Whenever I do presentations on the Chinese church I belong to in Luzhou, people are astounded. The church’s two community service projects are one of a kind in China: The first is the Gospel Kindergarten (70 children taught by 7 Christian teachers), with most children attending belonging to church members.
The second is the Gospel Hospital , located adjacent to the church.
From a Tiny Mustard Seed into a Far-reaching Tree
The hospital, founded in 2011 under the leadership of Pastor Liao, actually began as a small 2-room clinic. Here are the photos I took in 2007 when it first opened.
But with a huge effort on the part of Pastor Liao, this small church-run clinic blossomed into a 3-story medical facility run by the church in cooperation with the local Luzhou government. Volunteer professionals (doctors and nurses) take care of patients in the 100-bed infirmary. There is a small surgery area, a rehabilitation room in the basement and an adjacent Western and Chinese medicine dispensary.
Contrary to what many believe, healthcare in China is not free. Insurance can be received through companies, public and government jobs but that only covers a small percentage of the costs. Farmers from the countryside have very little insurance, and migrants have none. It is customary to pay upfront for any medical help given, which includes seeing the doctor, testing, all medical procedures, medicines, medical supplies (syringes, wheelchairs, crutches, canes), and rehabilitation facilities and therapists. If you do not have the money to pay before treatment, you are not taken care of.
But the Luzhou Gospel Hospital is different. It caters to the needs of the poor. With church funding, through grants and Christian donations, and also the provincial and local city government departments in charge of poverty alleviation efforts, money is used to provide what is needed to help others.
An Example of The Hospital’s Impact on The Poor
Just recently, a farming family I’ve visited often throughout the years was able to receive medical treatment for Grandma at the hospital.
Mrs. Chen’s mother, age 85, fell and broke her ankle. The family lives 2-hours from Luzhou, deep in the Sichuan countryside. To get to the city requires a 15 minute walk along rice field pathways, a 5-minute ferry ride (waiting 30 minutes to be taken across), a steep hike from the river into their small town (20-30 minutes), a wait for the public countryside bus to arrive (another 30-40 minutes), then a 40-minute ride along narrow, winding roads to reach the city of Luzhou. (See below the Chen and Che farm, including the journey needed to get to Luzhou. This is seen backwards, however: From their small town Tong Tan, 40 minutes by bus from Luzhou, to Mrs. Chen’s home.)
While there are numerous public hospitals in the city of 5 million, none were affordable enough to examine Grandma, set the bone or keep her in a bed while she healed.
Mrs. Chen knew the Gospel Hospital might be able to help. Using a relative who lived in town, she was able to get her mom registered and apply for medical help through the government using her farmer’s status as proof of need. From what she told me on the phone a few weeks ago, she paid about $120 US through the standard government farm insurance policy and the church plus the Luzhou poverty alleviation bureau paid the remaining $780 US required for her full recovery. Mrs. Chen’s mom stayed in the hospital for 10 days, with her daughter sleeping in the bed beside her in the evenings. She was treated very well by the Christian community volunteers who came to make sure she was comfortable, had her meals served, changed her bedding, sponged her off, had clean clothes and received adequate exercise. She was also prayed over. Even though a majority of those in the hospital are not Christians, this is a practice by the volunteers. Their actions witness to others the meaning of Christianity by openly showing their commitment to their faith.
Everyone in Luzhou knows at the Gospel Hospital, you are not just another body in a sea of thousands receiving medical assistance. You are a person in need of compassion and help. You are a person of worth. You are a person who is loved and cared for. (Below: Mrs. Chen in the pink spent the evenings with her mom who is in the bed next to her. My other friend, Teacher Snow, in a wheelchair due to a debilitating stroke, visited the two. Her husband took the picture.)
Mrs. Chen and her mom are home now. I heard her mom is still a bit wobbly but will be as well as she can be in the next few months.
2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the hospital’s opening. To commemorate this milestone, in another entry I’ll give a bit of the Luzhou Protestant Church history which will explain why Pastor Liao chose medical care as a service outreach to others.
Until the next time, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.