Mennonites assist with ongoing China relief efforts

By agency reporter
June 30, 2008

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite Partners in China (MPC) have jointly provided US$80,000 to support the relief work of churches in Sichuan and $20,000 to support the relief work of The Amity Foundation, a Chinese humanitarian organization.

The news comes as immediate and long term efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct continue in the wake of the devastating quake - while world media attention turns elsewhere.

MPC is a joint programme of the following agencies: MCC, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, writes Tim Shenk.

Within a few days of the earthquake, three Protestant churches in Sichuan became distribution points for supplies and staging grounds for relief convoys. They are located in Anxian county and the cities of Guangyuan and Mianzhu.

Each church purchased rice, medicine and other supplies, such as blankets, bottled water and plastic sheets, and distributed these items to church and community members on the basis of need. To reach some areas, the church volunteers used trucks or motorized tricycles.

"I think they've done a great job of delivering this aid into the more remote areas," said Rod Suderman, an MCC China representative.

Suderman travelled to many of the communities where the churches distributed aid. He noted that people were traumatized by the death and destruction around them. One young girl was troubled by the partial collapse of her school building that resulted in many injuries and some deaths.

"The little girl was very afraid," he said. "She did not act or talk normally. I talked to her for a while trying to get her to talk about her fears and to be calmer."

Suderman explained that some earthquake survivors are responding to a sense of spiritual need by attending a local church for the first time. About 1,000 new people attended the church in Anxian on a recent Sunday, he said.

Suderman noted that the churches were not alone in their relief efforts; many Chinese citizens provided aid to earthquake survivors through a variety of channels. But some local people expressed deep gratitude for the churches' response to the earthquake.

Peter reported that one community leader admitted that she had been opposed to Christianity until a group of church volunteers arrived with rice following the earthquake.

"She was educated to be an atheist and thought Christians were weak and superstitious," Peter said. "She said she had drastically changed her idea of Christianity. I asked her why. She said 'These are wonderful people. They show real love, and I want to know how God can change their lives like this.'"

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