Chinese-Australian group visits Malawi’s Chinese diaspora
By Ian Farrimond | Malawi in Southern Africa
The group members.
A group of seven Chinese-Australian Christians, from the Evangelical Free Church of Australia (EFCA) East Lindfield, recently went on a short-term mission to Malawi, to better understand outreach opportunities among the Chinese Diaspora in both Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Lilongwe and Blantyre both have significant Chinese populations, the former having greater numbers than the latter. It has been a long-held desire of SIM Malawi to reach out to these communities with the gospel. In October the group was invited to Malawi by Pete and Jo Ong to see at first-hand some of the challenges in reaching out to both Malawians and the Chinese Diaspora, as group leader Alice Li explained.
Alice said: “As a church, EFCA has a partnership with the Ong family. Our old pastor is good friends with Pete and that is how it started.
“We send a lot of mission teams around the world – to Japan, Thailand, Dubai and East Asia – to partner with and support our long-term missionaries. Stephen Yu, who is my co-leader but unfortunately couldn’t come at the last moment, is very passionate about mission, mobilising people, encouraging people to see what mission is like first-hand, and challenging them to think about long-term mission.”
The group discovered many Chinese people in Malawi are simply here to build a new life and make money, and these factors work against outreach to them.
Alice said, “We had mixed reactions to our outreach. We came across some Chinese Buddhists and they were quite closed to the gospel. They were like, ‘No, no, no, we believe in Buddha and that is okay.’ But others were quite open to hearing about Jesus.”
“We also came across a Korean missionary couple working with the Chinese in Lilongwe. They had lived in China for five years, so they had the language and they were specifically here in Malawi to reach the Chinese. Their English wasn’t very good so when we met them, all conversation was in Mandarin – a room full of Australians and Koreans speaking in Chinese! The couple has been in Malawi for three years trying to share the gospel, and they have not seen one person convert.
“On numerous occasions, the Korean missionaries have tried to invite them over for dinner; they intentionally rented a house in a more Chinese area of the city, but many people, even though they had invited them, said that they were too busy or hadn’t actually accepted the invitation to the meal.”
Despite setbacks, both the Australian short-term mission team and the Korean couple are confident that, in God’s timing, inroads will be made with this community.
The group started in on this process by hosting a meal as an outreach event at a Chinese restaurant in Lilongwe. Alice said: “The outreach event came about because Pete knew the restaurant owner and we were wondering, how can we reach out to people?
“We thought, ‘We can do prayer walks and we can reach out to them, but what if we can invite them to an event and share the gospel with them clearly? We raised funds back in Australia; everyone was very supportive and thought it was a good idea.
“We had a budget of 500 Australian dollars to work with, so we booked out this restaurant through our relationship with the restaurant owner who was happy to accommodate it, with our budget to have 50 or 60 people come from the community. So, we went out inviting people, going to all the Chinese shops, inviting them to this dinner where we could share with them.
"... the team was still very encouraged that, even though we were reaching out to non-Christians, God was working quite clearly through Christians, and the local Christians we were able to identify."
“On the night, not many people turned up, but the team was still very encouraged that, even though we were reaching out to non-Christians, God was working quite clearly through Christians, and the local Christians we were able to identify.”
The team discovered a small group of Chinese Christians in Lilongwe who are establishing their own Chinese Church. They hope to worship and read the Bible together in their own language.
In addition to the outreach to the Chinese Diaspora, the team was involved in children’s Bible clubs. The group was shocked when between 100 and 200 children showed up for the club. The attendance was ten times what they would usually expect for a Sunday School class back home in Sydney!
As with any short-term mission trip, what happens after returning to the home environment is important. Alice said: “Going back to Australia, I think lots of different things could happen.”
“God works in many different ways, and each member of the team has been impacted differently. I think some people may be considering longer-term missions a bit more seriously, particularly in the Chinese Diaspora ministry. We see that there is great need here in Malawi, and some people have been challenged as to whether this is where God is calling them.”
• For the team to process what they have seen and how God has touched their hearts.
• For the missionaries in Malawi to effectively disciple others. Pray also for strength and perseverance, particularly when facing spiritual attacks.
• For the Chinese community in Malawi as seeds have been planted. Pray they will hear the gospel and respond in repentance and faith.
This story first appeared on SIM Malawi's website in the Amoto E-magazine.