Since the third century, the mountainous terrain of Sichuan province in southern China has been home to the Miao, one of 55 ethnic minority groups recognized by the People’s Republic of China. They are a people with a rich cultural heritage, as well as a long history of deep Christian faith.
Training pastors to serve the Miao and others in remote regions of the province can be challenging. Finding the space to hold classes or professors to teach them is not always easy. In addition, many of the working individuals that comprise this region do not have the time or means necessary to dedicate to becoming an ordained member of the clergy.
The ELCA is working with the Protestant church in China in a grassroots training program to equip lay people with the skills and knowledge necessary to serve this and other unique communities in the region. China is one of 90 countries to which the ELCA sends support.
The ELCA is helping to support three training centers in Sichuan, where students are able to attend short courses in the cities of Luzhou, Guang’an and Xichong. Many of the students who attend also work as farmers or in local communities and can’t afford the time away from home on their own. The generous contributions from ELCA congregations and synods to churchwide ministries support these students during their studies and also help pay lecturers and teachers from nearby seminaries and churches to provide a quality education.
The ELCA provides guidance on the curriculum, methodology and topics the students learn and sends consultants to further develop those programs.
Franklin Ishida, who directs the ELCA churchwide ministries program for Asia and the Pacific, says of the students, “They have the fire in their hearts and the drive and are eager to learn and serve their Lord in the midst of the daily challenges they face in their lives.”
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