A recent article from the BBC introduced a family living in a village about 200km from Shanghai. The mother works in a factory; the father is a security guard. Between them they earn less than US$10 per day. Each month about half their income goes on food. Most of the rest is spent on other necessities like clothing or utility bills.
Their son is 28 years-old and works away from home in the city of Shanghai. He is the main breadwinner for the family and each month sends his parents more than half of his earnings of around US$700. This money has been invested in building a new house in his parents' village. "From the outside it looks impressive, two stories high, each storey with three rooms," according to the BBC article, "but inside it is unfinished, even though it was completed three years ago. There is barely any furniture."
The son explains: "We borrowed a lot of money to build it, from friends, from neighbours and other villagers. The problem is at the moment we have run out of money." The main reason for the house is to enable the son to find a better wife. "If we had kept on living in a shabby house, people would have said, ‘They are not a good family'," he explains. "So it's kind of a face thing, we had to build it so others would respect us."
A few months ago, the family made the very difficult decision not to borrow more money to pay for an operation after their elderly grandmother fell and broke both her hips. She died a month later. "It's hard to watch your close relatives when they're in trouble and you can't really help them much," the son shares.
He dreams of a better life for them all: "The first thing I would like to buy is a washing machine. It's very hard to do the laundry in the winter. My mother always has blisters when it's cold. Later on I would buy my parents a fridge and some air conditioning units."
Pray for the many rural families in China who face difficult decisions over medical treatment. Pray for the government authorities as they seek to improve medical facilities and make health insurance more widely available.
Lift up the issue of "face" to the Lord. We all have an innate desire to look good to others, so let's pray for both ourselves and our Chinese brothers and sisters against a pride that leads to excessive expenditure on material goods.
Pray that the dreams of many rural poor Chinese for a better standard of living might be realised. But pray too that their focus might not be on material gain. May each one have a real hunger for spiritual truth and be led to find contentment through a relationship with the Lord Jesus.