“I met Wang Zhiwei in 2005. He was unlike the other children. His face carried a perpetual frown. He was very quiet, not running around, as if lacking in energy. Someone told me that he was having a fever. I held his hand and asked him to give me a smile. With some difficulty, he managed to give me one. I took a picture of him, turned my camera around and showed him this precious photo (left). I asked if that was him in the picture. He held the camera and nodded excitedly. He was 8 years old then. In April this year, little Zhiwei passed away, a victim of the HIV/AIDS disease. I will always remember that moment — when I held his hand and he smiled for me.”
– Ms. Yeo Tan Tan, UBSCP Program Manager
In the 1980s, in China’s Henan Province, many young able-bodied people sold their own blood for a pittance so as to ride over the poverty tide. An 800cc bag of blood could fetch up to a mere 90 Yuan (≈USD13). At that time, that amount could pay for a child’s primary school fees for up to half a year.
In the 1990s, 98% of those who had sold their blood were found to be infected with the terrible HIV/AIDS virus. The spread of the deadly disease was caused by illegal blood traders re-using needles to draw blood and pumping blood back into the human body after the blood plasma was extracted. By this decade, most of the blood donors had died leaving behind their children and aged parents. Almost a whole generation had been wiped out. More tragically, the HIV/AIDS disease was passed down to some of their children.
Zhiwei’s family was one of the affected families. His dad died in 2002 (at age 32) while his mother passed away the year after (also at age 32). Both contracted the HIV/AIDS disease because of the illegal sale of blood due to poverty. Little Zhiwei was also infected, very likely at birth, with AIDS. While he was alive, he lived with his 80-year old grandmother who was in poor health herself.
Local church volunteers started a care project involving monthly home visitations to these epidemic-hit homes. During visitations, these volunteers would help to clean the house, tutor and tell Bible stories to the affected orphans. Such acts of love not only helped to build up the orphans’ faiths, they have also touched other lives in the villages. The local church also gave away the “Pictorial Bible Stories” to the orphans with the support of UBS. In addition, a donor from Bible Society of Singapore has contributed, through the Christian Council, to the monthly living and medical allowances for 22 orphans and Zhiwei was one of the beneficiaries.
Madam You, a local church volunteer said that the Christian brothers and sisters had never stopped visiting and encouraging Zhiwei before he died. When his illness worsened last year, brothers and sisters from the church visited him more than ten times a month. When he was in great pain, they sang and prayed for him earnestly until he was comforted by their prayers. These Christian volunteers exemplified the love of Christ through their own actions and words. When his condition took a turn for the worse, the church volunteers were with him almost all the time, encouraging little Zhiwei with God’s words and teaching him to hope in Jesus. When he was dying, those around him heard him repeat the words: “Jesus, please save me!” Little Zhiwei held on to Jesus until the very end. His all and his hope.
Two months prior to his death, Zhiwei had told a volunteer that he would be strong to continue living on and studying hard as he did not want to disappoint the kind people who had been supporting him all these years. Till this day, we will always remember his fighting spirit and be comforted in the knowledge that he is now at a better place.
“He who sits on the throne will protect them with his presence. Never again will they hunger or thirst; neither sun nor any scorching heat will burn them, because the Lamb, who is in the center of the throne, will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev 7:15b-16 (GNT)
We thank God for giving us the chance to be involved in Zhiwei’s life, however small. The volunteers on the ground are shouldering a great deal of responsibility in ministering to people like Zhiwei and his family. We need your continued prayer support for them.
Written by Ms. Yeo Tan Tan & Ms. Zhang, edited by Ms. Pamela Choo
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership