What Does It Take?

Alliance workers care for China's quake victims

By Anonymous

“ This is my teacher . . .” “This is my best friend . . .” “This boy is the best in playing basketball.” “This girl is a good student and speaks English well.”

The day in Chengdu, Sichuan province, started early for our team of seven Chinese believers and three foreign workers. First, we had a short debriefing about the previous day when we had visited one of the hardest hit areas from the May 12 earthquake. Mile after mile, our team saw the same thing—homes, schools, shops, restaurants, petrol stations, factories—nothing but rubble. Our minds were still racing as we loaded the vans with basic aid supplies and children’s gift bags and headed toward the beautiful mountains littered with destruction.

It was June 1, Children’s Day, and we didn’t know how we were going to get to more villages and provide a listening ear and psychological first aid (PFA) to people affected by the quake. We questioned whether all the kids and youth would be at organized programs rather than in the villages. Basic necessities had been provided by the government, and people were doing well physically. But we also knew that under the surface their emotions were still quaking, giving us opportunities to use our PFA training in basic counseling.

We drove through areas where demolished homes had been replaced by blue tents. At the end of the road, we were told that the villages further on had been evacuated. It would be no use to go any further.

We thought about going back and doing follow up with some of the villagers we had visited the day before. But we stopped to ask the director of volunteers at the tent city if there was anything she needed help with.

“There is no one to work with the kids. Would you be able to put on a Children’s Day program for the kids and youth this afternoon?” Within an hour, our team was facilitating games, teaching fun English songs, telling stories and building relationships with 15 young people and a countless number of smaller children. The Chinese youth with us from a church in another province got things rolling and were a tremendous help.

While relief efforts were taking place around us at this huge “refugee camp,” an English teacher asked if she could take a picture of me with her friends. She said that 10 of her students had died. After the Children’s Day activities, we chatted with the youth and learned about their families, their experience in the quake and their lives now.

Makeshift cemetary“Would you like to go with us up the mountain to pay our respect to our classmates and teachers?” they asked. What an opportunity to step into their world with open eyes, listening ears and compassionate hearts!

They led us to terrace upon terrace of new graves made of cement half culverts. Each terrace had 30–40 graves, making the total of dead from this area nearly 400.

“This is my teacher,” a ninth-grade girl said while pointing to a grave.

“This friend was great at playing basketball,” another ninth grader said, pointing to another gray grave with a candle and some memorabilia at the headstone.

“This boy helped many girls get out before the building collapsed on him,” one youth told us, pointing to yet another grave.

I told them that there is a story in a favorite book of mine that says there is no greater love than when someone lays down his life for a friend. How I longed to explain who my Friend was and how He had given His life for each of them.

“Those people are the parents of one of my friends,” a girl explained as she ran up the hill to where a mom and dad were weeping by the grave of their only daughter, dead at age 14. “She was one grade behind us and was in a different school.”

“You were such a good daughter and such a good student. You didn’t die because you were a bad person,” the mother proclaimed while sobbing uncontrollably. “We invested so much in you, and now you are gone. What will we do now?” The youth who was guiding us put her arms around the mother, and soon others from our group were mourning with them.

Another member of our team found a man alone sitting in front of his wife’s grave. She was a teacher in one of the schools that had collapsed. They had been married 20 years, and their daughter was studying in another city. His daughter had come back for 10 days and had now returned to her university. Life looked hopeless. Our worker listened to this man and mourned with him.

While we were up on the hillside, another international worker went for a walk with the camp’s director of volunteers. In front of the middle school that had collapsed, our worker listened as she told of how the injured filled the basketball court. She could still hear their sounds in her mind. It rained hard the day after the quake, and no one knew that this village had been so severely damaged. Landslides had blocked the roads and prevented rescue efforts until the third day after the quake. Many of the injured died during that 48-hour wait. As we prepared to leave, the director could not stop hugging our worker and weeping. “Please come back anytime,” she said as she waved good-bye.

While absorbing the view—400 graves in front of me, obliterated homes and school just beyond and a huge mountain with a landslide down the middle of it forming the background of this once picturesque valley—I began to think about the doors that have been opened to help with the rebuilding effort or to send long-term workers into the area as teachers. But then I wondered, Why did it take such loss of life and devastation to spur me to action? Why can’t my hunger and passion to share Christ and His love in the ordinary places be just as strong?

I bowed my head in this three-week-old cemetery and recommitted my life to God. I asked that my passion for the lost would burn ever brighter. I prayed for this place and that a place with no believers could someday have followers of Christ—the Friend who gave up His life out of love for each of us. I prayed for what would be the “ordinary” for me. After all, why should I wait to see the dead before I have a passion to share Christ with the living?

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