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QINGHAI EARTHQUAKE

At 7.49am on 14th April, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Qinghai province in North West China, in an area on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, over 4000m above sea level. It hit Yushu County, an area which includes the sources of three of China’s major rivers, including the Yangzi.   The epicentre was only 30km away from the county town of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.    93% of local inhabitants are Tibetan – mainly farmers and herdsmen. The latest figures released give over 2000 dead and 12000 injured, of whom some 1400 were severely wounded.    It is reported that over 120,000 people lost their homes and survivors have been gathered into four temporary camps; it is estimated that it may take three years to re-house the homeless.  It is hoped to start some reconstruction work at the end of May, as conditions are only favourable for such work until October, after which cold and snow will make it impossible to continue over the winter.

FCC's partners in China – the Amity Foundation and Jinde Charities – both responded immediately to this disaster, sending teams to the area as soon as possible. In both cases they are using the experience gathered through their involvement in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relief effort.    The area is not easily accessible, being a long journey on difficult roads from the provincial capital, Xining, where supplies have to be sourced.   One such journey took 21 hours by truck!    Altitude and freezing temperatures have made for very difficult conditions for incoming relief workers, compounded later by severe sandstorms.

Amity initially sent a team of three people to Gyegu Township, the seat of the county government, to make an assessment of needs and to take in initial supplies, including quilts, instant noodles and mineral water.   Further Amity staff followed, including some young staff members who had been working in Sichuan.   One young staff member left for Qinghai on her 27th birthday and another postponed his honeymoon to join the relief effort! Amity now have over 20 staff in the area.  Relief materials were also taken into remote villages – for example, Amity brought the first supplies to the 1500 people in Cuoduo Village, Longbao Township, 70km from the county seat and at 4400m above sea level.

In the first week, Amity had delivered 1680 quilts, 3140 cartons of drinking water, 1365 cartons of instant noodles, 45000 sausages, 27 tons rice, 10.5 tons flour and 50 cartons of candles.   To date they have sent a total of eight batches of relief supplies, later consignments including 30 solar power devices and medical supplies.   In addition, they are offering counselling services.

Jinde also sent a team promptly, which included staff from Sichuan and from the Xi’an Catholic Social Service Centre, as well as Jinde’s headquarters in Shijiazhuang.   As well as basic supplies including salt, wheatflour and edible oil, they have brought in medical equipment and supplies.   With six staff members – 3 medically trained and 3 certified counsellors – they set up a medical station in the Baizha camp, on the outskirts of Gyegu, which holds over 3100 survivors, many of them migrant workers from surrounding counties.  

With additional staff joining the team, they gave relief supplies to the 3000 people in the Saima camp, set up on the former racecourse, as well as offering medical and counselling services.   Some of the Sisters have also helped in an orphanage.   After consulting with local Tibetan Buddhist colleagues, Jinde supplied six generators for various institutions in the area.

For more information and regular updates, see: www.amityfoundation.org  and www.chinacatholic.org

 

EMBRACING THE INTERNET

The e-age or age of the Internet has brought revolutionary changes to people’s lifestyles, study and work.  A number of churches in urban areas, especially Beijing, have Internet sites that attract thousands.  The China Christian Council’s website, www.ccctspm.org, provides news, updates, daily devotional readings, seminary information, and readers’ forums on all kinds of things from the Beijing Olympics to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.  Its online bookstall provides easy acquisition to Bibles, church music, reference books, daily devotions, CD and DVDs of inspirational music, and children’s Christian education resources.  In a Tian Fengarticle, Christians and the Internet, Zhang Yuanlai attempts to demonstrate that the Internet and the spread of the gospel are mutually enhancing.  Read a translation of this article which recently appeared in the Amity News Service:  http://www.amitynewsservice.org/page.php?page=1965 .

 

BIBLE LITERACY CLASSES

Although the congregation of Hongtuling Church in Benxi town, Liaoning province has been growing steadily, engaging many of the congregation in bible study had been difficult, reported the Amity News Services citing a Tian Feng article. Most of the elderly members can not read. Some had done menial labor all their working lives, others were sold as child brides and still others were denied schooling when young as it was thought not necessary to educate girls. The church now uses the literacy primer, Easy Reader for Christianity, published by the China Christian Council, as a way to help its elderly members learn to read and write and study the bible. The first words that the ‘students’ of Hongtuling Church—almost all aged 50 to 80 years of age—learn to write is “God loves me. God loves you. God loves him and her. God loves everyone.” Members of the class have shared with Tian Feng, the national magazine of the China Christian Council, how they hated being the ‘sighted blind’, able to see but illiterate. According to Tian Feng the members of the literacy/bible study class take their lessons seriously and “form their characters conscientiously and very tidily.” If ‘students’ encounter problems they ask their children or grandchildren to help them out. The Easy Reader for Christianity comes in three lesson books; each of the individual lessons teaches characters using Christian themes. Learn more about these classes here:  http://www.amitynewsservice.org/page.php?page=1968 .

