A Chinese pastor living Wuhan — the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak — has penned a powerful letter urging the international faith community to pray as the number of confirmed cases rises above 20,000 in the country.
The Christian leader, identified as "A Wuhan Pastor" by China Source, penned a lengthy letter in which he revealed that fellow pastors from around the world have been reaching out, asking how they can support him.
“It is readily apparent that we are facing a test of our faith,” the pastor wrote. “The situation is so critical, yet [we are] trusting in the Lord’s promises, that his thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that he allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us.”
“Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for those in this city who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ.”
The pastor emphasized that while Christ has “given us His peace,” that “peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things.”
“[When] disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love,” he contended. “Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The pastor urged the international community to “pray for God’s mercy upon this city, and bring peace upon this city through our prayers and testimony.”
“I believe this is the command of God calling those of us living in Wuhan,” he said. “We are to seek peace for this city, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people of Wuhan!”
The pastor concluded his letter by urging readers to “turn their eyes upon Jesus,” adding that “only through the hope of the Lord’s mercy will this city be saved.”
The pastor’s letter comes as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose above 20,000 in China, prompting Chinese authorities to quarantine several major cities.
The virus originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in Hubei province, and can lead to respiratory illnesses, deadly in some cases. On Monday, Hong Kong reported its first death from the virus, which has killed at least 425, all but two of them in mainland China.
The United States recently recorded its 11th case of the virus. Last week, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern notes that in this time of desperation and fear, China’s Christian community has stepped up to provide hope and refuge to those suffering.
A video shared by Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness shows that encouraging sermons are being broadcast to their communities through speakers placed on balconies. According to ICC, a Christian rode his bike to a pharmacy where people gathered and played a sermon through a portable speaker.
Another video circulated on social media shows Christians distributing face masks and Gospel pamphlets to passersby on the streets as a sermon plays in the background.
Additionally, Christians from other provinces have offered their homes to host people fleeing from Hubei province who face housing discrimination.
Human Rights Watch notes that there have been numerous reports of hotels outside of Hubei province refusing to admit travelers with Wuhan or Hubei identification cards, of villages setting up roadblocks blocking cars with Hubei license plates from entering, and of people from Hubei being harassed on social media.
Brother Jia Xuewei and sister Shu Qiong, from the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, are among a number of Christians who opened up their homes to escapees and offered to cover room and board until Hubei lifts its quarantine.
Speaking to Fox News, Doug Perez, an American who resides in Wuhan, described the situation as a "scary experience," like "something out of a sci-fi movie." He said that beyond the virus, he worries about the Chinese government's reaction.
"The government here has taken a very, very strict, very strict and very proactive response ... to this coronavirus," Perez said. "It wouldn't surprise me if there are some problems in the future, especially, you know, food shortages or civil unrest."