In Nanchong, China, Jeanette and Todd Hanson of the China Educational Exchange are busy preparing to meet poor rural deaf children for a hearing-aide testing session. For months now, the Hansons have cooperated with the Early Childhood Hearing Intervention organization, which is dedicated to fitting hearing-impaired children with hearing aids, and then to counsel with their families on device usage.
The Hansons are also involved local Chinese government agency called the Handicapped Persons Association. The association regularly receives donations from the Mennonite Central Committee’s Global Family program with support from the Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness. Currently, the joint hearing-aide distribution program has provided hearing aides to no less than 60 rural families.
One woman brought her son, 8-year-old “Little Zhang,” to Nanchong to be tested and fitted for a hearing aid. She repeatedly told Hanson of the inconvenience of this interruption, as she had much to do at her farm. She mentioned that the family had another son, at home, who “didn’t have any problems,” Hanson said.
“I sat with her in the park while waiting for the last children to be tested. We talked about her life and the difficulties she faced,” Hanson said. “A few weeks later during the training class on how to use hearing aids, she participated less grudgingly and even expressed some surprise that the hearing aids would be easier to use and maintain than she had expected.”
The Hanson’s hope that CEE can help even more deaf children though cooperating with local churches, schools, and government offices in a country where less than one percent of the population are Christian. Through this, Jeanette Hanson says, the path for social witnessing will be set since a level of trust is needed between Christians and the secular world.
So, how does aid-work teach the rural Chinese about the gospel? Jeanette Hanson explained, “I am able to talk about faith issues in terms of God creating everyone on earth and our belief that divisions of countries, culture, distance and abilities are artificial and that we are all God’s children. I also talk about Jesus’ teaching to serve others and help the weak.”
Myrrl Byler, CEE director said, “ As Westerners involved in a variety of ministries, we give added visibility and credibility to Chinese churches, which often must struggle against ignorance and mistrust. Chinese believers are beginning to reach out to needs in society. We pray that our involvement and partnership with them will be a source of encouragement.”
So far, CEE has been receiving much positive feedback not just from the communities they work with but also from government sources as well.
“One township party secretary told me, ‘Christians are different from people of other religions in our town. Christians show they love all people in very practical ways. They help the poor and serve society,’” Hanson said.
At the time of this writing, Jeanette and Todd reside in Nanchong with their two daughters. Jeanette works constantly with local governments and churches to establish social welfare programs. Todd on the other hand teaches composition and literature, and provides training to China Education Exchange teachers. The CEE is an inter-Mennonite program funded by the Mennonite Mission Network, MC Canada Witness, and Eastern Mennonite Missions.
[Quotes from Mennonite Mission Network Press Release]