Zhoukou City is in a poor agricultural area with 11.4 million people in 12 counties and surrounding areas. Their wheat production is one seventh of the amount produced in all of China. There are a total of 1,340 churches in the Zhoukou area with close to 700,000 Christians. There are only seven ordained ministers and 41 elders -- far too few to minister adequately to so many believers. Each pastor has to minister to 28 churches and most lay leaders are volunteers with limited time.
Over 90 percent of the Christians in Zhoukou come from rural villages and have little education and few opportunities. Under such circumstances, there is a need for pastors to be better equipped in order to provide necessary pastoral care. In reality, however, pastors in Zhoukou face many hardships themselves as well and have little opportunity for the training they need. Some pastors have to leave the province so they can earn a living for themselves and their families. The number of pastors is dropping, making the shortage of pastors even more acute.
The scarcity of pastors is a serious problem with sometimes only three pastors available to lead the 700,000 believers in Zhoukou City. The church conducts lay leader training all year round. All lay leaders receive one-week of training once a year. There are normally 600-700 lay leaders in attendance for a week in the training class. While they are receiving the training, they also get advanced agriculture technology classes. They are encouraged to become preachers for the local churches and to provide pastoral care, as well as functioning as an agriculture development technician. Growing wheat is necessary for food, but does not provide family revenue, since farmers must spend a lot of money on fertilizer and pesticide.
In 2010, Global Ministries supported the Zhoukou Christian Council in publishing an advanced agriculture technology textbook, printing 120,000 copies. The Zhoukou Christian Council also has started a tree project. This sustainable agriculture project aims to educate seminary students, lay leaders, and villagers about the techniques of multi-storied agriculture, and also helps the church to be financially sustainable. Of the revenue generated, half is used to sustain the church financially, and the other half is used to fund the training of pastors.
Connections with the People’s University of China in Beijing have been facilitated in order establish a local university research base at the Zhoukou Christian Council, which is a good example for all of China in carrying on the three-self principle (Self-Governing, Self-Propagating, and Self-Support) to run the church well. This endeavor can be a model for all churches in China, as it brings resources to the church.
In recent years, Global Ministries has been supporting the Zhoukou Christian Council Tree project in order for them to be able to demonstrate the advanced agricultural classes for all lay leaders in training. Global Ministries also welcomes gifts to be used directly in the educational efforts of the Zhoukou Council. It costs approximately $10,000 to support 1,000 lay leaders to attend this training for a week.
Multi-Storied Tree Project:
The new Tree Farm Project is implemented by the Zhoukou Christian Council. This sustainable agriculture project aims to educate seminary students and villagers about the techniques of multi-storied agriculture and also helps the church to be financially sustainable. Of the revenue generated, half will be used to sustain the church financially and the other half will be used to fund the training of pastors. The Zhoukou Christian Council is establishing this project on a 12-acre plot land.
The multi-storied agricultural model integrates traditional agricultural techniques and modern scientific farming. It considers conditions in the natural environment and growth cycle of plants to enhance the growth of the plants. A multi-storied agriculture project uses a single piece of land to grow a combination of plants that can each grow without hindering the others or may even be mutually beneficial. The climate and rainfall in Zhoukou lend themselves to the integrated planting of ilex trees, palm trees, and honeysuckle trees. These trees have a variety of uses including several medicinal uses and as raw materials for fabric, rubber, and wood products. According to the proposed model, the highest layer in this agricultural base will be the ilex tree, with the palm tree in the middle and the honeysuckle tree, which can stand a shady environment, at the lowest stratum. While the harvesting of the ilex and palm trees can be done at any time, the harvest period of the honeysuckle tree is April. In addition, the project also calls for the raising of domestic chickens on the land. In addition to the high market value of domestic chickens, the chickens contribute by eating harmful insects and pests. The chicken waste also fertilizes the trees.
In 2010, the Zhoukou Christian Council commissioned the Zhoukou Vocational School (originally the Zhoukou Agricultural School) to begin growing seedlings for the project. The Zhoukou Vocational School has over 20 years of experience in the theory and practice of forestry and agriculture. In this proposed three-year tree project, the School will provide full support on the technological skills required.
