From January 22 to 23, dozens of church staff of the Gaizhou Eternal Life Church, a centennial church in northeast China's Liaoning Province, visited 39 disadvantaged households and retired church staff at minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Starting January 20, in collaboration with Yingkou Municipal CC&TSPM, the church has kicked off its visitation event “Greet the Spring Festival with Love and Targeted Assistance” before the Chinese New Year which falls on February 10. The focus and main targets of this visit are retired preachers, elderly deacons, leaders of the affiliated meeting points, co-workers with great contributions, heads of the churches in various towns and villages, as well as elderly believers who are in difficulties due to illness or loss of their only child, the widowed and lonely, the weak, and the needy.
In a rundown shanty, a 95-year-old bedridden Christian man who has lost his son is being cared for by his widowed daughter-in-law. At a nursing home, despite suffering from the difficulties of serious kidney disease with regular dialysis, a sister managed to bring nearly 30 people to the Lord. Even in illness, she carries out her mission of preaching the gospel. A senior deacon of the church, whose home once served as a meeting point for 18 years, lived happily with his wife in his later years. At the home of an old bedridden sister with epilepsy who could hardly speak, she struggled to raise her head and slur, trying to communicate with the visiting team.
Among the recipients of the visits are a believer who lost both her son and husband and is now living alone; a sick believer with a disabled family member but still has to support the family; a 70-year-old heart disease patient with disabled children in need of care; and believers suffering from myasthenia, kidney dialysis, tumor disease, and heart disease.
The residences of the church's initial leaders, elderly deacons, and workers who used to work in the church no longer appear to be in such poor shape after retirement. Some of them have a comfortable life with good health.
Some families’ conditions are concerning in the rural areas of Gaizhou. There are decaying houses hung with plastic sheets, and some are even reluctant to use heated-bed stoves for warmth, but the smoke was "backflow,” flooding the house as the firewood burned. Some disabled people are also widowed, living alone with illnesses. An elderly sister, who has never been married, lives with and supports her paralyzed brother. An elderly believer who has been following Jesus for 30 years has cared for his bedridden wife for 26 years, feeding her, collecting her excrement, and always being by her side while keeping the house clean and tidy. A 73-year-old sister and her husband died of a heart attack a few days ago, and her daughter-in-law had previously committed suicide due to depression, leaving her son at college in need of care from the 73-year-old grandma.
Despite such poor living conditions, Christian couplets, calligraphies, paintings pasted on their windowsills, Bibles placed on broken chairs, and sermons played on phones can all be noticed in the homes of needy believers.
During the visits, seven men and one woman prayed to accept Jesus as their savior.
Unlike the visits in previous years, this visitation event of the Eternal Life Church features targeted assistance. The grassroots churches and groups were required to report the congregants in need, who would be "announced" publicly for feedback. Then, a visit based on the list will be made to identify those who truly need help.
Rev. Zheng Jinyue, head of the church, and her co-workers discussed the solutions for the issues noticed. Some believers’ heated-bed stoves are in bad condition with smoke "backflowing," which will easily cause carbon monoxide poisoning. They plan to rebuild their heated-bed stove (commonly known as “Kang” in Chinese, which is a traditional heated platform used for daily living and sleeping in northern China's severe winters.). The leaders of meeting points should be one-on-one responsible for providing targeted support to needy believers.
Meanwhile, churches across Gaizhou City, including towns and villages, have initiated visitation activities before the 2024 Spring Festival.
(The article was originally published by the Gospel Times and the author reported in Gaizhou, Liaoning.)
- Translated by Poppy Chan