When All is Not Well

26 04 2013

Recent events here in Hong Kong and China have brought back a certain level of unease, tension and fear for many people.

Next month will mark the 5th anniversary of China’s Wenchuan (汶川) Earthquake (May 12, 2008) where nearly 70,000 residents were killed, 375,000 injured, another 19,000 reported as missing, and nearly 5 million people left homeless.  Included in this number were thousands of school children, who died when the school buildings they were in that day collapsed on them.  And now just as many of these families were trying to move on with their lives, disaster has struck this province in central China once again.

2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Last week (April 20th) another devastating earthquake wreaked havoc on the people of Sichuan, hitting the rural county of Lushan (芦山), south of the provincial capital city of ChengDu. While this earthquake and the resulting aftershocks have brought back memories of the terror and destruction of the Wenchuan earthquake, it appears that it will not be as deadly – latest reports are 193 killed, and more than 12,200 injured.

But now, as Chinese soldiers have arrived and begun assisting people in this latest earthquake area, the questions have started again in China.  This time, the questions are not about corruption leading to collapsed buildings, but rather, whether local officials can be trusted to properly handle the influx of relief funds. Here in Hong Kong, local legislators have delayed sending a $100 million HKD ($13 million USD) donation for relief efforts in Lushan, over fears that funds might be misused. One Hong Kong lawmaker was quoted as saying “The mainland does not lack money but lacks a system. It would be wrong to hand over money if some of it is pocketed by corrupt officials.”

The other event drawing increasing attention from both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials is the recent spread of the H7N9 virus – another avian influenza (bird flu) virus. It seems that Hong Kong and China have been dealing with a long term ‘bird flu’ problem for several years, but now that the WHO has stated this new bird strain is ‘one of the most lethal’ flu viruses, it has gotten people’s attention.Riding the Hong Kong subway during SARS

In light of what happened back in 2003 (do you remember SARS?) health officials in Hong Kong are keeping a close eye on any new outbreaks of this bird flu virus in China.  With China’s ‘Golden Week’ national holiday coming up next week (May 1), government officials are concerned about the influx of up to 350,000 mainland Chinese tourists who will visit Hong Kong, and the possibility that one of them will inadvertently bring this bird flu virus to Hong Kong.  Hotels and tour agencies here are on increased alert to pay attention to the health of these tourists, so they can notify the health department should anyone become ill with bird flu-like symptoms.

As reports come from China each day of new cases of the H7N9 virus, health officials are doing all they can to try and prevent an outbreak here in Hong Kong.  I have seen an increased number of people on the subways and trains wearing a surgical mask – either out of fear that someone might pass the H7N9 virus onto them, or that they might give their cold or flu bug to someone else.

So how do we respond in light of our fears and worries – whether it be about earthquakes, deadly viruses, or something else?  As I was wondering how to conclude this blog, I came upon the following devotional thought that seemed so very appropriate.

George Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” It has to be one or the other. You can’t yield to both, because the two are incompatible.

In Mark 5:36 Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jesus spoke these words to Jairus as if they involve a choice. They do.

Faith and fear are often categorized as emotions, but they each come down to what you choose to think about.

Worry-driven thoughts chip away at your confidence in God’s ability to provide. Faith-driven thoughts have the power to knock fear off its feet.

You may not have to worry about the after-shocks from an earthquake rattling your home today, but it’s possible that you and your family may be facing another kind of disaster – financial or otherwise.  The spread of the H7N9 virus may be far away from where you live today, but it doesn’t mean that you or one of your loved ones isn’t facing another health problem.  So how should we respond?

Remember again and again what God has done before. Choose faith-driven thoughts. Sing again and again a favorite hymn. Recite again and again a promise from Scripture. These will open the door to a faith-filled perspective, driving fear out of the way.

Faith or fear. It’s a choice. One eventually overtakes the other, so let’s choose our thoughts carefully.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie

PRAY WITH US:

Construction on the new Guangxi Provincial Training Center building was completed last fall, but to date, church leaders have been unable to move into this new facility. PRAY that both church leaders and training center students would have patience as they wait for final inspections to be completed.

The health of Debbie’s dad has continued to fluctuate over the past couple of weeks and we have noticed some signs of memory loss and confusion. However, he continues to remain at his home, and we are thankful for Debbie’s brother (Stephen) and his wife (Linda) who have been the primary care givers on most days.  PRAY that God would give them strength and wisdom for this responsibility each day.  PRAY that Debbie’s dad would have a sense of security and peace as he faces changes in the time ahead.

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