Sharing Christ with Africa's migrant Chinese
by John Stuart, SIM Singapore
2 July 2012
A nervous and disappointed migrant Chinese couple sat in a doctor’s office in South Africa, trying to take in what had just been explained to them. They lacked the money to pay for a vital procedure the woman needed, and they were concerned about her complicated ectopic pregnancy. Five thousand US dollars was the cost put before them for the procedure: an immense sum for a family newly arrived in Johannesburg from China, trying to eke out a living. They simply didn’t have it.
The story is one among thousands, as the Chinese population in Africa has mushroomed in recent years, dotting the landscape with ever increasing numbers of Chinese people. They come for one purpose: to make a better life. They work in business, mines, lumber, restaurants and in the various African projects of the People’s Republic. But with the help of SIM missionaries, some are finding much more than mere wages.
Tangible acts of love
It’s not easy to reach the Chinese Diaspora, which is estimated at 40 million worldwide. “Usually Chinese people are very relational, so you need to meet them personally, talk to them and assure them about the truth of Christ,” says Stanley Ling, SIM East Asia Director. “The church members themselves are very mobile, so you have to make the most of your time when the people are there and train them and try to disciple them.”
In Johannesburg, home to some 300,000 Chinese people, three new fellowships now meet where there was no church only a year ago. With the help of Malaysian Chinese SIM missionaries, Rev Sia Bik Sing and his wife Seow Ping, Braystone Methodist Church was born and two Bible studies were started.
The work of the Sias complements the ongoing work of Rev Frank and Ada Tuan, who have served in Johannesburg with SIM for nearly 20 years. With so many Chinese in Johannesburg, the goal is to mobilize more Chinese pastors to plant churches there. Some Chinese believers also want to serve as lay leaders in these churches, but theological education is often lacking.
Though many Chinese in Africa are considering the claims of Christ, tangible care and concern make the biggest impact. Hospitality ministry speaks powerfully to a culture that especially values acts of service.
So in August, when the Chinese couple couldn’t afford the ectopic pregnancy surgery, SIM missionaries arranged for them to see a physician at a government hospital. The woman was able to have the necessary surgery free of charge. It was a powerful witness to this couple. They are now attending an SIM fellowship, learning about the gospel from people filled with generosity through God’s love.
SIM is asking God for more people to help us serve and reach the Chinese diaspora. If you or someone you know would like to learn more, here are two types of positions we are seeking to fill: