Dialogue: Christians from Wuhan, Shenzhen, Shanghai Shares Experiences During COVID-19

A hot air balloon flying over the sea
A hot air balloon flying over the sea (photo: pixabay.com)
By Steve Sun, Ruth Wang April 28th, 2022

From January 2020 to April 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for over two years. Several Christians have been at the center of the pandemic outbreak and recurrence respectively in Wuhan in January 2020, Shenzhen at the end of 2021 and Shanghai in spring 2022. In difficult situations, although they were often weak and powerless, they often gained strength from their faith. Below is their sharing in the first person. 

Sister A in Wuhan

In 2020, Wuhan became the eye of the storm when the pandemic first broke out. At that time, people from Wuhan were unable to be aware of the harm of the virus as they are today. With the control of streets and communities at that time, the Wuhan residents began to realize the seriousness of it.

The living scenes under the pandemic

I’m a Christian in Wuhan. The first outbreak of the pandemic in Wuhan started from the South China Seafood Market, which is only two or three bus stops away from our church. The city was closed down two days after our last church service. After that, our life was directly limited to our own homes. Originally, it had just been the journey between home and the workplace and outdoor sports. Before, everyone had their own things to do and in fact many conflicts were staggered. As my husband and I were together with our unemployed child at home, he could currently do business so the rent of the store and the pressure of the monthly mortgage have made his temper worse. When he was in a bad mood, he got angry with me. He has no Christian faith, while I am a Christian, so I could only pray for him quietly. I also tried hard to understand his hardship and anxiety.

During that time, he had a high demand for food, so he cooked. When he cooked he’d take the chance to find fault and criticise me. I faced him with a smile and prayed silently in my heart. Thank God who let me accept this test. During the nearly four-month lock-down, my husband who loves his hairstyle so much began to cut the hair of our son. In the end, our son was unhappy because the haircut was really bad.

My feeling was that before the pandemic, our life was too comfortable, everything was smooth and rich, and our gratitude was slowly disappearing. As the pandemic came, many things that we took for granted we slowly learnt to cherish, fear and watch over at this moment. In fact, through this pandemic, it is a spiritual exercise of our Christian confidence.

Praying for my 83-year-old mother every day

At that time, my mother, 83 years old, fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. On the second day, Wuhan was locked down. By then I had been locked in at home. My sister and brother took care of my mother in the hospital. Later, after my mother was discharged from the hospital, my sister and brother couldn’t go back to their own homes. Because their communities were closed, neither my mother nor my siblings had a place to stay. Later, the three of them lived in a basement owned by my sister outside the community.

During that time, I was worried about whether my mother’s body could withstand the cold and dampness in the basement. At that time, my thoughts were somewhat negative. I recalled the death of my mother-in-law, so I took out the white clothes that dead Christians would be in. I made a video of it for my sister and told her how to put the clothes on for the dead. Later, I asked my second sister to bring the clothes to my mother. I was afraid that if my mother died, I wouldn’t be able to reach her with the clothes. Later, I prayed for my mother every day, asking God to take care of her body. Thankfully, God listened to my prayer, and eventually, my mother made it through the lockdown. After the outbreak was over, she returned to my home.

Spontaneous organizing groups to promote love among the neighborhood

After the pandemic in Wuhan broke out, Christians from different churches spontaneously formed a loving group. At that time, we mainly distributed masks to people for free. Slowly, we came into contact with many neighbors and became more familiar with them. The weak interpersonal relationship became more tender through this group. In the process of handing out masks, I also saw the real sufferings of the world and the real needs of the people at the bottom. For example, there was a man who had an affair and desired a divorce but could not. During the pandemic, the couple very often quarreled and fought at home.

A 41-year-old daughter from a poor family has lost sight in one eye, and her 70-year-old father is deaf and paralyzed in bed after a stroke. Seeing the needs of these neighbors, God reminded me of the piety mentioned in the Book of James, that is, caring for orphans and widows in distress and keeping oneself clean. At that time, there was not much food in my house, so I took some bacon in stock and gave it to these families in need.

At the same time, the church also spontaneously got together to raise money and donations for the poor.

My reflection was that through this pandemic, we were forced out of our small world. God showed me the sufferings of all beings, and he gave me greater compassion and courage to love than ever before. Our family has been able to go through this test. In fact, God has helped us carry a higher and heavier burden. I want to sincerely thank Jesus for his mercy.

Voices from Shenzhen:

In March 2022, Shenzhen experienced the static management of "7+7" for 14 days. In this process, both the administration and the society showed great coordination. Cities and counties around Shenzhen mobilized resources to help each other and finally completed the dynamic zero-COVID policy, thus ensuring that Shenzhen quickly resumed production and normal daily life.

Brother Y’s perception as a working class: good public administration and order have been the highlights during the pandemic in Shenzhen.

