Check Yee Reports on China
By Lt. Colonel Check Yee (R) –
I never fully felt what Jesus meant when he said he is the light of the world until I came to Shajiaohai, a small village 7,200 feet above sea level. Ever since its existence, there’s never been any electricity (which brings every modern convenience) nor any roads.
Abandoning my broken-down hired van at the foot of the mountain, I was guided by two strong young men in complete darkness. Above me, the darkest skies were majestically illuminated with millions of stars that seemed to want to lead my path. One of the young men said to me, “Let me carry you.” I thanked him, breathlessly.
That was last week. I’ve lost count of how many villages and towns I’ve walked to. My shoes will soon need new heels. My job in China, these days, is to bring light to places like Shajiaohai.
There are schools without a building. Children attend classes in the wide open air. When severe cold winter or wild rain storms come, classes come to a halt.
Yet, the kids love their school. They recite their lessons in unison with loud voices. Red scarves around their necks signify pride and discipline. They promise me that the tuition we help them pay will have a big return, through their serious learning.
One teenage boy goes to school with an old desk on his back. He walks through the hills for two hours each day. On the other side of the hill, another boy carries two small chairs, walking toward the same classroom. The two share their property and get along fine.
One year, a school had no money to buy chalk. The young teacher used her finger dipped into a glass of water to write. The kids needed to copy fast, because the water marks soon disappeared.
My office in Kunming is to cover our program services in the Province of Yunnan, as an extension of all The Salvation Army Hong Kong Command is doing throughout the 12 provinces–a visible station amidst the needy.
Our programs and projects focus on alleviating poverty. Recently, we were involved in a field of human behavior change, an anti-smoking campaign. Supporting this campaign there are the Provincial Education Department, Health Department, Women’s Federation and four elementary and high schools, together with teachers, staff, and students, 7,000 strong.
China is the most cigarette-smoking country in the world, and our small “stone” is already hitting the many hearts of the smokers. A chain-smoker is fighting hard. He says whenever he has the urge for a cigarette, he grasps a banana.
One other notable sign in China is the primitive sanitary facilities, often the cause of diseases which eventually kill. The Salvation Army is introducing a bio-gas system, building 600 modern toilets in Yunnan Province. As a side benefit, it will transform wastes to gas which provides light for the house and fuel for cooking.
Since 1989, initiated by San Francisco Chinatown Corps, and then the Hong Kong Command, The Salvation Army has invested approximately U.S. $5 million in disaster assistance and poverty alleviation programs in the fields of education, health, housing, medical training, environment, senior citizens, women and children, job opportunity, and human behavior.
The International Advice Team, headed by Captain (Dr.) Ian Campbell, and Allison Rader, are monitoring the Army’s service in HIV/AIDS, Health, Development and Mission in China, as well as in the East Asia and South Pacific region.
Brother Alfred Tsang, director of our China Development, based in Hong Kong, is a traveling ambassador for the Army through the country. Under his dedicated leadership, 1,954 houses and 35 schools were built, 700 tons of food, clothing, and medical supplies were distributed, and nearly 100,000 persons benefited.
The poverty-alleviation campaign is not a welfare handout, but a self-help program to help people get rid of poverty and live like normal human beings.
People in Shajiaohai may be poor and without electric light , but their hearts are brightly shining. It’s Jesus, Light of the World. There are 387 churches in the county with 60,000 believers.They are shepherded by one lone senior pastor, Sha Yulian, 84 years old. Assisting him are more than 100 lay leaders, 97 elders and several hundred deacons. None of them receive any salary!
They are the fruits of the dynamic missionary saint, Hudson Taylor of England, who came to China inland as early as 1869. Taylor’s ministry spread to 11 provinces, and countless people were saved. But Taylor’s wars against evil were extremely costly. Among the more than 1,000 missionaries, 58 died in martyrdom, plus 21 of their children.
Taylor died of old age at 73 in China, buried next to his beloved wife and four children near the bank of the Yangtse River in Jijian. His most quoted saying is, “If I have a thousand English pounds, China can withdraw its total amount; if I have a thousand lives, I would not withhold one from China.” His influence is still greatly felt in Shajiaohai and many parts of China today.
Here I am, serving in an isolated area, no way to compare with what Taylor confronted. Whenever I was depressed, I would read his biography as an encouragement. I was lifted. How can I give less, when Taylor gave his all?
I hope to return to Shajiaohai one day–the day when there would be paved roads under electric light.