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Tsunami response: Macau, China

    Jan 11, 2005
-by Dan Dyck

Cindy and Tim Buhler (centre) are actively engaged in planting a relevant congregation in Macau, a city state in China. The recent tsunami crisis provided an opportunity for them to model discipleship for their fledgling congregation. Crystal Lee, at left, works with them in this ministry. Samson Lo, at right, is Mennonite Church Canada’s director of multicultural ministry. He was visiting in connection with a project to translate into Chinese the Mennonite Confession of Faith.

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Winnipeg, Man. — Despite studies in recent decades that suggest the church and Christian faith is irrelevant in today’s society, the response of individuals to tsunami appeals by church aid organizations suggests otherwise.

Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers, Tim and Cindy Buhler are actively engaged in planting a relevant congregation in Macau. This disaster opened up an opportunity to model discipleship and caring in their fledgling church. The congregation responded in prayer for the victims and then collected a Sunday worship offering for relief –their largest offering ever.

Mennonite Church Canada Witness also supports the Wade family in its work with the Mennonite Churches of Hong Kong. The Buhlers served there until last summer. “Over in Hong Kong we hear of donations adding up into the millions of Hong Kong dollars as Hong Kong has confirmed 13 deaths and still has 62 persons missing…One woman in Hong Kong paid $250 CDN for a few vegetables as the entire sales amount was to go to help the victims,” said Buhler.

Meanwhile, schools in Hong Kong were being asked to watch for children who did not return to classes. Thailand is a nearby vacation destination for many in Hong Kong.

Buhler said that the International Christian School (ICS) of Hong Kong, where their daughter Kristyn (12) attended last year, had lost one student. “Yvette was a friend of Kristyn's. They were together at a sleep over last year. I saw Kristyn making sure she had her offering go to the Tsunami victims as well,” said Buhler about the Macau church offering.

Kathi Suderman, a Witness ministry worker in Beijing, reports that the tsunami has generated the largest ever foreign disaster relief response from the Chinese government (reported to be over $60 million USD).

A Chinese friend and relatively new Christian told Suderman the natural disaster is prompting philosophical discussion in some circles. The friend commented that her contacts “… have been discussing why this had occurred, and some had been talking not about the scientific explanation for the tsunamis, but rather in more philosophical terms. Some were of the opinion that it had occurred because of mankind's misuse of the ocean, taking too many fish from the ocean, a kind of retribution from the heavens or god.”

Gordon Janzen oversees the international ministry program in Asia for Mennonite Church Canada Witness. “These kinds of philosophical questions are windows of opportunity for workers to interact with local people over God questions,” says Janzen. “This disaster will pose deep questions for people for some time to come. My prayer is that many more people will seek out answers to their spiritual questions and that through the support of our workers, we can together model the gospel and discipleship to whole new groups of people. As Christians seeking to build up strong churches around the world, it is an especially critical time for us to show others how the local church is relevant in Asia.”

While Mennonite Church Canada does not directly operate ministries in the immediate regions affected by the fatal waves, Witness workers and mission associates are scattered throughout Asia. Mennonite Church Canada leaders encourage generous, sacrificial giving of time and resources in response to the tragic tsunami, but note that the increased need in the Indian Ocean region has not diminished the need for mission and development in other parts of the world.