Testimony of a Handicapped Fellowship Leader in North China
By Grace Zhi, December 23, 2017 04:12 AM
In a recent interview with Gospel Times, a Christian News website in Beijing, Elder Zhang Xiaohua, the person in charge of a handicapped fellowship in Linfen Church, in Shanxi Province, shared the current conditions and vision of the fellowship.
Zhang suffered from disabilities in his legs due to poliomyelitis at age 2. However, with influence of his father, he enjoyed studying and reading. He also studied journalism on his own and attended related trainings by the Provincial Federation of Disabled Persons in his free time.
Zhang's grandfather was a pastor who used to perform missionary work in northeast China. His mother is also a devout Christian and took Zhang to church at a young age.
Over the years, Zhang has been working in a social welfare company. He was recognized for his work and has been rewarded "outstanding employee" and "provincial role model for his self-reliance." He worked three continual terms as a member of the CPPCC (China People's Political Consultative Conference) , during which time he lobbied for free transportation for disabled people, which was realized in February this year.
"My faith is greatly influenced by some old pastors in my hometown," said Zhang. He specially mentioned Pastor Zhang Wujian, who's in his 70s and lives in Qu'ao. Pastor Zhang always encourage him with a verse from Revelation, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown." (2:10)
Elder Zhang preaches almost every month. At the moment, he leads the handicapped fellowship, attends prayer meetings, and teaches for local small groups.
Regarding the development of the fellowship and its visions for the future, Elder Zhang shared with Gospel Times.
So, how did the handicapped fellowship start?
We established the fellowship in 2012. Because we had many disabled people in my company, and seeing them in the community and the church made me feel pity for them.
There was a sister in our fellowship whose hair was completely grey. When I first met her, she worked as a street sweeper and hadn't converted yet. One day, I saw her crying along the roadside, feeling aggrieved, so I invited her to our fellowship.
Later, as some disabled believers joined us, I started keeping their contact info. I figured why not establishing a fellowship, and gather these people together to study.
That's how the fellowship started.
What's the current situation of the fellowship?
So far, there are about fifty to sixty registered members in our fellowship, with twenty to thirty regular attendees. Our church also values this fellowship very much. We meet on Saturday mornings. When we first started, we met twice a month, but now it's a weekly meeting.
What activities does this fellowship carry out?
Every week, after the meeting, we would go to the nursing home to visit the elders: chatting with them, singing, and clipping nails for them. Some blind masseuses would gave the seniors massages. Plus, we participate in some social service activities on National Disabled Day, such as massage and haircut. It worked well.
On Christmas, everyone is enthusiastic in performing on stage, like choir and clapper talk. These members do have some strong suits. One sister loves music and God very much, and prepares shows every year with great enthusiasm.
Is there anything cautionary in shepherding the disabled?
I've said many times in my sermons that "I believe that there are no handicapped in God's eyes; blind or physically disabled, we're all precious vessels." We need to respect ourselves first.
The biggest problem for handicapped is their low self-esteem. They think that people look down upon them, so they do the same, thinking they're not good enough to be seen and don't want to engage in society. Therefore, we encourage them to get out of their house.
How does the fellowship serve its members?
First, we cheer them up by building on the Word of God and studying it at every meeting.
Second, we nourish them to become workers of God. Now, we have selected some wonderful people to participate in the service.
Third, we care for them. They need more care than healthy people. Every year, believers of the church donate for them, and so do we. We would take something (usually one bag of rice and one bag of flour) to visit them on Christmas and Mid-autumn Festival. Their families are very touched by the love of the church.
Also, the money we raised is for visiting the sick as well.
What's the vision for the future? Any new plans?
One is to help solve some practical problems for the disabled. For example, there is a sister in Hexi Church, who lost her husband and has a mentally-retarded son. They live in a shabby house and it leaked when it rained. When the church learned about this, brothers and sisters of the church raised some money and helped her repair the house, which bore wonderful testimony in that place.
The other is to recruit some nonhandicapped to set up a volunteer team. We've recruited a few and some believers also joined us since going out requires the assistance of non-handicapped for safety concerns.
We hope to set up a fellowship for the deaf next. Actually, most people where I work are deaf-mute. I don't know any sign language, so we communicate with simple gestures and writing. Furthermore, we want to branch out to reach the handicapped in the local small meeting groups.
-Translated by Grace Hubl
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