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Mission workers: China update

   

December 08, 2003
- Dan Dyck


Dewi Kumalasari ministers to foreign domestic workers from her cell phone. Kumalasari from Indonesia and Nora Iwarat from the Philippines work out of the Cheung Chau Christian Fellowship, a ministry of the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Hong Kong. CMCHK receives financial support from Mennonite Church Canada.
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Winnipeg, Man.—Ferries are a fact of life in the Pearl River Delta.

These sleek, turbojet sea craft carry up to 400 passengers and skim across the ocean surface at up to 100 kilometres an hour. They also offer a critical transportation link between Mennonite Church Canada ministries in Macau and Hong Kong, and an emerging ministry on one of the many islands that dot the Pearl River delta.

Gordon Janzen, MC Canada Mission Partnership Facilitator for Asia recently spent 3 weeks visiting workers in Asia, providing support for changes, attending China Educational Exchange (CEE) meetings, and connecting with the ‘on-the-ground’ ministries of workers.

Janzen’s eyes light up when he tells the story of Nora Iwarat and Dewi Kumalasari, two women who have developed a ministry to about 100 foreign domestic workers on the island of Cheung Chau in the Pearl River Delta region.

Iwarat and Kumalasari operate their ministry out of the Cheung Chau Christian Fellowship, a program of the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Hong Kong (CMCHK). Most of the workers they relate to are away from home on two year contracts.

“These two women have a real heart for domestic workers from their own home countries of the Philippines and Indonesia,” said Janzen. “Domestic labourers in Cheung Chau come seeking a better life, but struggle with homesickness. Many suffer emotional abuse from employers. Sometimes they need advocates for legal issues. Nora and Dewi provide counseling and worship services for the workers.” Iwarat and Kumalasari live at the Cheung Chau Christian Fellowship centre, a ministry supported in part by MC Canada through financial assistance to the CMCHK.

Janzen also visited the Nan-Chong Church where MC Canada workers Todd and Jeanette Hanson (Prince Albert Alliance and Tiefengrund Mennonite, Sask.) live and serve. The Nan-Chong church is currently planning a church building project. The new structure, with 3 levels and seating for 1300, will replace the current structure which seats 600 but is already condemned. Nan-Chong Church pastors Wang and Zhu hope to follow the building of the main church with the construction of a school, parsonage, training center, and dining hall.

As part of his travels, Janzen participated in a panel discussion with CEE teachers on the virtues and challenges of teaching English in China. One teacher related the story of a consistently frustrating and argumentative student. One night, this student was visiting her house along with other students. Completely by surprise, this student said “I will be a Christian. Please guide me.”

These and other experiences, says Janzen, “… have strengthened my understanding of teaching English in China as a valid and significant ministry in itself – not merely a means to doing other ministry.”

MC Canada workers Todd and Jeanette Hanson teach English and work to establish social welfare projects, connecting with local Christian congregations and helping to develop local church leaders in Nan-Chong, China. Rod and Kathi Suderman (Aberdceen Mennonite, Sask.) serve in Beijing, China, as in-country directors of the CEE program. Their CEE work offers opportunities for hospitality ministries and connections with the wider Chinese Church. Cari Friesen (Mount Royal Mennonite, Saskatoon) has just begun teaching English at Chongqing Normal University. The Hansons, Sudermans, and Friesen receive financial support from MC Canada for their ministry.