[ ‘SHARE’ Jul-Aug 2013 – Burying Seeds ] FOCUS ~ Experiential Education
Interviewer> Wu Ying Lun, Education and Promotion Officer (mainly in youth education)
‘True education is to learn how to think, not what to think.’ 
For four years CEDAR has been mobilising young believers to participate in experiential events to care about the poor and respond to integral mission. Here, five participants tell us how the activities change their understanding of poverty and their faith.
I want to be a social worker
Form 6 students Ming and Grace both have chosen social work to study at university and hope to minister to the elderly or delinquents one day. Ming and Grace had visited elderly homes, joined local ‘service learning projects’, and gone on a school trip to Cambodia, all of which prepared them for future social work.
Eighteen months ago CEDAR and C.C.C. Heep Woh College jointly organised a service learning project where higher-secondary students get to know HK’s ethnic minorities cultures through home-visits, workshops and services. Ming and Grace now understand more what the South Asian communities face, especially the difficulties the children have in schooling and job-hunting.
Grace says, ‘We study Chinese from an early age and still find the examinations difficult; how much more would ethnic minority groups struggle? Since giving homework tutorials I realistically see their difficulties. Education is supposed to move people upward, but the unfavourable education system makes that virtually impossible.’
Ming says, ‘We hear news about troublesome South Asian youths, but now I realise that the examination system is too harsh for them and will eliminate them. I took no notice of this people group before but now I listen to news concerning them, such as Indonesian domestic helper being forced by employer to eat pork or not allowed to pray; these are conflicts from cultural differences.’
Another kind of cultural difference showed Grace a different ideal and learning goal, ‘A Pakistani girl told me she wanted to become the President to improve her countrymen’s lives with knowledge. Hong Kong people study for themselves only and always complain when studying gets tough.’
The gospel needs to be contextualised
Amy joined CEDAR’s exposure trip to Indian slums, and through CEDAR Club she met marginalised groups such as Chinese new immigrant women and teenage drug addicts; she also visited a homeless person two years after he was allocated housing.
‘It was a partitioned room with blood stains of smashed woodlice on the walls. Every time I went I wanted to leave immediately.’ Amy had been bitten by woodlice and even found traces of them at her home.
Once, some church friends were also visiting with small gifts in a recycled bag that had bible verses printed on it. ‘I saw a strong contrast between the gospel they were trying to convey and the homeless person’s situation. The gospel needs to be contextualised, but the middle-class churches’ message is disconnected with needs at grass-root level.’
Gospel contextualisation does not only point out that evangelism does not stop at giving money to the poor but is also mindful of how unfair social structure abuses the poor. Theological worker Fung Wai Man puts it, ‘If we do not realise that people are abused by evil, we do not have the capacity to be compassionate. An evangelistic ministry that lacks the concept of “sinned against” is merely a promotional event without compassion.’ 
A prophetic vision to see the nature of sin is also necessary to make that mercy complete. ‘I used to feel that drug addicts only had themselves to blame for all their miseries, but home-visits help me see the social construction factor; now I have more compassion for them and have changed my perceptions, for example, only a minority cheat on social welfare, and the new immigrants are not even eligible for benefits.’ 
Amy takes action against the system’s unfairness. She wrote to the government supporting minimum wage legislation to combat labour exploitation; she joined a civic welfare group to learn about the administration’s population policy’s unfairness and discrimination against new women immigrants. Amy also wrote to her church leaders calling for a greater concern for faith-related issues such as poverty and environmental protection. ‘God gives each person different issues of concern – I don’t know how to care for people individually and I am not passionate about evangelism, but I can love and serve people, particularly the poor, through advocacy.’
Amy disagrees that this ‘upward’ advocacy is ineffective although visible results take time. ‘I wrote to the church a few years ago and now I notice changes happening. This year the church set up a three-year plan to gradually reach out to our community.’
Leaders need to reflect deeply on the contents of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Church ‘community care group’ leaders William and Choh see many obstacles in mobilising the church to care for society.
Eighteen months ago their reading group wanted to know more about the needs of the after reading Evangelism Revisited . Lacking the relevant network and experience, William and Choh contacted CEDAR. After visiting grass-root families, midnight markets and single mothers, William and Choh became organisers to mobilise church members to care for the community.
Group members are now more aware of the grass-root children’s needs; Choh recalls, ‘An ADHD child of a welfare-supported family has many study needs. What would his future be like if neither the government nor the church lends help?’ Collaborating with the frontline organisation that arranged the visit, their church premises are now used to hold tutorials and organise workshops for grass-root women.
Choh thinks the collaboration is a good start in raising members’ awareness, but mobilising the pastoral leaders is proving more difficult. ‘Our group is like a secret organisation: although pastors know about our work, they are not interested in joining us; we cannot openly promote our work, invitations go out only through our network.’ Lack of pastoral affirmation and support makes it very difficult to mobilise the whole church as many Christians affirm.
Whether or not a church supports her members depends on her stance on the gospel. Choh points out, ‘Actually, there has always been community work such as homework tuition, but the church expects people being brought into church; therefore services not including (hard sell) evangelism are unlikely to receive support.’
William says, ‘My personal calling is to integrate Christianity and public issues; stories of the poor challenge me to think how the gospel can respond to their predicaments.’ William and Choh hope that when a small group of church members persist in doing small things, just like the ‘five loaves and two fish’ miracle and the recent ‘equal sharing movement’ initiated locally, the gospel will be made relevant to the poor.
Each person’s calling
Interviewees above may play a different role in community care, but as they encounter the poor, they find their own calling, whether it be advocacy, education promotion or frontline ministry. People seeking and fulfilling their calling learn to replace people-labelling with appreciation of a foreign culture and discovery of their own strengths and aspirations. While results may not be immediate, at least their own hearts, thoughts and worldviews have undergone change.
- Recommended reading: Breakazine!, Evangelism Revisited and The Poor- My Neighbour? [Chinese books]
- Join CEDAR Club’s monthly events to learn and exchange ideas about practical care for the poor
- Contact CEDAR to organise local visits and learn about pre-visit preparation
 Jiddu Krishnamurti
 Fung Wai Man Raymond, Evangelism Revisited，Chinese book published by FES (HK) Ltd., July 2010, see p.18
 According to the survey report issued by Oxfam Hong Kong on 26 March 2009, new immigrants represented only 5.8% of the total welfare applications during that period, and only 0.3% of the 960 cases of welfare abuse.
 Fung Wai Man Raymond, Evangelism Revisited，Chinese book published by FES (HK) Ltd., July 2010.