My plan this year was to blog weekly. Unfortunately due to being away this has only started today. Equally I had hoped to start on a more positive note but nonetheless here we go…
A lot of people have gotten in contact with me as to how I feel about the coronavirus and whether like hundreds of Brits I will be taking up the opportunity to return to the U.K. I hope in this short post to articulate why I’m choosing not to, and the reason I have for the hope I have.
First, I live in Shanghai. The coronavirus originates in the city of Wuhan. The virus could not have come at a worst time. Wuhan is a city bigger than London with roughly 11million people. Over 5 million of these citizens left just before the virus was announced due to Chinese New Year. Many of these citizens went to other parts of China. Many also travelled internationally (many to the U.K.). There are as I write this around 33 official cases in Shanghai a city of 27 million. The word on the ground from many Chinese citizens is that this number has been vastly under reported. Given the timing the cases will increase exponentially over the next few weeks. Masks in many shops have sold out. You know they’re in stock when you see people queuing outside to get them. The shops and roads are empty due to the New Year but also the virus. Due to the nature of the Chinese government, unlike other nations there will most likely be a proclivity to deal with this virus domestically before looking internationally.
However, I do feel safer here than in think I would if the same had occurred in London, I say that because I see the measures the Chinese government is putting in place. Not wearing a mask is now a punishable crime. Every elevator reeks of chlorine. Temperature checks are frequent. The holiday period has been extended as to keep people further isolated. Deliveries to front doors have stopped in order to reduce human to human contact. I say all of this to add balance to what will later be said. The virus is serious, it is deadly, it is likely to be around the world in a matter of weeks. Already it is more serious than SARS (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/29/coronavirus-cases-in-china-overtake-sars-and-impact-could-be-more-severe.html) but equally the Chinese government is making fantastic steps that would unlikely be taken by western governments due to bureaucracy.
As a Christian, my hope is placed in the hope of Jesus’s return. I fight to see and believe this every day. I fight this in the sins that I fight perpetually which tempt me to believe this world has more joy to offer than Christ. I fight this now daily in my belief that this world has more to offer than situations like this. Since the fall God’s perfect creation has been corrupted. We (Man) have contributed to this and deserve punishment. Christ has offered an avenue to be reconciled to God, only through a response in repentance and faith can we not only be ‘evacuated’ of this world but live to serve God as his holiness deserves.
With this being said I think biblical wisdom must be applied to this situation. The bible is sufficient for equipping the godly man and woman for every good work. It is clear that this virus is serious yet as a believer who’s hope is placed not in this world but the next, a believer who now has many Chinese Christian brothers and sisters who unlike me don’t have the liberty and freedom to leave the country even if they wanted to, I think it is wise to remain in China. Not only due to wanting to stand with my brothers and sisters but also due to my trust in the Lord that regardless of whatever trial he brings he will keep my soul in this life as long as it is required and in the next life for eternity. China has tested me emotionally, mentally and physically. If I’m honest this doesn’t feel like the worst challenge at all.
This week we have all been reminded of the preciousness of life. Kobe Bryant’s death upset me deeply. I too value my life, but fear more the one who is able to crush my soul (namely being God, refer to Matthew 10:28). Thus while I desire to preserve my earthly body I know my spiritual health is tied to Christ’s life, death and resurrection. My obedience and belief to me now matters far more than anything (I fail to act this out often but this is my core belief). I will only leave my house to meet other believers and attend church (which has decided to remain open showing the perseverance of God’s people in the face of every worldly difficulty even the ones we can’t see). So for the most part all the virus means for me is extended periods of time indoors and minimised contact with loved ones. This virus will most likely pass, a cure is likely to be found for it. I think it’s important for me and others to keep that in mind especially now.
My university has been very supportive and offered international students the right to defer for the semester punishment free. The semester has also been suspended for the time being showing they too like the rest of China are taking the next few weeks and months seriously. I do have a goal and desire to graduate in summer. As long as this remains an option in Jesus name I will do so.
My only request for prayer is for boldness for other Christians in China and myself to persevere in hope, persevere in evangelism and persevere in obedience. The biggest battle in all our lives (yours included) is sin. To be distracted of this belief in a time like this would be giving in to a sinful temptation.