The widening gap between rich and poor that has emerged as a prominent feature of China's rapid but uneven economic development has been the topic of much discussion both inside and outside China.
Less obvious, however, have been the millions of children who have fallen into this chasm and now constitute a particularly needy yet forgotten segment of society.
For Christians serving in China, these "children outside the door" have been largely forgotten as well. On the one hand, it is difficult to ignore the disheveled migrant girl begging from patrons at a sidewalk caf or the boy with an obvious physical disability obstructing pedestrian traffic on a busy street corner. The needs are glaringly obvious. Yet over time, these children blend into the urban landscape to the point that they become invisible to those going about their busy lives, who, if they did stop to notice, would not know where to even begin thinking about how to bring change to these young lives.
The pages of this issue of ChinaSource chronicle the seemingly overwhelming needs of these children, whether they be orphaned by AIDS, challenged by a physical disability, scarred by abuse, abandoned or simply neglected. The obstacles standing in the way of meeting these needs are similarly overwhelming.
At the most basic level is a lack of awareness, exacerbated by a system that punishes those who bring social problems to light and rewards those who cover them up. Related is the question of who is responsible and a traditionincluding in the churchof not getting involved in the needs of those outside one's own network of relationships. Economic pressures mitigate against parents fulfilling their primary care giving and nurturing roles, and an incomplete legal system offers little protection to children at risk. Finally, there is the centuries-old stigma that surrounds disability (and, today, HIV/AIDS), creating an invisible barrier between the concern of society and those who need it the most.
Add to these the staggering price tag of actually providing the services that these children need, and it is not surprising that many in the Christian community who do want to help despair at knowing how they can make a difference. As individuals it is easy to become overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness in the face of so many obstacles. However, by working together as the hands and feet of Jesus, there is much that can be done.
This issue of ChinaSource is a joint project of several individuals who have dared to get involved and who are making a difference, both in the lives of children in China and in the society in which these children live. Through their efforts and the work of others like them, the lives of the forgotten have become a tablet upon which God is writing the stories of His grace. A coalition is being formed of likeminded servants who are committed to seeing this hope spread to children at risk across China. Together we invite your partnership. How will you respond? Let us hear from you.
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio