Exclusive Interview with Elderly Believer in Picheng: Over 40 Years of Disseminating the Gospel with Unwavering Faith

A picture of Ms. Chen Zhenghua, a female believer from Picheng in Danyang, Jiangsu Province
A picture of Ms. Chen Zhenghua, a female believer from Picheng in Danyang, Jiangsu Province
By Josiah LiMay 2nd, 2024

Editor's note: “Isn’t saving souls the greatest work? What could be more valuable than life itself?” With this conviction, Chen Zhenghua, a female believer from Picheng in Danyang, Jiangsu Province, has been spreading the gospel from the moment she came to Christ, all through her life, until her advanced age of over eighty.

The Picheng Church now boasts a large area, and Chen lives alone in a modest 40-square-meter cottage in the churchyard. It is a house simply furnished in a typical rural style. Standing around 1.5 meters tall, Chen was in simple clothes and a short hairdo as she was recounting her story of faith.

First encounter with the gospel leading to a lifelong devotion

Chen Zhenghua first heard the gospel in the year 1980. It was during a time when she was receiving medical treatment in a hospital that her cousin’s illiterate wife introduced the gospel to her, sharing with her the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. Chen accepted the gospel then.

Later on, her cousin’s wife contacted seven or eight elderly female believers to pray for Chen. They all believed in Jesus before 1949. During the prayers, one of them mentioned that God intended to establish a church in Picheng. Initially skeptical, Chen felt she was a rural woman destined for rural work, and she was an introvert, feeling uneasy about interacting with others. “When the time comes, God will open your mouth and teach you what to say," that elderly woman assured her firmly. Chen accepted this too.

Then, her cousin’s wife introduced her to Pastor Jiang Peifen and Teacher Jiang Baoshan, both of whom had dedicated their lives to serving God and remained unmarried. This deeply impressed Chen. Seeing how these two ministers had dedicated their lives to disseminating the gospel, she desired to follow in their footsteps. After believing in God, her illness was healed, and upon returning home, she began to disseminate the gospel.

Spreading the gospel and establishing the church

“Within a month after I returned home from the hospital, over a dozen people came to believe in Jesus through me; within two months, my house was filled to capacity. Every new convert brought about positive changes. Those who were ill recovered, and those facing divorce found solace. They said this faith was truly wonderful,” she recalled. 

As the number of believers grew, Chen’s home could no longer accommodate them. So, the church rented a warehouse from a production labor group for gatherings. The warehouse was in poor condition and needed to be repaired. The believers contributed over two hundred yuan and repaired it themselves. Later, the warehouse was reclaimed for other uses, and the church needed its own building.

After much perseverance, the church finally secured an abandoned pond as the site for its construction. Every Sunday, after a brief reading or singing, everyone would gather to fill the pond with soil. It took an entire year to finally flatten the pond. Picheng finally had its first church. Every Christmas, the church would make a large quantity of noodles and give them free to the public, taking the opportunity to spread the gospel.

Moreover, Chen traveled to surrounding areas within a radius of over twenty kilometers to spread the gospel. She first shared the gospel with her relatives in neighboring villages and then with the locals. Whenever several people in a place came to believe in Jesus, she would encourage them to establish a prayer meeting point. In this way, several dozen prayer meeting points were established around Picheng.

Faced with numerous challenges while disseminating the gospel, Chen’s days are occupied with activities. She wakes up early every morning to arrange household affairs, then goes out to spread the gospel at around 9 am and returns home at around 3 pm. She goes out again in the evening to visit believers who are only available after work. She often stays out until around 9 pm. She walks long distances of up to ten kilometers wearing worn-out rubber shoes.

Overcoming challenges on the path of evangelism

Chen’s journey of disseminating the gospel has been difficult. When she applied to the village leaders for land to build a church, she often encountered obstacles and was even mocked as being mentally ill. Some questioned whether faith was merely a form of self-comfort. Others were even harsher, often verbally abusing and insulting her by pointing at her face.

In the face of others’ doubts, she remains steadfast in her mind because she knows that she is doing the work of saving souls. Whenever she encounters difficulties, she often thinks of the two predecessors who remained celibate to serve God. In her eyes, compared to their lifelong dedication to the gospel, her hardships are nothing. Compared to those martyrs who sacrificed themselves to save the country and its people, what she endures is nothing. She said, “I am happy when either one soul or one body is saved, so I don’t care about those who attacked me.”

Serving God unceasingly in her later years

Even after Chen retired and reached her 80s, she still disseminates the Gospel every day.

After stepping down from her position as the leader of the church, Chen prays for believers every day and often goes out to visit them. “The field is so vast, and God’s work must be done until the end of one’s life.” Chen, now 85 years old, said calmly, “I never find that there is a day that I have nothing to do. God’s work needs to be done every day.” To better serve the gospel, she keeps up with the times. At first, she walked. Then she rode a tricycle, later an electric bike, and now an electric tricycle. She also uses a smart phone and communicates with people through voice and video.

Concerning her advanced age, she said, “I disseminated to 12 people the year before last, 5 last year, and 3 so far this year, one of whom has not fully believed.”

Afterword: In the 1980s and 1990s, Christianity developed rapidly in vast rural areas of China, and the number of believers doubled. During this period, many servants of God emerged. They were willing to endure hardships for the Lord and were eager to disseminate the gospel. Most of them had not received systematic theological training, which led many people to return to the Lord. Often, miracles and testimonies accompanied them.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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