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Chan traverses Calif. to bring Chinese-Americans to Christ

ARCADIA, Calif. (BP)–Born in Hong Kong, Andrew Chan looks and feels at home as he strolls down the busy streets of Chinatown in Los Angeles. And much like his namesake, Andrew -– one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples -– Chan glances around for someone to invite to church and win to Christ.

Chan and his wife Edith are Asian church planters and language strategists for the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. Missionaries since 1982, they live in Arcadia, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Chan travels throughout California, where NAMB and the California Southern Baptist Convention support 62 Chinese churches and missions.

Chan’s mission field -– the 1 million-plus Chinese who live in California -– is ripe with the harvest but laborers like Chan are few. He’s one of more than 5,300 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. He’s among eight missionaries to be highlighted as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 5-12. The 2006 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $56 million, 100 percent of which is used for missionaries like the Chans.

“The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering means so much to us,” Chan said. “When we need to support a new project or plant a new church, it takes a lot of financial help. We try to start two to three new Chinese mission churches in California each year. The Annie Armstrong Offering makes that possible.

“Our people can pray a lot and work hard, but they just don’t have the financial ability without the Annie Armstrong Offering. So we need to give them help. And once in awhile, we see some new Chinese church become self-supporting within a year. We give God the honor and glory for those,” Chan said.

When he’s not planting new churches, Chan is busy translating, preaching, training and mentoring throughout the state. His primary focus is on Chinese churches but he also offers expertise and support to Hispanics and other ethnic groups ready to plant churches.

Chan said the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering helps cover the costs of translating and printing various types of training and Bible study materials in the two Chinese dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is spoken by those from northern China and Taiwan, while Cantonese is the main language of south China, including Hong Kong. As a Southern Baptist missionary, Chan must speak both.

“The Chinese people of California come from all parts of China. If, as a pastor, I want to minister to them, I must be able to communicate with them in both languages. That’s the key way to reach and nurture my people,” Chan said.

A major part of Chan’s role as “language strategist” requires the complicated translation of these educational materials into Chinese.

“People always want to study the Bible in their own native language,” he said. “So with the material written in Chinese, my people will absorb more and will better understand what we’re trying to accomplish in the Chinese Baptist church.”

When they initially arrive in California, Chinese immigrants have a tendency to migrate toward Los Angeles’ Chinatown. In fact, the largest Chinese Baptist church in California is on Yale Street in the southwest corner of Chinatown. Chan said the majority of Chinese in California live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Orange County and San Diego.

Chinese pastors also need to be capable in English because they are responsible not only for reaching the older Chinese generation for Christ, but also the younger generations. Chinese Baptist churches include youth, college age and young adults for whom English is the primary language. Many of them don’t understand Chinese.

However, the emphasis, Chan said, is to establish and maintain one Chinese Baptist church under the same roof, not emphasizing one language or culture over another.

“That’s why in a Chinese Baptist church you will see two or three different language groups -– the English-speaking, the Mandarin-speaking and the Cantonese-speaking. But they’re all one church. The common language is English. The emphasis is on being a Christian,” Chan said.

A current struggle for the 62 Chinese Baptist churches in California is to reach the thousands of unchurched restaurant workers in the state, Chan noted. Another priority is ministering to a vast population of educated Chinese in California, many of whom are college and university professors.

“Pray for us as we need pastors who have a vision for starting Chinese churches,” Chan said. “Pray that the Lord will send us those people. It’s hard to find workers among Chinese churches because of the language issues. They have to be fluent in Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese and, at the same time, speak and read conversational English. Then, you also need to understand Chinese culture and relationships.”

Why does Andrew Chan think God called him and wife Edith to their ministry in California?

“First, because I think God loves me, and He put me in this wonderful state. And He has opened my heart to minister to so many unchurched, lost Chinese people in California.”

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  • Mickey Noah