Most of my connection with the Luzhou church is that of joining: joining in worship, joining in song, joining in prayer . . . Even while being stuck in America, through my WeChat phone App (China’s equivalent of Facebook), I’ve been frequently communicating with the choir members or Pastor Liao for over a year now.
Aside from posting the daily English prayer for the choir, my expertise as an English language teacher doesn’t usually come into play within my Chinese religious community. But that changed recently when I received an English voice message from one of the Luzhou choir members, Miss Yi.
“Connie, I am worried. We are directing many new things and there will be many changes in our building (i.e., sanctuary), many words posted. It is the history of the church. Our preacher wanted it translated into English. They sent the Chinese to me and I translated it into English, but not all my (own) words. First, I translated it into the tools of Google translation and then, according to the translation of Google, I changed it. But I think the translation of this history of the church is not perfect. So I send it to you. I need your help. Please help me to check it. If you want to change or find some errors, please tell me or you can also translate it yourself.”
In the Luzhou Gospel Hospital, similar introduction panels were displayed but those were all in Chinese (See below). The church, however, had no such information posted, in Chinese or in English.
My first thoughts? “Wow!! I feel so honored. The church needs me!! I have something special to give.”
Within an hour, the text was in my inbox and I got down to business, scanning Ms. Yi’s email content.
Most likely, this is a way for the church to commemorate the founding of the Communist Party, 100 years ago. Many institutions, companies, schools, and religious bodies are currently celebrating this monumental occasion through patriotic events, contests, and performances. These are to take place in July and continue onward to the end of the year.
According to what was sent, there will be 3 panel sections posted in Chinese and English: Church history, Service to the Country, Service to the People.
The Luzhou Church is planning an addition to the church, thus the 3 panels.
Why Translated into English?
Before you read the below, you might be wondering why Pastor Liao is so keen on having an English version included with the Chinese. There are several reasons for this.
First, Luzhou has the prominent Southwest Medical University located in the city. For over 10 years, overseas’ students have been accepted to study both Chinese and Western medicine here. There are about 200 students from Nepal, Pakistan, India, some African countries, and other developing nations who are enrolled in the medical program. Their instruction is in English but they do take Chinese language classes so they can complete their internships in China, if they wish to do so. Those who are Christians have attended the church worship in the past but most didn’t understand enough Chinese to participate. Usually, they came only for Christmas Eve services. I have been the only regular foreigner church goer, something which has concerned Pastor Liao for many years. My opinion is that Pastor Liao wants the English to at least make those who don’t understand Chinese to feel more at home and at least understand a little about the church history and involvement in the community.
Secondly, it doesn’t happen often but we do have a few foreign visitors come to church who don’t speak much Chinese. Some are passing through, others have jobs in Luzhou as teachers or company workers. And every year, Luzhou has a huge liquor exhibition where representatives from all over the world arrive for a week to set up wine and whiskey displays. Luzhou is famous for a certain type of whiskey, thus the reason Luzhou city hosts the 1-week yearly event. World liquor producers come to the city to highlight their alcoholic wares. In fact, some of my students in the past have been selected to work in the exhibition hall itself, in hotels or placed at the airport or train station to translate for their overseas guests. The relationships they build with their guests from abroad have been very strong and have lasted for years.
And lastly, we have had groups or individuals come with Amity staff to my college and city. Due to the many years of partnership Amity has had with the school, Luzhou is sometimes on the site list for visiting overseas guests who have relationships with Amity. Since these guests are Christians, there is always a visit to the church where Pastor Liao leads everyone through the sanctuary, the hospital and explains the importance of Christian outreach. I imagine the Chinese-English panels will be much appreciated by such visitors. (See Pastor Liao below, leading Amity visitors through the hospital and new church building site in 2019)
The Finished Product
So now that I’ve gone on quite some time about what I was asked to translate, I’ll post it here, the first in Chinese and the second in English.
泸州基督教堂需要翻译成英语的中文资料 (Luzhou Church needs these materials translated into English)
History of The Luzhou Christian Church
In January 1890, Christianity was introduced to Luzhou. It went through a long and arduous process, from the initial public dislike of a “foreign religion” to the “conflict between people and religion.” Yet later, it won the favor and support of believers and other people. The church strengthened the training of local preachers by spreading the gospel to Xuyong, Gulin and other places. This was done through itinerant evangelism with the help of local Christian partners, especially those in the Miao ethnic minority regions. The gospel quickly spread and helped to establish the Miao church in Guizhou Province. This cooperative effort of itinerant evangelists and local Christians furthered the reach and expansion of the gospel to the borders between Sichuan and Guizhou.
Today’s Luzhou church, through influence of the distinguished traditional culture of the Chinese nation, has evolved into a patriotic religious organization that is grounded in China and continues to function as an independent and self-governing entity.
A Century of Patriotic Inheritance
According to a published 2011 document entitled “Luzhou History,” No. 2 (36), page 41, the following note was made on the social responsibilities of the Luzhou Church: “Luzhou Christianity has made positive contributions to the development of Luzhou society: During wartime, it set up hospitals to relieve both the wounded in the army and those who were civilians, it enhanced education and training skills among citizens, it provided a place for the Communist Party to liberate Luzhou, it donated to the People’s government, and it gave strong support to the initial advancement of area colleges and universities.”
Looking back on a hundred years of history, we can see that the Luzhou Church holds high the banner of patriotism, walks side by side with the Party, champions the motherland, and contributes to society with the spirit of “making salt and light.” (Matthew 5: 13)
Social Service: Practice Love
The Bible, our Christian guidebook for living, can be summed up in one word: Love. This love among Christians is explained in this way: God, out of love for us humans, sacrificed his only beloved Son (Jesus Christ) for the world. His son’s blood was shed not for a few, but for the entire world, for all people. We believe God’s love is unconditional. Therefore, Christian service should also be unconditional, all about love.
As a starting point, we Christians not only pay attention to church members, but also care for other people in the world. The teaching of love in the Bible requires us to perform actions through our love for others. Christianity is a societal group of believers. Christians, as members of society who work through communal service, convey not evil but love. The Bible states: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12: 17 ESV.)
Everyone contemplates beautiful things. We Christians must be careful to consider doing beautiful things through action. We believe: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19) This is in perfect harmony with China’s traditional culture which advocates the benevolent to love others and to promote goodness. This is the concept of public welfare and charity. Through social service, considered the most important element of modern civilization, we can provide such welfare and charity to those in greatest need. Through actively carrying out such humanitarian works, the Luzhou Church implements the sinicization of Christianity through practice.
In Closing Today’s Entry
My proof-checking efforts were sent 2 weeks ago. I have already told Ms. Yi that when the panels are completed, please take pictures and let me see how they turned out. I am so sorry I won’t be there for the grand unveiling. However, I’m excited to know I had a small part of making sure visiting overseas Christians will have a better understanding of the Luzhou church, from the missionary founders who came before to the current Chinese Christian involvement today. I can’t wait to return and see the new addition in person!
Until the next entry, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.