Beyond the Ban

90-year-old Ma Wen gets her first Bible

It’s 3:00 a.m. Ma Wen’s eyes blink open in the predawn quiet of her room. Immediately, waves of excitement roll through her body. Even at ninety years old, she can hardly keep herself from leaping out of bed to start the day-long journey that lies ahead. Today, the book once banned by her country will be hers to hold. The very words of God will be on pages she can touch. Embrace. Absorb. Embody. Today, at ninety years old, Ma Wen will finally receive her own Bible.

Growing Old Without God

Ma Wen didn’t meet Jesus until she was sixty-five years old. When she was in her forties, she saw what China’s Cultural Revolution meant for Christians. From 1966 to 1976, church doors were nailed shut. All religious meetings were banned. Bibles were confiscated and burned. She heard of Chinese Christians meeting secretly, congregating in homes, small groups, even caves and forests. She recognized the danger. The risk. The suffering. But Ma Wen also saw a group of people with an unwavering commitment to God. She contemplated these truths as the years passed. Marriage, home, family, life—one year turned to many. Ma Wen somehow managed to grow up and grow old without God—until an unbearable weight of suffering settled upon her.

God Rescues Ma Wen

At sixty-five years old, sickness struck Ma Wen—and so did panic. “There was no doctor who could help me,” she says, remembering the paralyzing hopelessness. One night, in a vivid dream, Ma Wen felt God urging her to connect with some Christians in her village. Though she couldn’t describe how, she knew deep within her being that it was the Lord’s direction—and she chose to follow his prompting. The group of believers welcomed her with open arms. They lovingly prayed with her—and something miraculous happened. Ma Wen says, “I accepted the Lord, and he made me completely healthy!” With a renewed mind and body, Ma Wen’s walk with Jesus began that day at sixty-five years old. She found the missing piece. Answers were revealed. The fullness of life began. And she gives him all the credit. “It was God who chose me,” she says.

The Return of the Bible

New to Christian faith and desiring to grow in her understanding of God’s Word, Ma Wen longed to have her own Bible. But this was still a challenge for believers in China. Although the Bible ban lifted in 1978, very few Bibles existed after the purge—and those that did were hard to come by. Through the support and prayers of faithful partners like you, the Amity Printing Press was established in 1987. The goal? To meet the Bible demand. To print, multiply, and share God’s Word. To reach people with Jesus’s message of hope. It’s working. Bibles are back. And they’re making their way into the hands of people all over China—and the world.

Ma Wen Holds the Holy Word

It’s a massive crowd. Voices are high, clamoring over each other. Figures bump and jostle their way through the room. Her daughter stands next to Ma Wen in loving support. She knows what this means to her mother, who reaches over and squeezes her hand. “How many don’t have a Bible?” the pastor asks from the front of the packed church. Arms shoot up around the room. Ma Wen’s 90-year-old hand reaches high, held up by years of wait. Then it happens. A Bible makes its way towards her. Reaching out, her long fingers grip the precious book and draw it close. A smile stretches across her face, spanning the room. “This Bible is very precious to me!” Her words burst out. “This is my first Bible!” Her daughter’s eyes brim with joy.

A Thousand Thanks

Now, Ma Wen holds and beholds the truths of Scripture. She is moved to tears by the miraculous work of the cross. She celebrates God’s patient grace as she journeys on in her rich relationship with Jesus. She is united in Spirit with believers all over the world. “I feel we are one family,” she says. “We are brothers and sisters in Jesus. In him we are one.” In Ma Wen’s eyes, you’re God’s messenger of hope. You made a way for this 90-year-old to tightly hug a once banned book. And for that, Ma Wen is eternally grateful. “I want to thank you a thousand times, because you are so generous. I am so happy and thankful for having a Bible today!” Give Bibles to waiting Chinese Christians like Ma Wen. Visit Story adapted from an interview by Hans J. Sagrusten of Norwegian Bible Society

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