Jesus Loves Chinatown

Jesus loves Chinatown 2

Jesus loves Chinatown 1

Every year the Toronto Short Term Mission Training Center (TSTMTC) hosts a week-long evangelistic event to reach out to various communities in Toronto. Sometimes it is held in a mall to engage the shoppers, but this year and last it is targeted at Chinatown, the oldest Chinese community in Greater Toronto Area.

It is not surprising that many churches, both Caucasian and ethnic, are aging rapidly. With the younger generation staying away from church and the older generation shrinking by attrition, many churches are experiencing a post-80 (80后) or post-90 (90后) drought. Some big churches that used to have a congregation of over 500 have now shrunk to below 200 in attendance, and for some churches the age of the youngest members have climbed to over 60. When a church loses her youth, she loses her future.

To reverse this trend, some tried to break out of their program mode to reach out beyond their four walls. The TSTMTC does a good job assisting church members to overcome their fear of witnessing by providing demonstrations, role-plays, and accompanying them to put what they learned into practice. Too bad some are still stuck in their nearsightedness and not engaged in active evangelism, preferring to stay within their comfort zone and not waking up to the realization that they have been disobedient to the Great Commission. I pray more churches would support mission, both local and beyond, because the alternative is decay and self-destruction. May the Lord help us.

Setting up to do street preaching at corner of Dundas and Spadina

Setting up to do street preaching at corner of Dundas and Spadina

Sharing with pedestrians of all ethnicities

Sharing with pedestrians of all ethnicities

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Our Belarus Trip (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

One of our Belarusian friends is a gifted singer who recorded 3 CDs, 2 in English and 1 in Russian. She has a deep devotional life and her songs reflect her faith. Here is a snipet:

We attended a baptismal service on Sunday, which is rare. Official statistics in 2011 cite 59% of Belarusians are believers, of which 82% are Orthodox, 12% Catholics, and 6% all other denominations, including Protestants, cults, Jews and Muslims. The percentage born-again is therefore small. Making a decision is easy, but public witness by baptism is hard to come by.

Protestant baptism service

Protestant baptism service

The church’s music director has a strong tenor voice and tours often to present in other churches. Here is a sample:

A challenge we faced cooking an authentic oriental mean is the lack of condiments to season the food. This is the only Vietnamese grocery store we know of in Minsk that has a supply of Chinese and SE Asian spices to prepare a decent meal. We actually saved up seasoning packets from instant noodles to bring on trips to help out in a crunch!

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Of course we can always eat out, budget permitting. The best Chinese restaurant we tried in Minsk is “Chinatown”, opened just last week and where our friend is a junior partner. It is a first class diner with good food, excellent decor and service, and reasonable prices. Many of the decorations are imported from China, as is the chef who comes from Szechuan. We were the first customers on opening day, and it does not disappoint!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Among our Vietnamese merchant friends, the mood is sombre because of the poor economy. The Belarusian currency had depreciated 1/3 from US$1 = 10,000 BLR (Belarusian Ruble) to US$1 = 15,000 BLR, and sales had plummeted. Some shops have closed and the owners returned to Vietnam. Those staying open are eating into their capital in the hope that business will improve by year-end.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Despite the gloomy outlook, life goes on. Believers are helped by their faith and hope for a brighter future. Here we are in front of the white Holy Spirit Cathedral, a famous landmark in Minsk dating to nearly 400 years ago. The original building burned down about 100 years later, and the Bernadine monastery was rebuilt over 270 years ago.

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)