From 1919 to 7979
By Cheng Pysong
We get to know the China Christian Action Love Association during our relief operation of Sichuan Earthquake. They have a very concrete post-disaster rebuilding model. They set up Cultural Stations at villages in the disaster zone and deploy volunteers to serve the needy. Among them include professionals who are willing to sacrifice high pay job and commit themselves for years. Many of them are Taiwanese who are familiar with disaster relief works and social services.
When Taiwan was hit by Typhoon Morakot last year, Chinese Christian Relief Association (CCRA) succeeded to mobilize thousands of volunteers to serve in disaster zones, by integrating church resources that successfully live out the role of salt and light. How did they do that? This was the result of the 1919 Relief Network that CCRA developed, after the 921 Earthquake in 1999. 10 years later, they have successfully linked up more than 600 churches, by setting up 1919 Service Centres in those churches. It becomes a platform for churches to participate in social concern and disaster response.
Having witnessed the beneficial result of 1919 Relief Network, we deeply felt that this model can be applied locally. From Dec 2009 to Jan 2010, I was sent to Taiwan for 40 days to study this model. I have also joined CCRA’s annual fund raising event of “15-day Round-the-island Cycling Tour”. Churches there are willing to jointly engage in serving the community, while corporate organizations and the public are also very supportive.
1919, the homophonic for “To Relieve To Relieve” in Taiwanese Hokkien challenges churches to follow the example of Jesus, to go and help those in crisis. Life is unpredictable; many people are physically and mentally traumatized, overwhelmed with difficulties and encountered with crisis due to various factors. 1919 will come to mind if they want to seek help from the church. It is just like how people will spontaneously think of 999 when they want to call police for help.
Disasters in all forms often occur in Taiwan, the immediate response and efficient mobilization of churches to care and aid those in crisis cannot be done overnight. It requires constant promoting of people-helping mindset and skills. 1919 Service Centres set up by churches from various places provide crisis intervention and study guidance for underprivileged children, and with that they serve the community, transform the community! Thus, the church would know what to do in time of disasters.
During my visitation to churches’ 1919 Service Centers all around Taiwan with the cycling team, I had witnessed many churches winning good reputation for the Lord, transforming lives, and people got to know God who truly loves them through crisis intervention. The church meant a lot to many families who had received love and care extended from volunteers who give study guidance to underprivileged children. Even school teachers and government officials show interest in the church’s educational value. How great is such testimony!
With much difficulty and yet by strong determination, we have cycled around the island across 22 counties. We passed by some poor rural areas and saw many churches, both big and small, quietly serving the local underprivileged children who have different starting point in their studies due to factors such as poverty, single-parent family etc. The church’s study program enables lacking children or children with parents earning a living away from hometown, to grow in the care and company of others. In Chi Chi, there are pastors who had dedicated their most productive years, to help in the reconstruction of families in crisis through Rebuilding Home Centre for more than 10 years.
As we listened to pastors’ moving testimonies, we couldn’t hold our tears. Some were convicted to pray for every inch of land they rode, others were aspired to contribute more for their society. Though I was in Taiwan at that moment, but my heart longed for the same to happen in Malaysia. There are no boundaries in sufferings. People who are suffering from crisis are everywhere, and Christians who have experienced God’s mercy would not just want to be bystanders. Often, the difficulty we face is: How to go about it?
Thank God for opening path, CCRA and HISTEAM has become international strategic partners. The 1919 model and spirit are now introduced to our beloved Malaysia. Rev. CC Shia and his team do not take us lightly just because we are young, instead they are willing to assist and support us. Therefore, beginning of this year, we have started to introduce “7979 Holistic Care Station” among the local churches; invite them to become our partners to “rescue” individuals and families in crisis.
We are looking forward to see churches to be the guarding center of the community by networking with churches and promoting the setting up of “7979 Holistic Care Station”. So while the churches share the Gospel to save souls, they can also intervene in life crisis. The ministry of the 7979 project includes (i) General Crisis Intervention, (ii) Local Disaster Response, (iii) Community Services, and (iv) Family Care. We will strengthen the church’s social care ministry by providing different kinds of volunteer training, financial subsidy to aid families in crisis and consultation.
There are many people waiting for aid, care, and consolation. Can we come before them, so that they know God loves them too?
Please contact us for details of the “7979 Holistic Care Station”.