MIAMI (BP) – Each year, more and more Chinese people choose to make South Florida their home. And, for the past 50 years, Chinese Baptist Church of Miami has been reaching its ever-growing community with the Gospel.
“The Chinese Baptist Church of Miami is foremost a mission-minded church,” said Al Fernandez, southeast regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention.
“This highly cooperative Florida Baptist church has been intentionally reaching the Chinese population of Florida for the past 50 years with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A half-century after starting out with a handful of members in borrowed space at Miami’s Flagler Street Baptist Church, Chinese Baptist Church is now celebrating its 50th anniversary as a thriving congregation averaging 300 people in Sunday worship.
Pastor Ying Wong has served the church for the past 13 years. Originally from Hong Kong, Wong previously pastored a Chinese church in St. Louis before being called as pastor at Chinese Baptist Church of Miami. As he looks back over the church’s legacy, he is proud to see a family of believers that has served the community with heart, mind and soul.
In 1968 the “Chinese Sunday School” – as the congregation was known before constituting as a church – called its first full-time Chinese pastor, Kwong Wah Lau. During his tenure, Pastor Lau led the congregation’s 100 members to construct a small building on a plot of land they purchased in South Miami. With few resources but an incredible desire to see God glorified, the Chinese Baptist family inaugurated its small chapel on June 12, 1972, and constituted as a church.
During the following 50 years, the church has served the Chinese living, working and studying nearby. Recently, the church began reaching out to the English-speaking multicultural community by adding an English language worship service.
Through campus ministries at nearby Florida International University and the University of Miami, the church serves Chinese students by inviting them to home-cooked meals and other family-oriented activities.
“Our older members open their homes and invite Chinese students to join them for holidays,” Wing said. “The students can feel the warmth of home even when they are away from their families.”
Church member Abe Ng, CEO of Miami-based Sushi Maki and Canton Chinese Restaurants, said that the church is a true expression of family. Fellowship, sharing meals in homes and restaurants and worshiping together, he says, make Chinese Baptist Church feel like home. The multigenerational church also brings old and young Chinese together.
The church’s annual Chinese New Year celebration draws many Chinese from the university and community. Joseph He, a church member who has been opening his home to students since 1995, says Chinese New Year is important to Chinese men and women.
In 1992 Chinese Baptist Church of Miami planted a mission church in Coral Springs, which constituted as a church in 2002 and is still going strong.
Pastor Wong hopes that the next 50 years of Chinese Baptist Church will see the congregation continuing to find ways to share Christ’s love and the Gospel with the Chinese community in Miami, which looks different than it did 50 years ago.
“Before, we had many people who worked in the service industry and ran businesses like restaurants and laundromats,” he said. “Today we are seeing more people in the technology and finance fields.”
The key to reaching the new generations of Chinese, Wong believes, is the second-generation Chinese already in the church.
“They are the ones who will keep this church going; they are the ones who will have the task of reaching the next generations of Chinese,” he said.