Gospel Seed Struggles to Grow in Remote Mountains

A picture of several believers attending service in a rural village
A picture of several believers attending service in a rural village
By Zhang XiaohuaFebruary 29th, 2024

On February 13, our family paid a visit to my mother-in-law at a small mountain village in Fenxi County in the Luliang Mountains of southern Shanxi, which is about five kilometers away from the county with convenient transportation.

My 80-year-old mother-in-law, who had lost her sight for nearly a decade, believed in the Lord and was baptized in Linfen 20 years ago. Later, I assisted in setting up a meeting point in her home where the village's only five to six believers could read the Bible, pray, study, and share on Sundays. An elderly Christian woman from a neighboring village often attended and led the meetings. Her daughters are all Christians, and the youngest one once studied at Yanjing Theological Seminary and now serves at a church in the city. Several old Christian women who attend the meeting here are all in their 70s or 80s. There is also a 40-year-old disabled Christian man, who has a mentally disabled younger brother, and his parents have passed. Those believers would gather to learn to sing hymns, share, and sometimes listen to recorded sermons. County churches once helped with service arrangements and conducted visitations.

However, the situation has changed in recent years. The old believer from the neighboring village was ill and could not attend gatherings. Several old believers in the village barely attended because they lacked a gathering leader. The major reason is the cultural backwardness in such a remote mountainous area, making it difficult to preach the gospel. Worse, mahjong is popular there as well. There are several mahjong parlors in this small village of more than 100 people. As a result, believers began to stop coming to worship. Even when they came for a while, they quickly left with the excuse of being preoccupied with something else. Rather, they either showed up at the mahjong tables or went drinking.

My mother-in-law prayed frequently in tears, but people's hearts remained hardened. Last year, an older Christian woman passed away, and no one attends gatherings anymore. Despite her eyesight and declining situation at the meeting point, my mother-in-law has a firm belief and bright spiritual eyes, and she frequently praises aloud to the Lord. My father-in-law, who is over 80 years old, suffered from a cerebral infarction several years ago. Despite their challenging circumstances, the elderly couple takes care of each other.

Whenever my mother-in-law preached, the villagers always scoffed, "You believe in God; why does He make you invisible?" She always responds with gratitude, "This is also God's good intention. My spiritual eyes are bright, though my physical ones are invisible." When she couldn't sleep at night, she meditated on God's words, dictating the scriptures on her palm. She listened to the sermon tape dozens of times and even discussed certain biblical explanations with me during my occasional visits. Although my old father-in-law doesn’t understand much or speak much, deep down he knows that communicating with God is wonderful. Even if their children are not around, the two elderly have the Lord by their side, standing firmly in their faith. Despite difficulties in evangelization, they remain hopeful that God will open the path. Regarding the current situation, a pastor in that county said that it has been difficult to manage and look after that meeting place due to COVID-19 in recent years. However, visitation, support, and pastoral care will be available in the future.

I believe the seed of the gospel must sprout and grow as God has sown in this barren land.

(The article was originally published by the Gospel Times and the author reported in Linfen, Shanxi.)

- Translated by Poppy Chan

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