I have left Beijing and have arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in south west China. It is known for many things but two in particular; food and fur. Chengdu is renowned for it’s highly spicy hotpot filled with chillies and numbing pepper (Ma’la). It is fantastic! Why fur? Well this is Panda city, and there are references to it on nearly everything you pass by.
So what else is there to note in this thriving urban centre? It is not on the same scale as Beijing, however it is still a city which is vast in size and population. There are around 11 million people who call Chengdu home and not all of them receive the blessings and benefits of the growing economy. Those who are not gaining from the odd communist/capitalist amalgam of contemporary China find themselves on the fringe. And it is at precisely this place where many are met vulnerable, abused or excluded from belonging.
One of the hottest topics up for public scrutiny in the recent UK election was the issue of mental health and help for those who struggle in this area. These similar struggles are also faced by many in China. It was a privilege to get a chance to spend time with some young adults who are going through real difficulties and hear how God is using his people to love and care for those living with anxiety, depression and autism. Jesus is the friends of the weak, the one who gets alongside those deemed by society as lacking full worth, and invites them to know life in all of its fullness.
Being on the fringe can also result from having a unique cultural identity which is not the dominant norm in the area where you reside. This is certainly the case only a few hours outside of the centre of Chengdu. Across an area of the Sichuan province there are small ethnic minorities who living in the mountainous regions. In this ethnic corridor there is great diversity yet one thread unites them; no real knowledge of the one who has come to free, redeem and restore them. I pray that many churches will spend the time to pray for these people and see the growing kingdom come with great transformative power into the lives of many in these remote communities.