Our friends are missionaries to Panama, sent to pastor a Chinese church there. After they’ve been there for a little while, they observed that one ministry essential to the continuance and growth of the church is youth ministry, in Spanish. When the second generation of the church were children, the parents could teach them Sunday school in Chinese. But as the children grew up to be teenagers and develop their independence, Chinese no longer suffice and they began to drop out.
Just as Chinese churches in Canada need English ministry to keep the families together, Chinese churches in Panama need Spanish ministry to survive. It’s not an option up for discussion, but a necessity if they do not want to lose their children. Most of the adults do not have much education and run small businesses such as convenience stores, laundromats, bakeries etc.. They picked up just enough Spanish to make a living, and are inadequate when it comes to reading the Spanish bible, let alone teach it. Without internal resources, the only means is to enlist external help from local Spanish churches.
Previously the church had attempted to get help through joining the local denomination. However, this involved submitting their constitution, bylaws, statement of faith etc. in Spanish, something beyond their capability at that time, so the whole idea was shelved. But with the teens staying away from church, or going to Spanish churches instead, the need becomes more pressing. So our friends investigated possible sources of Spanish help, and began approaching them one by one.
One of the church’s teens left and went to a Spanish Baptist church in the neighborhood. Our friends did not expect them to help, so went to them last. Ironically, this is the church that came to the rescue. The Spanish church had wanted to reach out to the Chinese adults for a long time, but hitherto had been unable to do so because of the language barrier. However, they kept praying about it for 10 years, and God answered both their and our friends’ prayers.
When our friends contacted them to request help, they were delighted to do so. Their dream to reach the Chinese can now be fulfilled, only it was the youth, not adults. Enthusiastically they sent four of their young adults to the Chinese church every week to teach Spanish Sunday school, plus two children’s workers who take turns to come as well. Our friends attend their monthly staff meeting to maintain the relationship and coordinate schedules.
The youth group was keen on reaching their peers, and grew from a handful of teens to as many as 35 people when there are special events, averaging 25 weekly. They have grown to be even bigger than the adult congregation. A good number were willing to do daily devotions, so the growth was not only quantitative, but qualitative as well. Our friends got more than they hoped for, not just Spanish helpers to stop the hemorrhage, but new blood to revitalize the next generation. Truly this is of the Lord. Praise and thanks be to God!