In Various Kinds of Service: Doug, Hilda, and Judith Wiebe

May 20, 2024 | 14 minute read
The Alliance Canada

Image

Change in Perspective 

Sometime in my early Christian training, I learned and believed God allowed Communism to take over China, bringing with it much suffering because the people as a whole rejected the Gospel preached to them in the early 20th Century. Early in my missionary life in Hong Kong, I casually shared this perspective with a young Chinese intellectual. He promptly informed me I was the reason for Communism and his people’s suffering. From his perspective, the so-called Christian countries exploiting China were to blame. Being from one of those countries, white and Christian, I was, therefore, personally to blame. 

I began to absorb something of the Oriental concept of time, something of their perspective of the glory of the past, and something of the eternal present of the past. It also helped me throughout my ministry that I realized I was not highly regarded because of my history, my noble ancestry, my white skin, or my great sacrifice to bring the good news to Hong Kong in the early seventies. Basically, I was the foreign devil (kweiloo) and the barbarian of inferior culture, customs, and intellect. 

I also came to realize I should regard cultural politeness for what it was, but not to determine my ministry and lifestyle according to it. I also learned I was a guest, unwelcome and uninvited, as were my other missionary coworkers. It became clear to me if I could live with that worldview—accept it, love it, laugh at it, respect it—then I could be accepted, loved, and respected on another profound and deeply satisfying level. I was distraught when others would make racist remarks, knowing how thoughtless they were. 

Where it Started 

I grew up on a prairie farm near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the third of eight children. My grandparents on both sides had arrived in the Northwest Territories in 1904, my mother’s parents from London, England, and my father’s from Russia. The Wiebes were devout Mennonite Brethren. The Bates (my mother’s side of the family) were devout Plymouth Brethren, recently converted through the Moody/Sankey revivals in London. They ended up farming a few miles apart near Saskatoon. 

I attended the Strawberry Valley Gospel Hall, built by my great-grandfather in 1917. I prayed to receive Christ at Redberry Lake Bible Camp (Mennonite Brethren) in 1952, the same year we got electricity on the farm. I was baptized four years later at the Gospel Hall in Saskatoon by Elder Bev Tansley, whom my great-grandfather had led to Christ years earlier. 

My earliest exposure to missions came through missionaries Herb and Eileen Thiessen. They visited our little Gospel Hall to report on their work in India, and I will never forget the wonder I felt when Herb unrolled the skin of a snake that stretched the entire width of the building. I also recall an old white-haired missionary showing us black and white pictures of his life in China. 

I went to the same one-room schoolhouse my mother had attended, being the only one in my grade from grade two to grade eight. I attended two years of high school in Saskatoon and then two years in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan. I then attended the University of Saskatchewan, obtaining a BA in Psychology/Sociology. 

After graduation, I was immediately employed as a social worker with the provincial government, requesting a posting in Saskatchewan’s far northeastern area, working primarily with Indigenous people. For a time, I lived in Prince Albert and soon met Ernie and Helen Regier, who were planting an Alliance church there. I then heard about Canadian Bible College (CBC), so I resigned from my job and moved to Regina. From 1966-69, I attended CBC while working as a social worker during the summers to cover my school fees. Through high school and university, Inter-School Christian Fellowship and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship played important roles in my spiritual formation. 

Having no particular interest in China until my third year at CBC, I was assigned a “younger brother,” Stephen Lee. He had escaped China for his faith by swimming through shark-infested waters. Since he was now in the dorm room next to mine, I often heard him praying, loudly and with tears. Once I asked him the subject of his prayers, and he said, “I am praying that you will be a missionary to China!” The Chinese students who lived on my floor in the residence gathered around me once and decided to give me a Chinese name, “Yip Wai Dak,” Yip meaning “leaf,” and Wai Dak meaning “Maintain Virtue.” Little did I realize how the name would stick with me for the rest of my life. 

Where it was Realized 

My missions professor from 1968-69 was a Vietnam missionary, Victor Oliver. Along with his wife, Dixie, he counselled me to marry my classmate Hilda Amels and encouraged me to apply for missionary accreditation. When I said I did not feel called, he responded: firstly, I should give God a chance; secondly, I should give God the benefit of the doubt; and thirdly, I should immediately fill in the forms. 

On January 15, 1969, he called me to his office and advised me to apply for Alliance Youth Corps and spend a year at Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong, teaching Greek and English to seminary students. The same evening was Hilda’s birthday party, hosted by my Chinese dorm mates. This juxtaposition of events seemed significant. 