Being a working class in Shenzhen, I would like to share my experience and feelings about the public administration and good order of colleges and universities during the pandemic.

First of all, the most intuitive feeling was that there are many staff or volunteers. There were many of them at each monitoring point, all of whom performing their duties, maintaining orders, instructing QR scans (some elderly people didn’t know how to scan QR codes or register and need help alone). Some organized the queue to keep a proper distance from each other. They showed good attitudes and gave thoughtful services. For a long time, there was a staff member holding the place code for people to scan at intervals, thus avoiding the congestion that could be caused by scanning the codes at the entrance.

Secondly, at the beginning of the lockdown, everyone was quite nervous fearing that they couldn’t buy food and there would be looting. Later, it was found that although the city was sealed and controlled, it was specific villages or communities that were isolated. That is to say, people could travel between communities at will, but you can shop freely in your own area and keep a normal life order. All the community life was still orderly, so all the other days were quiet except the first day when everyone was nervous. Everyone lived their own lives, except that they could not work in the workplace, but the rest did not have much impact.

Finally, what touched me very much was the work in the media. For example, you could really feel that the articles written on the official WeChat accounts of both the Shenzhen Health and  Construction Commission were very down-to-earth. They served to relieve the readers’ pressure through words or pictures. The articles were simple and easy to understand, and the knowledge of health science popularization is promoted every day, but the words are very humorous or “homely”. Looking at the official WeChat account of the Shenzhen Health Construction Committee, there was a feeling of chatting with colleagues or friends. (It is said that during the pandemic, people who left messages under the WeChat official account to express their difficulties got a response straight away, and practically solved their problems). That is to say, this WeChat official account not only existed for propaganda but really played the role of media and exerted its influence. Not unilateral indoctrination, but two-way interaction.

Pastor X: How can the church help believers to get out of the valley of life in the pandemic?

Being a pastor, the biggest challenge brought by the pandemic is that I could not freely organize on-site gatherings and ministries. As the pandemic control was on and off, we adopted a combination of online and on-site ways to do pastoral work. If the pandemic is not so serious, we will go to the homes of the congregation to meet them, care for and encourage them to follow their pursuits well. Whether in person or online, we have pastoral ministries. For weak members, we have different pastors and different levels of intervention to help them face hardships, accept the reality and get out of the trough.

For example, there is a sister in our church, who has just given birth to a child. During lactation, she suddenly learned that her father didn’t want to be treated for pancreatic disease, and finally chose to commit suicide. This sister blamed God for this. In such a situation, we first helped her to accept the fact that her father died. We told her that people would always leave this world. Secondly, we prayed for her and for our faith to be strengthened in Christ, that one ought not to blame God for this matter but see that God was in charge of everything, and His grace had beaten the hardships of our lives. We had such talks and prayers.

Another sister in our church, who has a high degree of education, couldn’t find a new job in time due to the pandemic. She was troubled and fell into anxiety. What we did when facing unemployed members was to provide resources, and find friends in the church who could help her to know more people, so that she could solve the immediate problem as soon as possible. At the same time, we emphasized the importance of worship.

Pastor X: It is very important to manage the city with love and wisdom.

I’m a Christian and a native of Shenzhen. During the pandemic, I see Shenzhen taking care of the needs of residents’ livelihood in a balanced way amid the dynamic "zero-COVID" policy. At that time, when we were in an emergency, we were in the surrounding counties, and there was much support from medical staff to the community. Therefore, it gave great help to the needs of Shenzhen citizens in all aspects.

This process makes me feel that it is very important to manage a city with love and wisdom. The core of a city is not the appearance of tall buildings, but its management ability full of love and wisdom. Compared with the splendor of this hardware, it needs the promotion of love and wisdom. As Christians, I think we need to pray for the needs of the city.

Believers in Shanghai:

From March to April 2022, Shanghai experienced a severe pandemic counterattack, which touched many people’s hearts. In this process, many Christians have experienced all kinds of difficulties, but they have a deeper understanding and thinking about both life and faith itself.

Sister D9 (a millennial): Cherish the ordinary life of the past, pursue a regular life and keep faith at home.

After our neighborhood was closed, I began to train myself to work at home. For example, regularly work, exercise, learn guitar, etc. Now I think about my old life all day, such as going to church to lead worship and praise, going to church to practice the piano, and going to work in the office. Now they have become just all part of my fond memories. Now I miss the ordinary life before. I stay at home now, except for going downstairs to do nucleic acid tests. Much negative news comes in every day, and my heart begins to meditate on people’s lives. Anyway, I am convinced that the power of the cross can change people’s hearts.

Brother Z (a brother in his 70s): Today, I choose to be joyful and help my neighbor.

