On May 12, the 7.9-magnitude earthquake in China killed 100,000, dwarfing the carnage of 9/11 by 30-fold and approximating the U.S. body-bag count in World War I. Tremors were detected as far away as Vietnam, 500 miles distant.
The seismic shift rocked more than soil. Souls move too, even in Chengdu, the literal and figurative heart of China. The capital city of the affected region, Sichuan Province, is 50 miles from the quake's epicenter and is home to one of the world's 100 busiest airports, $25 billion in foreign investments, and 16 colleges.
In unprecedented response, a high-ranking Chinese official appointed Robert Yeung, a counseling educator and the only Christian among 10 colleagues, to organize psychological recovery efforts. He is the academic dean at the Hong Kong Institute of Christian Counselors (HKICC), the city's only faith-based institute for psychological care.
Three months after the quake, I sat cramped in Yeung's 8-by-6-foot office, dripping sweat in record heat while Yeung recalled the historic day.
"Two mountains collapsed and buried some towns," he said. "It was devastating. I smelled a dead body, saw broken buildings, a school collapsed, people sleeping on the sidewalk. I never saw anything like that before. People were crying. They lost spirit. No hope for them. And anger."
Since June, Yeung has stood under relief tents and inside remote clinics with groups of 20 to 500, educating doctors, teachers, and other community leaders about post-traumatic stress disorder. Assisting him are some of the 100 students enrolled in Hong Kong's only graduate program in Christian counseling, offered by Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.
Yeung's unique assignment began at China's own Ground Zero with a chance meeting ...