Multinational Ministry in Southern China
A group of 24 people from Church of All Nations and Hong Kong International School visited our CWEF and LCMS ministries in the Jiangmen area, Guangdong Province, China December 17-19. Day 1 of the trip was dedicated to visiting girls supported by a joint CAN/HKIS scholarship program, while Day 2 involved visiting a local church. The diverse group of participants included CAN members, HKIS students, and Lutheran Theological Seminary students.
Scholarship Winners Speak Out About the Environment
On Saturday, we visited the beautiful campus of the Heshan #1 Secondary School. We met with 29 female scholarship winners, all of whom are very bright and hard-working since they gained a seat at this prestigious school, the best in the area.
In contrast to previous visits in which the two groups had informal sharing, this time the principal requested that we prepare an issue-based lesson in which the girls practiced their English skills. So, our group of adults and students led the scholarship winners through a 3-hour lesson plan in which they learned about global environmental issues, practiced new vocabulary, had discussions, and then wrote and delivered a speech about their topic. We hope to follow this model with a new topic of interest on our next trip.
One of the HKIS students who most enjoyed the trip was Tracy Tang (2nd from the right below), senior at HKIS. Tracy, who is supporting this scholarship program as her Senior Project this year, recently held a “yogathon” and raised more than $14,000 HK ($1800 US), enough to provide 5 of the girls with a full year of education.
A Home Visit
In the afternoon, we visited the girls’ homes in the countryside to meet their families and to understand more about the challenges they face. Zella, Micah, and I were taken to the home of a girl who had the disposition of a young professor, and we weren’t surprised when she said that her favorite subject was physics. After a twenty-minute ride, we walked through a small village along a narrow path to the family home. As we entered, we interrupted the mother and her 12 year-old daughter who were sewing and folding white sleeves for shoes that would later be put into shoeboxes for sale. Selling these sleeves to shoe companies supplemented the family income. The father, we learned, earned a small salary as some kind of builder or construction worker, while the mother stayed at home taking care of her father-in-law and the family’s three children. Sadly, the 11 year-old son was born deaf and has a heart condition, which has been a large financial burden for the family. We were struck by the fact that the boy, while three years older than Micah, was several inches shorter. Having visited the Foshan orphanage many times, we respected the family’s decision to keep their son, despite the financial toll this must have taken on the family. Following our conversation, Mrs. Fung took us out to their vegetable patch and insisted that we take with us a homegrown papaya, which Zella cooked into a tasty soup back in Hong Kong.
Sharing Ministry Perspectives
Thanks to CAN sponsorship, eight international students – five from Myanmar, two from Laos, and one from Cambodia – joined the trip this year to understand how these kinds of experiences can serve multiple ministry purposes. Of course, as first-time visitors to China, they were thrilled to travel to a country that they had heard so much about, but had never had the chance to visit. On Sunday morning, we drove to a semi-rural area where we have contact with a church and joined their worship service. Following an introduction of our group to the congregation, the seminarians led us in the singing of two Christmas carols. Then one student, Pwimt, shared her testimony with the congregation.
My own personal highlight of the weekend came next. Sitting in the sanctuary, we arranged for local Chinese church leaders to meet with the 8 seminarians for a time of sharing about their respective ministries, all facilitated by our bi/tri-lingual HKIS students. I overhead one Chinese woman asking how to interpret what she saw as a contradiction in a passage in Isaiah 29. A palpable sense of strong interest – even intensity – surrounded the group as these Christian leaders had the chance to learn from each other.
The intimate visit at the church came to a close with a shared meal at a local restaurant. At my table, conversation between Chinese pastors and Burmese church leaders continued, as we discussed and compared the two cultures and the various local conditions.
Overall, the trip was a great success! Students provided useful tutoring to the scholarship students, and gained some insight into the lives of the girls whom we are sponsoring. The seminarians all told me how much the enjoyed their unforgettable trip to China, all the more special because they met their Christian counterparts serving in comparable ministries.
A Word of Gratitude
Many thanks go to Iantha Scheiwe, the director of CWEF, and her Guangdong manager, Dolphin Liu, for arranging the many details of the trip. I also want to say a word of appreciation to John Plagens, ESOL professor at Japan Lutheran College, who created Saturday’s well-organized and highly effective lesson plan. The Jim Handrich Service Endowment Fund should also be recognized for provided funding to allow two of the Heshan girls to visit the yogathon several weeks ago. Finally, we continue to be grateful to CAN and HKIS for their generous support of the girls as well as for the sponsorship of the seminarians.