After serving as a church planter for over 22 years among the Hakka in Taiwan, I returned to the US and my home church, Chinese Bible Church of Maryland (CBCM) in 2001. I now work with my church as Minister of Global Outreach and Women’s Ministries. Global outreach has been a strong focus for CBCM since its beginning. God has graciously provided the financial resources to send out our own members for long-term ministry, short-term trips, and equipping others for full-time cross-cultural work. However, this year has been different.
Summer Outreach Goes Local and Virtual
Due to the pandemic, all our summer outreach teams were cancelled. As I prayed and asked God to show us how we could reach out to our community, God opened a door for us to serve. From April 17 to June 30, 48 CBCMers joined Peace City Church for 19 days, filling 143 time slots to distribute meals to refugees in Parkview Gardens Apartments in nearby Riverdale. The International Refugee Committee and World Central Kitchen provided 9,350 meals in this effort.
In mid-May as I continued praying, I felt there was more the Lord wanted us to do—this time with folks serving overseas. After contacting a few groups and workers, a Chinese agency responded. They are the biggest sending network from East Asia and have workers in over twenty countries. These young workers have the heart to serve but are not as well prepared. Although normally CBCM sends teams out to do evangelism-related ministries, God laid it on my heart this summer to help equip and encourage workers who are already on the field in challenging, restricted countries so they can be more effective in their work.
As we told our church of our cancelled summer trips to Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Quebec, Canada, Clarkston, GA, and Brooklyn, NY we presented to them the open doors for virtual missions opportunities. Ten days after two informational/interest meetings, CBCM launched a ministry to serve global workers and their families in nine countries in the Middle East and one in South East Asia, spanning seven time zones. We have been teaching English, Bible verses, songs, and facilitating discussions about life. Twenty-four volunteers, including six teens, signed up to help 22 children and 15 adults in 20 families.
We are now into our fifth month of virtual teaching. We have had 32 CBCMers participate including the senior pastor, two elders, two elders’ wives, one minister, eight teens, two college students—including folks from our English and Mandarin congregations.
We have had the privilege of doing more than teach English, as our people are able to give input into these global workers’ lives and teach Bible to their children. We are becoming friends and informal counselors and mentors. In mid-July after I shared with our Mandarin Young Adult Fellowship, a mentor of the group who has 20+ years of experience teaching music to groups and individuals volunteered to teach music to 15 primary school age children. Both parents and children are delighted for such an opportunity during the pandemic to learn English through music and music theory. They are planning a virtual recital this month.
Our teens are also connecting with teens in South East Asia through our supported global workers in that area, teaching them English through Bible stories. According to these workers about 80% of the church youth eventually leave their faith and marry people of the majority faith in their area. This opportunity to make friends helps these young people know the Bible better as well as practice English.
Who would have thought that during the pandemic God would open doors for us to be “in” ten countries and seven time zones every week! God is amazing, and I am thrilled beyond words to see many in our church mobilized and many lives impacted.
Sharing in the Impact of Covid-19 on Global Workers and Organizations
I was also concerned about the impact of the pandemic on our global workers and the organizations we support. In June, we gathered with them via video calls. Our “CBCM Global Family Connections” turned out to be an opportunity for mutual encouragement.
Represented at two virtual meetings were:
- 23 households (32 global workers)
- 20 agencies/organizations
- 27 ministries
- 19 countries/US States
What a blessing and delight to hear them share about:
- the effect of COVID-19 on them, their families, and their ministries,
- the doors that are open to them despite limited in-person contact,
- their financial needs due to the pandemic,
- and their prayer requests.
An Opportunity Yet to Come
Among the exciting things God brought about during this pandemic year is the opportunity to plan for a “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” (“展望课程”, 宣教心视野）course in Mandarin for the Mid-Atlantic Region in early 2021. This has come about as an answer to prayer.
After I began teaching “Perspectives” in 2013, I prayed for the opportunity to bring the course in Mandarin to this region. In December 2019 when I was in Brazil for Perspectives Global Huddle, the Perspectives Global Chinese Director and I began to discuss the possibility of having a class in the spring of 2021. When COVID-19 hit, he said we should postpone the course to 2022. I suggested that we could change it from an in-person class to a virtual class. Now, after five months of planning, CBCM will be hosting this gateway class in early 2021. God has provided instructors to teach the Perspectives course entirely in Mandarin for the first time in the US. Any Chinese believer who has internet access can register and log-in to take the class.
As of this writing, 24 new students have registered for the virtual course on Jan. 7-May 6, 2021. We are praying God will bring at least 60 to the class next January. If you or any Mandarin-speaking friend is interested in the course, you can find more information here.
The pandemic caught all of us by surprise and has limited our travels and our opportunities for being with people in person. Yet the all-wise and all-powerful God continues to be at work, helping us to be creative, and to take steps of faith as we try many things for the first time. I, as Minister of Global Outreach and we, as a church, learned to ride the “waves” that God is creating, trusting him to open doors and move hearts. We continue to follow him as he guides us each step of the way and mobilizes his people to join in his great story, making him known locally and globally.
To learn more about the Chinese church in America, watch for the 2020 winter issue of ChinaSource Quarterly due out next week—”Chinese American Christianity in History and Today.”
To contact Minister Isabel Lee:
Global Outreach & Women’s Ministries
Chinese Bible Church of Maryland