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The Chinese Christian Community: Studying the Bible in Mandarin

In the coming months, KSMU will explore the diverse landscape of religious communities in the Ozarks. There are many well-known religious traditions with deep roots in the Ozarks. For this series, KSMU’s Jennifer Moore will introduce you to some lesser known faith communities, covering a wide spectrum of beliefs. We’ll take you inside their places of worship, and bringing you interviews with the leaders of these communities. Today, we begin by looking at the Chinese Christian community in Springfield.

It’s going on 7:00 Friday evening, and the front door to this southwest Springfield home is seeing a lot of traffic. Old and young are trickling in, and they take their shoes off at the door before greeting friends with a warm “Ne-hao,” or ‘Hello” in Chinese.

The Chinese Christian community of Springfield has two weekly Bible Study groups. One is conducted in the Cantonese dialect; this one is in Mandarin.

Moore: "Right now, I’m standing in the kitchen…the weekly Mandarin Bible Study is about to get underway, but first they have a potluck, and I’m standing next to the buffet. We have everything from Chinese dishes—noodles, vegetable dishes, etc, to American food like brownies and apple pie."David He: “I came here in 1991…”

That’s David He, an accountant who comes regularly to the Bible Study. He says the community has grown considerably since it began in the 80s. Today, the Chinese Christian community in Springfield consists of about 40 to 50 families.

He says the community began with one family--the family that owns the local restaurant Chinese Chef. Then, after the group grew, it borrowed a room from a local church before eventually buying its own building.

The Chinese Christian Church holds regular Sunday services.

At tonight’s Bible Study, there are about 30 people. Many of them are students.

Moore: "Right now, the group is singing hymns in Mandarin Chinese as someone accompanies on the piano…in just a moment, they’re gonna split into two groups. The first is going to study the Biblical Books of 1 and 2 Kings, in Chinese, and the second is going to study the life of Jesus in English."

After the singing, the kids head downstairs and the adults separate into their two groups. Those in the Chinese-speaking Bible study start out with a prayer.

They flip through the pages of their Bibles, which are printed in their native language.

David He says most of the people in the Chinese Christian community are converts, like him. His mother was Buddhist and his father was Atheist.

"When I was young, I never heard of it, never heard of [the] Bible. Even this word, never heard of [the] name of Jesus. Just at the time, when I was in college, one day, I heard of somebody from another class, and somebody got a Bible from Hong Kong, by listening to the radio. That was 18 years ago. But these days is totally different," he says.

Today, he says, China has somewhat loosened its restrictions on churches and Christian groups. As long as Christians don’t openly criticize the People’s Republic of China—the communist party—they are allowed to gather in churches and homes to worship.

According to the US State Department, Christian groups still have to register with the state before being allowed to meet. Becoming ever more popular in China are “house churches,” where Christians will pack into an apartment or home to hold church services.

David He said for the members of the Springfield community, there is a definite emphasis on sharing and spreading their faith with other Chinese. In fact, that’s how he learned about Christianity.

He met a Chinese seminary student who was studying at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. The seminary student shared his faith, and David He decided to become a Christian.

He says the members of the Chinese Christian community here are inevitably different from Christians who were born and raised in America, simply because they have very different backgrounds. But faith and scripture, he said, unite them.

Join us tomorrow at the same time, when we take you inside a Sunday morning service at the Chinese Christian Church of Springfield.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.