CHENGDU, China Christian workers who responded to a major earthquake in China have found a variety of ways to bring hope and healing to those who lost everything.
The massive 7.9 quake killed nearly 70,000 people and destroyed more than 5 million homes May 12 in Sichuan province. Within a few weeks, Christian workers were on site, contributing whatever they could to relief efforts. They joined a myriad of military troops and relief vehicles. One worker described the capital city as a "colossal campout." Although few tents were available, residents were camped out under tarps tied between trees. They had salvaged as much as they could from their homes and were getting settled.
In one refugee camp, a team of Christian medical workers went first to the camp clinic. They told the doctor they wanted to help in any way possible. One worker wrote, "Tears filled the doctor's eyes as he took our hands and said, 'Feichang ganxie' (extreme thanks), over and over. The doctor told us he barely escaped the collapse of his home. His grandmother, who was 80 years old, had been in good health, but she couldn't move fast enough. She was crushed beneath the wreckage. The doctor had slept only 10 hours in the last five days as he was caring for the needs of thousands of people."
As teams of Christians began to assist patients, the stories began to unfold. One man had just arrived at the camp after a seven-day walk from his village. Workers placed a big bowl of noodles in his hands. As he slurped his noodles, the man told his story.
"My village is high in the mountains, in a narrow valley. When the earthquake came, I was in the fields planting the rice seedlings. The mountains shook so terribly that they fell into each other, completely burying our village. It's as if the village and our homes never existed. Only our fields prove people lived there. Everyone in the village died, only those in the fields escaped. Those who were able walked out. But our elderly people those over 60 years old -- they are still sitting up there, too old and injured to walk for seven days. They have a little food, but I think no one will rescue them."
The worker wrote, "The stories broke our hearts. One mother had dug her daughter from the rubble still alive but watched her die because there was no medical help. One man watched his house collapse on his wife and his mother before they could make it out the front door. A young, pregnant wife lost her husband when the mine where he was working collapsed, killing him and 1,000 other men. On and on the stories went."
As workers listened to the stories of pain, loss and heartbreak, they also shared the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ alone.
Ling Ling* is a 14-year-old girl whose five-story school building collapsed in the quake, killing more than a thousand classmates in a matter of minutes. When workers met her, she was wearing a silver crucifix around her neck, but she had never heard the name of the one who died on the cross.
As workers shared, Ling Ling silently pondered questions of life and death that few 14-year-olds encounter. Her face perked up as she heard about lasting peace and hope in the midst of despair.
In their quest to provide hope and healing, workers also found survivors with reason to hope.
Lao Zhang*, a woman in her 70s, is one of a handful of believers in her village. While many survivors spoke of the fear caused by the quake, Lao Zhang told a different story. "I wasn't afraid when the quake struck," she said. "I have peace, real peace." Her face lit up at the mention of the most high God.
When questioned about her faith, she withdrew into her sun-baked tent to speak more privately in the midst of neighbors who are not sympathetic to her Christian beliefs. In her 70-plus years, she has learned firsthand the price of following Christ through times of persecution.
In hushed tones, she related that the deep peace and security she carried through the last few weeks of disaster had touched and softened hearts that had been consistently closed to the Gospel message.
Many of those in the hardest-hit areas have long been resistant to the Gospel, but like Zhang, Christians are reporting an openness and spiritual hunger that have not been seen previously.
One worker wrote, "Chinese Christians must simply come, listen to the stories, love the survivors and offer them hope for the future. Some Chinese Christians are opening up their homes to the victims. Others from Beijing, Shanghai and other places around China are coming to give their time, money, love and hope."
*Names changed for security reasons. To learn more about how to be involved in quake relief efforts, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. BP news