Modern Nehemiah: A Chinese Church Construction Project

The main structure of the new church in Qitaihe has been completed.

In late October, we visited a church in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang, where new construction is ongoing. In March, 2017, the congregation and staff of the church in Jinsha New District collected 200,000 used bricks in four days for the side chapel of the new church they were building. Before the Chinese New Year of 2018, the church itself completed the foundation of the main sanctuary. Now the main part has been finished.

Covering an area of 6,588 square meters (1.62 acres), the new church will have a main sanctuary of over 3,200 square meters (0.79 acres) in area, a side chapel of 800 square meters (0.19 acres), as well as a courtyard.

The unforgettable visit reminded me of two parts in the Bible: first, Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians that Christians are different parts of one body that serve each other; and second, Nehemiah's overseeing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem which was done in just 52 days.

Story of the construction team

As winter approached, the construction team put on the finishing touches before the temperature went below freezing. When it rained, some believers who hadn't worn rain gear were still able to fix the chimney and while others installed four big iron woks in the kitchen. Some women mixed sand and cement while several men installed ceramic tiles.

The Martha team

Brothers and sisters stuck ceramic tiles in the kitchen of the side chapel.
Brothers and sisters stuck ceramic tiles in the kitchen of the side chapel.
Brother Kong, an engineer who earns a monthly salary of 10,000 yuan, has served the church free of charge for five months. After working with non-Christians and having a habit of scolding them, he often felt guilty for his hot temper, calling his Christian coworkers bad names. However, some church workers witnessed that he made much improvement in refraining himself.

Rev. Qin Shuping, the church's senior pastor, said that there were many testimonies. She told us that a stout woman "of few words was capable to performing the tasks of three persons".

In the evening, a sister in her seventies hurried to the church just to ask whether a cookstove and windows had been successfully installed. She said, "I felt unsettled at home, worrying about the church. I'm now at ease after checking this out."

Story of the prayer team

The team served three times a day in the side chapel, beginning as early as five o'clock in the morning. The doorkeeper said that even at 4:30 a.m., people were there in the dark.

Five or six years before the construction, the church started to pray for it. Prayer never ceased even during the Chinese New Year festival when Chinese people gathered together in their homes.

The prayer team was made up of mainly the elderly who were unable to work at the construction site. They prayed fervently for every aspect of the church including the pastors, safety, finances, food supplies, and current specific construction projects at the time.

The prayer team prayed to God on their knees.

During every two hour prayer meeting, members first read the Bible and sang hymns. Then, one by one, they prayed approximately four or five minutes for every task. Most of their prayers were in plain language. "Lord, we pray for the installation of the windows. Please prepare bricklayers to seal them... Lord, we pray that you can grant the brothers and sisters who are involved in the construction work healthy bodies for they are very tired and exhausted..."

Prayer was not an easy thing for the senior Christians. A few of them health issues with their legs so couldn't keep praying on their knees beyond an hour.

Deacon Zheng who has led prayer meetings for eight years said,"We know that we can't do anything without prayer. Nothing cannot be fulfilled but through prayer. Praying is very boring and tedious, easy to become ritual, but we enjoy the sweetness of the Lord's grace under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with the same mindset as Jesus Christ and His care for God's house."

Story of the Martha team

Responsible for food, the Martha team consists of over ten members whose ages range from more than 50 to over 70. Sister Meng, 76, the team leader, has been in the ministry for over two decades.

The Martha team

In charge of three meals a day, the group is busy with kitchen work: washing and chopping vegetables, making a fire, making dumplings, and washing dishes. From dozens to over a hundred believers can choose from about ten dishes for each meal.

What's more, the bulk of the ingredients were donated by the congregation, including rice, flour, meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. The more than ten pigs were raised by members of the church and were also donated for food.

Pastor's model role

Rev. Qin, in her fifties, looks somewhat weak and weary with some gray hair, yet takes care of every little thing in the church. Once a successful businesswoman, she felt God's call to follow Jesus during a time of illness.

Rev. Qin Shuping

Teacher Sun said, "The pastor always arrives at the construction site before everyone and is the last to leave after everyone has gone home."

Suffering from heart disease, Rev. Qin is unable to do any hard labor. Brother He, who has run a business in Qitaihe for 15 years, told us that she handled a leak very early in the day, resulting in shock. Thankful for God's protection, she said that she could do nothing if she followed the doctor's advice.

Whenever the church needed a car, Brother He immediately drove there. However, Rev. Qin told him sheepishly that the church had never filled up his gas tank after using it many times. Moved by the pastor's devotion and sacrifice, he felt that his contribution was justified.

Epilogue: The church's construction project is on schedule. Further work including installing the interior fittings and furnishings will perhaps take one year. So far the church has no debt.

Courtesy of China Christian Daily