How a 94-Year-Old Woman Overcame Adversity to Study God’s Word

This article was adapted from one originally posted by the American Bible Society.

As a young girl of the 1920s, Zhang cherished the opportunity to read God’s Word. But every day, she faced a problem: in her village in eastern China—surrounded by winding canals and stretches of grassland—she shared one Bible with all of her neighbours.

When Zhang wanted to read Scripture, she walked to a nearby schoolhouse, which held the only Bible in her community. Men, women and children would form a line out the door and down the street while waiting for their chance to read its pages. When Zhang’s turn finally arrived, she would copy her favourite Bible verses into a small notebook; this was the only way she could study Scripture at home.

Zhang’s Bible-reading routine carried on through World War II, when Japanese soldiers invaded her community. As air raid sirens roared through her village, she watched her neighbours pack their belongings and flee in search of safety. But Zhang stayed put, retreating to a cellar to pray with a close friend.

When the threat had passed, Zhang resurfaced and made her way to the schoolhouse, where she spent time reading the Bible. Even in the midst of war and chaos, Zhang rooted herself in God’s Word.

“These were the happiest moments of my life,” she says. “While our world was not at peace, because of that Bible, I was at peace in my own heart.

As the years passed, Zhang clung to this pattern of Bible reading. Following the Chinese Cultural Revolution—a decade of social and political purging of traditional Chinese values, including the practice of religion—Zhang continued to read and study Scripture, relying on her community’s lone Bible to fill her appetite for God’s Word.

But recently, while approaching her 95th birthday, Zhang’s Bible-reading routine changed forever. After waiting a lifetime for her first Bible, Zhang visited the church near her home, where she received a Bible from church leaders during a Bible distribution supported by the Bible Society.

Today, Zhang can open her Bible—day or night—and study passages of Scripture. She can read the Gospels. She can engage with Paul’s letters. And she can meditate on the Psalms.

Yet even while reading her new Bible, Zhang holds closely to a lifelong tradition: she copies down her favourite Bible verses into a pocket-sized notebook.

Now, Zhang can engage with Scripture wherever she goes.