Easter in Shanghai this year was unusual and difficult. Yet Christians found ways to celebrate Easter and serve others during the lockdown. This article from Christian Times tells the stories of several believers in Shanghai during the COVID-19 lockdown that still continues.
Easter During the Pandemic in Shanghai: Christians’ Life, Faith, and Love
Easter was April 17, a significant day for Christians. For brothers and sisters living in Shanghai, Easter this year was marked by continuing to be locked down at home, having nucleic acid or antigen tests, and vying for food through group purchases or other methods, not knowing when they would be “unlocked.” But there was a difference that day; some people still celebrated Easter by posting beautiful pictures on WeChat or celebrating with families at home or online.
On March 1, a local case of COVID-19 was found in Shanghai which led to some communities being quarantined a few days later. From March 27 to April 1, Pudong and Puxi were locked down one after the other after the Huangpu River was made the boundary as the city adopted a “half city” rotation quarantine model for nucleic acid tests. Up to now, some people have not been out of their community for nearly 40 days and everyone has been at home unable to go out for at least 20 days.
Shanghai, a very large city of 25 million people, has endured various difficulties and challenges during this pandemic. Christians who were able to draw strength and rest through their faith have helped people in need around them and engaged in daily life, online gatherings, various activities showing love, prayer, and even silent self-communion. Below are some stories of what happened during this time.
Life: Experiencing God’s Grace in Food Supply
Sister Chen lives in Huinan Town in Pudong. Her community started lockdown in mid-March. Her daughter stayed with her and they remain very concerned about food, even though it is just the two of them. Looking back on her life during the past month, Sister Chen said, “I feel very grateful to experience God’s grace this month. Supplies arrived just in time when we had nothing to eat at home.” Before the lockdown, when she was praying for the Russian-Ukrainian war, she thought that since Ukraine is a wheat-exporting country, the war might lead to a world-wide food crisis so she ordered rice online. Later, another sister sent her some sea fish. She froze the fish in the refrigerator and planned to send them to her father outside of Shanghai. Fortunately, Sister Chen kept those food items until after the lockdown began; she believes that this was a result of God’s grace.
Sister Chen serves in a charity ministry, where all the workers are adults, and they haven’t met any difficulties. However, she knows some of her co-workers have encountered challenges in Puxi. She told us that there is only one worker there since volunteers are not able to go to Puxi for various reasons.
Faith: Praying and Encouraging Each Other Online
Elder Zhou lives in Puxi. Before the lockdown of Pudong and Puxi on April 1, the community he lives in was temporarily unlocked, and he quickly went door to door to deliver food to some brothers and sisters in Puxi. It had already been hard to meet on Sundays due to the pandemic and especially after the April lockdown in Pudong and Puxi. It’s been even harder for Christians to meet face to face no matter where they lived.
Therefore, Elder Zhou and other brothers and sisters continue to meet online, studying the Bible, encouraging and praying for each other, and spending their quarantine life together. One of the sisters shared that the church became more revitalized than before. Since people stay at home, they have time to join various trainings and basic theology study in the evenings, and to pray in the morning as well. Elder Zhou said they also celebrated Easter online. However, some brothers and sisters were affected and became weak in their faith during the current situation. Elder Zhou explained, “The pandemic has created a lot of pressure in people’s lives. For example, inconvenient food purchasing and reduction of salary. Many brothers and sisters rent apartments, and since they must stay at home and are unable to work, they cannot afford to pay the rent.”
Pastoring: More Needs in Spiritual and Mental Health Care
Pastor Li lives in Songjiang District, and he also helped deliver vegetables and cared for some elderly people in his community during the period before the April 1 lockdown. In Shanghai, about 310,000 elderly people are living alone during the pandemic—a large group that needs care the most. Pastor Li often shares about topics that most people are faced with and gives his advice as well through WeChat. Topics such as: What should I do if I become increasingly anxious? What to do if relationships between parents and children or between husband and wife become more tense? How do you view suffering?
Mr. Jiang is a brother who is engaged in cultural ministry. He shared on his official account that many people asked him how they can avoid depression after being locked down at home for a long time. He suggested that as believers, first, we should keep praying and reading the Bible and practice a life of prayer for ourselves and others. Second, when living alone, we need to meet our daily needs including eating and sleeping. Third, we should try our best to help those who have special needs, even though we are still in quarantine. Fourth, be patient and read some good literature or listen to classical music. Mr. Jiang also emphasized that we should be careful of falling into reading the rubbish that is online which will increase our mental anxiety.
