.

Sister Liu is a student in a literacy class at Pingliang Church, China's northern Gansu Province. Elder Zhang Baohua, the current monitor of the literacy class, said that in the middle of September 2008, under the proposal of the fellowship of the Women's Department, the church established the fellowship of literacy class for the elderly and middle-aged illiterate brothers and sisters in the church.

In late September of that year, the literacy class began with more than 20 students. The first teacher was Chen Yan. Chen has been teaching in this position for 12 years now. In 2019, with the support of the "Gan Lin Foundation" of Gansu CC&TSPM and the Amity Foundation, the church expanded the number of literacy classes to eight. The average class has about 28 students and there are 220 students in total. The Amity Foundation gave free literacy textbooks to the expanded literacy classes. Pingliang Church provided a complete set of books and pens, erasers and other school materials. Several teachers encouraged students to learn by buying pens and school supplies for students at their own expense.

In late September, teachers and students in the literacy classes were interviewed and asked to share their teaching and learning experiences.

Sister Chen shared that she was chosen to be the first teacher of the literacy class. After she taught for a year, the church assigned a sister to her as an assistant. In the teaching process, she used the Bible as her textbook because they didn't have a textbook. They started with Genesis and taught one chapter after another. Until last year, they had taught Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy...

“In terms of learning methods, I read the Bible verses once in class and then have the brothers and sisters read them one by one. Then I would let them pick out the new words that they did not know. I wrote the phonetic alphabet for each new word on the blackboard and guided them in reading the phonetic alphabet and learning new Chinese characters until they remembered these words. At the end of the class, the homework of the day was assigned according to the educational level of each student, and each new word would be required to be written several times. Because each student's education level is different, the number of new words picked out which they do not know is also different. Thus, how much homework a student has is also different. They are required to hand it in on the following Saturday in class and I will mark it.”

Then, by the second class on Saturday, students were basically able to read the Bible alone from the text they had learned the week before.

"When I was grading their homework, I was moved to tears while correcting them one by one," she said. "Even though they are all over 70 years old, the new words in the exercise book are written stroke by stroke and each word is well written."

Zhao Cuiping, the teacher of the literacy class, said that at the beginning, they could read almost all the words. But when it comes to writing, they could only write some words. Some of the writing is not standard, and some of the handwriting is not good. It is harder for them to learn the phonetic alphabet. They may forget completely soon after they learned the word. "It was a wonderful ministry for me," she said. "Teaching them the phonetic alphabet and sketching Chinese characters helped me hone my patience and loving heart."

"In the teaching process, some sisters couldn't write, so I would have to hold their hands and teach them to write. It's the same with the phonetic alphabet, I had to hold their hands and help them learn."

She went on to say that their love of learning has inspired her to stay in the literacy class! "Then I out of my own pocket I bought everyone in the literacy class a pen to encourage them to study hard."

Yang Suping is 75 years old and has been a believer since 2005. In the past, because she was illiterate, she was unable to read the Bible and envied others who could read. Since she joined the literacy class, she has learned a lot about how to be a good person by reading the Bible and thinking about the wisdom given in the Scriptures. She has made much progress in her spiritual life than before.

"I've read the whole Bible nine times since I learned to read," she said. Five years ago she set herself a new goal of copying the Bible every two years. She is copying the Bible for the third time. By the end of August, she finished copying the Old Testament. She will finish the task ahead of schedule by the end of the year as planned."

Another member of the literacy class, Deng Shuying, 80, was baptized in 1998. She didn't know how to read. She can't even read numbers, let alone  Chinese characters. After joining the literacy class, she studied for five years and learned more than 5,000 words. She's read through the Bible three times now, mostly with no help. She hopes to read the Bible three times in five years, with the aim of going through it once a year.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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