Chinese Church in Virginia Bridges Cultural Gap After Tragic Bus Crash

Peggy Lee (center) and Ginny Won pray with one of 50-plus injured bus passengers, as members of Grace Chinese Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., ministered in local hospitals after a mid-March accident near the city. Submitted photo

by Carter Tan

It was a typical Tuesday morning at Grace Chinese Baptist Church when I received an unexpected call from the church secretary, Evelyn Yao. My heart grew heavy as her words began to unfold.

“The hospital just called our church asking for help. They need Chinese translators.”

A charter bus carrying many Chinese passengers to New York City from Orlando, Fla., had crashed outside our city, Richmond, Va.

“The hospitals are overwhelmed,” Evelyn said. “Their handful of translators are insufficient. They need to get medical attention for the injured but are unable to communicate with them. Bilingual speakers who can speak Chinese and English are needed to help bridge the language divide. Are you available to head over to the hospital immediately to assist? I have also alerted our church members through the church chat group.”

As the day progressed, we learned from the local news NBC12 WWBT that the bus crash had occurred at 5:30 a.m. earlier that Tuesday morning. The bus had run off an exit ramp and overturned. The accident claimed two lives, an 81-year-old woman from Jamaica, N.Y., and a 37-year-old Chinese national.

More than 50 people, ranging from toddlers to adults, were injured and taken to area hospitals.

For the next eight days, I watched as our church chat group exploded with daily needs, updates and prayer requests. I witnessed God intertwining the lives of our church members with the lives of those impacted by the tragedy in unexpected and marvelous ways.

One of the first to help organize and mobilize the church was Helen Huang, the wife of our church elder, Peter Li. She visited the hospitals to learn of the needs and quickly put together a list of hospitals, patient rooms, requests and shifts.

Church members took shifts to function as translators, bridging the language gap between patients and medical staff. They also assisted with purchasing new clothes and basic necessities because many patients had lost all their belongings in the accident.

“I was surprised to learn that most of them had never heard of Jesus nor been to a church,” Helen said. “I had the opportunity to spend time and pray with a particular patient in the hospital over the course of a few days. She came to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior! We both cried as she repeated over and over again that the day of the accident was the beginning of her new life in Jesus. Days later, another friend of hers who was involved in the accident also accepted Jesus!”

On the other side of town, church members Stuart and Sarah Bice who own a local real estate company ferried patients from the hospitals to a local towing company to sort through unclaimed belongings. At the collection site, they served as translators.

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Source: Baptist Press