Silent Communion: Seeking Grace from Sufferings
Sister Luo, who lives in the urban area, suddenly had a fever on the night of Saturday April 9. At that time, since the antigen test was still negative, she thought she just had a cold because she had been tired recently. The next day, the result of her nucleic acid test was positive, and later, although her fever was gone, she had a sore throat and chills. Soon after, she received a call from the CDC and was told that she would be transferred to Fangcang Shelter Hospital. Sister Luo worried that she would not be able to sleep well there because of a sleeping problem. So, she asked some brothers and sisters to pray together, and also calmed herself so she could sense the peace of God. She then heard these words while praying, “The Lord walks before you and is with you. Do not be afraid because he will never leave you.” Sister Luo said: “I hope God is before me, and I can relax, sleep, and read a book there.”
Then, on April 12 in the middle of the night around 1 am—after a heavy rain—she left for Fangcang Shelter Hospital. Sister Luo said: “After I came here, I didn’t expect that there would be a room for four people, so I could get more rest. We have good food to eat, and I feel better. I hope I can get through this as soon as possible.” In addition, while she was taking a walk there, she had plenty of time for silent communion with God. This gave her a different view of fame and fortune, gains and losses, and fears as well as a deeper understanding of the nature of life. On Easter, Sister Luo shared with brothers and sisters online that her experience was also a kind of suffering, but she has learned an important lesson, which is to seek God’s grace in suffering.
Love: Be a Good Neighbor to Migrant Workers and 310,000 Elderly People Living Alone
While the lockdown period is getting longer, we need to pay special attention to the elderly people. The People’s Daily posted an article on April 11 that said Shanghai is one of the first cities to become an aging society in China. There are about 317,400 elderly people living alone, and they have become one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic.
On April 8, a young girl posted an article called “Please Help the Elders.” This girl lives in an aging community in Shanghai, where people must snap up and hoard goods and food in order to survive. She shared some stories in her article. For example, the 93-year-old lady next door who lives alone cooks and eats rice porridge every day because of a shortage of vegetables. Another older lady downstairs cooked once, and then reheated the food six times for her meals. After she posted this article, lots of elderly people came to ask for help. Because many of them don’t know how to buy things (including food and medicines) in groups online using smartphones, they face lots of related problems. However, many volunteers and young people saw their needs and started to help to them.
At the same time, we also need to pay attention to migrant workers who work in the suburbs of Shanghai. Around April 15, many WeChat posts talked about their situation and also attracted a lot of attention. During this pandemic many people have shown love and warmly helped others. But there is one group, the workers who helped construct the Fangcang hospitals, who also need special attention. Those workers work hard during the day and just lay on floors in the sand at night to sleep. They are considered builders and supporters of this city, but are easily forgotten.
There is an old man who needs flour, vegetables, and milk. Can you help them?
In which community?
What’s the name of the community?
Ok, we will make arrangements this afternoon.
The above conversation is from the “Love Mutual Aid Group” which was started by Christians in mid-April. This group is not affiliated with any other organization. So, all local brothers and sisters who want to offer help in Shanghai can scan the QR code to join the group. Some people also sent messages asking for help, and others responded offering to help. If people cannot offer direct help, they forward the messages to their own groups and look for people who can help. The purpose of the group is to help elderly people living alone and migrant workers who cannot go home.
The group also has its own rules. Since this group is called a mutual aid group rather than a spiritual group or a prayer group, it has a clear purpose. People are only required to post information related to the purpose avoiding extraneous pieces of information that might confuse people. They also need to be careful of unverified or sensational information. So, a form on the bulletin board was created to update and verify information, including the name of the person seeking help, the time, address and basic situation, as well as the verifier, and whether he gets help or not. This promotes practical implementation, and ensures every need is met. One of the members said that they are just doing what they should do to truly help those in need. For example, delivering food packages or buying medicine within the same community. Another brother, Mr. Li, also commented that anyone who sends any messages to encourage others or to ask for help is a lovely person. On April 16, Luo Xiang, a popular criminal justice professor, forwarded an article called “Urgently Looking for Medicine Delivery Volunteers” and commented using a well-known saying from a movie: “Whoever saves a life, saves the whole world.”
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.