Yesterday I shared a portion of my interview with a contact in China. Today I’m sharing part 2. As I said yesterday, it’s helpful to take a step back from media coverage of China and see things through the eyes of believers there. One of the most helpful things I’ve heard in recent weeks is that the Chinese believer are praying for us here in America. Let’s get on with today’s Global Perspective to hear more from a family on the ground in Beijing.
Perspective from China, Pt. 2
How are Chinese believers responding to the virus?
Our church, and a couple of others in Beijing known to us, have gone online fairly smoothly. There are lots of social media groups (on WeChat, the ubiquitous platform in China) in which believers are sharing encouragements and prayers. Bible studies and prayer meetings are also happening via video-conferencing. We have been very impressed with how the more mature believers have continued to encourage everyone to keep being involved with one another even though we can’t meet. The teaching from our church has been solidly biblical, and neither dominated by the coronavirus situation nor minimising it. It feels like they really have done the best that anyone could do. The church also organised offerings in order to donate supplies to Hubei province in the early days of the virus, but the government has generally frowned on any civil society or charitable efforts and so we haven’t heard any more about further opportunities to give in that way since early February. Most recently people in our church have been praying for other countries and checking up with us about our friends and family back home, offering to send things to our families if needed.
I wish I knew more about rural congregations, or churches in other cities, but I can only really speak intelligently about a small section of the church in Beijing. There has been more fear than I believe is appropriate in the congregations known to us, but there are also very wise voices speaking into those situations, and the church leaders seem to be doing a great job.
What should American believers learn from China’s experience through the coronavirus?
Prepare for months of disruption to church life, and plan creatively and positively to support the lonely and vulnerable, even if you can’t go to visit them right now, and to strengthen the faith of all other believers. Get used to gaining what you can from online meetings, and from lots more phone calls, but hunger for the day when you can meet again in significant numbers to enjoy face-to-face fellowship and worship together in person.
Humility and patience are vital. This is certainly true inside the home — you’ll now be spending more time with a smaller number of people in a confined space, and that will test the quality of love and forbearance. As for outside the home, don’t insist on personal expression and freedoms in the moment if it would increase the risk of others catching the virus.
Exercise sober judgement when you hear conflicting things from politicians, medical experts, media voices, etc. When in doubt I recommend listening to the medics — they are much less likely to be lying to you or shooting off their mouths than the politicians, who tend to say something different depending which day of the week it is (clearly some politicians are much worse than others in this regard). Doctors here in China warned of the virus weeks before the local government in Wuhan was prepared to admit its severity. In America you have the opposite problem — not too few voices, but too many!
Cherish the fact that our treasure is not here on earth. And comfort those who are anxious using gospel truth, not with platitudes. It may well be that the Lord will open up conversations with unbelieving family members, colleagues or friends who are especially afraid, or who are grieving, and the good news of Jesus is what they need to hear, from a loving ambassador of Christ, whether there is a virus going round or not.
If there are people you see in need because they have lost their jobs, don’t hold back in generosity. If you are a landlord and your tenants are suddenly unemployed, don’t throw them out. I know of a few cases in Beijing where landlords have made a lot of trouble for out-of-town or foreign tenants, and the coronavirus itself is bad enough without cruelty and profiteering of any kind making it worse. Millions of people in China have already suffered economically because of the coronavirus, and their large savings accounts may tide them over for a while. But Americans tend to have less saved up than the Chinese, so in times of crisis, many people around you probably have very little buffer in place.
If no one hoards and panic buys toilet paper then there is enough toilet paper. Think very seriously when you load up your shopping cart about what the Lord would say to you. Are Christians here in this world to do as the world does or to live out a better way?
Don’t talk about praying more — just pray more.