Visible, yet unseen

12 Jun, 2014 | Hong Kong
OM International
A girl from an ethnic minority group in Hong Kong learns to write in Chinese. This is one way OM is reaching out to ethnic minority immigrants in the city.
As in any world-class city, Hong Kong attracts workers from around the world who are often from visibly different races and cultures. Many come in the hopes of securing a better future for their children, leaving behind the familiarities of family, language and community. Often finding work in service industries, they are ignored by the local majority and treated as second-class citizens.

Interestingly, the total number of ethnic minority immigrants – from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Nepal and elsewhere – parallels the number of Christian believers in Hong Kong. Recognising this, OM has developed various ministries to reach out to various groups.

In the 90s, ministry was focused on mainland Chinese immigrants, later shifting to Indonesian maids. In 2011, a new ministry to 18,000 immigrants from Pakistan was launched.

While connecting with whole families is the goal of the ministry, the team saw immediate points of contact with the wives and children of men who work long hours as security guards, construction labourers or in shops. They meet in parks on Friday nights; women meet with the Pakistani women while men play sports with the children. As trust is built, the team offers help with schoolwork for the children, half of whom are born here and fluent in Chinese while the others struggle.

Language is an issue for the parents, too: While half the men are fluent in Cantonese, most of the rest speak English. However, only 30 per cent of the women speak English and 5-10 per cent speak Chinese. Thus they are dependent on friends and family not only for social life but also dealing with bureaucracy and life in Hong Kong in general.

Most of all, they need and appreciate help and interest by local believers. “We believe that God wants local churches to embrace the immigrant community,” said ministry leader Lincoln*, “but many churches are slow to accept this; the differences seem too huge. Still, this is our strategy and goal – not to do this on behalf of churches, but with them. Our dream is that they will discard the ‘us vs. them’ labels and see all people as God does.”

Over 1,000 local Christians have been involved at least once in outreach with the team who, knowing that it is a learning process, demand a commitment to participate at least four times in a two-month period. Today there are two full-time and two part-time OMers involved, leading 40 volunteers on Friday night outreach.

In the past year, more than 200 Pakistanis have been contacted, of whom more than 60 have gone to a deeper level in relationship and 20 families are actively involved. “It’s very time consuming to ‘be there’ for other people – but that time together is valuable.”

Pray for the team and those they contact. Pray also for Hong Kong churches to rise to the challenge of reaching their different, visible but unseen neighbours.

*Full name not included for security reasons

Credit: OM International · © 2014 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

OM exists to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.

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