Jesus demanded his disciples to care for the marginalized just as he did on earth. CEDAR responded to His call when we see the needs of the people in Yunnan, China. Partnering with the local churches, we have been diligently working to bring hope to those in need.
The word ‘poverty’ seems to carry with it contrasts between rich and poor, strong and weak, high and low, and between give and take. However, when we are in the transformation context, we often realize the so-called ‘poor people’ can actually be the vessels through which God transforms life and community.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1 Cor. 1:26-29)
When you get to know the poor, you will realise that they have many “treasures” in them waiting to be discovered and appreciated, to be turned into opportunities of transformation. Close-up contact and genuine care are vital to such discoveries. For frontline workers ministering in an impoverished community, home visits are a crucial link in practising “care”.
Change through acceptance by the community
In Yunnan, South West China, CEDAR has been working with the local church to mobilise their leaders, seminary students and believers to walk in the midst of the community, visit and express loving care for neglected and impoverished families, amongst which are people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), drug addicts and ex-convicts, all of whom nobody normally would draw near to.
Changes in lives, families and even in the community are strong evidence that change IS possible, and these changes are brought about when impoverished families themselves discover and utilise their own “treasures” or innate abilities.
In a Yunnan village, there lives a father with his son. When the father remarried, the step-mother would not accept the son because he had been taking drugs for many years and was HIV positive. He had also committed numerous criminal offences and was in and out of labour camps. The father had to abandon him. In the eyes of many people, the son seemed beyond help.
Change in a broken life
When the staff of Fu-Kang (Rehabilitation) Home set up under the Dali Prefecture Christian Council (Social Service) heard this, they took an initiative to visit this helpless middle-aged man in the hospital with several church leaders and seminary students. The staff of Fu-Kang (Rehabilitation) Home says, “His family members never visited him because they were afraid. We visited him again the following day, and every day thereafter, until he was discharged.” Through the loving care of believers, church leaders and seminary students, this family underwent transformation.
One day thereafter, the son came to Fu-Kang (Rehabilitation) Home with some of Dali’s specialty cheeses. He was sent by his father who now has great trust with the church; The father called Ms. Wu (a co-worker in Fu-Kang (Rehabilitation) Home) and said, “I now commit my son into your care.” He is very willing to let the church continuing this pastoral journey for his son.
What happens is, when a group of Christians were willing to care for this family, the relationship between the father and son slowly but steadily improved. With people’s acceptance and support, a life that was once ruined by drugs and sin underwent transformation. “The father wanted to love and care for the son but he did not know how. We did not tell the father how to show care, we just demonstrated it by action. The father exhibited change as well, and the two are now reconciled.” The son is now a security guard at Xianguan, the best local hotel, and lives a more stable life.
Change by repaying care
It was a great comfort to see that the son can now look after himself and is reconciled with his father. There was a further unexpected outcome. “The son referred three [drug-taking] of his friends to our church. Besides, after this practical caring experience, many pastors and seminary students have changed their view on social ministries, affirming the staff’s work,” say Fu-Kang (Rehabilitation) Home staff thankfully.
The staff also realize that the church, individuals, families, neighbours and the community are closely linked in the change process. “The story began with pastors and staff caring a HIV infected person; the story ended with active caring being continued and more people receiving care. It is easier to provide material things, it may not seem difficult to tell others to change, but it is more important to inspire others to initiate change themselves. We are not doing a job or organizing event, and we are not even playing heroes to effect change on others, but progressively facilitating change to take place. Our home visits promote changes, and changes develop further – this is the fruit of our facilitation and we see the community’s corresponding response.”
Change of perception
Tenacity, wisdom and the most basic interpersonal loving care and concern do exist in even the impoverished families. Church leaders and believers in Yunnan had reflections and underwent a mindset change after going through training in the past few years on how to serve the community practically and to walk alongside the needy.
The leader of a church’s social ministry department says, “In the past I was not convinced of the impact of home visits, but after visiting people myself, I see the need for continuing the ministry. Reflection after each visit and analysis of the cases are very useful, convincing us that we are in the right direction, and I feel I now have a much lighter burden to carry.”
