Reaching out across cultures in Souderton

Souderton--Wendy & students
Wendy (far left) has been hosting a small group for Chinese exchange students since 2011.

by Alyssa Kerns, Souderton

When Wendy Wong came to the United States from Hong Kong 22 years ago, she was befriended by a Chinese woman who worked with Wendy’s husband Kim.

Fast forward to March 2011 when Wendy met Peter, a Chinese exchange student staying with Martin and Rebecca Reeser. “I wanted to provide a community for Peter and other Chinese students in the area, just as Kim’s coworker did for me,” Wendy said. She arranged to take Peter to a Chinese church in Bluebell. The Chinese church connected Wendy with other host families in the area and the International Chinese Student Outreach began to take shape.

Working with AnneMarie, who is from the church in Bluebell and speaks different Chinese dialects, Wendy developed a monthly Bible study for the students. Currently, about 16-20 Chinese exchange students from Christopher Dock Mennonite High School and Faith Christian Academy come to Souderton Mennonite Church once a month for an afternoon and evening of games, cooking, worship, Bible study, and discussion.

Wendy and the students have learned from each other in the meetings. “The students asked to have authentic Chinese food at our meetings,” said Wendy. “I grew up in Hong Kong, in the southern part of China and most of the students are from the northern part, which has different food. So I bought the ingredients and they offered to help cook and teach me.”

“Christianity is not taught in China and is a very different concept to the students,” Wendy explained. So she uses the Bible Study time to reinforce what the students are learning about Christianity at school and from their host families and to discuss what they are learning within the context of their cultural background.

In the fall of 2012, Wendy was looking for another adult fluent in Mandarin who could help with small group discussions. She met Jimmy and Lisa Kuo, a brother and sister studying at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield. “We heard from a seminary classmate that Wendy needed help from people who could communicate with the students in Mandarin. Since we are fluent in Mandarin and passionate about sharing the Good News with people, there was no reason why we would not get involved in helping the Chinese students experience the love of God in Jesus Christ through genuine relationships,” said Jimmy and Lisa.

Souderton--Chinese students cookingThe monthly meetings give Jimmy and Lisa an opportunity to connect with the students in several different ways. “We do things from cooking and Bible studies to just casual conversations with the students,” Jimmy and Lisa explained. “We make sure that everything we do is relational, incarnational, relevant, and intentional. The purpose of the outreach for us is to create an environment for the students to encounter God in every little thing we do as a community.”

“We enjoy building relationships with the students, and we appreciate that they continue to challenge us and move us outside our comfort zone,” Lisa and Jimmy added. “Although we were born in Taiwan, we were raised in New Zealand. Therefore, we have had to learn much from the Chinese students about their culture and worldview. Only when we value people by taking the time to listen to their stories do we know where God is already working in their lives and where God wants us to partner with Him to bring in the story of Christ to make their stories complete.”

Wendy is already looking ahead to fall 2013. “Jimmy and Lisa graduate in July and AnnaMarie won’t be able to help in the fall, so I am praying for God’s guidance in how to continue this ministry,” said Wendy.

The students also are encouraging Wendy in this ministry. “There are three seniors at Faith Academy who have accepted Jesus since the beginning of this outreach. Their faith is strong and they experience God in person. It is God’s grace that gives me the opportunity to witness His marvelous love through these students. They have even encouraged me to keep hosting this program so other Chinese students will come to Christ.”