08 October 2012

Reflections on another Hong Kong Adventure

by Dr Mark Keown

Two years ago I went to Hong Kong to do ministry. I have just got back from another eleven day Hong Kong jaunt, fellowshipping and ministering at the Vine at the invitation of my great friend and ex-Laidlaw student, Andrew (and Christine) Gardener (http://thevine.org.hk). This one involved two Saturdays lecturing at the Vine Bible School (Manna) on the writings of the apostle Paul, preaching at the Vine mid-week at African, South East Asian and Nepalese refugee gatherings, and some time with the Vine staff. Here are some reflections.

First, Hong Kong is relentless. People work long hours (often 10 am to 10 pm each day). The Christians in ministry are no exception. I sometimes feel busy here in New Zealand, but it is nothing in comparison. Not only is it busy, but the pace of life is full on. For those at the Vine, when they get to work they have to stay often late at night because public transport is the only real option and some come to work by ferry or long bus trip. It is a corporate material culture, and work is highly valued. For the non-Christians many of whom accept reincarnation, work will get a better “next life.” For the Christians to engage, they have to incarnate in the relentless pace. It is a hard place to work, especially for those with young families. Pray for those caught up in it.

Second, Hong Kong accommodation is expensive. We have a four-bedroom home with a pool in Albany, Auckland, and that would get you a small moderate two-bedroom, one kitchen-lounge and bathroom high rise in Hong Kong. Rentals are also comparable to this. This is a huge challenge for those on low incomes, with the minimum wage HK$28 an hour (that’s about NZ$6.70). Education is expensive too. Christian workers face real challenges here.

Thirdly, the gospel is going crazy in Hong Kong. One mission worker who works in mainland China says that it is estimated 28,000 Chinese are converting to Christ a day! That’s around 850,000 per month, and 10 million a year! There are now some 120 million Christians in China, and growing. Their greatest need is for Bibles. In Hong Kong, even in English, bringing Christ into the conversation is never a problem. They are wide open. They might not become Christians, but they are happy to talk about it. The shroud of cynicism and criticism we encounter especially among westerners is not evident. There is a hunger for God. Everything feels spiritually elevated. The Vine in Hong Kong has a big ministry to the many asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong; they are so hungry. One expects to see people come to Christ when you speak and one is not surprised that people experience Christ directly in power. It is very refreshing after ministry in what is often barren NZ. They also need theological teaching big time. Asia is a path more with post-graduate degrees should consider. More and more should also learn Mandarin at school and university.

Fourthly, the “Back to Jerusalem” movement is fascinating (http://backtojerusalem.com). This is the idea that God is raising up Chinese Christians to evangelise the countries between China and Jerusalem. The vision is for Chinese Christians to go as tentmakers to live in these nations either side of the Silk Road, and to establish businesses and set up house churches. Most of these are Islamic countries, and so the challenges are great. However, they are prepared to die for the cause, as many have done so in China in the last century or so. Many of them believe that in so doing, they will complete the Great Commission, the great movement west of the gospel from Jerusalem and back. Whether this is true or not, it is most definitely the work of God to raise up tens of thousands of missionaries in this way. We talked to some Americans who are involved in training these missionaries. They said that westerners are now compromised as missionaries. Even as workers, people see us coming and know why we are there. On the other hand, the Chinese can get into these nations and are not seen as a threat. The next wave of mission in the world will not be western inspired, it will be Asian, especially Chinese and South Korean. We need to get behind them and support them.

Finally, if you are at a loose end for Jesus and wondering where you can make a difference, consider Asia and especially China and Hong Kong. Go and work and take Christ with you.

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