When the news becomes more real

Watching the news from distant countries it’s hard not to become complacent. Even when you know that people are dying it’s difficult to feel passionately involved in what’s happening because of the distance that separates you.

I know that God is as concerned for them and weeps over a death in, say, China as much as here in Cornwall but my fallible brain finds it hard to be as engaged. As a journalist I know that one of the defining issues around news is that proximity increases interest, but as a Christian I get angry with myself that it should be so.

Well, there it is. My interest in what’s happening in China has increased since I realised that one of the reporters is someone I know.

Dan Griffiths, the BBC’s correspondent in Beijing, is presently at the epicentre of the earthquake zone and so every news report has me looking out for more news of the rescue effort – and of Dan.

He is the grandson of one of the former members of a church I have looked after for seven years and has been a regular visitor, often bring his grandmother to worship.

Wendy was a remarkable woman in her own right. At the age of 26 she went to China as a missionary nurse, married Methodist minister Cyril Hancock while in China and they were both imprisoned by the Japanese. Her son was born while they were prisoners.

When Dan went to work in Beijing, Wendy and he used to talk on the phone in Chinese regularly. She celebrated her 100th birthday with a ride on a Harley-Davidson across the clifftop at Polzeath here in North Cornwall with Dan riding behind her to hold her on!

When she died a few weeks later she was satisfied that she has lived life to the full!

Dan often comes back to Polzeath and I was privileged last year to be invited to give the address at his wedding to Sarah and St Enedoc Church, known as John Betjeman’s church.

So every China bulletin has an extra poignancy at present. As a journalist I’m intrigued by what angle Dan has found. As a friend I’m looking forward to him getting out safely.

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