 

PHOTO UPDATE ON AMITY'S RECONSTRUCTION WORK IN WOYUN

On May 12, 2008 just hours after a massive earthquake registered 8.0 on the Richter Scale in Sichuan province, the Amity Foundation was among the first non-governmental organisations to arrive in Chengdu to begin accessing damage in some of the worst affected counties.  At first, Amity focused on relief efforts through the distribution of tarpaulins for make-shift housing, clean drinking water, mosquito nets, and quilts.  Within a month, Amity quickly moved to from relief work to integrated reconstruction.  Amity projects included community grain storage facilities, the constructions of clean water and sanitation facilities, technical skills training, and the construction of classrooms and personal housing.  Amity also helped to build a temporary church at Mianzhu (see article below) where 1,000 persons worship each week.  To keep us up-to-date on earthquake reconstruction, Amity’s Gong Sheng and Beate Engelen, recently repaid a visit to Woyun, a village of 2,500 where Amity is concentrated its efforts.  Dr Engelen, who works in Amity’s Hongkong Office where she edits the Amity Newsletter, shares how Amity's reconstruction work has impacted the community.  Her photo slide show can be found here:

:                                                  Amity's reconstruction work in Woyun, 2009

People busy working to re-build the community.

Construction workers are needed throughout the earthquake affected region, good news for many of the area's migrant workers whose jobs in the east coast have been axed due to the global economic downturn.

HANGZHOU YOUTH FELLOWSHIP TOPS 1,000 MEMBERS

The Chongyi Church in downtown Hangzhou opened in 2005 and in just a few short years its youth fellowship now numbers over 1,000 members.  Chongyi's youth pastor, the Rev. Zhang Guoyong, attributes this to prayer, good preaching, and follow-up care, reported Tian Feng in the Amity News Service.  Many of China's urban churches are filled with university students and young adults who see Christianity as a culture and way of life, not necessarily a faith.  At Chongyi there is an eight-lesson basic course to teach newcomers about the basics of Christianity.  The Rev. Zhang also feels fellowship is important for people to feel "God is here, love is here, life is here." Young people are also involved in all kinds of discussion groups to share experiences, doubts, hopes and change.  And lastly to influence and move others, the Rev. Zhang uses examples of Christians who have been called by God to a new life.  The Rev. Zhang feels that youth ministry is at the core of the Chongyi Church as over half of the church's congregants are under the age of 40.  Protestant Christianity in China is post-denominational and the Chongyi Church is one of the largest in China able to seat about 7,000.

(“Youth ministry in Hangzhou”, Amity News Service, March 2009)

LISU CHRISTIANS: TESTIMONY TO GOD'S FAITHFULNESS

The Lisu are one of China's 55 ethnic minority groups who mainly live in the mountains of Yunnan province, reports the Revd Bao Jiayuan, Associate General Secretary of the China Christian Council, writing for the Amity News Service. Among the 90,000 Lisu living in Fugong county, Yunnan, 60,000 are Christians worshiping in 339 churches. Five of those Lisu Christians, from Jibude village, travelled with the China Christian Council's Bible Ministry Exhibition, to the United States in 2006 where the Revd Bao became familiar with their cultural context. Bao marvelled at church buildings in Fugong which he said were simple structures with no organs or stained glass, no pews, fonts or bell towers. Baptisms are conducted in the Nu River. Many congregations have three worship services on Sundays and fellowship gatherings during the week where Christians can share their joys and concerns.

In 2005 the Jibude village church collapsed during prolonged flooding and landslides. An impoverished area where the average income is less than UK 75 pence per day, a huge donation of 6,000 yuan (£460) was given by a group of local widows. With support from the China Christian Council's disaster fund and the Amity Foundation, 30 bags of cement were purchased along with ceiling tiles and a thousand steel bars. The members of the church carried the supplies by hand up the mountainous footpaths, a journey that took three hours one way, to the village church. Labour supplied by the local villagers themselves meant the church was built in time to be dedicated by Chinese New Year. A school that accommodates 40 children also has been established next to the church where small children attend for two years. Some of the children receive their first lesson in language study though the church's bible recitation class. To complete primary school, children must leave the village and live in dormitories at a residential primary school down the mountainside. As with many mountainous villages, populations have bourgeoned and whereas 50 years ago there was an excess of fruit and vegetables, many families now live one just two meals of corn a day. The China Christians Council recognizes the inequality of conditions between richer coastal locations and poorer inland regions. One Christian doctor from the comparatively wealthier province of Zhejiang, in her eighties, travelled to Yunnan and began primary health care training among the local Lisu villages with the help of the CCC and the Amity Foundation.

("God's faithfulness to Lisu Christians," The Amity News Service, Sept 2008)