Henan Christians Reach Out To The Elderly


(ANS) Churches in China are increasingly becoming involved in social services, and the national church leadership is encouraging such activities. Kindergardens, homes for the elderly and clinics are among the most common services offered by local congregations. In Tian Feng issue No.279, Wang Rongwei visits a church-run home for the elderly in Henan Province.

On 28 December 2005, I had opportunity to interview Brother Li Chongmin from Puyang, who acts as Vice Director of Aihua Home for the Elderly in a township nearby the city. Situated in north-eastern Henan, Puyang borders on Hebei and Shandong Provinces and is blessed with a beautiful landscape and rich natural resources.

The Home caters to all elderly people regardless of their ethnicity, faith background, regional origin or physical condition, and ever since its opening, the home has been richly blessed and also enjoys the support of local brothers and sisters.

The history of this initiative goes back to the year 2000, when sister Wang Zhenfeng was confronted with the problem of caring for her husband, who had been bed-ridden for a number of years already. On a visit to Luoyang, she felt much inspired by the local homes for the elderly, which played an important role in addressing the problems of the elderly and of an aging population in general. Realizing that her home township did not have a similar institution, she became aware that many rural elderly spent the evening of their lives in misery. Although an elderly lady of 75 herself, she decided to do something about this. When she approached her 35-year-old neighbour Li Chongmin with this idea, she was surprised to find out that he had been having the same idea.

In June 2000, they spent 11, 000 RMB [USD 1,375 approx.] on an old factory building of about 260 square metres living space; on top of this sum, they had to pay a yearly rent of 1,000 RMB for the grounds. With a monthly income of less than 1,000 RMB per person, they undertook to open an old people's home without any institutional funding and without charging the home's residents... for the love of God.

As Li told me during the interview, the beginning was very difficult. He and his co-workers were busy clearing out and repairing the facilities as well as praying for the venture. After a few months of prayer, when they had the feeling that now they were seeing God's will clearly and had also gained the support of other sisters and brothers, a number of rules regarding the running of the home were set up. In this way, a charge-free home was established built entirely on faith, ready to take in clients over 60 and without family.

To provide for the various needs of its inhabitants, the home has a chapel, a meditation room and a computer room and also offers facilities for laundry, receiving visitors and watching TV. Not only the elderly, but also some blind clients and visiting church members enjoy the facilities. Healthy food and activities such as joint cooking sessions are intended to keep the clients healthy and active. Today, 30 persons are staying at the home, among them six blind persons who have set up a band to enrich their own and the other inhabitants' leisure time.

With a 3,000 RMB overhead to cover every month, the past six years have been a rocky road for the home, and in order to deal with the financial difficulties, the rule of "Elderly taking care of the elderly, and elderly taking care of the Home" is being implemented. This means that those elderly in reasonable physical health collect firewood and help with cooking, while others take turns to buy vegetables at the market. Donations help to keep the home going. Thanks to contributions from local villagers and workers, food and clothing for the home's inhabitants have been basically secured. Many people give anonymously in kind or cash; others help in more practical ways.

Looking to the future, Brother Li reminds me that planning for the home has to rely on God's will, just as the venture's development over the past six years has been thanks to God's enduring grace and blessings.