CHONGQING, China (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Church Canada Witness/Mennonite Partners in China) — Just before Christmas 2007, Lindy*, a senior English major at Chongqing Medical University, responded to the love of God she had experienced at a Christmas eve worship service two years earlier, by accepting baptism in the Chongqing Agape Church (See “First birthday, new life”).
After China’s devastating earthquake on May 12, Lindy felt called to show that same love of God to some of the victims.
In late May, she and five other Agape church members traveled to Pengzhou, a small community in Sichuan province not far from the earthquake’s epicenter. They delivered a vanload of food, soap and other essentials to members of a church. They also brought encouragement and comfort.
Lindy was working at her part-time office job when the earthquake struck. Right away she wanted to help. But where should she go? How should she help? Her boss told her she could not have time off; he had no one else to do her job.
Lindy said, “I prayed, ‘Please send me to a place where people need to know your love, and show me what I can do for them.’”
The next day, a worker appeared who could take Lindy’s place. When the Agape church, in its worship service on May 18, invited volunteers to go to Pengzhou, Lindy was ready.
None of the Pengzhou church members died in the quake, though their houses and church building were damaged. The believers’ faith, however, remained intact.
“They love God so much, although they’ve been hurt by the earthquake,” Lindy said. “I was moved that they continued to worship outdoors, under umbrellas.”
Lindy also heard stories—“coincidences,” she called them—of people who escaped injury and death. An elderly woman, for example, who normally naps until 3 p.m., awakened two hours early on the afternoon of May 12. The woman was outdoors when the tremor struck at 2:28 p.m.
Lindy is aware of the sharp challenges being posed to Chinese Christians in the earthquake’s wake:
How, some ask, could your God allow such a tragedy to happen?
Her own response to such questions of theodicy is careful and thoughtful: “I think our God will not do something with no purpose. Now we can’t see God’s purpose. Maybe in the future we will see [this disaster] as a chance for Christians to send love to people who don’t know Jesus.”
When the Pengzhou survivors expressed thanks to their Chongqing sisters and brothers for the food they had brought, Lindy and her friends replied, “Thank God—there is a God who loves you.”
Lindy’s own faith is rooted in her deep sense of being loved by her Lord but visiting the disaster area has caused her to think more deeply about her beliefs and actions.
“I could give a person a glass of water when he is thirsty,” she said. “I could put on a coat when he is cold. I could wipe his tears when he drops tears. I could comfort him with words when he is sad. We could give some food and clothes to the people who were attacked in the earthquake. However, this is just for temporary help. It is only God who can placate their heart, heal their spirit, and save their soul.”
The Agape church is now seeking persons to help care for earthquake survivors who have been brought to Chongqing hospitals, many suffering severe and long-term injuries. Though she has planned to start a new job after her graduation next month, Lindy is considering how she might volunteer.
And her motivation is the same that led her to go to Pengzhou: “I wanted to let people in the disaster area know that there is a God who loves all people.”
Mennonite Partners in China and its supporting partners, Mennonite Mission Network, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Church Canada Witness, are continuing to work with donations to help local Chinese churches aid earthquake victims. Financial contributions for this response, designated for "China emergency assistance" may be made to MPC or any of its supporting agencies, either online or through the mail.
To donate to directly to MPC or through Mennonite Mission Network, contact:
• Mennonite Partners in China (www.mennonitepartnerschina.org), 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg VA 22802.
• Mennonite Mission Network (www.mennonitemission.net), 1601 W. Beardsley Ave., PO Box 370, Elkhart IN 46515 .
Julie and Phil Bender work in Chongqing with Mennonite Partners in China through Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network.