In this article from , a local government official shares how the coronavirus has been his “wake-up call” to the Christian faith. The author also writes about what life is like on the front-lines in the war against the coronavirus in China.
An Unimportant Person in a Rural Town in the War against the Coronavirus
Since the coronavirus situation began, I have been continually running around the rural villages on the front line of defense. Everyone around me has been doing their real, utmost best; and also feeling the insignificant tininess of human beings in the face of this epidemic. It’s been seven years since I graduated from university. I have a home, a car, a good wife, healthy parents, and a son and daughter to complete my family. You could say I lack nothing. But the coronavirus situation is like a wake-up call. I don’t know when my life will end; I don’t want to squander it any more.
I work in the lowest level of the local government in a small rural village in the north. When I started working there, I didn’t have the best impression of local government officials; I felt that, as a group, they had a poor reputation. After I’d worked there a while, I discovered my prejudice ran too deep. Actually, everyone was a straightforward human being–among the lowest-level officials there were many people who conducted their work with steady honesty. My usual work responsibilities involved care of the elderly, medical assistance, and poverty alleviation: much of this work you’d hope was being transformed by being service-orientated.
After the coronavirus situation began, the village leader and I ceaselessly traveled the frontiers of the virus defenses. On the eighth day of Chinese New Year [February 1, 2020], the village leader gave all the local officials leave from work so they could isolate themselves at home. Only ten cadres and three ordinary officials remained working. I was one of the three. In actual fact, we set an example for the rest of the area and stayed at home, avoiding gathering in the offices.
Masks and disinfectant gel became increasingly scarce. The surrounding villages all had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, so that my village was also included in a containment zone. The later the diagnosis, the greater the harm—many carriers of the virus weren’t aware they had it, and went here, there, and everywhere. Our county quarantined dozens of people who’d had close contact with people diagnosed with the virus in the neighboring county.
My village carried out virus prevention measures with relative urgency. To the present day, we still have not found any confirmed cases. Apart from masks, material provisions for the village could be considered sufficient; also, there wasn’t extensive anxiety.
We Work to the Ends of Our Strength
On around the twentieth of January, the county had already begun deploying against the coronavirus. At the time, there certainly were no severe restrictions or virus prevention measures in place. I never expected the virus situation would progress so quickly. Within two or three days, from the county seat to the rural villages, virus leadership work groups and virus prevention work groups were formed. Using every kind of measure and regulation, people were prohibited from going outdoors. All my co-workers had to charge to the front, whether they wanted to or not. There were so many people–party members, volunteers, village cadres, and even ordinary officials–working to the ends of their strength.
At the Spring Festival, workers and personnel return to gather in home towns, reunite with family, tend graves, and visit relatives and friends. Our village is relatively small, but its geographical location is special: it lies at the border of two counties, with a national highway running through it and complex migrations of people. The pressure caused by virus prevention was pretty big. Our work unit had a few cadres who started back to work on the first day of the New Year. They established command departments to manage virus prevention resources. Afterwards, the leader explored the decision to only leave a few comrades on the front lines. The important leaders stayed, along with three ordinary officials. Everyone else went home and was off work.
The work I did was to shut townships, roads, and entrances to residential compounds, and close outpatient departments, pharmacies, and restaurants. Every village began to disseminate information and forbid people to gather. Virus prevention and control measures became stricter and stricter. All the roads were blockaded shut; each village kept only one “green lane” open for access. No matter if you wanted to leave the county, the village, or just your residential compound, you needed to get a temperature check and a status check. A tent with water, electricity, and heating was set up beside each “green lane”. Twenty-four hours a day, there would be someone working there. Masks, disinfectant, and so on were sent to the village. No-one was allowed in or out whenever they liked; a person couldn’t pass unless they needed to buy necessary household items or urgently see a doctor.
Before the virus situation happened, the township and villages had already started using online management, and even had a specialist in charge of it. In the middle of the epidemic, as soon as it was discovered that someone had a fever or any other symptoms, the online management system immediately took a course of action. Before the face of this epidemic, no-one dared to use half measures. Our leaders, from start to finish, were on the front lines, without a day’s absence.
As a Christian, even though my spiritual life is extremely weak, as soon as the coronavirus situation began to unfold and the number of confirmed cases was rising I thought, “Who can control this?” It is just like when SARS came: it arrived when it arrived, and left when it left. Human beings can use their utmost strength and the entirety of their wisdom, but all they can do is to discover the virus a little earlier, and quarantine people sooner. Facing the coronavirus, human beings really are insignificant. As a consequence, when going about my work I would often experience deep feelings of helplessness. I felt like the things I provided did not really give anyone concrete help.
At That Time, Prayer Was Like a Feast
My mother is a Christian, and my grandmother is also a believer. From childhood, I lived in an atmosphere of faith. But with the passing of time, I thought of God only as a protector, or as someone to turn to when I wanted something—or wanted to achieve something. After I’d completed my senior high school exams, my grandmother often read the Bible to me. When she read, I’d listen; but when she finished reading, I forgot everything she’d said.
When I went to university, I thought that by getting away from my grandmother and mother, I would also be getting away from God. Unexpectedly, not long after my studies began, a guy came to the dormitory one evening, knocked and came in, asking, “Are there any Christians in your dorm?” At that moment, I went numb all the way from the top of my head to my heels. I froze in astonishment. After staring blankly for a few seconds, I said, “I am.” At the time, I only thought that if my mother was a Christian, then I should be too. The Christian brother told me that the university had a Christian fellowship. It was the first time I had heard that word, “fellowship.” I gave him my number.
