Chen Si looked down, tears flooding his soul as the man fell from his grasp. 100 meters below, in the bone chilling water of the Yangtzee River, the man was certain to die. What would cause a man to do such a thing? Not the man who decided to jump, but Chen Si, a manager of a transportation company who dedicates his weekends searching for lost souls on the Nanjing Bridge in order to prevent them from jumping.
In China, suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-34 year old men. The Nanjing Bridge has been nicknamed the “suicide bridge” because of the certainty of death after one jumps over its railing. This notoriety has come about because there has been an increase in the amount of people using it as a jumping spot over the past few years.It was a little over three years ago, when Chen Si watched a news report about a man on a bridge in another city. That man wanted to end his life and was encouraged to jump by onlookers. Chen Si says his heart hurt after watching that news report. He felt sorry for the situation but he also set out to do something about this terrible problem. Chen Si decided to patrol the local jumping spot.
Chen Si easily identifies those wanting to end their lives. “A person walks without spirit.” he said in a 2004 New York Times article. He has talked many of these spiritless people out of suicide; those are the easy ones. He has had to tackle others to stop them from jumping. As noted above, there have been a few times a jumper in his grasp has fallen to the freezing waters of the Yangtze River. Despite those heartwrenching experiences, Chen Si has never given up his mission. I commend him for that. I probably would have given up as soon as one person fell from my grasp to their death.
Mission Completed, right?
Preventing suicide is enough for some, but that is an incomplete mission according to Chen Si. Chen Si says there has to be more than just stopping someone from jumping. In Louisa Lim’s National Public Radio story, Chen Si stated “When I save people, I don’t want to just cheat them into living another day.” By that, he means he will not save someone from death and send them on their way. Chen Si helps change life circumstances. He wants to change whatever hurt and pain that exists in the lives of those he saves. Not only that, some of those he has saved, have gone on to help him save others. In addition to saving others, he is reproducing himself. Chen Si and his actions are a great lesson for Christians.
Chen Si not only works on a bridge, he is building a bridge for every person he saves. He takes people where they are at, and helps them span the pain and despair that lies in the river of life before them. He helps spiritless people cross over to the other side where a new life exists. Chen Si does this at great expense to himself, not just financially, but emotionally too. People all over his province have heard about his ability to give hope. His cell phone rings at all times of the night. In addition to his life saving duties on Saturdays and Sundays, he feels the pressure of giving hope to those he can’t even meet. This takes a toll on his marriage as his wife and child do not like his hope giving work. The pressure also takes a toll on his health. Chen Si now chain smokes. Chen Si needs help to keep his mission going.
An Inspiration to Others
I’ve read about Chen Si in news reports on National Public Radio and in the New York Times. Those are not places where a Chinese national would announce his allegiance to Christ. So, he may or may not be a Christian. Whether he is or isn’t a Christian, Chen Si does God’s will by helping restore relationships and broken lives. He may do more good than the average Christian. Whether or not Chen Si is a Christian. I want to stand by him, prayerfully, financially, and maybe one day physically. If he isn’t a Christian, he should be connected to Christians. Many of us have access to Christians in China. We can help him pass some of those he saves, into the hands of those who personally know the Christ who saves eternally.This would be beneficial for those people Chen Si saves, and for Chen Si himself.
This connection will not be easy, but it can be made. After a few months of searching for anyone in ministry with a connection to Nanjing, I found a man. He was a leader of a Christian group that teaches English in China who will soon have teachers in Nanjing. I wanted to connect him with Chen Si. However, his excitement for Chen Si’s work and the necessity to connect him with Chrisitians was not too strong. After explaining about Chen Si, he told me Nanjing was a big city and it would be hard to find him without current contact information. But for anyone who has Christian contacts in Nanjing and has a heart for Chen Si’s work, you already know where he will be found, the Nanjing bridge. You’ve got a picture of him above. Plus, how hard could it be to learn to say, “Where is Chen Si?” in Chinese?
The life of Chen Si is an inspiration to many. In addition to where I’ve read his story, it has also been reported by the BBC. Each time Chen Si’s story has been reported, bloggers, poets, and others have been inspired to speak out on his behalf. Chen Si has also encouraged me to do more for others. If I see someone who needs food, drink, clothes, love or friendship; I need to offer those things. As a Christian, I’ve invited people to the church building, but what else have I done? I haven’t been so willing to get dirty by being involved in the lives of those I invite. I’ve come to learn that bridges need to be built all the way across the river. No more of this building a bridge halfway. I want to build bridges that connect people to Christ AND to a life filled with changed circumstances. I want to help eliminate hurt and pain. I may not always succeed, but I need to try.
Chen Si brilliantly reflects Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:34-41:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Of course, let us invite people to church and study the Bible with them. However, it’s oftentimes better to just be the church to those who need help. Life can be very painful. Let us provide for those physical and emotional needs that often help make life less difficult. It’s not going to be easy. Chen Si knows that, but he still keeps on going.