Striving and Thriving
By Rev Frank Tuan (SIM Taiwan Missionary serving in South Africa)
段忠义牧师与徐美湄师母 ( SIM 退休宣教士)
Retiring after some 30 years of serving the Lord in South Africa, Frank shares his missionary experiences of how God has walked with them through the years of “striving and thriving”. As he begins another phase of service to God in South Africa, he is grateful to be able to pass the baton on and challenges the Chinese churches to heed God’s call in Isaiah 54:2.
Our family had originally planned to go to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in West Africa to do church planting work. However, due to civil strife, we were diverted to Johannesburg in South Africa to reach out to the many who has yet to know Jesus in the Indian community (Lenasia). Before setting out on the road to mission, I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord”. In 1991 my wife and I obediently went to South Africa with our five-year-old son.
After arriving in South Africa, we were approached by the Chinese and non-Chinese Christians to start a Chinese ministry. Without a Chinese pastor to lead them, some Chinese Christians were participating in other “religious” activities. However, we were unable to start such a ministry as SIM did not have a Chinese ministry in South Africa. After much prayers, some senior leaders of SIM agreed for us to start the Chinese Diaspora ministry. Praise the Lord.
During our first term of ministry (from 1991 to 1995), we saw God doing the impossible – ‘making ways in the wilderness and opening rivers in the desert’. Nothing was impossible for Him and He made all things beautiful in His good timing! God helped us to learn and adapt well, establishing good relationship with the brothers and sisters in the local church until today.
Twenty-seven years have passed since we came to South Africa. We had shared the gospel with the Chinese immigrants and foreign workers and encouraged them to come to Sunday worship. The church assisted them in solving various problems such as language learning, transportation, accommodation, meals, finding schools for the children, hospital and prison visits and Chinese classes for the children. The church also assisted with arrangements for marriage, funerals and celebrations, taking care of the local orphanage, nursing homes, and even adopting orphans. In short, the church played a key role in the community – living out His word by connecting with the people, spreading and sowing his Word and inviting them into the house of God - becoming inseparable friends and family members with the Chinese immigrants.
To help the Chinese Diaspora ministry thrive, short-term mission teams also partnered us in the areas of missionary visits or discipleship training, equipping brothers and sisters to become full-time, part-time or bi-vocational evangelists. In addition to serving in our church, the mission teams also assisted in evangelistic meetings in other big cities in South Africa and setting up of Bible Study classes.
Long term pastoral care by overseas missionaries and pastors would be ideal. However, distance, language, culture, security, funds and visas are some of the primary obstacles to pastors or missionaries coming to Africa for long-term ministry. Therefore, not many Chinese churches are willing to send and support missionaries or pastors to Africa. Without this long-term dedication and support from the sending church, denomination, and mission agency, it is difficult to carry out Chinese ministry in Africa.
We are grateful for more than twenty years of support from our sending church and our mission agency which enabled us to thrive during our time in Africa. This helped us to overcome the many difficulties such as the internal problems of politics, security and economy in the African country.
Do Not Hold Back
By the grace of God, Pastor Boaz Wang and his family responded to God’s call to take over the baton from us. Having recently graduated with a Masters from the China Evangelical Seminary, Taipei, he is now serving full time with the South Africa Chinese Covenant Church. We are convinced that the Lord will be with them and that God’s grace and strength will be upon them.
In Isaiah 54:2, God calls upon his people to “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” After my retirement, we will stay on in South Africa to establish a Chinese Pastors’ Joint Prayer Meeting and hold annual retreats and training sessions for pastors. We will help establish new Chinese fellowships and churches and support those without pastors. May the Lord grant us the strength to continue serving in South Africa until the end of our days or till the Lord comes again!
来自台湾但在南非事奉二十七年，于今年六月底退休的段忠义牧师和徐美湄师母，分享他们「竭力服侍与蓬勃昌盛」的宣教经验。段牧师特别感恩在他展开南非的另一段服侍历程时，神兴起了忠心的仆人接下海外华人教会的棒子；段牧师也挑战华人教会继续顺服神在以赛亚书 54：2 的呼召 - 不要限止。
大家可能知道我们一家原计划前往西非之利比里亚首都蒙罗维亚，向城市中的百姓开展及建立教会事工。但因其内乱而改去南非的约翰内斯堡城市，向印度人社区（Lenasia）信奉伊斯兰教者，传讲上帝的救恩及耶稣的救赎。所以，在出发踏上宣教之路前，我就体会到以赛亚书 55：8 说的：「耶和华说我的意 念非同你们的意念，我的道路非同你们的道路。」因此，1991年，我和师母仍信靠顺服，带着不到五岁的儿子前往南非「竭力服侍」。
到了南非以后，陆陆续续有华人基督徒及西方人找到我们，希望能在当地开展华人事工，因没有华人牧者带领，常是事倍功半，甚而有些华人基督徒转而参加了别的“宗教”活动。当时我们差会在这里没有华人事工，故未同意开展此工作；但感谢主，在经过他们以及我们祷告一段时间后，神让 SIM 一些高层领袖们同意我们开始华人移民事工了。
从 1995 年开始，我们就深刻体验到神是旷野开道路、沙漠开江河的神，在祂没有难成的事，祂会按其预备及时间来成就祂的美事！在这四年（第一任期）的服事中，神让我们有美好的学习及适应，且与当地教会及弟兄姐妹们建立了良好的关系，成为我們主内一家的弟兄姐妹直到如今。
我们很感恩这二十多年来一直有来自教会和差会的支持，才能竭力服侍至今。不然，在外要面对海外支持的减少或冷淡，在内又要面对非洲各国许多华人因各种原因选择离开，而基督徒也多忙着打工赚钱不愿意来聚会…… 这个现象对我们华人教会工 作造成一定的影响，恳请你在祷告中纪念南非和其他非洲国家的宣教工作，求主坚固和帮助宣教士们能义无反顾地「竭力服侍并蓬勃发展」！