The summer of ‘69, Hilda and I were engaged at Glen Rocks Bible Conference, where her folks lived as caretakers. Hilda went on to work as a children’s worker at the Guelph Alliance Church and agreed to wait for me while I went off to Hong Kong. Her commitment to missions was solid. 

When I stepped off the plane in Hong Kong in August 1969, I had an overwhelming sense this was home. I considered the sensation to be my missionary call. Dr. Oliver’s words came to me many times when facing challenges and, by God’s grace, enabled perseverance. 

I spent my first year in Hong Kong lodging with veteran missionaries, C.C. (Charles) and Esther Fowler, learning much of being a missionary through their example and teaching. I loved working with the seminary students and, in my youthful idealism, refused to eat meals with the professors, choosing to eat with the students (getting less meat as a result)! 

I unintentionally broke numerous unspoken rules during the year, for which I was graciously forgiven and scolded in good humour. At the end of the year, the mission field director, Anthony Bollback, and National Church president, Phillip Teng, invited me to return after getting married and more educated first. I had hoped to visit the Thiessens in India that year, but unfortunately, just as I was making arrangements, Herb was killed in a motorcycle accident. 

Meeting the Qualifications 

I returned to Canada, married Hilda Amels at Glen Rocks Conference Grounds in Ontario, and set off for the USA. When border patrol asked how we would support ourselves, I said my Father would take care of us. He accepted my answer! 

Miraculously, we were given an empty church manse of the Evangelical Free Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to live in free of charge in exchange for making sure the church doors were locked each evening. Hilda, a trained lab technician, was unexpectedly granted a work visa within a month of our arrival due to a shortage of lab techs at the time in the USA. We had been short on funds, and some classmates encouraged us to work without a visa, but God wanted to show us when we did His will, He would provide. 

I obtained a Master of Arts in New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while Hilda worked and gave birth to our son, Michael. On graduation, I was invited to go to Honolulu and work as a youth pastor with former Hong Kong missionary Anthony Bollback, who was by then pastor of Kapahulu Bible Church. Since Hilda already had a work permit for the USA, I accompanied her and shortly had my own. 

Alf Orthner also invited us to go to Churchill, Manitoba and pastor there, but we chose Honolulu. Our two years there gifted us with a daughter, Miriam, and many cross-cultural experiences, facilitating our move to Hong Kong. I was also ordained there in 1973. 

First Term 1974-78 

Arriving in Hong Kong in August 1974, the first task for both Hilda and me was to complete two years of full-time language study. It was a challenge with two small children, and life grew even more challenging when Hilda became pregnant with our third child. A wonderful extended visit from my Saskatoon-based parents was a great source of help and encouragement during this time. 

One of my Chinese classmates from Trinity arrived back in Hong Kong at the same time we did. He worked at Far Eastern Broadcasting Company (FEBC), where they urgently needed an English-speaking announcer for one afternoon a week. He prevailed much upon me, and I agreed to help out. It was a tremendous delight to be doing something useful, to be making friends with Chinese coworkers, and to be learning about radio work for mainland China which, while unknown to me at the time, would open doors for ministry in the future. 

For our third and fourth years, we were assigned to assist in church planting. The first year in Aberdeen, in a young plant, and the following year in Kwai Chung for entirely new work. It was a wonderful time seeing new churches planted and working with young seminary graduates. These works prosper to this day, and we could easily see the value of foreigners like ourselves in outreach ministries. 

Working among the lower classes, we found the people eager to talk to us, especially since we could speak something of their language, which they had not encountered before. 

The Hong Kong government would grant ground-floor space in high-rise buildings to religious organizations for operating youth, daycare, and senior centres. If we ran the programs during the week, we could use the facility for church activities on the weekend. This was a great advantage, forcing us into the community during the week, making friends and helping families, and it was a perfect bridge for building relationships. The Alliance had a good reputation for doing this kind of work, and many churches were planted this way. 

During our third year (1977), the American Alliance head office in Nyack determined the Hong Kong field should start a radio ministry to mainland China. The field administration was not interested, but pressure from Nyack persisted as they had signed an agreement with Transworld Radio (TWR). Since I was the only one with any radio experience, I was eventually asked to head this up. 

Space does not permit to tell the story of how it all came together, but God miraculously provided, and on May 1, 1978, the first program went on the air. This was a grassroots movement with volunteers from the Alliance church writing scripts and recording programs in their various areas of interest and training. 

