An interview with Ed Wu: How PREP’s Leader Responds to the Coronavirus

Ever since the Coronavirus hit the United States I’ve been burdened for people in leadership who are having to make vital decisions on behalf of those under their care and leadership. I’ve been particularly burdened for Premier Education’s leader, Ed Wu, as he is navigating this pandemic that’s hit the United States with great force. I wanted to take some time to hear from him during this time so we know how to pray for him. I also wanted to expose others to the strong faith God has entrusted to lead Premier Education.

This coronavirus was named 2019-nCoV. Its first outbreak was in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China, a city of more than 11 million people and a major transportation hub.

1) About Wuhan

Emily: Does Wuhan have any significance to you or the PREP family?

Ed: Wuhan is the capital city of Hubei province and my hometown is just two hours away. I had to pass Wuhan to go from my hometown to college or return home. I still have many friends who are in Wuhan. Some of our students are from Wuhan, including Tony Dai, Tom Cen, and Jayson Li. So Wuhan is very dear to my heart and it was very hard for me to see it become the first epicenter of COVID-19. 

2) Help Students Navigate

Emily: You’ve been responding to this virus since its inception in Wuhan. Can you share with us how you have helped students navigate it?

Ed: We took very decisive steps to minimize the impact on our students and their families from the very beginning. We cancelled the Winter Camp which we host every year during the Chinese New Year. We did this so the students didn’t have to travel internationally and their parents didn’t worry about how they would get back. It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my life. But it turned out to be the best decision.

We knew eventually the virus would travel to where we live in the United States, so we started to prepare long before the first case was confirmed in Austin. We purchased essential supplies such as gloves, masks, and hand sanitizers for each of our students before they would run out. We organized a webinar and invited a student’s dad, who is a medical expert, to educate our students on the knowledge of epidemiology and practical tips to keep us all safe. We also can offer remote diagnosis to our students if they experience any sickness before taking them to a clinic. 

In addition, I believe the best way to fight the virus and the fear that comes with it is to find the meaning in it. Many of our students were very concerned about people who were suffering under the unprecedented lock down in their home country of China, so we transformed our Chinese New Year celebration to a fundraising event. We were able to raise $20,222 and we used those funds to purchase medical supplies and send them to Huanggang, my hometown, a small city next to Wuhan that was hit pretty hard. 

We also had a team of students who decided to wear a “Run for Wuhan” shirt in the Austin Marathon to raise awareness of this epidemic. 

My hope is that by engaging our students in conversations and activities like this, they will see a bigger picture and understand how they can protect themselves as well as contribute to a greater good.  

3) Decision Making

Emily: I would imagine you are feeling a significant burden as you make health decisions not only for your family but also for the children who are under your care and leadership with PREP. Can you share with us the process you use when making important decisions in response to the virus?

Ed: I am living between the two worlds. On one hand, the Chinese parents are extremely nervous and worrisome. On the other hand, some of our American host parents think this is just a flu and laugh about it. 

I have to lean on three very important sources to make important and difficult decisions. The first source is obviously God. No matter how difficult the situation is, I remember that God is in control and He has a perfect plan for all of us. The second source is my wife. I am very grateful that she is always my biggest supporter. When I made the decision to cancel Winter Camp, it was her who called the airlines hundreds of times to get a 100% refund for the parents. To prepare for the upcoming epidemic, it was my wife who purchased all the supplies and sent them to all of our students’ homes. Finally, my last source is a group of Chinese parents and host parents who I can consult with and I know they are praying for me. 

At the end of day, if I believe what we are doing is the right thing, and it honors God, then no matter the cost, I will make the hard decisions for my students. They are my number one priority and it’s a divine responsibility for me to be here for them. I do have to recognize that I need to do a good job sensitively communicating with their parents in China, their host families in America and the school administrators.  I am fortunate to work with a group of believers who are compassionate, loving, and graceful. 

4) Faith and Fear

Emily: Can you tell me how you balance your faith and fear with regard to the Coronavirus? 

Ed: I always say, “Be careful but not fearful”. If we truly believe in God, there is no fear because He has prepared a much better, more beautiful world than this world we are in. But we shouldn’t test God by taking unnecessary risks and put ourselves or people around us in danger. For these reasons we are taking serious steps to practice social distancing. At the same time, we should still live an active and joyful lifestyle and believe all of this will soon pass, in His timing.  

I also believe there is great blessing that comes with pain and suffering. Yes, we have to stay at home for most of the time in the foreseeable future, but this can be a time for the host parents and students to really spend quality time together. It can be a time for them to have some good spiritual conversations. It can be a time that we all can become stronger. I am very hopeful. 

Wu’s family slide to add some humor into the virus mess

5) About Prayer

Emily: How can our PREP family pray for you during this challenging time?

Ed: Firstly, help me praise our Lord, for everything He has done, is doing, and will be doing through us! 

Secondly, pray for strength and wisdom as I lead my family and ministry through this trying time. Pray that God will use me and my wife to serve people and students in or outside of our services, as best as we can.

Finally, pray for clarity in planning for the summer and the next school year. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord makes his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

-Numbers 6:24-26