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Earthquake survivors sleep outside in Nanchong, a city in China's Sichuan province, after a May 12 earthquake destroyed and damaged millions of homes. Todd Hanson

Earthquake survivors sleep outside in Nanchong, a city in China's Sichuan province, after a May 12 earthquake destroyed and damaged millions of homes. Todd Hanson

Mennonite agencies provide $100,000 in response to Chinese earthquake

Tim Shenk
May 21, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite Partners in China (MPC) are jointly supporting relief efforts in China following the devastating May 12 earthquake.

With its epicenter in China's Sichuan province, the earthquake killed more than 50,000 people and left more than 4 million people homeless, according to news reports.

MCC and MPC are providing $100,000 to churches in Sichuan and the Amity Foundation, a Chinese humanitarian organization, to purchase and distribute food, medicine and temporary shelter materials to people affected by the quake.

MPC, based in Harrisonburg, Va., is a joint program of MCC, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. MPC supports Chinese churches and church institutions and places Christian English teachers at Chinese universities, including in Sichuan and the neighboring Chongqing municipality.

There are about eight congregations and numerous house churches in the area devastated by the earthquake, according to Myrrl Byler, the director of MPC. Some of these churches are providing water, milk and instant noodles to people whose homes have been destroyed, Byler said.

"Everybody is pretty much living outdoors," Byler said. "The church is trying to reach out to them."

MCC and MPC are providing $20,000 to the Amity Foundation to help distribute water, food, plastic sheeting and other supplies, and $80,000 to local Chinese churches for their relief efforts.

"We are being responsive to the churches' call to support them at this time as they strengthen relationships with their communities," said Tom Wenger, MCC's associate director of Asia programs.

On May 18, Peter Yuan, pastor of a church in Chengdu, Sichuan province, led eight minivans and sport utility vehicles full of church youth to a church in the earthquake-devastated city of Mianzhu, according to Byler. The group then divided and visited eight villages outside of Mianzhu, delivering food and supplies, including medicine purchased with support from MPC and MCC.

While most of the villagers were working in fields during the quakes, many of their homes were destroyed, burying their possessions, Byler said.

MCC and MPC are providing funds to purchase needed items such as antibiotics, cooking utensils and tents.

"One of the most urgent needs for these villagers is temporary shelter. While the government is providing tents for cities and the thousands who are coming there from the worst-hit areas, the villagers that Pastor Yuan visited are using scraps of cardboard and plastic to provide some shelter from the sun and rain," Byler wrote in an e-mail.

Contributions for this response should be designated "China emergency assistance." They may be made online at mcc.org/donate or to any MCC office. They may also be made to Mennonite Mission Network, Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.