Our first program was a sort of university-of-the-air format, attracting listeners who had not had the opportunity to study. A witness to Christ was always part of the program. Due to political change, we began to get listener responses from China, and within a year, we had five full-time workers just in the follow-up department writing letters. We had no funds to support the workers; they joined us out of vision and passion, raising their own support from families and home churches. Their excitement in receiving letters from China, and being able to respond, was contagious. 

An organization from Holland heard of the work and sent workers and funds to build us a recording studio, so we did not have to rent. Other organizations, including the USA Foursquare church, gave significantly to sponsor program production. Famous Christian movie actors, Roy Chiao and his wife, spoke beautiful Mandarin and joined us part-time to help with writing and recording programs while also giving great encouragement and inspiration to the staff. A great day was when the National Church president, Phillip Teng, decided to record Bible study programs for us. Eventually, the National Church agreed to take over the whole ministry, and it continues to prosper to this day. 

In May 1978, China opened the door for limited tourist travel, and I was able to join the seventh small tour group going into Gwanjou (Canton). The widespread poverty and suffering were overwhelming. I was able to pass out a few Bibles and, whenever clear of our tour guide, eagerly passed out small cards advertising Alliance Radio. More than anything, I was impressed with the great need and value of the radio ministry. 

First Home Assignment 1978-79 

I settled my family in Bracebridge, Ontario, to be close to Hilda’s parents. My first tour took me to Saskatchewan, reporting to churches. I will never forget the graciousness of Ron and Sharon Erickson, who, while I was recovering from pneumonia, gave up their master bedroom so I could have a good rest. 

The eleven-week tour ended in Meadow Lake, where Wayne and Dawn Boldt had arranged only one service saying, “We knew you would be tired and would need a break, so we are just going to rest!” We spent some good hours in the bush, around campfires, and on the snowmobile, sharing our journeys. 

The spring tour was in Ontario. The visit to Rexdale with Ross Ingram was a highlight, as well as staying with Fred and Marie Harold in Chatham. This visit stretched into two weeks because the churches scheduled both before and after Chatham had cancelled their missionary conferences. 

Second Term 1979-82 

In August 1979, we were back in Hong Kong and spent three beautiful years overseeing Alliance Radio’s development. In 1980 and 1981, I had the opportunity to tour post-Mao China, visit Alliance English teachers, and assess listener response. On one trip, I travelled with Bill Kerr, senior missionary formerly to Tibet. 

In Szechuan, we visited with former Alliance pastors who had been imprisoned for two years. One pastor came to our hotel room with his three sons, all pastors in the underground church. His faith and the faith of his sons were immeasurably inspirational. In Cheungdu, as in other cities, we were able to visit buildings that had formerly been churches and were now were being used as factories, offices, etc. 

In Shanghai, we passed by the old Alliance Tabernacle and could clearly see where the C&MA logo, which had been inlaid brick, had been chopped out. In HangJou, we were able to attend a large church that just recently opened. It was packed, everyone in their blue padded jackets. I will never forget their passion for singing the doxology and “I Need Thee Every Hour.” These pieces took on a significant new meaning for me. 

After the service, I was hugged by an elderly Chinese lady who was so excited to see me. I could not understand her but, through translation, discovered she thought I was Hudson Taylor the third, whom she had cared for as a baby. My blond hair and blue eyes had convinced her I was Taylor. Fortunately, we knew the man she was looking for, who was still active in ministry and gave contact information. 

In July 1982, Hilda developed cancer which necessitated our immediate return to Canada for treatment. We settled in Orillia, Ontario, to have family support and access to medical care in Toronto. Home assignment ministry took me again to Saskatchewan as well as Ontario. In February 1983, the LaRonge Alliance Church in Saskatchewan, where I had visited briefly on tour, called to invite us to come there to pastor for at least two years, saying they felt the Lord was telling them we needed a rest. They were a church that had just experienced a split and was also hurting. It was a perfect match, and we happily accepted, taking a two-year leave of absence from the mission before returning to Hong Kong in August 1985. 

Third Term 1985-89 

Our third term was spent church planting in the Temporary Housing Areas amongst the poorest and most marginalized people of Hong Kong. We worked in practical outreach ministries and gave oversight and encouragement to workers in nine different housing areas, again access being given freely to us by the Hong Kong government. 

One of the significant challenges of this ministry was helping the recent seminary graduates understand the importance of evangelism through involvement in the community and social work. The residents of these “areas” were primarily recent refugees from China, many of them unable to speak Cantonese, and most unskilled, hence living in the very poorest of conditions. 

