Linqu Elim Nursing Home, registered in the winter of 2009, is affiliated to Linqu Amity Hospital, a church-run hospital in Shandong. It has been open for ten years, carrying out its practice with love and faith, under the direction of three generations of a Christian family.
Director Zhao Dejing grew up in a family that has remained Christian for three generations. From her grandfather, the family has been taking care of the elderly in the church, and so far, five or six old people have passed away while in Director Zhao's house. "Running a nursing home was the dream of my grandfather's generation," Zhao said. The Lord Jesus says we are the light of the world and the salt of the world; so if we are the light we should seen, and if we are the salt we should be revealed".
In 1985, Zhao's grandfather led believers to donate 18,000 yuan to set up a clinic near the church in Wangshe Village. After 34 years of hard work, the clinic has become a well witnessed local hospital, named Linqu Christian Amity Hospital, which is also the only hospital with a Christian name after China's "reform and opening-up" policy.
In 2007, the hospital was moved from the countryside to the busy streets of the county to avoid inconvenient transportation. Director Zhao made use of the vacant hospital to run a nursing home, in order to take care of elderly Christians. At that time, the home raised more than 5 million yuan by itself, covering an area of 4,000 square meters and nearly 200 beds.
The home is located in a convergent area of the urban and rural zones of Linqu County. Most people living there are the elderly who are unable to take care of themselves and need to be accompanied all day long. At the beginning, only a few were willing to work there as nurses, so Zhao often worked the night shift.
During the Spring Festival, almost everyone returns home to celebrate the lunar New Year, but several sisters stay back to take care of old people.
Zhao said, "When working for the aged, we Christians do not put profit first, but let more people understand the Lord's love, enjoy the Lord's love, so that they can have a chance to become the light and the salt".
The organization barely guarantees its own operation, despite its lease rate being lower than the average market rate. Whenever repair or renovation is required, Director Zhao needs to raise additional funds. At present, the Apartment is actually losing money.
A few years ago, there were three elderly people who were unable to afford the expenses and had no relatives to take care of them, but Zhao still allowed them to live in the Apartment all along.
Hospice care is still new in China, but Director Zhao has a strong feeling about it. She thinks it is very valuable and meaningful to provide the elderly with better care in their last moments so that they can pass away peacefully.
As a physician, she has been working for 24 years since 1995. During those years, she has witnessed too many deaths and kept updating her understanding of life and death. She is deeply moved by the poor quality of death in China. In the home, when the elderly need intensive care before their death, the nurses will try their best to meet their needs. But when the children of the dying elderly people come, they will follow the rural custom of bringing them home and letting them die at home. Nowadays, most offspring live in tall apartment buildings; some of them do not want to let their elderly parents & grandparents to continue living for too long, so they just abandon them in the garage, then wait for them to die.
What shocked Zhao the most was one instance where she went to a funeral home four times in a month.
"We contacted people in the village after some of the old people died, but no one wanted to do anything about it. I would drive myself and my co-workers to the funeral home and bring the funerary urn back to them after the body was cremated".
In 2013, in response to Linqu municipal government's call, Zhao invested in the construction of a new nursing institution that combines medical and nursing care, "Sunshine Amity Senior Health City", which covers an area of 120,000 square meters with a total investment of 560 million yuan.
But the new home has not been put to use several years after construction was finished, because of delays in funding. Even so, Zhao believes that what she is experiencing is God's mandate. "We look up to God and seek God's leadership and guidance," she said.
- Translated by Sophia Chen