The total budget for the three-year project is $120,000. With the in-kind support of the Zhoukou Vocational School and the Zhoukou Christian Council, all expenses will be agriculture related with no additional administrative costs.
What your gift can do:
$10 can provide water to help trees to get established
$20 can plant a tree and help nurture it
$100 can provide a week’s labor
Update: June 2014
The Zhoukou Christian Council has worked with pastors and lay-people in the area of Zhoukou to create opportunities for individuals to develop sustainable businesses since 2008. During these first five years, the Zhoukou Christian Council identified one effort that seemed especially well suited to the local context – the planting of trees.
This project became the template for training all preachers in Zhoukou City how to start the scientific planting of trees as a source of income. To date, there have been 4,000 hours invested in the training. The Zhoukou Christian Council has developed a handbook for local pastors and established an experimental plot covering roughly 30 acres. This project has been well received by the broader community.
To encourage and mobilize local churches to join this income generating project, the Zhoukou Christian Council rented seven acres of farm land in Dong Wang Ying village in Xihua Township for planting trees and peanuts as an initial trial project in 2013. At the beginning of the project, the Zhoukou Christian Council’s agriculture expert, Mr. Wan Guanhai, took church leaders from the 10 participating congregations to the farm and explained the issues that would need attention. For the first year Mr. Wan Guanhai visited each quarter. There are currently four kinds of trees being cultivated on the farmland: 1) Chinese little-leaf box tree; 2) gingko; 3) waxy leaf privet; and 4) holly. Over 50 members of 10 congregations have taken part in this new effort.
The proceeds of the project were used to support students at the nearby Bible Institute operated by the Zhoukou Christian Council. The project continues, led by local church pastors, and managed and cultivated by local church members.
Update: April 2017
On January 9, 2016, the Zhoukou Christian Council held a ceremony to celebrate the sale of goats raised by families in the villages of Yaozhuang, Daonan, Qingheyi, Xiaoyao. The ceremony was attended by Reverend Ma Xin, the chairman of the Zhoukou Christian Council and Director Fang, the Head of Xihua County Bureau of Religious Affairs. The ceremony also acknowledged the conclusion of the first year of raising goats through the Sustainable Development grant provided by Week of Compassion.
The grant was used to purchase 140 goats and to train families in the four villages listed above who have been directly impacted by the AIDS epidemic in the area. The Zhoukou Christian Council negotiated the sale of goats and contacted community officers to identify families who would be selected for the first year of the project. The goats were then delivered, and the families received training on how to care for goats. The income earned through the project not only assisted participants in providing for everyday living expenses, but also assisted families in obtaining AIDS treatment and medication.
The Zhoukou Christian Council visited families that participated in the project and took pictures throughout the year of the various stages of the goat cultivation project in Henan Province.
Multi-Storied Tree Farms:
A grant from Week of Compassion provided for the purchase and transportation of 4,000 trees for the tree planting project. This included walnut trees, pear trees, holly trees, aspens, cinnamon trees, and magnolia trees which were distributed to sixteen rural families. These families care for the trees on their own land. Another Week of Compassion grant enabled the successful implementation of a tree farm which is cared for by the community in Honghua Town and currently employs 30 people. This farm is currently growing Alamo trees, Chinese privet trees, Chinese scholar trees, peach trees, apricot trees, and Chinese prickly ash trees.
This project was created with a goal to help the Honghua Church (a member church of the Zhoukou Christian Council) become self –sustaining. Thanks to the success of this project, the goal was reached and the church is now able to support itself. The council was also able to purchase wheelchairs for elderly individuals and help repair a road that is regularly used by farmers. Further, this project has created goodwill within the communities by providing jobs for local residents and selling excellent produce. The Zhoukou Christian Council reports that some buyers started skipping middle sellers and are contacting the Zhoukou Christian Council directly to purchase trees and fruits because of the council’s good reputation and quality products.
Global Ministries welcomes gifts to help the Zhoukou Christian Council continue their life-giving agricultural projects.