Hong Kong missions volunteers see India's search for faith
EDITORS' NOTE: The following story is one of six released by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in support of this month's International Missions Emphasis, with the theme of "That All Peoples May Know Him: Seek God's Passion."
ANDHRA PRADHESH, India (BP)--An elderly woman pushes her way to the front of the line. She bows her head and murmurs something in Telugu to the Chinese man praying at the front.
She is a devout woman. Evidence of her dedication and devotion, as well as blessing, is symbolized by the red dot on her forehead. She prays and offers sacrifices daily to a wide variety of gods and idols. She even came to tonight's gospel meeting to receive a blessing from the residing priest.
However, this Chinese man is different from the Hindu priests she knows. This man cannot speak her language, yet there is an unexplainable bond. He gently touches the woman's head and prays.
"Father, this woman reminds me of my own family back in Hong Kong -- worshiping anything in search of the one true God," the man says through tears. "Even Hindu followers have come here to ask for blessings from you. This woman doesn't know which god is the true God; she is just fighting for a blessing. Bless her tonight as only you can. Amen."
The woman walks away with a feeling of warmth as the Chinese man leans over to his wife and whispers, "I had no idea it was also like this in other parts of the world," he says about the masses of people without Christ. "I would not have missed this missions trip for the world."
A GROWING MOVEMENT
A growing volunteer missions movement among Chinese Christians living in Hong Kong keeps church members busy during their holiday breaks. One Hong Kong Baptist pastor said in the last two years his church has sent out more volunteer missionaries than ever before. This year alone, his church sponsored 10 short-term trips to mainland China and Taiwan.
This particular trip is a little different, however. Instead of carrying the gospel message to fellow Chinese, this group of 14 Hong Kong Christians ventured into a third-world community in southern India. Two weeks of playing with 150 children in a children's home, visiting villages and speaking at gospel meetings led to a new awareness in Christ.
"This is so different than other mission trips I have taken. We cannot speak their language here, and the culture is so different," Lisa Tong* says. "You have no idea what you are getting yourself into and then it just hits you -- you are here to speak about God's love, and his love just comes shining through."
Tong and her teammates walk daily through the rice paddies on their way to visit the homes of their new Indian friends. They speak of how poor the country is and how they have never seen poverty such as this. At the small, thatch-roofed home, the host family offers a glass of warm water-buffalo milk -- the best drink they can offer. Before the team members leave the home, they pray for the family and share about Christ.
"You would never have this reaction in Hong Kong or China," Tong says. "There is more opportunity to speak the gospel here."
STRATEGY FOR THE NATIONS
A Southern Baptist worker who arranged the cross-cultural opportunity thinks this exact experience is what will help spread the gospel to "all" nations.
"When you take the gospel to a different culture, it makes you think more about how to communicate the gospel; it gives you new insights; and you grow in your love for people -- all people," he says. "You begin to love and share with people you wouldn't normally share with. That's when you experience God's love in a different way."
Watching the transformation of the team from reserved Chinese to expressive "big brothers and sisters" of the children in the children's home is what cross-cultural missions is all about.
"Chinese culture is so reserved; they are not comfortable with or free to express emotion," the Baptist worker says. "By the end of this trip to India, the team is hugging kids, smiling and walking around holding hands with kids, and they feel comfortable talking to almost anyone.
"When they go back to Hong Kong, those on this team will be more involved in evangelism because of what they've learned here."
Chinese Baptist pastor Jerry Yau* couldn't agree more. He encourages all of his church members to take a mission trip.
"When Christians get involved in missions and preach the gospel and then come back to our church, they seem to get more involved," Yau says. "They are bolder in their walk. Their heart is stronger for God, and they want to preach the gospel locally. We see that they begin to openly influence others around them.
"In a city such as Hong Kong where there are only 300,000 Christians -- most of [whom] are first-generation -- this newfound fire for the gospel is going to make all of the difference."
*Real names not used in order to protect the Chinese Christians. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PUBLIC STAND, MAN TO MAN, BLESSINGS, PLAYING GAMES and ADAPTING.