The young athletes battling for Olympic gold are impressive with their show of grace and strength. But, behind the bright lights of the 2008 Beijing games are lesser–known stories much more worthy of our attention. These are also stories of grace and strength, but more importantly, of mercy, of suffering, and of sacrifice.
As I watched the Chinese and American women's gymnastics teams compete, one such story came to mind. These young gymnasts are not much older than the girl whose story I recall.
In 1937, when the Japanese invaded China, this young girl was forced to flee her home. She survived years of displacement and military conflict. But through her dedication, she eventually completed her studies, and in 1953 become a medical doctor. Not to swim or run or tumble better than her competition; but to serve others as a doctor was Gao Yaojie's passion.
Years later, when the Chinese Red Guard attacked the clinic where she worked, Gao refused to join their movement. She was severely beaten and left for dead in a hospital morgue. She lived secretly in that morgue for eight months surviving on one piece of bread each night provided by a kind orderly.
Gao eventually resumed her life. Then, in the mid 1990's she encountered something more horrible than she had previously seen. In 1996 she encountered villagers in Henan Province who were stricken by a mysterious disease. These people were afflicted with severe diarrhea, painful stomach tumors, black spots all over their bodies, internal bleeding, and terrible fevers. Entire families in this rural province were being wiped out by a terrible and secret AIDS epidemic.
The provincial authorities not only denied the epidemic but, as Gao discovered, had caused the epidemic. Gao learned that the local authorities had persuaded the villagers to donate their blood plasma at unsanitary collection centers for about $5 per visit. The collection centers then mixed infected donor blood with the otherwise clean supply. Once the plasma and red blood cells were separated, old needles were reused and serum was re-injected into donors' veins directly from the contaminated storage vats.
The donation centers were profiting nicely by reselling the plasma, but they were also spreading the deadly virus to an unsuspecting population – in one of the poorest and most rural of provinces. More than 100,000 became infected. Gao says that when she discovered this tragedy she simply broke down and cried.
Now an elderly woman, Gao reported her findings, only to be harassed, arrested and brutally interrogated. When interviewed a few years later about her interrogation, she lowers her already soft voice and says that the events of her interrogation are still too painful to speak of. She continues to fight the epidemic. She has written numerous books on AIDS and has personally supported hundreds of AIDS orphans.
Gao's grace and strength are much more beautiful than any Olympic performance. Her sacrifices were greater, her pain more severe, and her mercy more incredible. The Olympians sacrifice their life for their sport. Gao sacrificed her life for the weak.
Ezekiel 9 tells us of a day when God will punish the wicked, but spare those who sigh and cry over the abominations in the land. Do we sigh and cry over the abominations we see? Millions suffer every day. Do we fervently pray that Christ returns soon to intervene? Gao Yaojie's example is inspiring, but no human effort can save this world. We must pray earnestly that Christ returns soon (Matthew 6:10) because only Christ's intervention can save this world.
For more on how Christ will soon intervene in a powerful way, and what you should be doing now, please request our free booklet: Prophecy Fulfilled: God's Hand in World Affairs. You can also read this booklet online.