A Tradition of Hospitality

Article excerpt

KUNMING, otherwise known as the "City of Eternal Spring" is by far the most colourful place we've seen seven days into our 13-day journey last April visiting China's Protestant churches.

With a year-round temperate climate, Kunming is home to more than 400 species of flowers and 4,000 varieties of tropical and subtropical plants, picturesque highland scenery, stone parks, and 26 out of 56 "nationalities" whose customs and traditions are celebrated in festivals that have become major tourist attractions.

The attractions beckon but we are not here to play tourists but to meet indigenous Christians. Upon our arrival, the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Three Self-Patriotic Movement (TSPM) immediately gave us a briefing.

The struggle for resources is evident in Kunming's churches, where there are only 80 pastors for 800,000 congregants (80% of them from ethnic minority groups).

The local theological seminary, which we visited the next day, is a cold, damp, bare-boned structure where teachers and students are housed in cramped quarters. The seminary has 90 students representing 18 minority groups and since it does not charge tuition, it is dependent on funds provided by the Shanghai-based China Christian Council (CCC).

But despite the harsh conditions, spirits soar in this seminary, where students treated us to a rousing musical presentation.

"The beauty of your music brings tears to my eyes," Rev. Carol Hancock of the United Church of Canada told them. Ian Morrison, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada's Life and Mission Agency said,' The Scottish are not known for their emotions, but I, too, have been moved. You have not just welcomed us but sung praise to God."

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told them that like China, Canada is a huge country with its own indigenous peoples and a large immigrant population. "As you remember us, remember that we are like you. Please pray for us as we minister o many cultures, he said.

CHRISTIANITY came to Wuding County, located 100 km from Kunming, 95 years ago. But Bible translation work only began 35 years later, in 1949.

The task of translating the Bible from Mandarin to Yi has been an arduous, on and off process, hampered for the most part by lack of money, according to Zhang Pei Fu, pastor of the Church of Pure Heart. The church itself, he said, is not yet complete; the 500-member congregation is still paying a loan it incurred to build it from the local bank. …