Increasing number of overseas Chinese students in Ukraine has raised the need to develop missions in the country, chairman of a leading California-based Chinese mission group says.
In the latest magazine of the Gospel Operation International for Chinese Christians (Go Int’l), an article written by Rev. Cyrus Lam features the mission field in post-soviet Ukraine. Based on the experiences of Global Missions Partnership (GMP) led by Rev. Peter Tow, Lam described the situation of Chinese missions in the country.
Around 10 years ago, GMP has started reaching out to the 10,000 Chinese living in five to six major cities in Ukraine by providing theological education and youth ministries. In the past, Tow- a Singaporean Chinese- has been running English ministries but the communication with Chinese churches has been problematic. Therefore, he also works in partnership with Go Int’l for better communication.
"Now is the golden opportunity for evangelism and church planting, many Western mission organizations have already rushed in to offer assistance," shared one of the Baptist church ministers in Ukraine.
Each city in Ukraine has some particular characteristics that may affect the mission strategies. Kiev is the city with the highest Chinese population. Since GMP established the first Chinese Baptist church in Ukraine in the city of Kiev in 2002, the churches in Kiev are of larger scale. Over 100 Chinese students were baptized and most of them have returned to China. The target of evangelism in Kiev is university students. The congregation size is now around 60-70 and is being taken care by short-term missionaries. However, a long-term minister is needed.
In Simferopol, there are a huge number of medical overseas students- over 1,000 from Malaysia and over a few hundreds from China. The mission has started since an American missionary established an English-speaking international church and a Chinese ministry was set up for the Chinese students. However, in order to provide pastoral care for them through translations, the church wishes to recruit some Chinese-speaking missionaries.
Over 1,300 students came from Mainland China to study in Odessa, a city famous for its music colleges. After pursing a bachelor degree in music, most of the students continue on master or doctoral degree. Another group of Chinese is the businessmen engaging in wholesale or retail services in the garment manufacturing industry. Go Int’l has sent out the first missionary couples in late 2005, around 30 people have turned to Christ within two months and a church was just recently planted.
Lam pointed out the urgency to send missionaries for church planting and shepherding in Ukraine in face of the great harvest time for Chinese souls. He urged churches around the world to sponsor the missionaries and pioneering work in Ukraine. Moreover, spiritual books and resources for local churches are needed. Go Int’l plans to hold a retreat in August, which will attract around 80-100 people, short-term mission teams are to be sent.
The current strategy of Go Int’l is to quickly recruit workers for missions, and will even try to mobilize believers not only around the world, but also in Mainland China, Lee said. He also suggested that Ukraine will be one of the key overseas Chinese mission fields as high quality Chinese church leaders or missionaries can be raised and will serve their people when they return to China.