A brother in the same church also says, “Doing home visits can be difficult, but they are all worth it. I am very excited to see the outcome; we serve wholeheartedly and are extremely grateful for the encouragement and support received from other people.”
A person’s value is not measured by his status, and we should not label or look down on people. Yes, impoverished families might be the church’s targeted beneficiaries but it does not mean that they are totally weak, useless and helpless. Honest and genuine connection, caring, appreciation and support enable the poor families to utilise their potentials and resources, and God will transform neighbours and communities through them. What a discovery !
CEDAR encourages churches to use the S-A-L-T model in home visits to discover the strengths of those being visited and their community, thereby building their self-confidence and mobilising community transformation.
‘S’ stands for ‘stimulate’ and ‘support’
‘A’ stands for ‘appreciate’ and ‘affirm’
‘L’ stands for ‘listen and ‘learn’
‘T’ stands for ‘transfer’ and ‘team’
The biggest goal of S-A-L-T is to discover and appreciate a community’s efforts and participation in development and transformation. When we listen to people and affirm their strengths, we support them in continuing and expanding their actions. In the process we also learn from the community.
[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2013 – Life Impacting Life ] TAKING ACTION
Author> Fanny Lee, CEDAR Club Committee Member
After going to the Bangladeshi poverty relief trip in 2003, I often asked myself how I could step out of my comfort zone and be more connected with the world. Surely life is not just about working hard and having fun? What should I do so that I ‘look out not only for my own interests but also for the interests of others’ (Phil. 2:4)?
Also in 2003, some Christians who went to CEDAR’s exposure trips set up ‘CEDAR Club’; they came from different churches but were all willing to use the bible’s teaching as their basis to see the world, learn about poverty relief works and actively care for the world. I am grateful for being a member and through CEDAR Club’s sharing and visits understand more of poverty relief.
It might be understandable that I knew little about poverty in faraway places, but I also had little idea about the weak and marginalized in Hong Kong! So I set out to see for myself the local needs first. Since then, I have followed CEDAR to visit groups such as new immigrant families, street-sleepers, former drug addicts and Choi Yuen Village residents; listening to these people helped me understand more fully their situations thereby reflecting on any injustice in the social system.
Six months ago, Mr. Pong Yat-ming shared on how he worked against the mainstream, and afterwards I researched the topic and discussed with friends, and as a result we grouped to carry out countering actions. It was an unforgettable experience, because I realized that it was simply not enough to merely know about the poor – after knowing in the head and feeling with my heart, I have the urge to share with others, and I feel the drive to do something practical.
Indeed CEDAR Club is a special platform; it helps me start with knowing facts and feelings and then move onto emotional involvement and practical action. I hope more people who care about the poor will join us, starting with understanding and exchanging and then go onto practising and spreading the message of poverty relief!
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.’
Ming (far right) now believes making money is not most important
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.’
Amy urges churches to construct theology in a ‘poor people’ environment
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.
Paul focuses on how social policy affects grass-root families, holds art exhibitions on grass-root life
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]
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.
Yunnan pastors map out the progress and achievement to evaluators on their social ministries in the past six years.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
In early March, CEDAR invited several experienced development workers to evaluate our six-year Church Mobilisation programme in Yunnan, China. Their findings and appreciation give us great encouragement.
[ePrayer – Pray for the marginalised groups in Yunnan]
Since the launching of CEDAR project activitites in Yunnan, many local churches have known more about HIV/AIDS prevention and care and recognised the importance of integral mission. They express and demonstrate their love for the poor and needy, especially the most marginalised groups including drug addicts in the community. After three years of intervention, many drug addicts now get support and love from churches. However, there are still individuals who could not start their new lives in their homes and communities.
Pray for the marginalised groups in Yunnan:
Pray for communities and families affected by HIV/AIDS who are being follow up by the local churches;
Pray that those marginalized groups would be strong and able to cope with their difficulties.
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