This sermon was preached at the anniversary of Wesley Mission's Chinese Congregation, on Sunday, 1st June at 10am.
This congregation is very important to Wesley Mission. You are the people of the future. Just as other centuries in history have been dominated by European countries, such as Greece, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain., England and so on, then the last century has been dominated by the United States of America, so the twenty-first century will belong to the Chinese.
You are the people of the Third Millennium. I foresaw this twenty years ago. In fact in 1979, I preached to the growing numbers of Chinese people in a Chinese service I had started in Wesley Mission on the theme: "It's God's Time In Asia." Later, I was to put Rev James Mau and Rev Fu Cain Chen onto the staff to minister to the growing number of Chinese we had in our congregation. Later when we began the International Congregation with Dr Tony Chi most of the Chinese attending came from Singapore.
But when I asked Rev Wilfred Chee to join us it was with the intention of better serving the Mandarin and Cantonese speaking Chinese. Because I have always had a burden in my heart for the Chinese people hearing the Gospel, especially those who were poor and unable to speak English. In 1979 I announced I would be starting a worship service for Chinese people. I had completed some research which indicated there were approximately 40,000 Chinese living in Sydney. By ringing all of the major churches and denominational headquarters in the city I established that a total of about 38,000 chinese did not go to any church. This I regarded as a mission field.
So I established a ministry of outreach to the Chinese, started services where my preaching was translated in Mandarin and Cantonese and then sought these two outstanding Chinese Ministers to take over. Later, Rev Dr Toni Chi came from Wesley Church Singapore and beginning with about 100 people he has built a wonderful Asian congregation in excess of 1,000 members.
I was admiring the fact that these Chinese in his service are affluent, educated and professional in their outlook and qualifications. The numbers of doctors, teachers, lawyers, accountants, professors, - is really outstanding. Mercedes cars crown our car park. They are Chinese of competence and ability who have really established themselves in this country but I knew there were many poor Chinese here. So not long after Rev Dr Wilfred Chee, joined our staff I said to him: "Are there any poor Chinese in Sydney?" Wilfred replied " Yes, there are many poor Chinese" I asked him "How many? Where do they live? Where do they work?" Wilfred replied "We do not know many but they probably work in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants."
I thought for a moment and then said. "Wilfred, I want you to lay aside for the next 2 months or for however long it will take you, all your regular responsibilities. We will get other people to cover for you on those but I want you to visit every Chinese Restaurant in Central Sydney. Visit every Chinese laundry and any other places of business which might employ Chinese. Do not go in the front entrance and do not speak to the proprietor. Instead go up the back lanes. I want you to meet the poor Chinese who do not speak English.
I want to enter the restaurant by the back door and speak directly to the workers. Find out who they are and what their needs are." Dr. Chee undertook a backdoor, back lane visitation program throughout the Central Business District. He reported that most of the people he met, were illegal immigrants. They were mostly illiterate and frequently financially exploited. He estimated there may be upwards of 2½ thousand such illegal, illiterate and exploited Chinese.
We had discovered a hidden people group where our normal methods of reaching Chinese would not work. We decided upon a strategy and Wilfred personally visited and invited many of these kitchen hands to an evangelistic mission. We conducted the evangelistic mission in our George Street complex near China Town, used only Chinese musical instruments and old well known Chinese hymns and conducted the mission commencing at 12 a.m. (midnight) to 2 a.m.. The reason why we ran the mission in the early hours of the morning was that this was the only time when the kitchen hands were free from work. 26 men made commitments to Christ in that evangelistic mission.
We established a church fellowship and worship service for them. Sunday's were not suitable for worship for them because they worked long hours on Sundays in order to feed wealthy Chinese Christians who love to go to restaurant after the service. Our worship service for kitchen hands were held on Wednesday afternoon at 3.30 p.m. - the time most were free. We then discovered we had to establish English speaking language classes and these were held early Saturday morning.
We then realised that most kitchen hands were locked into very boring and mundane work with no chance of improving themselves or their income. So we established with suitable translators work skill programs training these Chinese as specialised chefs and as front of the house waiters. We established also The Evangelical Chinese Library to provide elementary Christian books on theology and very soon we had scores of Chinese learning the language, learning new work skills and visiting our Church library often staying for hours. 4 or 5 mature Christian Chinese developed the library as a ministry talking with them, providing literature and a telephone ministry seeking better employment.
While working with this hidden "peoples group" we found there was a sub group of illegal workers. These were far from illiterate. They were mainly University Students who had overstayed their government approvals. They were illegal immigrants without work permits they were also working in positions where they were easily exploited. That group of students were likewise encouraged to attend special services for them at a time suitable and in a format that was close to their traditional culture. English speaking classes were established, work skill programs were commenced, books at their advanced level of understanding were purchased and the government was approached seeking amnesty for all of these over stayers so they would be free from prosecution.
To help students feel at home, important cultural festivals like "the Moon Festival" were held except on these occasions all the normal cultural emphases were made with a Christian message.
At the first Moon Festival attended by more than 800 Chinese students I preached on the theme that Christians do not look to the Moon - but to the Son of God. The audience grasped the difference instantly. The quality of musical performing skills, of singing and dance were absolutely outstanding.
We followed this up with a number of "Love China" programs to support the students who had been rejected by China's Government because of their association with Tienanmen Square. On the first anniversary of commencing this work among illegal students we had a new congregation with more than 120 baptised members. At the second anniversary we had 250 baptised members present. The development of these Chinese congregations from the hidden peoples group is a classic example of how a city church can minister to sub groups within the heart of the city. Most have since gone on their way, to other places, have graduated from the University and the restaurant kitchens. We need to find others whom we can serve, including new arrivals from Hong Kong.
God is preparing people for us to meet. He prepared my first close Chinese friend when I was three years of age. She was a three year old girl named Rosemary Woo. Her parents ran a Chinese laundry. Thirty years later, a member of a Chinese family knocked on my door and said, "Mr. Minister. Would you come and bury my sister. She is a Buddhist and we have no Buddhist priest." Of course I would. That family have remained friends with us to this day and later this year I will conduct the wedding service for their daughter.
When I stepped as a little boy through the doorway into the Chinese laundry I was beginning a journey that has made it possible for our family to step into a wonderful friendship that is rich to this day with hundreds of Chinese Families.
God prepares others for us, but we have to step over the threshold.
This Chinese congregation is very important to Wesley Mission. You are the people God is preparing to step into many doorways with the Gospel of Christ. Think now of how you will re-vitalise this ministry with the coming of Rev Bunyan Oey.
We congratulate you on wonderful years of ministry, but know that God will take this congregation into the Third Millennium in great strength.
Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes
Send this article to a friend!
Return to sermons home page