In the 20-year history of China's joint venture to produce Bibles, a lone printing plant west of Shanghai has turned out a remarkable 50 million Bibles. That pace is about to change, with the long-anticipated expansion of the production facility: Beginning this year, China's Amity Printing Company, with support from the United Bible Societies-and now equipped with a high-speed printing press imported from Great Britain-will produce 12 million Bibles annually. That's 1 million per month, or about 23 Bibles every minute.
The Bibles are printed in Chinese as well as many other languages: English, German, Yoruba (a West African language), and more. They mostly are distributed in China, but also internationally. And the expanded facility has added 450 paying jobs to the local economy.
What the expansion won't do is keep pace with demand. Through cooperative efforts with select organizations, Amity Bibles are now sold through at least 55,000 Bible "distribution points" across the country. They have more recently been made available to unregistered house churches as well as officially registered places of worship. In northeast China, for instance, Dongguan Protestant Church, a church founded by Scottish missionaries in the 1860s, is baptizing more than 1,000 people each year. With a church network that now tops 30,000 believers, 82-year-old senior pastor Lu Zhi Bin, like many pastors, has a steady need for Bibles.
Chinese officials have promised that Amity-produced Bibles will be made available at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Ye Xiaowen, director of state administration for religious affairs, told a gathering at the Amity plant last December that the Olympics are a "great opportunity" for sharing between Christians in China and around the world. He said athletes will be provided free Bibles and church services during Olympic events.