At the bottom of the refrigerator, I found a few unique New Zealand mussels, four Argentine red shrimps, and cheese that was about to expire sent from a sister. When it arrived in my refrigerator, it became a veritable expired food, and I made a meal with spaghetti.

I’m also doing what I’m doing silently: I’ve been living under the same roof with a family of positive infections for ten days. This is a family of six, renting a two-bedroom and one-bedroom house, which is about the same size as my family. A young child and his parents have been admitted to a pediatric hospital (for about five days), and three other nucleic acid tests are positive. According to my life principle, I won’t say to them, “Hi, please close the doors and windows of your family!” But I can freely choose to open or close my doors and windows. Enhancing immunity is the countermeasure. I sunbathe almost every day. I said to the young people in the building, “We should help them!” So, I took out a sum of money and transferred it to a responsible youth account. The young man said to me, “Uncle, it’s not appropriate for you to take the money out. It depends on the trend of the pandemic ... As long as the traffic is open, I will arrange for materials to come in.” So he returned the money to me on the account. Then, I put a piece of paper on the door: Please don’t knock on the door, call number XXXX…… and start my secluded life.”

Next to the family is also a family from Anhui who came to Shanghai to make a living. The man is a rider, delivering food for logistics and the woman is a preschool teacher, and her two daughters are about to leave primary school. One day, the hostess sent me a message telling me that her husband was infected, but she told me responsibly that before that, her husband hadn’t come home but had been living in his delivery vehicle. I told her that we could camp and set up tents by a river near us. She said that there were clothes and quilts on the bus, and she wanted to report it, so I got the phone number of the staff of the neighborhood committee from my wife. Later, her husband was treated and went home the last night when his nucleic result had turned negative. 

Sister K: God was with me throughout the process. 

I was infected on April 9th. I was very tired from work on April 8th, and I had a fever the next day. I thought I was tired from work. At that time, there was no antipyretic medicine available in Shanghai. Later, the people downstairs gave me cold medicine. The third or fourth day was much better. The result of my nucleic acid tests did not come those days. On the 12th, I attended an online memorial service of a deceased Christian, and my heart was blessed by God. At this time, Shanghai CDC called me, saying that I was COVID-19 positive. I felt that I immediately went from a state of peace to a state of being in the shadow of death.

I look back at my physical symptoms. When I first got infected, I couldn’t detect the antigen, and it took 2-3 days to detect it. At that time, my heart was in a state of collapse, and I was a rather timid person. I thought that I was going to live in a venue with thousands of people, and there were no familiar people with me, so I felt a little abandoned and helpless. After reading all kinds of negative news before, I was most worried about not sleeping well in the shelter, because I had to wear blindfolds and earplugs when I saw many people together, which was a great challenge for me. I was most worried about not sleeping well. I felt very uneasy. I hardly slept that day. There were many brothers and sisters here in Shanghai who prayed for me. It is very useful to be prayed for.

It was raining in Shanghai that day, and I said I couldn’t change my luck. But when I prayed and felt safe, suddenly news came that I was going to change my luck. It was one o’clock in the morning. It was three o’clock in the morning when I went to the shelter and settled down. I am grateful that I went to a room for four people, wearing masks all the way. At that time, I was very tired, and I didn’t sleep for almost two days. Then I settled in and went to sleep, which was the best sleep in those days.

I stayed in the shelter for about a week, and it turned cloudy on the third day in the shelter, and then I was discharged from the hospital four days later. In the past few days in the shelter hospital, I had been well taken care of. Every day, I got up at 5-6 o’clock to do a nucleic acid test and then got breakfast. Lunch and dinner were very good, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes. This arrangement was to improve our immunity. One day, I really wanted to eat fruit, but I didn’t get it. But later that day, I suddenly got two apples and felt loved and cared for.

I’m a person who has not formed the habit of going to bed and getting up early in my ten years of faith. This is my weakness all the time, but I didn’t expect that in the shelter. I developed the habit of going to bed early and getting up early because I had to get up at 5 am every day to prepare for nucleic acid tests. I took a nap at noon and went to bed at 9 pm. This is the biological clock that I have been pursuing.

My feeling was that when people experience disasters, there is no peace in their hearts, and there is no real peace in the world. I am a fragile person and I don’t know when my nucleic acid result would turn negative, and I don’t know how to spend every day, but someone who encouraged me said that there must be God’s grace in times of trouble. Thankfully, I can still have a complete night’s sleep here. When people are in trouble, they should have eyes to find God’s grace. I spent Easter in a mobile cabin hospital. It was a very special Easter for me. I stayed out of the cabin with the expectation that the difficulties would come to an end. In the whole process, I can’t say that this experience is not suffering, and we can’t deny suffering, but at the same time, I see God's presence. I felt that God kept me in the whole matter.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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