Zhi-hwa is eighteen. Though she has her whole life before her, she already has a number of things going against her: She lives in the Lijiang area of Yunnan Province, one of the poorest parts of China; her family could not afford to have her continue her education; and she comes from an ethnic minority, which often brings discrimination in the wider society.
Though she didn’t even finish high school, her faith and dedication, plus the support of her church, has led her to get further training as a lay worker in the church.
The grassroots training center in Lijiang is a ministry that reaches out to the numerous ethnic minorities in this northwestern part of Yunnan Province, including the Lisu, Pumi, Dai, Naxi, and Yi peoples. Some, like Zhi-hwa, travel as far as three hours from their home villages to receive training. Most of the time, the training classes run at least several days, and a dorm is provided for those who travel far. Classes range from literacy to music to Bible. The “cream” of training programs is one that develops evangelists, running 5 months each year for three years. Some 20 students are enrolled in this.
Meanwhile, for Zhi-hwa, getting church training is a way she can deepen her faith and learn how to better serve her community and church. She can now live with hope in her future and for this she gives thanks to the church. And perhaps, this all may be the best education she has ever received.
Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission