“God is calling those who have the heart to serve Him. Are you willing to respond?” Dr. Thomas Wang, a well-respected mission stateman, spoke passionately and gave an altar call at the Joint Mission Convention in 1997, the year we turned forty. In obedience to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, we held each other’s hands, came forward, and dedicated ourselves to serving God. About 70 participants tearfully responded to the call.
However, we had many unknowns, such as how to provide for our teenage children if we changed vocations in mid-life. At a follow-up counselling session, a pastor answered the respondents’ many complicated questions with one simple statement, “Don’t worry! Whatever you have promised God, just do it, and He will guide you and provide for you.”
We were indignant at his standard reply. Nevertheless, we followed his advice and began our ministry journey. About ten years later, we bumped into the same pastor at the airport in Edmonton. We apologized to him for our negative comments about his counselling skill and affirmed that he had given us the best advice. For the past twenty-some years serving as pastors and international workers (IWs), we have experienced God, His goodness, and abundant grace.
Our Diaspora Origins
The term “diaspora” refers to people who live outside their original homelands. Diaspora people are also called “scattered people” or “people on the move” in mission literature. According to the UN’s World Migration Report 2022, there were about 281 million international migrants, roughly 3.6% of the global population in 2020.
When Jacky was nineteen, he chose to leave his birthplace of Hong Kong to go to Britain and study engineering. Anne was born in Wuhan, a Chinese city many people did not recognize until COVID-19. When she was three, her family was forced to leave mainland China to avoid political turmoil. We are diaspora Chinese and have lived outside our country of birth for over forty years. We are ordinary people living extraordinary lives because we have encountered our amazing Almighty God.
Our Early Years
Jacky is the youngest of four boys in his family. His parents were master silversmiths in Hong Kong. He learned basic silversmith skills in his teenage years and helped in his parents’ workshop. Although Jacky believed in the existence of a Creator God and studied the Bible in a Christian high school, he did not follow Jesus. His life goal then was to be happy, study abroad, work as an engineer, and have a good-paying job.
Anne has ten siblings and is the middle child in her family. Her parents were senior managers overseeing hundreds of factory workers in Wuhan. Due to famine, political strife, and social instability, her father moved the whole family to southern China. First, they moved to his birthplace Zhongshan, then to Macau, and eventually to Hong Kong when Anne was about ten. Despite changing schools many times, she was able to skip a grade and ended up in the same grade and same school as Jacky. At their high school graduation celebration in 1975, Jacky was brave enough to invite Anne to watch a movie on their first date. We thus began our courtship as we embarked on our different career paths.
After high school, Anne began working for a Japanese bank and then with the Cathay Pacific Airline in Hong Kong. Jacky worked for a 5-star hotel for one year, then went abroad to study civil engineering in Manchester, UK. In those days, writing letters was the only economical means to communicate. We wrote three or four letters weekly to share happenings in our daily lives and express our love for each other. By God’s grace, we committed to maintaining our long-distance dating relationship for four years despite facing some temptations.
Our Wedding and First Christian Gathering
We got engaged soon after Jacky graduated from the University of Manchester in the summer of 1980. Jacky moved to Canada to join his parents, who had immigrated to Calgary. He worked as a civil engineer on weekdays and as a waiter on weekends to save money for our wedding. Then, in the spring of 1981, he returned to Hong Kong. We got married and celebrated with Anne’s family. The celebration continued with Jacky’s family in Calgary a few weeks later.
We decided Jacky’s parents would live with us after our wedding. Both of us thought we would live happily ever after. However, as a newlywed couple, we faced many challenges adjusting to our different lifestyles with each other and Jacky’s parents. At the invitation of a Christian sister who learned conversational English with Jacky’s parents at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), we attended a dinner event with Jacky’s parents at the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church (Calgary CAC) on a Friday evening. We had mixed feelings about this gathering which began with a fellowship meal, followed by a presentation by a missionary intern.
Our expectation was to have a formal sit-down gourmet dinner with our parents’ Christian friend. Instead, we were to line up, and volunteers filled our plates with rice, vegetables, and meat. Though we were disappointed by the simple meal, we had a very positive experience with the Christian fellowship and the stories we heard from the intern. On the way home, we sang and hummed to those long-forgotten Christian hymns we learned in our teens. We believe God used this special gathering to open our hearts and to invite us to His fold.
Receiving the Gospel
The senior pastor of Calgary CAC, Rev. Gabriel Tsang, and his wife wasted no time and visited us three days later. They fervently shared the gospel message and encouraged us to follow Jesus Christ. They said, “Don’t wait any longer… receive Jesus as your Saviour tonight… we may perish from this world anytime, and you will miss the wonderful opportunity to rebuild the broken relationship with the Creator God.”
During the evening of February 22, 1982, we knelt in the living room and invited Jesus Christ into our lives. We began to attend worship services and Sunday school classes at Calgary CAC. On August 15, 1982, Rev. Tsang baptized us, about two weeks before our first child Sharon was born. Rev. Tsang and his wife are enthusiastic evangelists whose unwavering resolve and zeal to share the Gospel greatly impacted us. We often discuss their evangelistic skills and desire to follow their example.
Due to the economic downturn in Alberta in the 1980s, we moved our family to Saskatoon, changed our careers, and started a grocery business in 1984. In the same year, Ryan, our second child, was born. Anne’s mother and three siblings also moved from Hong Kong to live with us.
We were super busy and began to put our relationship with God in the back seat. But He did not give up on us. Instead, he sent a godly couple, James and Emmie Wang, to shop in our store and initiate spiritual conversations with us. Their joy, commitment to their marriage, and faithfulness in following Christ deeply touched our hearts.
After careful consideration, we sold our successful business to a new immigrant in 1985, so we could spend more time with our families, and so Jacky could pursue an MSc at the University of Saskatchewan. As a result, the whole family could regularly worship the Lord, study the Scripture, and attend fellowship meetings at the Saskatoon CAC. God used His Word and Christian leaders to inspire us and strengthen our faith in Him during this season. We experienced His love through the acceptance and kindness of leaders and fellow sojourners at the Saskatoon CAC.
Learning to Serve
At the invitation of church leaders and with a thankful spirit, we began to serve in different areas, including the toddlers’ and children’s ministries, Sunday school, student fellowship, family fellowship, and visitation. Anne focused on children and family ministries, while Jacky did Bible studies and visitation.
In 1986, Jacky was appointed as the deacon of evangelism and mission at the Saskatoon CAC. Every Tuesday night, he organized two or three teams of believers to visit their friends and relatives or newcomers. We served with great evangelistic fervour. Unfortunately, due to a lack of training and wisdom, their stone-hearted hosts asked Jacky and his teams to stop sharing and leave. We grieved and prayed for those who refused to receive the good news of Christ Jesus. However, we rejoiced in the Lord as we finally could taste the rejection and pain Christ and His apostles had suffered.
Periodically, the church invited returning international workers (IWs) to share their mission experiences. We volunteered to host the IWs and learned from their spiritual journey. During one mission night, we listened attentively to a newly appointed missionary with a wild-looking bowl-cut hairstyle. Suddenly, he pointed at his head and shared, “My hairstyle is not bad, eh? …. My wife and I choose to live a simple lifestyle and recently learned the hairdressing skill to help cut each other’s hair when we serve in the field.” His challenge touched us, and we decided to live a simple lifestyle for the Kingdom’s sake. A few days later, we bought an electric clipper from Consumer Distributors, and Anne became our family’s hairdresser, a role she has continued for the last forty years.
Saskatoon CAC is located at the edge of the downtown area where First Nations people frequently congregate. Leaders of the Circle Drive Alliance Church invited our church to jointly host an evangelistic powwow for First Nations people at our church venue. It was the first time Jacky had ever worked with other Alliance leaders to organize a cross-cultural evangelistic event. Praise the Lord; over thirty First Nations friends came to Christ Jesus.
Shortly after the event, Ken Rutherford led a group of First Nations believers, formed the Saskatoon First Nations Alliance Church (SFNAC), and began to host worship services in the Saskatoon CAC building on Sunday afternoons. SFNAC conducted their ministries from that location until 2011, the year when Rev. Rutherford was promoted to eternity. God used this ministry opportunity to widen our hearts for missions, and we experienced the joy of Kingdom partnership.
A Gentle Voice
Canada was recovering from the recession when Jacky completed his MSc training in 1987. While he was looking for an engineering job, we opened a jewellery store in Saskatoon in the fall of 1988, just in time to do business for the busy Christmas season. Our store was located in an open shopping plaza.
One cold, windy evening with wet snow falling, Jacky took a stack of promotional flyers and distributed them to potential shoppers. Though his face was covered with blowing snow, he busily inserted the flyers beneath the windshield wipers of parked cars. Suddenly he heard a gentle voice from within, “If they were evangelistic tracts, would you still distribute them on this cold, windy night?” Jacky’s eyes welled up with tears as he admitted, “No, I would not!” Nevertheless, he continued to distribute the flyers. He was then unable to sleep during the night and prayed throughout the evening.
The church’s nomination committee had invited Jacky to join the Elder Board two weeks earlier. He flatly declined the nomination because we were too busy. However, the following morning, he called an elder of the church and said, “Yes, I am willing!”
We had great joy and peace, although our lives were still hectic. By faith, Jacky served on the Elder Board of Saskatoon CAC between 1989 and 1993. He was treasurer and responsible for mission and evangelism, and property maintenance. Anne continued to serve in the toddlers’ and children’s ministries. We were also actively involved in teaching Sunday school and leading the university student fellowship.
In early 1989, Jacky began working as a regional engineer for the federal government. Anne also continued to run the jewellery business. Our time in Saskatoon was valuable to our future mission involvements as we learned how to serve with like-minded Christian leaders in our spiritual home.
Responding to God’s Call
China was opening up to the world in the 1990s. In 1993, a close high school friend, a nominal Catholic believer, invited us to move back to Hong Kong so Jacky could work for his company. We thought we could participate in missions in China while working in Hong Kong. However, our work was too demanding to participate in any ministries. At the workplace and out of frustration, when Jacky refused to become involved in any unethical business practices, our friend advised Jacky, “You should work as a pastor.” We believed God used our friend’s suggestion to nudge us to follow and serve Him wholeheartedly.
In 1995, we decided to return to Canada and re-establish our home in Regina. At the Regina CAC, we dove into church ministries and served as counsellors for university students. We also became acquainted with many faithful Christian leaders in the city. At a Christmas dinner in 1996, Dr. Paul Siu, a professor at the Canadian Theological Seminary (CTS – now called Ambrose Seminary), suddenly advised Jacky “to serve as a vocational pastor.” We were surprised and felt unworthy of this suggestion. However, Dr. Siu was a wise, godly servant. He recommended that Jacky take Bible courses at the CTS and discern God’s will for our future. Additionally, he invited Jacky to join the organizing committee for the Joint Mission Convention (JMC) in 1997.
We responded to the altar call and desired to serve God full-time at the 1997 JMC, bringing us back to where we started this story. From a vocational perspective, Jacky was at the height of his engineering profession. He was the sole breadwinner for our family. We had little faith and wanted to ascertain whether it was God’s will, instead of our desire, to change our “career path.”
For the next few months, we ardently prayed and sought our Lord for guidance. Finally, God gave us these words from Philippians 1:21, “… to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He also gave Jacky a vision of himself standing before the Lord at the end of his earthly life. Jacky would be so ashamed to meet our Lord Jesus if he did not obey God’s call to serve Him full-time. So, without hesitation, we began to obey our Lord’s command like Gideon did.
We spent the next few years transitioning to full-time ministries. We praise God for our teenage children, Sharon and Ryan, and their unequivocal support. They often encouraged us with words like, “It is good to serve the Lord… follow what God is guiding you… don’t worry; God will take care of us!”
Indeed, our gracious God has taken good care of our children. He has blessed them with good professions, like-minded Christian spouses, and children willing to imitate their parents as they follow Christ.
In the fall of 1997, we relocated to Edmonton due to a job-transfer commitment Jacky made right before the JMC. We decided to join the South Edmonton Alliance Church (SEAC). Jacky continued taking courses from the CTS and the North American Baptist Seminary (now called Taylor Seminary) in Edmonton while he was winding down his engineering career. Anne started to take long-distance courses offered by the China Graduate School of Theology.
In 1998, Genghis Chan, the new senior pastor of SEAC, invited Anne to serve as pastoral staff. In 2002, Jacky completed his MDiv in Intercultural Ministries at Taylor Seminary. He began to serve as a missionary/pastor-in-training while Anne transitioned to her new role as the “pastor’s wife.” We completed our “home services” at SEAC, our home church.
Call for Overseas Missions
In 2001, Jacky conducted a three-month internship under the mentorship of Jonathan and Ruth Teo, who were reaching out to Mandarin-speaking Chinese scholars and workers in Israel. A week after his arrival, Jacky (a Cantonese speaker) was asked to use his rudimentary Mandarin to share the story of Noah’s ark with Chinese workers in a camp meeting. He was shocked by the power of the gospel message when over thirty workers (about half of the total gathering) responded to the altar call and received Jesus into their lives. Afterwards, Jacky was emboldened to use Mandarin in ministries.
A few weeks later, Jacky attended a house church worship service for Chinese workers led by a Kenyan pastor. The Holy Spirit spoke to Jacky with a serious message, “This African pastor does not know a word of Mandarin and has never been to China, yet he obeys my commands to serve the Chinese here… What about you? Are you willing to serve in the Middle East?” Tears streamed down from Jacky’s eyes as he replied silently, “Lord, I am willing… but what about my wife, Anne? I don’t want to force her to follow me. Please call her to join me to serve You in the mission field.” Jacky prayed for Anne and kept details of this special encounter to himself for the next few weeks.
Anne went to Israel in the last month of Jacky’s internship, immediately befriending many Chinese scholars and workers. We did our morning devotions in two separate rooms. One morning, Anne rushed to Jacky’s room with tears in her eyes and shared how the Holy Spirit had given her two passages. “Jesus… saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36) and “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Then, she urgently asked Jacky, “The Lord has just called me to serve Him in the mission field… What about you? Are you willing?” Jacky shared what had happened a few weeks before her arrival. We joyfully prayed, thanked God for His guidance, and committed to serving in the Middle East. We applied to join the Global Ministries (GM) of The Alliance Canada as soon as we returned.
Our First Term
It took about 18 months to complete the application process. At the last interview, Gerald and Dorothy Hogenbirk, GM’s regional developers, proposed to deploy us as IWs to join a newly established Alliance team in the Arabian Peninsula (AP). A few days later, we took a solitude retreat at Camp Nakamun to discern the Lord’s will. After two days of intense prayers, scripture reading, and discussions, we firmly believed God was leading us to plant churches among the Chinese diaspora in the heart of the Muslim world.
In March 2003, Jacky completed the ordination process with The Alliance Canada. The Board of Directors formally approved our IW application in the same month. We launched our first term of ministries by visiting churches across Canada and sharing how we would participate in God’s mission. Hundreds of Christians committed to partner with us through financial giving and prayer support.
On August 5, 2003, we held off our tears and boarded our plane to the AP after we had bid farewell to our children, Jacky’s dad, and church families. Once inside the cabin, we covered our faces with a blanket, then cried and prayed throughout the first flight to Frankfurt. God was good to us. He comforted us by prompting the airline staff to upgrade us, His ambassadors, to business class on the flight to the AP. This was the first time we flew business class together.
Within the first few months of our arrival, we were deeply troubled by loud noises calling Muslims to prayer broadcasting from nearby mosques five times a day. We felt threatened by the Enemy’s intimidating noises and could not rest well. Both of us knew “our struggle is not against flesh and blood… but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). So, we reminded each other “to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” and to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions….” (Ephesians 6:10, 18). When the Muslims were called to pray by their imams, at the same time, we began to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done.
We were the first Chinese IW couple to join the new Alliance AP team, partnering with an international church in a gateway city. Before our arrival, God had sent several short-term workers and planted a Chinese fellowship with about thirty new believers. While setting up our new home, we visited believers, formed a ministry team, and developed the mission statement and core values for the Chinese diaspora church CCCD (the full name is withheld for security reasons). God guided our team to host an evangelistic meeting and celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival on September 11, 2003. About 150 Chinese merchants and workers came, and seventeen accepted Jesus into their lives. With a thankful spirit, we planned another evangelistic event for Christmas. About 400 diaspora Chinese crowded into a church villa and attended the Christmas celebration, with twenty-nine responding to the altar call.
By faith, we rented a large meeting hall on the outskirts of the city and hosted the Chinese New Year evangelistic event in January 2004. About 750 diaspora Chinese came, and 211 decided to follow Christ.
Many of you may wonder how to follow up with so many new believers. Our usual practice was to gather new believers as soon as possible and 1) go through the gospel message again using the 4 Spiritual Laws booklet; 2) teach them how to pray aloud; 3) give them a copy of the Bible and encourage them to read the first four books of the New Testament; 4) instruct them to write in their Bible when and where they accepted Jesus Christ; and 5) encourage them to join a Christan church or fellowship. However, we needed more Bibles to distribute that evening and new believers were fighting to get their copies. So we calmed them down and promised to deliver them new copies of the Bible soon.
Unfortunately, we did not have any more Bibles. We prayed earnestly for God’s provision. A couple of weeks later, God sent a Korean IW to deliver hundreds of Chinese Bibles to us. Before we gave away those Bibles, we challenged our Korean co-workers to ship a 20 ft-container load of Chinese Bibles to the AP. By God’s grace, over 20,000 copies of the Chinese Bible, the largest shipment ever, were shipped to the AP. A Chinese Christian merchant helped us to clear the shipment with customs inspectors without any issues.
In our first term of service, we focused on building up church leaders, visiting Chinese workers, boldly sowing the gospel seed, forming small groups, mentoring overseas summer interns, partnering with like-minded mission agencies, and supporting Chinese diaspora missions in other AP countries. We were like kids sitting in the front row seats, watching God call His people to Him. It was common to see newcomers accepting Christ in camp/family visits, small group meetings, worship services, and evangelistic meetings. Praise our Lord, for we witnessed over 10,000 diaspora Chinese come to Christ and over 1,500 baptized during our time in the AP from 2003 to 2014.
Our Second and Later Terms
After concluding our first term, we returned to Canada for a six-month home assignment in the fall of 2006. CCCD, the main church we planted, went through a painful split during our absence. A newly arrived IW sent by another mission agency decided to fish from our church. He actively persuaded our members to join his new venture, formed small groups and hosted worship services in similar locations. When we returned to the field in early 2007, we counselled frustrated leaders and urged them not to focus on others’ failures. We were very disappointed with this other IW, his agency, and his unethical practices. God comforted us with His Word, “…some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry…But what does it matter? The important thing is … Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians1:15-18). We gradually overcame our negative sentiments, forgave the IW and his agency, and resumed having fellowship with his team for the sake of the Kingdom.
God continued to bless our ministries and transform His people. In 2007, we partnered with the Global Chinese Bible Institute (GCBI) and offered theological training for committed believers. As a result, many lowly factory/construction workers studied the GCBI courses and participated in various ministry roles.
Tim, a poorly educated furniture factory worker, decided to serve God full-time after he accepted Christ Jesus in one camp visit. God gave him a good learning aptitude to read the Bible and memorize the scriptures. A Christian merchant offered Tim to work in her warehouse so he could study GCBI courses and serve at our church on weekends. After he finished two years of biblical training in the AP, we sent him back to Beijing, China, to receive further training in an “underground” seminary. As soon as Tim completed the BTh program, he and several Christians started a house church in eastern China in 2010. Praise God, Tim is now a well-respected leader mobilizing other house churches to plant new fellowships among an unreached people group in western China. Over twenty faithful Chinese diaspora believers, like Brother Tim, are actively serving as committed pastors or leaders in churches in Africa, China, and the Middle East.
Our team leaders, Pat and Ardyce Worsley, retired and returned to Canada in the summer of 2007. We and another IW couple were appointed as co-leaders for the AP mission team. By then, our team had over twenty IW members sent by the Alliance and other agencies from five countries. Our roles were to care for all members, prepare potential new IWs, and lead the diaspora missions.
