Chinese Church VoicesChurch Life

Living Conditions of Rural Preachers

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The Mainland site Gospel Times recently published an article about the poor living conditions of preachers in the countryside. The article contains stories and photos of preachers in three different counties in southwest China. Below is a translation of one of those stories. The article is set within the context of the Sanjiang Church, an unusually expensive and ornate church in Wenzhou that was demolished last month.

The Stories of Preachers and their Houses

When you see a magnificent church, do you know the story of the preacher who serves in the church? What kind of environment does he live in? What is his story?

When news of the Sanjiang Church demolition came, some staff members of the Gospel Times were visiting three counties in southwest China. In some of the places, there were beautiful churches, and in some places the churches had plans to build new sanctuaries or to renovate existing sanctuaries. In some cases, the churches are even going into debt. But there are few resources for the preachers. Compared to preachers in the cities and counties, village prachers have low salaries.

The homes of some preachers were in terrible shape, and the stories behind them were sad as well. Some are mis-treated by their sons because they serve in the church without pay instead of going to work in a town. Some have gone into debt because of illnesses in their families or to pay for their children's education. In some places, if the preachers teach that the church should give them a salary, they will be ousted. This is because many believe that the preacher should take the lead in making sacrifices.

This is the home of Preacher T. The church where he serves spent millions to build a beautiful building but his house is so poor. This is difficult to see. Where the church is bright and spacious, the preacher's house is narrow and dark. It was a one-story house built in the 1950's or 1960's. Six family members live there without toilet or bathing facilities.

Millions were spent to build the church, but the preacher still receives no wages. Fortunately, this old preacher has a pension. He relies on this pension to live because his wife and his son are both ill. Other than this, he also needs to find money to pay back a debt because of his grandson's leukemia treatment. This elderly preacher lives frugally, wearing old army clothes with frayed collars. Even though he is more than 60 years old, his son continues to mis-treat him because he does not receive a salary for his work at the church.

While we were there we also met a middle-aged preacher who ministers in a different church. Even though he has received theological training, he receives no salary. His two children are both grown and are now in college. Since his wife had a stroke which left her partially paralyzed, he has had to find a job as a security guard in a town to maintain a basic living while taking care of his wife. He returns to his church in the countryside on weekends to lead the service. According to the preacher, he and his wife rent a small room in the town. It has no bed, just a wooden board that they use as a bed. Wanting to maintain his dignity as a preacher, when co-workers want to visit him, he refuses.

There are three preachers in this village, and each preachers house and life story made us sad. Another preacher, who is female, lives in town, but her house is very old. Her family situation also made us sad. She told us that because of her low income, everyone in her family had to apply for help from the government.Original article:(translated and posted by permission)

Image credits: Rural China, by Samuel Vigier, via Flickr and Gospel Times


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