CHINA (BP) — “Your dog lives better than my daughter and I do,” Lu Wei Hong* says.
She isn’t angry; she’s just stating the facts. My dog has daily access to nutritious food and clean water and sleeps in a bed in my climate-controlled apartment.
This Chinese woman and her preteen daughter rent one room in a coal-blackened neighborhood, where they have no kitchen and cannot even boil water to drink. They share a small bed.
As Lu sits crying in my living room in China, the poverty in this country overwhelms me.
Lu has always said that her husband left her. For months, I thought she was divorced and received alimony. But I found out that she actually meant he left the earth; he died four years ago in a construction accident.
Lu received a pittance after her husband died in a one-time payout from his construction company. She has no job skills except mopping the stairs and taking out the trash in my apartment complex. Lu earns the equivalent of $75 per month, an amount so low that one of my Chinese friends declares, “She’ll never make it.”
Lu’s elderly parents cannot provide financial help, and her in-laws cut ties with Lu and her daughter, Nie Ai Ju*, perceiving them as useless females.
I am often moved to tears when I see the needs around me. While I know I am inadequate to meet the needs of everyone who needs help, I try to do what I can to practice Christ’s call to love others.
I offer to give Lu an electric fan, but she declines since she can’t afford the electricity to run it. Instead, I give her a fold-up cot for her daughter, unsure if it will even open in their tiny room. I later learn that when the cot did not fit, Lu sold it to buy food.
In the whole world, Lu knows not one person who can help in her time of need. While she put her faith in Christ at the time of her husband’s death, she has no Christian friends or a church family to encourage her.
The cares of life crush down upon her. Her long work hours, the desire to raise her daughter well, and the need to provide food, clothing, shelter and school fees simply overwhelms her. If she gets sick, loses her job or even gets into a bicycle wreck in which she has to pay damages, she will fall off the financial tightrope she’s been walking. The balancing act drains her. Emotionally, she looks as if she is on the brink of collapse. She needs someone to lean on, a network of support.
I am moving away from this city in four days. What can I do in such a short time? Doing nothing is not an option. What if I were the one who had been born into her poverty and circumstances? Would others stop what they were doing and care enough to help me?
In order to make sure Lu will no longer be so alone, I introduce her to a local Christian. Pan Hai Hua* is an elderly woman whose position in the community affords her respect and many connections. Pan, who recently placed her faith in Christ and was baptized, told me she wanted to serve God by helping widows and orphans.
Pan’s good name opens doors in this city. She helps Lu and Nie relocate to a safer, cleaner neighborhood, taking care of all the details so Lu doesn’t have any stress. Not only does Pan rally food and money for the family, but she also pulls strings and gets Nie into the best school in town at no expense.
Pan arranges for a young Christian teacher, a member of a house church, to tutor Nie in English on weekends. The Christians at that church, now aware of the family’s plight, pray for them, as do overseas believers who have heard their story.
When I visit Lu some months later, she no longer looks like she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her family in Christ has eased her burden. Now she is thankful and humble.
Pan’s heart also is full. Her service to God has given her retirement a purpose and fulfillment she has never experienced before.
As it turns out, I don’t have to be wealthy to change someone’s life. A cot, an introduction, a listening ear — those things I perceive to be small and inconsequential can pull someone else from the brink of despair.
1 John 3:17 (NASB) says, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” The Spirit of God within me will not allow me to do nothing in the face of so much poverty. With the help of God and the body of Christ, I can make a difference.
*Names changed. Story provided by the international communications staff of the International Mission Board (www.imb.org).