Responding to the Smog (Part 2)

Earlier this month we posted the first part of an article of reflections on pollution in China that was published in the journal Territory. The focus of the article is how Chinese Christians reflect on the recent waves of heavy pollution in north China. This week we post the rest of the reflections.

Through the Heavy Haze, We Long for a More Beautiful Home (Part 2)

Safety/Danger
Love Can Overcome Fog and Haze
Written by Guo Yan

I was born in Beijing and grew up in Beijing. I work in, got married in, and had children all in Beijing. My first impressions and experiences are also all from Beijing. My personality, temperament, and character are all marked with the stamp of Beijing.

In the past there was space everywhere in Beijing and you could breathe freely. Under the blue sky with white clouds, each tower and each archway could be seen from far away. In 2013, fog and haze became key words. With this air, cooing pigeons increasingly fly away. The old wall with red jujube beside it cannot be felt anymore.

Tall, reinforced concrete buildings have replaced hutongs and courtyard houses. The visible sky above is one thick piece of grey. Beijing is like a large dusty construction site where building and maintenance are going on all the time. Every day as I hustle about I feel the Beijing air getting dirtier as visibility becomes worse and the traffic jams become increasingly serious.

When I was little I really liked the fog because hiding in its hazy mist made me feel like I was in a wonderland. Now when I see fog my head aches. The smell of heavy metal and sulfur in the fog and haze gradually dulled the fermented soybean milk taste buds of my childhood. Now I understand why British people like to talk about the weather when they see each other. Beijing people also have started talking about the weather and PM2.5.

When we were little we were afraid of strong winds the most. But now we intensely hope strong winds will come to blow the fog and haze away. However, the worst thing is that the spiritual fog and haze cannot be driven away from people’s hearts.

Someone said that fog and haze are a mirror to reflect a man’s character and a nation’s sins. Facing the fog and haze, Beijing people can either mock sarcastically or complain and escape. But where is a truly safe place? The United States?

After a shooting in California, in the early morning on December 6 we immediately Skyped our daughter who is studying in the US. Our daughter, who just turned fifteen years old, sensed her parents’ worry from our repeated urges. We changed our topic from the shooting to the fog and haze that had lasted a couple of days in Beijing. She said, “Mom and dad, we certainly should try to keep ourselves from disasters. But if we encounter them, we have no need to hate and fear because I believe that everything is under God’s control. They can only kill the body, but not the spirit. We know that our destination is to be together with Jesus. This world needs to be saved by Jesus. This is our responsibility.”

Our daughter’s answer was not what we expected and made us cry. Though the heavy fog and haze came again on December 8, we could hide in the house of the Lord’s love because love can cover all wrongdoings and can also keep us from fog and haze.

Heaven/Humanity
Remove the Haze and Rely on God in Heaven
Written by Lei Ming

Because I work in the meteorological department, and because I keep working on a project involving atmospheric observations, I know well the harm of the haze. Also, there is an invalid in my home, so during the Beijing winter I always wear a mask outside and use electric fans in my home. I bought high-powered electric fans and covered them with a filter to purify the air in my home. Usually it takes only one month before the filter turns black. It really gives me the willies to think about how bad my lungs must be!

For me, I prefer sleeping on my back and usually open my mouth when I sleep. I do not know how much PM2.5 I have swallowed when I was not paying attention. For the sake of my health I tried to wear a mask, but it was too hard to fall asleep. Later, I had a good idea; every time when the haze came I used a discarded mask to hold my jaw shut, forcing my mouth to stay closed during the night. Every morning when I looked at the messy elastic lines on my face I could only grimly smile.

At the beginning of this year I moved to Tianjin. I thought I finally could get rid of this pollution headache.  But in the end the haze showed up like it always has. Recently it lasted for five continuous days, hanging around Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and Shandong. Unfortunately I am still in the thick of it.

It seems that running away by myself to escape the fog and haze is not a possibility, unless I change my nationality and become a European “clean air” citizen. Of course, that is impossible for me.

However, the clingy haze makes it easy for me to think about sin because the two are very similar: Nobody can avoid them, they are everywhere, they cause much harm, and they cause people to die. Not only that, but people cannot escape sin by themselves unless they become citizens of heaven through believing in Jesus. Otherwise, sin will cling to every person until they die.

Just like GDP, the best way to deal with haze is to depend on a heavenly intervention—God or a strong wind. Aside from this, we can do nothing. Dealing with haze is similar to dealing with land and with cultural environments. Actually, the best way to manage these is to depend on heaven (God).

Almolonga, is in the west volcano valley of Xela, a provincial capital city of Guatemala. In the 1970s, the place was a sinful and desolated town, full of poverty, promiscuity, drunkenness and economic depression. There were four prisons in Almolonga, but they still could not accommodate the endless amount of criminals. Every morning drunks filled the street and violence was rampant in families. The land was desolate, barren, and yielded nothing.

But now, it’s totally different!

Five pound beets, cabbages the size of basketballs, and a 1,000% increase in the agricultural industry. Almolonga is now known as the "Vegetable Basket of the Americas." It is a green miracle of Central America.

So, who changed it?

In 1974, Riscajche (the pastor of Almolonga’s local church) was attacked by some mobs. Six people put a gun to his throat and pulled the trigger. But, begging for God’s protection he did not get hurt. Then he led a group to pray a faith-filled prayer that this land would have freedom: “Lord, we cannot be so insignificant because you said that you will ‘make us a head, not a tail.’” (Deuteronomy 28:13)

After this, God’s power was with them. God released many people from demon-possession, healed critically-ill patients, and rid the drunkards of their alcohol addiction. Almolonga started to turn around. In 1994, the last prison in Almolonga closed down because there were no criminals. The hotels’ lost business, but the fields quickly came back to life.

Today, 90% of the local people are evangelical Christians. They have rejected worship of the Mayan idol Maximón, just like they rejected poverty and evil. They turned to Christ, looked on the righteousness of God who could give them freedom, averted fear, and were full of new life.

God is so amazing. Looking up at him you cannot be shamed. Just as the Bible says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

The Haze on the Heart Is Difficult to Prevent
Written by Chen Suxia

The Daxing area in Beijing where I live is called a “severely afflicted area” of haze. There are always traffic accidents every time there is haze. I always remind my husband to drive carefully on the way to work. Sometimes he complains about the traffic jams because of the haze, but he does not have an alternative. Sometimes he jokingly says, “If I could perform miracles, I would do something to fix the haze.”

Haze is more and more normal in daily life. It has also given me more to think about. In my opinion, the pollution in the heart is the worst pollution. Maybe you can wear a nice mask to block haze, but who can penetrate through to a greedy heart? The haze outside and the haze inside: which one is more difficult to prevent? Haze is an invisible but movable wall. It besieges us in a place and all of us are victims. But what’s most troubling is that after the haze clears, I still cannot see if someone has given up on the pursuit of “Great Expectations.”

After all, the crisis of haze besieging a city is actually a crisis of people’s spirituality. Only when we can fix our relationship with God, admit all of creation belongs to God, and mend relationships with God, with people, with the earth, and with the environment can we be healed.

The church I belong to is a church with a focus on missions. Since God led us to missions, we have confidence to share the gospel to people living in this city. They have seen the haze but have not heard about the gospel. Residence on the earth is not perfect. Maybe people will long for a better hometown, a heavenly city. By faith, even in a haze, even if we are not there yet, we can look from afar on God’s promises “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).

Original article: 穿越重霾,我们羡慕一个更美的家乡(Territory)
Translated, edited, and posted with permission.

Image credit: by Alexander Mueller, via Flickr.