To deepen our mission knowledge and perspectives, Jacky enrolled in a PhD program at the Willian Carey International University under the oversight of Dr. Enoch Wan. Though it was very challenging to serve and study simultaneously, this training helped Jacky clarify significant mission issues and connected him with many diaspora mission practitioners and scholars.
We actively communicated with Alliance families in Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, encouraging them to join God’s mission in our field. Additionally, we partnered with local leaders who served among the Filipino, South Asian, and African diasporas in the AP. Chinese house church leaders and Lausanne leaders invited us to support the Back to Jerusalem (BTJ) and Mission China (MC2030) mission movements. Together, we committed to mobilizing our respective churches to pray for local and diaspora people regularly and to equip believers to reach out to Arabs, Iranians, and Muslim people in the AP.
We had the honour of baptizing an Iranian Muslim Background Believer (MBB) in the AP and introducing her to her future MBB husband. The Iranian authorities were persecuting them for their faith and outreach activities in Iran. We helped them to seek refuge in Canada. God has blessed them with two daughters, and they continue to reach out to Farsi-speaking people in our city.
When we joined the AP team, our wise team leaders reminded us to “work ourselves out of our jobs.” Our primary ministry focused on developing new leaders so our work would continue when we left the field. In 2012, we sensed God was guiding us to conclude our ministries in the AP and return to Canada. By God’s grace, He prepared faithful team members to lead the AP team, two full-time pastoral couples, and several lay leaders to take care of Chinese diaspora churches in the AP by the time we departed in 2014.
Equipping and Mobilizing
When we returned to Canada, we continued to serve as IWs from 2014 to 2022 under the oversight of Brem and Donna Frentz, VP & Associate VP of The Alliance Canada. Our main roles were to mobilize churches, equip believers, identify potential IW candidates, mentor young Christian workers, and support existing IWs. We also served as associate speakers for Family Life Canada and advising pastors for diaspora churches we planted in the AP. We spent about 40 percent of our time overseas and 60 percent in Canada, challenging churches to join God’s mission and networking with like-minded mission agencies.
In 2014, Jacky was invited to join the Kairos Course (SMC) national coordination team, introducing the course to churches across Canada. We partnered with several agencies, built up regional Kairos teams, and challenged every participant to become a Christ-centred world Christian. Many leaders who took the Kairos course developed a biblically-based Christian worldview, and their churches have become more missional. Due to these positive outcomes, The Alliance Canada has adopted the Kairos Course (or the Perspectives Course) as a required core subject for ordination and IW training.
By God’s grace, Jacky began to teach mission courses at the seminary level and mentored several DMin students after he had completed his PhD training in 2017. He was also invited to serve as an advisor for the Mission China movement and join the Lausanne mission group, mobilizing churches for diaspora and frontier missions. In recent years, Canada has received a large and increasing number of international students and new immigrants. God helped us see the great potential of reaching the nations by reaching them. Jacky began serving on the International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC) board in 2018, assisting them in partnering with more churches for greater ISM engagements.
We praise our Lord for calling us to join His mission. The greatest joys in our mission journey include experiencing God’s presence and His mighty power as we served Him in the field, witnessing over 10,000 precious souls decide to follow Christ, and assisting young leaders to fulfill their mission call. As we reflect on our mission journey over the past twenty-some years, we have learned the following valuable lessons:
- Hear His voice and obey His call.
- Be a learner and serve with like-minded Christians.
- Work ourselves out of the job.
- Practise Kingdom partnership.
- Let God get all the glory.
As we begin a new season of ministry, we pray that our Lord will continue to use us to equip believers and mobilize His church to participate in His mission.
This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 6. Download your free copy today.
Support the mission
The Global Advance Fund (GAF) is a pooled fund that supports our workers in Canada and around the world to share the Gospel with people who haven't yet heard the name of Jesus. Your continued generosity equips and sustains our workers and their ministry.
Jaffray Offering Thank YouThe Alliance Canada
President Herbold | December 2023 UpdateThe Alliance Canada
CCACA Executive Director ResignsThe Alliance Canada
A Journey Toward Understanding Suffering: Marion DickeThe Alliance Canada
Identity in Christ: The Cross-Cultural Worker’s Firm FoundationThe Alliance Canada
President Herbold | November 2023 UpdateThe Alliance Canada