Feeling the earth — and His Spirit — move
It was Monday afternoon, May 12. I was working on the computer while my kids slept in their rooms. My cell phone rang and I answered, “Wei? (Hello?)” A Chinese voice; my former teacher Su spoke. “Ni gandao fangzi yaodong le meiyou? (Did you feel your building shaking?)” I made a bewildered reply, “Meiyou. Zenme le? (No. What’s up?)” She then explained that her school’s students were all out in the street because their building, a sky-rise, started to shake. I didn’t feel a thing. Neither did my wife. It wasn’t until later that evening that pieces came together for us when we heard the news: a major earthquake had shaken the province just above us. Wow, I had lots of friends up there.
A video image of a young woman carrying a child from the dust caused by the earthquake in a mountain community near Chengdu, China.
During the first few days, no real information — other than Chinese media reports — could be gathered from the area. The cell communication network was jammed and I couldn’t get ahold of any friends. We heard more news about people up in Beijing feeling the tremor than we did about the devastation that crumpled an already humble and poor part of China. Finally, when the reports of damage and necessity to save lives came into the open, we learned that the government had decided to make a general report that foreign aid in the form of money or goods would be allowed, but foreign rescue workers would not be allowed in. That has now changed, but only for highly connected organizations and teams sent specifically by their own governments.
I felt like a lone ranger. My experience in search and rescue, training as a first responder, plans to study emergency nursing, and a deep emotional attachment to this country all weighed on me as I thought of how I could get up there to help. I had no connections, no access, no way in as I found airways and roads blocked to outsiders who weren’t part of a larger relief organization like the Red Cross. I thought of the city I live in, also close to the same string of mountains that separate the Han Chinese-dominated lowlands from the Tibetan highlands. What if it happened here?
I know several of my friends here have been wondering if they need to go up and help. Wondering what they can do. The truth is many of us are stuck. Without proper authorization, the government isn’t letting anyone in, at least for now. A few of my friends had a good connection who gave them Red Cross stickers so they could get through the many check points. They arrived in Chengdu and say that they’re barely able to interact with people because of the heavy presence of government troops.
Troops carrying an injured person in Mianyang in Beichuan county, where the epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck on May 12.
What I can do now is raise some funds for the organizations I know that are doing hard work up there. Consider our brothers and sisters in Christ who have spent many years building connections with the Chinese government and have set up relief organizations right in the area most affected by the earthquake: Food for the Hungry (www.fh.org) and Heart to Heart (www.hearttoheart.org) have not only been there to respond to this situation, but have also been sacrificing long, hard years to bring Christ’s love to needy people in this area, and will continue when the world turns its eyes away to other matters.
Chengdu is only 400 miles away. We felt the tremors, and our hearts are broken. Haiti is only 700 miles from America. Do you feel their hunger pains? Darfur, Kenya, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Iran, Louisiana — are we becoming numb to our senses? I pray not.
I realized the importance of my membership in Climbing For Christ when the organization rallied together to help the Stevens family after their tragic loss of daughter Lygon in an avalanche in Colorado in January. It was this sense of community that made me proud to be a member. I often wonder if our brothers in Haiti feel the same sense of community. If your heart is broken, I know that God can use you in powerful ways. You’ve got to let Him.
I want to challenge my fellow members of Climbing For Christ in two areas of ministry:
Donate: Some people say that poor people don’t need free handouts, but Jesus said, “If someone asks of you, give it to them.” Money, goods, time, expertise, training, discipleship, all important. Every time I don’t feel like giving, I think of all that’s been given to me! Haiti is in a desperate situation and they need our help.
Relief Team: I want to see climbers using their talents to not only climb peaks, but to get the training and expertise needed to help in disaster and relief situations at home and throughout the world. I want to challenge every member to engage in some form of training that will build their resume in this area. It could be as simple as keeping CPR certifications current, getting Wilderness First Responder (WFR), taking a free FEMA course, or signing up as a volunteer at the local search-and-rescue operation. It may also mean more in-depth training in the fields of medicine, engineering, and disaster response. This will be our first step to building a qualified pool of relief workers to draw from when the need arises.
Tsering has served in southwestern China since 2000.
Posted May 21, 2008