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Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church and pastor mark 50 years of God’s faithfulness

Augustine Hui is prayed over as he becomes the pastor of Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. Submitted photo

Brooklyn, N.Y. (BP) — When Mark Hui, pastor of Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York, felt God calling him 50 years ago to start a church for Chinese-speaking people, he thought it would be as easy as opening a restaurant—open the doors and people would come.

The actual start was harder and despite the 300 flyers distributed announcing the new church, the first service in March 1974 included only three adults, two of whom were Hui and his wife Florence.

“My heart was still happy,” Mark Hui, 82, remembers.

This year, more than 150 gathered March 23 to celebrate Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church’s (BCBC) 50th anniversary, Hui’s 50 years as pastor, and the inauguration of the couple’s son, Augustine Hui, as senior pastor.

Mark and Florence Hui helped plant Brooklyn Chinese Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York 50 years ago. Submitted photo

Augustine Hui, former pastor of Metairie Church near New Orleans, will serve an English-speaking congregation and a Cantonese and Mandarin congregation. Though a new era has begun, Mark and Florence Hui insist retirement from ministry is not an option.

“God’s call is still there,” explained Florence Hui. “If we finish this part, I pray that God will open another part as long as we’re in this world.”

During his tenure, Mark Hui mentored several church plants including the New Jersey Chinese Baptist Church, East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Siloam Baptist Church in Brooklyn, a congregation that met  first on Monday nights to give restaurant workers an opportunity to worship.

While at BCBC, Hui led the SBC’s Chinese Baptist Fellowship for the U.S. and Canada for two consecutive terms. Florence Hui, former opera singer and public school educator until a health issue shortened her career, served the church as education minister and administrator, the state convention Women’s Missionary Union once as president and the national WMU as vice-president.

Located in the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinese community, BCBC has seen its share of ups and downs through the years. At times, the needs were pressing.

“But God provided,” Hui said. Pointing to Psalm 23, he added, “We had everything [we needed].”

Michael Chance, long-time friend and former director of church development, Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, New York City, said the couple knew SBC work well from their time at home in Hong Kong where they interacted with and studied under SBC missionaries.

“Both Pastor Mark and Florence were hard workers, tireless at times, working as a well-oiled machine to reach people and disciple them,” Chance said.

Strong supporters of the Cooperative Program and a host to associational meetings, VBS training clinics, and church plants, BCBC “through the years has been a model SBC congregation,” Chance said.

Missions, outreach and prayer have marked the church’s ministry that included summer school programs, missions education, choir programs and musical outreach, mission partnerships in China, and weekly Friday night prayer meetings.  

Growth came, but it was not easy.

“I prayed to my heavenly Lord and asked how long I had to wait to have 10 people,” Hui wrote in the anniversary program about BCBC’s earliest days. But by the church’s 10th anniversary, church records show membership had reached 55 with more than 50—all first-generation believers— baptized at BCBC.

Others were impacted by BCBC and Hui’s ministry.

Raymond Chu, International Mission Board director of product management and strategy, came to faith after attending the church’s basketball program as a young boy, Hui said. 

Chu expressed his thanks in a letter printed in the anniversary program for the church’s impact on his own life and that of his wife Salina.

“We are a product of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and also a product of BCBC, because you unpacked the gospel and the love of God to us; showed us the inside-out and upside-down nature of the gospel; … discipled us with love and patience; … taught us to love the lost and engage the culture; and sent us off to ministry with prayers and encouragement,” Chu wrote.

People often ask him how he stayed in the same place for 50 years, Hui said.

“It’s not my strength,” Hui explained. “It’s God’s grace.”

Where ministry is ‘raw’

Micah Chung, former English-congregation BCBC pastor and recently-elected associate English pastor, First Chinese Baptist, Atlanta, served five years under Hui’s mentorship.

“I have the highest regard for Mark Hui,” Chung said. “He is able to adapt to any situation. He is a person of great integrity.”

Chung told of Hui’s commitment to ministry even in the midst of danger. Chung said that Hui once helped a gang member to safety as a rival gang gathered outside the church door.

Another tense moment came as Hui accompanied a man to the airport driving to pick up his wife. On the way, the man told Hui he had a loaded gun, and three bullets. As Hui listened to the man’s marital troubles, he decided the third bullet was meant for him. Instead, the man intended to kill his wife, her lover, and then himself. Hui had only the 30-minute drive to the airport to defuse the situation and calm the man down, Chung related.

“That’s the nature of ‘raw’ ministry,” Chung said, explaining that emotions are often tense in the predominantly non-Christian community. “The struggle’s real. Everybody knows it. Everybody feels it. There’s this intensity, almost like razor-wire in the air.”

Hui remained committed to Brooklyn despite lucrative offers elsewhere, Chung related. “He told me, ‘God called me here.’”

Sufficient Grace

At the beginning, Cantonese was the predominant language in the area but as China opened immigration years later, Mandarin-speakers flooded in. Many believed a baptism certificate helped them gain asylum and area churches in turn baptized thousands. Yet, few remained committed to the faith, Hui recounted.

“They want the letter [of baptism] and then gone,” Hui said. Though discouraging, Hui recognized an opportunity. “I know they’re coming for a short period of time, so I try to give them the gospel, give them Jesus.”

For Florence Hui, years of disappointing medical news did not overcome God’s faithfulness. In the anniversary program, she wrote, “I am confident and convinced that there is no mistake in my living Lord’s will for my life; He promises that His grace is sufficient for me.”

Growing up, Augustine Hui witnessed firsthand his parents’ steady commitment. While Augustine knew no other believers at school, he knew every member at church was a first-generation believer.

“It made it very obvious,” Augustine Hui said. “Either you trust Christ or you don’t.”

Despite times of discouragement and disappointment, his father remained constant, Augustine Hui said.

“He knew the bigger prize,” Augustine Hui said. “When others would call it quits he stood firm in the knowledge that God had called him to Brooklyn, and he would not falter.”

The couple’s commitment to stay was grounded first and foremost in the gospel.

“We just wanted people to come to the Lord,” Florence Hui said. “We would do whatever we could—energy, money, time, anything just to bring people to the Lord.”

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  • Marilyn Stewart