Open Doors, as the only ministry bringing Christian literatures to ethnic minorities in rural China, says that there is still a huge gap to be fulfilled in order to satisfy all the hungry souls.
On this vast expanse of China's richly endowed land live 56 ethnic groups with a total population of around 1.3 billions today. The Han people make China's and the world's largest ethnic group, making up 91.96 percent of the country's population, according to the China’s official gateway for news and information.
However, in the eyes of evangelists, there is this huge group of other 55 ethnic minorities that are important but easily neglected. They add up to 8.04 percent of China's population with the 15 million- strong Zhuang as the largest among them. In addition, only those minority groups that exceed one million of population are officially defined as a minority. Therefore, the number of minority groups in China could be even higher.
"Among these 55 ethnic minorities in China, they all have their own languages. Meanwhile, only eight of those languages translation are available for the Bible. There is a high gap to be filled up," said Johnny Li, Open Door U.S.A. spokesman for China mission and minister-at-large.
Open Doors, an organization supporting the persecuted church around the world, works with tentmakers in China to provide Bibles and other spiritual materials for all these neglected people who speak minority languages.
According to a recent project report released by a co-worker at the northwest border of China, Open Doors is the only ministry bringing books to them. It is stated in the report, "Our tentmakers told us that these precious books have started to spread throughout the province. We give the biblical portions of Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, and comic books on the life of Jesus."
In the history, near the Xinjiang province, there was a massive killing of Christians just before the Communist Party of China came in power in 1948. Around 300 of the 1000 Christians there were killed. After that, the last missionaries, who are believed to come from Sweden, have left the place as well. Many Christians were therefore left without shepherd and their faith has stopped to grow, Li explained the historical background.
However, as the seed of Gospel has once planted in their hearts, these people are easily revived again when Open Doors reaches out to them with the Gospel of their own language.
A story was told by Open Doors coworkers. An old widow, who claimed to be a Muslim, was given a Bible. As she heard of the stories in her own language, she jumped up and leapt around calling out, "When I was young, I believed in this! I knew Jesus!" Then, she exclaimed, "I was living on the border near Russia. Some foreigners (missionaries) from the border came to teach us (she didn’t know what nationality they were) and they gave us this book."
According to Open Doors, the coworkers are very keen in evangelizing the Muslims, as most of them lack good training in the Muslim faith and they are easier to convert to Christianity. A former Muslim called Mr. Gold said, "My people haven’t rejected Jesus. They have just never heard of Him."
"Most of the people here have never seen these books before. They have nothing to read besides political books, and they don’t believe what’s in them. They watch television, but don’t believe the news. Some men told me the political book they have is the only book they’ve read since leaving middle school. Some of the minorities only have their oral language or local dialect. If they are given a beautiful book like those we bring, they would never throw it away but instantly treasure it," the report continued.
The report added that each book that Open Doors brought will be passed to 30 or 40 people beyond their family members. Sometimes a book will reach as many as 100 people.
The opportunity in missions among ethnic minorities is huge, Open Doors says. Examples of ethnic minority groups needing literature include the Uyghur, numbering 9 to 10 million people in China. They are the largest group of people without a Bible in their own language. Another group is the "Little Flower" Miao group from northern Yunnan and northern Guizhou. They have a Christian background, but many no longer understand what it means to be a Christian because Scripture portions in their language are no longer available from the Three-Self Churches. The Mongolian group also lacks Bibles in the Mongolian language in their country.