During the 2020 outbreak, our family of three left Wuhan and spent 85 days in Shandong.
We passed through the valley of darkness and encountered storms, but in the hands of the Lord, these storms became blessings that allowed us to know and trust him more deeply and to determine to live for him.
We left Wuhan on a stormy day, driven by my father-in-law as a response to my complaining. On January 19 we went to Weihai, Shandong, my husband’s hometown to celebrate the Chinese New Year at my father-in-law’s place. We planned to stay for four days and then return.
A few years ago, I had a quarrel with my father-in-law as he did not like me leaving the lights on during the day. Consequently, I had not visited him for years. The Lord taught me to forgive, so this time I went expecting to restore our relationship. By the time we arrived, the pandemic had not received much attention and no human transmissions had been reported. In the beginning of our stay, I happily cooked a lot of food and did housework to allow my father-in-law’s wife (his second marriage) to rest as she had injured her head.
On January 23, the increased level of infections from the pandemic was alarming. Wuhan was locked down with and the bad news escalated. My timid mother-in-law began to avoid us by locking herself in her room and keeping her distance from us. Whenever she learnt about a negative news report, she would report it to us and say we should not have visited them.
My father-in-law is 64 and he is an emotional loner. Since our arrival, he quarreled with everyone on almost everything. He finally was overwhelmed by the outbreak and could not pretend that he still wanted us to stay with them. Maybe it was because he saw that hospital admissions and death tolls were constantly rising, coupled with my mother-in-law’s endless negative remarks.
One day, he was again commenting on the current situation. I did not hold back and deliberately was very satirical of him. He yelled at us, ordering us to return to Wuhan. I hid in my room crying and praying for forgiveness. I asked the Lord to get me out of this environment and started looking online for another place to stay.
A few days later, on the seventh night of the New Year, my husband got into a quarrel with his father for some matters. My father-in-law began to swear at us and ordered us to leave the next morning! While they were fighting outside the door I packed up our things in the room and prayed the Lord would arrange an accommodation. The community center called us and said we could be taken to a hotel for quarantine the next morning. On hearing the word quarantine, I declined immediately as I was afraid of being in a place where we would be infected by others.
Early the next morning, I found an apartment located on the other end of the residential community. As we were afraid they would not rent it to us, and my husband has a Beijing residence status, we decided to say we were from Beijing.
The accommodation was very old and drafty with no TV or Internet, and a few lights did not work. The bed was small but the bedding was fine. Thank the Lord that the landlord brought us pots and vegetables. It was February 1st.
We were quite happy in that shabby two-bedroom apartment. I became so content with our situation that I forgot the Lord. A few days after moving in, my father-in-law asked a trusted relative (an aunt) to phone us and ask forgiveness for him because he felt ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour. However, this aunt obsessively talked of how wrong we younger people were in causing great bitterness and resentment. She also said I was a treacherous person. I did not even have any empathy for my father-in-law, didn’t ask for forgiveness and thought the old man deserved what he was getting!
God's disciplining soon came on us. One day, the landlord told us that the accommodation could no longer be rented to us and we had to move away quickly because the whole building, including the surrounding buildings had learnt we were from Wuhan!
There was nowhere to go again! Hotels were still closed. We found a housing agency, but there was no short-term rental available and no dealing with people from Wuhan. Returning to the ‘wilderness’ for the second time, we became miserable. I began to plead with God for his forgiveness. I contacted an editor of the Gospel Times to pray with us for a place to live. Meanwhile, I did not spare any time in searching all sorts of help from 110 (emergency line), the media, the Disease Center, the Civil Affairs Bureau, community centers, street administrations, 12345 (mayor hotline), and even the State Council. I made phone calls the whole day but was only forwarded to the next departments.
I did not realise the editor of the Gospel Times had passed on my request and situation to Christians in Shandong. Many of them contacted me. There were pastors counselling me, believers transferring money to me, many shared suggestions, and more were about praying for me. I also posted my encounters on Weibo.
Still, there was no place to go. On the third day, I was desperate. It was February 15th and it was snowing heavily. On that day, the number of my micro-blog readers reached to more than 6000. This did have a certain impact. At noon, staff from the neighborhood community came. They changed their harsh tone and threatening attitude and became extraordinarily gentle and said they had found an apartment for us. I was not assured. Afraid of the identity issue, I took the initiative to inform the landlord we were from Wuhan. As expected, on hearing we were from Wuhan, the landlord declined the offer. However, the community center soon found another apartment which agreed to accept people from Wuhan and we moved in.
I told the news to my fellow believers. They had been praying for us and they were happy for us. One female Christian said it had encouraged some local female Christians. There was Internet in the new accommodation and I could join my cell group’s online studies and services. Our lives began to return to nomal. My husband also began to learn about a new life. We often prayed and praised God together. The outbreak slowly improved so people in Weihai became more relaxed. My husband and his father also got in touch. His father often sent bread and cakes to us. Eating the food, I slowly found my hatred of him lessening.
On March 23, the news said that people from Wuhan could return with a green code. So on the 25th, my husband went back to his work. The night before he left, we prayed to consider whether I should go back with our child. Perhaps out of fear or too much emphasis on personal feelings, I did not feel peace after the prayer so I chose to stay in Shandong.
Before my husband headed home, I took screenshots of the negative news on recurrent cases and diagnoses, suggesting to him that he not go back. Later, I felt guilty because we Christians were taught to act as a force of quiet blessing during the outbreak. Nothing happens without God's permission. Since God called on my husband to go back to work, I should obey instead of encouraging him not to return.
I thank the Lord for my husband’s safe return. After he left, I was worried that if my child became sick I could not bear it alone. Plus, our room always had a strong disinfectant smell every afternoon. I began to sleep badly and always had nightmares. I could not breathe normally and suffered from depression all day.
During this time I had been praying to the Lord to ask Him to give me strength because sometimes my chest felt so tight I could not breathe and I wanted to die. Every day I was very fearful, but there was no reason to be afraid. A female Christian in Wuhan asked me not to watch the news. It would be nice to read the Bible more and listen to more sermons. Then, I uninstalled my micro-blog and no longer paid attention to the outbreak news. I relied on the Lord's words to live by and I could sleep soundly.
I do not know whether it was because I cared too much about my feelings that I did not go back to Wuhan with my husband and that I suffered so much torture in vain. On April 8, Wuhan lifted its lockdown. On the 13th, my child and I took a bus back to Wuhan, with food and masks donated by a local female believer. Our 85-day trip in Shandong ended.
- Translated by Charlie Li