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China’s Macedonian Call

A Special Report by David Wang, 12 June 2008

Sichuan Earthquake & Our Response

One Month.

It is now one month after 2.28pm, 12 May 2008.

The dust has settled in the disaster zone. The smell of epidemic-preventative lime is prevalent. It’s not as offensive as earlier on, when the stink of death polluted the air.

Soldiers, aid personnel, reporters, government officials, volunteers, and even the victims are falling into a routine. The place is no longer chaotic, or hectic. People move about, trying to get back to life, albeit deliberately, yet quite aimlessly. Children are attending make-shift schools in tents. Or just in the open air. High school students are preparing to take the National General Exams. Mothers and grandmothers set up open fires to cook meals. Everyone is tired of the food handouts, or instant noodles.

Most of the men have gone back to the cities. They are migrant workers. They’d rushed back to search amidst the rubble for their family members. By now, all have accepted the reality. In an instant the Sichuan earthquake has left its mark:

· Dead: 69,000
· Wounded: 373,000
· Missing: 17,000
· Displaced: 15 million

Now that it’s one month later, I felt it might not be as interruptive or insensitive to contact Director General Wang Zhengyao of China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs. He arrived at the scene within hours, and has stayed on site as the Chief Coordinator for the unprecedented, massive Rescue and Relief Operation.

“No sleep. No rest. No food. Not much of anything but an overwhelming sense of being totally overwhelmed.” That’s how he described his month-long duty as the Chief Coordinator.

Wang was the first to appeal to the world to send help. He is also the one who is still pleading for more tents even on the morning when I talked with him. “We need two to three million more tents,” he says. Other than that, Wang is most assuring. “The orphans will be cared for. We are choosing “family adoption,’ and ‘neighbor adoption’ rather than housing them in orphanages.”

For the elderly, Beijing is also pledging a wide range of services, and generous benefits, “For them, livelihood in the future is going to be better.
“Houses, bridges, roads, hospitable, schools… they will all be rebuilt. Dams will be strengthened,” the Director General is firm. “In terms of rebuilding hardware and livelihood, China can, and will take care of this devastation.”

But in terms of rebuilding lives, Wang tells me: “We need help!”

The “China Christians’ ActionLove” (CCAL) are at the very front-line during this catastrophe. They are Christians from China’s fast growing urban house church movement. “Other than pulling out people from the rubble, or treating the wounded, or passing out food, water and medicine, our greatest contribution is our love, our comfort, and our prayers,” Professor Huang, the key coordinator of the combined Christian
efforts reports. The Red Cross and People’s Liberation Army have repeatedly called upon CCAL volunteers to help comfort the distraught.

Currently there are about 100 CCAL volunteers still on-the-ground. Mostly they are engaged in post-trauma counseling and healing. “We are playing with the children. Helping the youngsters get back to their studies. Staying with families who have lost their loved ones. We pray for everyone. But one thing for sure: We ourselves need training in counseling.”

In the whole of China, a land of 1.3 billion and more, there are only 19,000 people who are full-
time, or part-time engaged in psychological treatment and counseling.

I informed Director General Wang that we have just completed a fast track course for 65 Third Church leaders. Another session is planned next week. His response is demanding: “You better train thousands and thousands as quickly as you can!” I know the urgency and the scope. Pastor Meng of Chengdu, another one of my postgraduate students has set up a post-trauma Children & Youth Camp. He has 200 children and 700 youth. More than anything else, he needs, “counselors and people who can just spend time with these kids to help rebuild their lives.” Meng is asking for hundreds of “life-rebuilders” for the summer vacation.

Today, the President of Asian Outreach, Francis Tsui visited me. He gives the instruction, “We are not to build houses, but homes. We are not to build orphanages, but order into the lives of the children. We will not rebuild livelihoods, so much as lives.” Maybe for us Christians, it’s not just the money, or the food, or the medicine that we should send into China. Or even tents.

Maybe it’s Isaiah 40: 1 “Comfort, comfort my people… Speak gently… and proclaim!”


For information about partnering with, or supporting China’s Third Church, Asian Outreach China or its social services arm, ActionLove, please contact:
Facilitators International
P.O. Box 887
Greenwood, IN 46142
or send an E-Mail to Dee Richardson


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