SARS Claims Sister, Impacts Church in Asia

“SARS Claims Sister, Impacts Church in Asia,” Ensign, July 2003, 77

SARS Claims Sister, Impacts Church in Asia

“How is our daughter?” were the last words that Chen Ching-chiu asked her husband, Tang Ssu Hu, as they spoke over the phone before she succumbed to the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on 1 May. Sister Chen, the head nurse on the eighth floor of the Taipei Municipal Ho Ping Hospital, contracted SARS while caring for patients.

Sister Chen, 47, was the first medical worker in Taiwan to die from the outbreak. “Her selfless spirit … is an example to all medical workers,” said Chen Shui-bian, president of Taiwan. The government awarded Sister Chen a presidential commendation. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and a group of city government officials held one minute of silence on the day following her passing. Mayor Ma termed Sister Chen as “the first soldier who sacrificed herself fighting SARS.” The city will honor Sister Chen by listing her name at the Taipei Municipal Martyr’s Shrine.

Sister Chen was baptized in January 2002. She is survived by her husband and their seven-year-old daughter, Chia Ju. They are members of the Hsin Tien Ward, Taipei Taiwan West Stake.

In Hong Kong, in support of local government actions, church meetings were cancelled on a week-by-week basis during the month of April. The Hong Kong China Temple was closed from 29 March to 24 April. During the closures, all Church buildings and offices were thoroughly cleaned. Missionaries and members were reminded to clean their homes and take sensible precautions when traveling.

With the approval of local leaders, member families held sacrament meetings in their homes. Sister Lily Lew of the Victoria First (English) Branch, Hong Kong International District, reported a wonderful experience as her family held sacrament meeting. Her husband Gary, who serves as branch president, blessed the sacrament, and their 12-year-old son, Christopher, passed it. Christopher played the hymn “Press Forward, Saints” on the piano, and their seven-year-old daughter, Samantha, led the music. The three youngest children told the story of Christ’s Resurrection using pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit.

Where no priesthood holders were available to administer the sacrament, some families spent the Sabbath reading scriptures and lessons from Church manuals.

“We have had many reports from families who mention having had the most spiritual and sacred moments of their lives during their home sacrament meetings,” says Elder John B. Dickson, President of the Asia Area. “One of the greatest blessings, however, comes to us now in seeing the Saints longing for the moment when they can be together again.”

Missionaries have also made adjustments in their work. They have discontinued the traditional Western method of handshaking and are using the Chinese custom of greeting others with clasped hands and a slight bow or by giving a verbal greeting. In addition, missionaries are teaching lessons in outdoor parks or to one or two investigators at a time in Church classrooms to limit the number of people meeting in confined spaces.

Ricky Wong and his family hold church meetings in their home during the SARS crisis.