Some 5 million people in China were displaced following the temblor. The official death toll has risen above 69,000, with at least 374,000 people reported injured and more than 17,000 missing. Even for the few people whose homes escaped collapse, there is little security.
Yang Jiahui, a woman in her 50s, had her 2-year-old grandson with her when the earthquake hit. Their house is one of the three in her town that did not fall, yet they are so afraid of another earthquake that they sleep outside under a tent.
“We don’t sleep inside anymore,” she says. “People are frightened. When the aftershock hit yesterday [6.0 magnitude on May 25] people in the fields fainted. The main shock started with wind blowing. Then everything fell. People were knocked to the ground. We didn’t know what happened. Even now, two weeks later, we cannot calm down.”
When the earthquake shook, Franklin Graham and a small delegation from BGEA were in Nanjing, more than 800 miles from the epicenter. Franklin had just left a meeting at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary when he noticed that people were fleeing nearby buildings and standing in the streets. The seriousness of the situation didn’t become clear until later in the day when reports of the devastating quake began to filter out of the earthquake zone.
Franklin responded with aid for the survivors of the catastrophe and quickly committed $150,000 each from BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse. The money was given to the China Christian Council to help them in their relief efforts.
“Today my heart has been very heavy as I have watched on television the images coming from Sichuan,” Franklin said during a meeting with the State Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee in Shanghai. “I have been praying that people would sense God’s presence with them.” And in a press conference the next day, Franklin said, “This money comes from God, and we’re giving it in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the days ahead, we’ll try to do even more.”
Ten days later, on May 23, a 747 left Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C., loaded with $1 million of relief supplies. The 90-ton shipment included 1,140 rolls of plastic sheeting to make temporary shelters for some 3,400 families. The shipment also included hygiene kits; bulk medical supplies; and six water filters from Water Missions International, each of which will supply 3,000 people with safe water daily.
“This planeload of supplies comes from the gifts of thousands of Christians and churches across the United States,” Franklin said, speaking to representatives from the Chinese Embassy, local pastors and other dignitaries at the airport in Charlotte. “The plane goes in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Franklin then presented a Bible to Zhang Ping, minister counselor of congressional affairs with the Embassy of People’s Republic of China, on behalf of the churches and Christians–”from our country to your country.”
He added, “Not only are we praying for the people of China and those suffering from the catastrophe, but we want this airlift to give them hope and let them know they aren’t alone in their time of need.”
Zhang Ping accepted the aid on behalf of his country. “The earthquake has no mercy,” he said. “But people all over the world showed enormous compassion. I wish to pay special tribute to Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA. Your sympathy, support and donations will be forwarded immediately to our people back home to give them the encouragement needed to hang on until these difficulties are over.”
Zhang Ping continued, “Your generosity enables us to reach out to more people in need and light some hope inside survivors through the long, cold and wet nights. Please accept our respect and appreciation for what you have done.”
Before the plane left Charlotte, Franklin said, “The people in China need help. They also need our prayers. This is just a small amount of help, and they need much more. We pray that every roll of plastic, every drop of water that goes into the purification system, every bit of medicine that we are sending will bring relief and hope to those who don’t have much hope.”
After stopping in Alaska, the plane arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, around midnight local time May 24. The supplies were immediately offloaded and trucked into the affected area to be distributed through the municipality of Deyang.
The Reverend Baoping Kan, general secretary of the China Christian Council, was one of many officials present when the plane arrived.
“People from all over the world care about us,” he said. “This is a way to show Christian love. When the cargo plane arrived, it showed that people from the United States cared about us–Christians cared about us. Lots of Chinese have no idea about Christianity. This is a way to show the Christian religion.”
The church is doing the things the church ought to do, Kan said. “As the church in China, we greatly appreciate the support from the churches in other countries. … The China Christian Council has sent letters to churches all over China asking them to pray for the earthquake victims and also to raise money to help them. The provincial Christian council is also working hard. There are Christians in this area, especially in Chengdu. In the epicenter, there aren’t many. It’s important to show Christians here they are not alone.”
As the first water filter was installed in the village of Luoshui, about 80 miles northeast of Chengdu, it seemed as if God were answering that prayer.
The Luoshui area–shui means water–had been known for producing bottled water, but the earthquake destroyed all of its plumbing systems. About 500 people died in the village, including 200 in the collapse of a primary school. The town’s water towers also collapsed, and the wells may be contaminated.
When the filter was ready to be used, people were waiting nearby in a line for food. Dai Anlin, the first person to take a drink, put his mouth under the spout. He lived a mile away, and just to have safe water he had been forced to walk to the food distribution site, carry the water back to his collapsed home and boil it before drinking. As soon as he swallowed the clean water from the filter, a CCTV9 crew (China’s English network) asked for his reaction.
“It is good,” he said through an interpreter. “This is a seriously hit area. Ninety-five percent of the houses have collapsed, and water is a problem. The army brings in drinkable water, but with so many places in need, they can’t help everyone every day.”