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Plugging into God's work in Hong Kong
August 28, 2002
Winnipeg, Man.For international mission workers, Tim and Cindy Buhler, the most exciting part of their work in Hong Kong is that theyre called "not to do our own thing" but to plug into the work God is already doing there as co-workers in the Agape Mennonite Church, working alongside Pastor Jeremiah Choi, the national leader of the church.
The Buhlers of Abbotsford, BC, have just completed a three-month leave from their outreach ministry and returned to Hong Kong at the end of August. Previously they did international ministry in Taiwan. Tim served as Associate Pastor at EbenEzer Mennonite Church (1991-93) and Facilities Manager at Northview Community Church in Abbotsford (1993-98).
In Winnipeg recently to debrief after their three-year overseas assignment and to orientate themselves to their new home sending agency, Mennonite Church Canada Witness (they were originally recruited and sent to Hong Kong by COM in 1999 and are now also sponsored by Mennonite Mission Network in the USA), this highly organized and quietly energetic couple shared their enthusiasm for their work during a lunch-time, multi-media presentation for MC Canada office staff and a few guests. They did so with a creative Asiatic flare, using both old and new technologies, including a colourful photo and craft display, a Hong Kong trivia quiz, a computerized note-pad to refer to for details, a self-made video of their beloved city, and of course, the spoken word.
"In everything we do, we focus on building one-on-one relationships and on prayer" says Cindy with quiet conviction. Whether that revolves around working within the church alongside Pastor Jeremiah Choi of Agape Mennonite Church (one of three Mennonite Churches in Hong Kong) or in "next door" outreach ministries, such as teaching English to students through the Helping Hands Center, an after school tutoring program, or persevering two years of full-time language study, as they did. "That was difficult", acknowledges Cindy, "because Cantonese is a tonal language, involving seven tones". But they continued to feel "Gods peace and eventually made it through!"
In fact, Tim preached his first sermon in Cantonese (without a translator) just prior to visiting Canada and was still invigorated by that experience. Preparing for that sermon, was "pretty scary stuff", said Tim, "so we prayed that I might focus not on myself but on Gods agenda". And to his amazement, after the sermon, when Pastor Choi invited people to respond, a long-time member of the congregation "recommitted his life to going all the way with God". Since then, he said, there has been an email conversation among members of the congregation exploring what life would be like if we committed each day to Gods agenda.
"Basically, Agape Mennonite Church has become our home," enthused Tim "and working alongside Pastor Choi has been a blessing. He is a visionary pastor who tries whatever it takes to spread the Gospel."
Cindy and Tim speak with conviction of their sense of call to this work, their ongoing interest in and love of Asian people and what they are learning through this work.
"As for me," says Cindy, "I thrive on building one-to-one relationships with the ladies and have a deep sense that this is where Im supposed to be. Theyre not believers, but they are so open to getting to know me, to learning English, to getting to know each other by saying let me take you out for tea. I find that life-giving."
"I have a strong sense of call from God to do this work," says Tim, "Especially the aspect of working as a co-worker with Pastor Choi. My gifts come out when I can work alongside someone like this. And right now, the church here doesnt need strong leaders (from outside) rather, mission workers to walk alongside them, workers who are not afraid to give input when needed but with the understanding of that theyre walking alongside."
When asked if this supportive, non-directive "find-out-as-you go" approach to mission, is like being on a spiritual adventure, they agreed quickly: "Yes! Thats what it is!"
The Buhlers have two daughters, Chelsey (11) and Kristyn (9). Readers can offer their prayers of support and words of encouragement to the Buhlers in care of the Hong Kong Mennonite Centre, 76 Waterloo Road, 1/F, Kowloon, Hong Kong (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). They also have a web site at http://www.hkmenno.org/buhlermgrf.htm.
Sidebar: Test your Hong Kong Knowledge
Tim and Cindy Buhler
1: c); 2: b), though some areas are as high as c); 3: c); 4: b); 5: b) it is an offence punishable by hefty fines to eat on Hong Kongs public transit system; 6: a)