Methodist Church

A missionary field in ‘our own backyard’

Brisbane Methodist Church reaches out to China workers

BRISBANE – Since the voyages of discovery in the 15th Century, the pattern of missionary efforts has consistently been that of Western missionaries bringing the Good News to the East. This has changed over the last few decades.

Globalisation and the development of regional labour markets have created new opportunities for missionary efforts, and must necessarily broaden our view of how missions are planned and executed. The influx of workers from China into Australia, for example, has brought the mission field into our very own backyards. At Eight Mile Plains, we have seen how the Lord has brought the harvest to the labourers and blessed the efforts of those who responded to the call to go into this mission field at home.

In January 2006, Peter, a worshipper at Eight Mile Plains Chinese Methodist Church, learned from a relative that a group of workers from China would soon be arriving in Brisbane to work for a major meat processing company.

Peter said: “When I was first informed of this, I felt a deep concern for their well-being, and I knew God had put a burden in my heart to do something for them.” In April that year, 75 couples arrived in Brisbane and were accommodated in a complex of townhouses arranged by their employer.

Most of the workers are from the northern provinces of China, such as Shengyang, Shangdong, Jilin, Tianjin and Hebei. They come from small townships or villages where farming is the main occupation. Some are factory workers, meat workers, barbers, cooks, truck drivers and teachers. They are on a four-year contract with hopes of making enough money to afford a better lifestyle when they return to China.

Peter started by helping the workers to settle down in the country. He assisted them with tenancy agreements, travel and work insurance, acquisition of cars and licences, and acted as their interpreter with the non-Chinese-speaking sector. However, he soon saw the need for the church to be involved if these people were to be reached for God’s Kingdom.

In June 2006, the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) took the work among the Chinese workers under its wings and several initiatives were put in place to minister to them in a more concerted way. English classes, conducted in the church premises, brought the workers into direct contact with the church. Subsequently, they participated in a host of church activities, such as the Christmas, Chinese New Year and Easter celebrations.

It was not easy for the Chinese workers to attend worship services on Sundays as many of them worked the night-to-morning shift on Saturdays and Sundays. Their main source of spiritual food came through bible studies conducted by several of our regular worshippers at small group meetings fortnightly.

Working with the Chinese workers is both a challenge and a joy for Justina. She recalled: “After reading the story of Brother Yun in ‘The Heavenly Man’, I had this desire to help bring the Gospel to the Chinese people. But how will it be possible for me to work with the Chinese without going to China? God is great! He brought the Chinese people to us.”

Besides her mother and husband, Justina had never shared the Gospel with anyone. “I was quite nervous when I shared the Gospel for the first time,” she admitted. Today, Justina readily shares the Gospel with any Chinese worker who shows the slightest interest.

Currently, about 40 Chinese workers are actively involved in small group meetings. Several have committed their lives to Christ. One was baptised last year, and we had the privilege and joy of witnessing eight of them being baptised on Easter Sunday this year.

Peter noted: “We are not certain what will happen after their contracts expire. Some may extend their visas, but most would probably return to China. If we can train them to become disciples and missionaries of our Lord, what an impact they will make when they return to China.” – Methodist News, official newsletter of the Chinese Methodist Church of Australia.

Pin Hien Lam is the Pastor of Eight Mile Plains Chinese Methodist Church in Brisbane.



UN Foundation invites UMC to apply for grant

NEW YORK – The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been invited by the United Nations Foundation to apply for up to US$5 million (S$6.8 million) to underwrite a campaign to strengthen its global health ministries.

The fund-raising, education and outreach campaign would aim to raise US$100 million over three years and would especially support the church’s efforts to eradicate malaria and other diseases of poverty in Africa.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, received the invitation in mid-January through the United Nations Foundation, which is helping to facilitate the grant process.

Underwriting support is being provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The UMC plans to submit a formal grant proposal in a process that began in May last year with a letter of inquiry. The details need to be worked out.

Ms Elizabeth Gore, Executive Director of Partnership Alliances for the UN Foundation, said: “We at the UN Foundation feel this is an extraordinary opportunity for the people of The United Methodist Church.”

The United Methodist Church has long been a key player in the fight against malaria and other diseases of poverty, having operated hospitals, clinics, schools and mission centres across Africa for more than 160 years.

In recent years, the UMC has increasingly sought ways to partner with other organisations – particularly in its global health initiatives – to leverage funding and gain greater access to networks and knowledge that can contribute to substantive global change.

Global health is one of four areas of focus identified by the UMC as part of its long-term vision.
United Methodist News Service.