China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2012/Oct
Caring for others
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another’ (John 13: 34-35).
Some babies have a hard start in life as they are born with some kind of an impediment and, because of this, many parents feel they cannot care for their child.
This must cause great anxiety for the parents and sometimes they do not know which way to turn.
It has been reported through the media that some babies have been left to die somewhere.
Other parents would rather leave their baby with someone who can care for it, but when no one helps, many are left at the doors of a convent or a church.
In Biancun village, a rural community in Hubei province, 18 sisters of the Congregation of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus are taking care of 130 children of all ages, from newly born to young adult.
Some are suffering from debilitating illnesses and disabilities and need constant medical care.
The sisters think that these children have a right to happiness and they protect them from harm.
They receive a proper education, eat nutritious meals and play with each other. They also get physical exercise to maintain a healthy body. The older ones take care of the little ones and help those who cannot help themselves.
The sisters have received training in emergency first-aid and two have been officially trained and licenced as medical doctors in the country.
The doctors run a clinic for the local villagers as well as taking care of the orphans.
The clinic is extremely popular, because people believe that the sisters are truly concerned and dedicated to serving their needs. The sisters are people who care for others (China Daily, May 13).
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone (Thessalonians, 3:12)
Education should be a priority in every country, but unfortunately that is not always the case.
The reasons may be many and varied, but I will focus on a person who is trying to overcome the odds and doing all she can to educate girls in rural China. Her love is overflowing for these young women.
Tien Ching, a Chinese-Canadian, travels to Gansu province every year to meet the girls who will go to university thanks to financial support from her foundation.
She tells her young protégés that she is not a rich woman spreading easy, inherited money on charity. Some of her donors are people like retired teachers, who pay in installments.
Thanks to Tien and her British Columbia Society for Educating Girls of Rural China, 116 young women can boast university degrees since her Vancouver-based foundation was registered in 2005.
There are 170 students in the programme right now studying in 96 universities in more than 30 cities throughout China.
Among the graduates, 15 per cent have gone on to master’s programmes and 20 per cent work as school teachers or for the local Gansu government. Most graduates work in various professional industries in cities and townships throughout China.
“I don’t intend to do big things,” Tien says. “But I mean to do really effective and helpful things.”
Except for annual reports on their school performances, Tien asks nothing in return from the girls.
Because of this, she has turned down several sponsorship offers that would have required hours of community service or joining the sponsors’ companies after graduation.
Tien knows everyone in her big family and insists on visiting the girls and their families every year.
Tien, who never went to university herself, is proud to be “giving these girls the opportunity that I did not have.”
Born in the 1950s in Beijing, Tien’s mother was a pediatrician and her father a pilot with the Flying Tigers.
Her life took a dramatic turn during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) when her education was interrupted and she was sent to a factory in Gansu with her mother.
The Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, applauds Tien as “a person whose strength of character is evident the moment that you meet her” (China Daily, July 8).
Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1: 19)
Most of us have had times in our lives when a friend listens to us in a time of need. It makes a difference.
Others feel that no one listens to them, their problems seem to mount and they are not sure about which way to turn. This can be a matter of life and death for some people. They need a caring person like those St. James wrote about – someone to just listen and be slow to speak.
In our modern world, life can be complicated, but there are people in our societies who care about others and are trained and ready to help those in need.
If a person is feeling depressed by a circumstance in their personal life, or has lost someone close to them and the grief is hard to bear, they look for someone to listen to them.
They may even want to die because of their grief and confusion. If they don’t want to discuss their problems with family or friends, China and Hong Kong have places ready with good listeners.
The Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Centre provides a free suicide intervention service.
It has a hotline with friendly voices that you can depend on. The trained counsellor will listen and may offer guidance if needed for those who feel overwhelmed.
Statistics from the centre show that suicide has been the fifth-biggest cause of death in China during the last 20 years.
In the 15 to 34 age group, it was the number one cause of death. Since 1991, approximately 287,000 people have committed suicide every year in China. Suicide is a major public health hazard in China.
Many grassroots organisations have been established by concerned individuals. An official in Gansu province said, “The prevention of suicide is the duty of every person. If society as a whole holds the same point of view, more people will be saved” (China Daily, May 23).
In Hong Kong, we have an organisation called The Samaritans, a not-for-profit, non-religious group giving confidential emotional support to people who are suicidal or are in general distress.
The service is provided to anyone regardless of age, creed, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It runs a 24-hour multilingual hotline service operated by unpaid, trained volunteers.
Since 1974, it has received more than 563,200 telephone calls from people ranging in age from eight to 80.
Anyone can call and talk through their feelings with a Samaritan volunteer, which can often be a turning point in their lives.
This can help alleviate the feeling of despair and provide immense relief, with someone listening, giving them time and attention, and acknowledging and respecting their feelings. The trained person “will listen and be slow to speak” (http://www.samaritans.org.hk).
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)
Hospice care is expanding in many places and one of the first hospitals in China to provide this care for dying patients is the Linfen Community Health Service Centre in Shanghai, founded in 1995.
Hospice care offers a comprehensive programme for patients who are dealing with a life-threatening illness and in the last months or days of life.
Unlike traditional medical care, hospices focus on palliative care, keeping patients comfortable rather than curing them. It involves both the patients and their families.
Professional staff, trained in dealing with the issues of terminally ill patients and their families, try to meet their spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
Social workers and volunteers are also needed in hospice care to help provide care so that many can die with dignity and rest in peace.
Some volunteers come from local universities. Here is what one caring student had to say about his first experience: “Terminally ill patients are often filled with depression, anxiety and fear. Such negative emotions can influence your emotions.”
After his first visit to a terminally ill cancer patient, a woman in her 70s, he said, “She talked a lot. All about the essence of life. Most of the time I could do nothing but listen to her. I knew I couldn’t cure her disease, but I could stay with her, which in a way might ease her pain” (China Daily, July 5).
Sheep or goats?
In our scriptures we read many passages about caring for others and the most important one for us is found in St. Matthew’s gospel:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
“All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’” (Matthew 25:31-36).
After a discourse about who has or has not done the above good deeds, the scripture continues, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me’” (Matthew 25: 40).