I thought of a portion of Scripture my grandmother had read to me: John 14:3. “And if I come and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” At the time, I had no real understanding of this verse, but I immediately had this feeling in my heart: Perhaps there really is a God; I’ve run from home to such a far-off university, but he has pursued me—he is real. I felt God’s ever-persevering love, and I began to believe that he is a real God.
The first time I went to a Christian gathering, I didn’t understand a thing. When I listened to the sermon in church, I listened and listened and felt so sleepy I couldn’t carry on. After I’d done some Bible studies and quiet times, slowly, I knew God. The greatest benefit I received from all my time at university was coming to know God. He wasn’t the God I’d imagined anymore; he also didn’t go along with how I’d imagined God to exist. In my head, the image I had of God became more and more solid and full. Along with the increase in my knowledge of him, God became the one thing in my life worth pursuing. I wanted to live for Jesus.
My faith at university was simple: I didn’t need to think about work, family, or any of the problems that later troubled me. At the time, I never thought about any of those later problems. I hoped that in all things I could uphold the Bible’s standards as my own. I wanted to work for God my whole life. The thing that influenced my life the most was a Christian camp. During the entirety of the summer vacation, we stayed together and experienced God. We read the Bible and served together, and I grew a lot.
During that time, I developed a very good prayer habit. Every evening before I slept, I went up to the roof of the dormitory to pray, so as not to disturb my dorm-mates. Many times, when I prayed, I experienced a sweet feeling of intimacy that was hard to describe. Therefore, each evening’s prayer time became to me like a feast. Every day I longed for evening to come quickly so I could enjoy that spiritual food. Even now, the memory of it still runs deep.
God Used the Sensation of Meaninglessness to Call Me
After I graduated, I followed my parents’ wishes and returned to my hometown to work. When I was at university, I didn’t have big ambitions or plans for my career. I also didn’t know the ways of the world. I was my parents’ only child, and they wanted me back in the county town. I was at a loss for a long time and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, so I eventually decided to do as they wanted. In my heart, I had a pie-in-the-sky plan: At first, I would submit to my parents’ ways, and then later on, God willing, I would run off again. I really didn’t want to stay in that backwater county town. But truly, if you are living for the Lord, everywhere is the same.
Regarding my work, I am very thankful. Work changed me a lot. It made me get to know myself again from scratch, and also showed me what the world is like. I came to understand the things I hadn’t understood in the Bible when I’d read it before. The deepest impression work left on me was this: At work, I experienced people being kicked when they were down and rejoicing in others’ misery, but the Bible says, “a bruised reed he will not break”.
Apart from work, the most important thing that happened to me after I graduated was marriage. During the course of marrying and having children, I had a great many struggles. When I think back on my time at university, I was very zealous, and felt that I sincerely loved the Lord. After I graduated, I took the faith and hope from my university fellowship back to my hometown to be salt and light. I was going to be a Christian who held firmly to the tenets of the faith. But when I left that original Christian fellowship, the strength of my heart gradually gave out. At the beginning, I had really hoped to find a sister to marry. But after a while, I lost that conviction. Now I already have two children, and my wife still has not become a believer. This is the biggest regret I have in my life.
After I married, because now I had my own little family, my mother didn’t say much to me about the faith any more. I could sense she and my grandmother hoped I would renew my faith. But one thing passed, then another thing passed, and another thing after that passed; a year, two years, three years went by. Now it has been seven years since I graduated, and I discover that
I’ve changed. From a zealous man who loved the Lord, I’ve slowly gone back to the world. Sometimes I feel like I don’t care much about my faith. Although my mother and grandmother encourage me to read the Bible, pray and go to church, I have no way to—and don’t want to—integrate myself into the local church. Concerning the existence of God and Jesus’ salvation I don’t have even the smallest doubt. But in my actions, I have often fallen short of the standards and norms of the faith. For anyone looking from the outside, there are actually few differences between me and an unbeliever. In my life, I am not on guard against sin. In my marriage, work and family life, I have sinned a lot. When the Holy Spirit rebukes me, I go before God and repent. But after I repent I will sin in the same way, feeling regretful but not changing myself, again and again.
My times of reading the Scriptures and praying became few, little by little. I felt further and further from God. But from start to finish, inside my heart a voice was saying, “My time, my life—who shall I give them to?” Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. If a branch leaves the vine, it becomes lifeless. I didn’t want to wait until I retired, or until God pursued me, to turn to him again. I hoped to willingly offer up my best years to the Lord.
But when this thought occurred to me, another powerful force pulled me back. On the one hand, I wanted to offer myself to God; on the other hand, I couldn’t bear to leave the world. Being pulled in both directions at once, I didn’t know what to do. When I thought about it carefully, I realized I had actually been living in a fog these past few years. I was so busy firefighting at work I couldn’t stop to put my own fire out; my brain couldn’t keep up, and I felt weak and stupid.
When I look at my life now, I feel like things really aren’t bad. I have a house, a car and a job, a wife and family, healthy parents, and my family is complete with a son and a daughter. According to worldly ideals, you could say I lack nothing. But when I quiet my heart, I realize I have no sense of satisfaction or comfort from these things. They cannot fill the emptiness in me. This attitude has stuck around for several years now. For me, this feeling of emptiness is God refusing to desert me. It’s a witness to the fact he’s kept calling me. This epidemic has been a wake-up call—I don’t know when my life will end. From when I attended university, I always wanted to serve God. I don’t want to squander any more time.
Image Credit: Elchinator via Pixabay.
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