When a disaster slowly becomes history, but the victims have not recovered from the sorrow of losing loved ones and homes, and are not likely to do so soon, what can we do to help? We should equip ourselves well and ask the Lord to walk into their lives, express our unconditional love, and try to build long term relationships. This is particularly important after attention from the media and various organizations has subsided, so that the victims may experience first hand the Christian love which is different from other channels. The love we share comes from the source of all love, a source that flows unceasingly. In the process of building a relationship with them, let the love of Christ flow out from us, irrigating the wounded hearts, so the victims may return to the source of love.
I thank God for giving me such an opportunity to serve the victims of the ‘5/12’ earthquake who suffered tremendous hardship. In the morning of May 21, with six brothers and sisters from Golden Apple Church, we began this trip of spirit rebuilding. In our first stop we arrived at the home of a man affectionately called “Uncle Xiao” in Lezhi County.
Xiao was the old man in a photo I took previously, entitled ‘Love in Dujiangyan’. He might be one of the most ordinary or even the most insignificant persons, yet God loves him and we were able to meet him, and were provided a way to keep in touch with his family, so that we could continue to help.
I couldn’t help but thought about an article I read a few days ago, entitled “Do you mind that this is just a small fish?” Yes, in this disaster there are many small fish like Xiao; we are unable to help them all, and our helping hands are very inadequate. However, Uncle Xiao needed us; he and his family appreciated our helping hands. This was our calling; we might be candles with weak lights that are easily extinguished, but we must offer our best effort to help the small fish that could be swept ashore.
Xiao’s home was about 300 km from Chengdu. Although we had never been there, we believed that God was with us and led us there. Our help came from the Lord who created heaven and earth. Thank God we did not waste any time taking any wrong turns, and three and a half hours later, we arrived at the home of Uncle Xiao. When I saw him I was struck by his attire and his sorrow-etched face; it was with great restrain that I managed not to shed tears.
Their main source of income was growing rice and cultivating silkworm. When we arrived, he had just returned from the rice paddy. His clothing was ragged and muddy; he lifted his pant legs and was bare-footed. When we went into the house, once again we were shocked by its decrepit conditions; it was hard to imagine how one could survive in such a miserable place. The house was essentially barren, the only item worth anything being the mid sized rice cooker.
The house was a very old hut by the hillside, built with stone slabs and wooden planks; sunlight spots are everywhere coming from cracks on the roof. I asked them whether much rain came down the house; his son-in-law said it’s all right in a light rain, but in downpours the roof did not help much. In this hut lived two old people, two children (one was 6 years old, and the other not quite 7 months), and their father whose leg was lame. Anyone who witnessed their condition would feel sorry for this family. Let us pray for them! May God save them, not only from their poverty and misery, but also from sin and spiritual death, so they will receive eternal life, because our God is one who cares for the poor. As Uncle Xiao received our love and the material gifts we brought, tears flowed down his cheek.
The Xiao family took out the best food in their house to feed us – a pot of porridge with pea pods. For city people like us the food would be hard to swallow; its fate might be in the garbage. Without gas stove, the porridge was cooked with wood fire, blackened by the soot from burning wood; the fried pea pod looked the same. Yet the brothers and sisters who went there did not complain or reject it, but joyfully received the food provided by God.
After the meal, we insisted that Uncle Xiao take us to the field to pick mulberry leaves for feeding the silkworms. Reluctantly he agreed. The ground was saturated with recent rain and all our shoes turned muddy, but none of us complained. Instead we thanked God for providing an opportunity of service through such labor.
Upon returning to his house, we divided up and separately talked with members of his family. When Uncle Xiao looked for tea leaves in order to make tea for us, I told him not to bother as none of us was thirsty. Before he was able to say anything, he had tears in his eyes again. Putting my hand on his shoulder, I told him: “I know what you are going to say, and I know your sorrow…” Any words of comfort at this time would be superfluous and ineffective; the only thing I could do was listening to him, wiping away his tears, telling him we will come again, and praying for him. May God bless him and his family, and provide the healing they so desperately need throughout the disaster.
When the time came for us to depart, the leader of our group wrote down a list of things they needed, which we would bring the next time around. All this time there was no smile on Uncle Xiao’s face, which I could understand. His pain and sorrow from the loss of his only daughter was something his son-in-law and other relatives could not quite appreciate. Before we started the car, he and his wife came to my side and smiled to me, which gave me a great deal of relief. He told me he remembered that I tied his shoelace when we were in Dujiangyan. His smile brought tears to my eyes. I asked him to be strong and to take care of himself; God will comfort him, and I will come and see him again. He nodded his head and said, “Thank the Lord, and I thank you too.”
In that moment I praised the Lord in my heart. O God, did you hear that? He said ‘Thank the Lord’; it was the Holy Spirit working in his heart and moved him to utter such words. I pray you will nurture the seed of love we planted here, so that it may take root, germinate, grow and produce flowers and fruits, that your name may be glorified! We came here because of your great love, and by this love the Xiao family can be rebuilt, and can live on because new hope is instilled in them. Because this love comes from you, we can continue to help them and other people also…
May we share the glorious message of God wherever we go. Some day when they walk out of their sorrow, when their lives especially their spiritual lives are rebuilt, and when their wounds are fully healed, I hope they can tell other people: Jesus did come here …
The author lives in Sichuan Province, China.