The “areas” were extended motel-like row-houses, made of corrugated metal, one hundred square feet, with a water faucet. The washrooms were public, which also served our centres, and were not pleasant to visit. Most of these people had never heard of Jesus and had never spoken with a white man before. It was a good place for a missionary to be. 

As I walked up and down the narrow alleyways, I got to know people, often being invited to join them in their evening meal and enjoyed trying to be understood. For some, I knew their children, if they came to the study centre. If someone was sick, I would pray for them, and whether the person remained ill, was healed, or died, it was the most effective means of opening their hearts to the Gospel. 

Having recently arrived from China, some returned to China for visits and often invited me to go along. It was on these trips, late nights on the train, or hiking to the home village, where opportunities for sharing the Gospel were many and natural. One resident asked me to visit his family in Shanghai when he heard we were going there. What a privilege for my son and me to stay with his Muslim family in their tiny house for three days and to be able to take his brother to the only open Shanghai church. 

Back in Hong Kong, I recall one night feeling somewhat discouraged as I walked about. I was invited to join a wah-kiuh family for supper. Wah-kiuh families had fled to Indonesia during the cultural revolution in China, only then to be persecuted in Indonesia, eventually returning to China, only to be persecuted there again, and finally settling in Hong Kong. As we chatted, he commented on how big my church was! I was surprised as, typically, there were only ten or fifteen people there. When I asked him what he meant, he said, “So many people invited you to eat with them!” What I had not realized was in the sight of the community, I was the accepted SunFu (Godfather, priest/ pastor), and them inviting me in indicated their acceptance of me. I then also understood why some did not invite me in. 

1989-1995 

At the end of the term, we were invited to teach at Canadian Bible College in Regina and spent six wonderful years there while seeing my wife’s health restored. Our children, Michael, Miriam, and Marcie, happily readjusted to Canadian life. 

1995-2015 

During the next twelve years, I served as the district superintendent for the Eastern Canadian District (ECD) of the C&MA in Canada. My overseas and teaching experience served me well in this role. 

Hilda’s cancer returned, and she passed away in May 1997. As a family, we experienced generous support from the district churches and the C&MA family. My daughter Miriam came to live with me for the following year. Through volunteering at World Vision, upon graduation, she was offered a position in nutrition and has been with them ever since. She currently lives in Greece and has two children. My youngest daughter Marcie (born in Hong Kong) now has three teenagers, and her husband is a pastor in Regina. My son Michael manages a resort in Costa Rica, has one married son and two daughters. 

Four years after Hilda’s death, I married Judith Milne, who worked in member care out of the National Ministry Centre (NMC) of the C&MA. 1 In 2008, her son developed brain cancer; we moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, so we could support him and his family. 

The Exchange Community Church (C&MA) in Winnipeg was looking for a pastor. I accepted the position, and Judy continued her role as director of Member Care with the NMC. Our church was a drop-in centre during the week in the downtown Winnipeg Exchange District, and we lived not far from the church. This opened a whole new ministry experience of reaching out to the marginalized downtown people of Winnipeg. 

The district purchased an old office building for the church, which served as our base and a type of community centre. The top three floors were rented out to young artists, which opened doors into the community. It was a time of rich ministry experience for Judy and me, and we are grateful for the C&MA district support during that time. 

2015-present 2021 

In November 2017, we moved to Calgary to be with family. At age seventy-one, I officially retired. Since then, I have experienced the grace of God in opening doors for friendship and ministry to Islamic Syrian refugees, working as a volunteer with four families containing a total of twenty-eight children under age sixteen. With COVID, the visits have been restricted, but contact through FaceTime is continued. They are lovely families who have suffered much and are a delight to be with. 

For the district, I have been working with men and women in the ordination program, listening to the sermons submitted and evaluating them. 

Since coming to Calgary, I have also been preaching on Sundays at the nearby senior’s residence as a ministry of First Alliance. Although limited by COVID, getting to know the residents, their families, and staff has been especially rewarding. I have seen the immense value of these folks having regular pastoral visits rather than a different speaker each Sunday. I have even had the special privilege of conducting funerals for some of them. 

Judy is involved in volunteering for the NMC and serving as spiritual director via Skype for workers world-wide. She has graciously supported me, adjusting to life with me in the district office, pastoring in Winnipeg, and now in retirement. 

Tributes 

In conclusion, I pay tribute to my first wife, Hilda, who felt a strong call to missions which was a key factor in us getting together. She served faithfully and enthusiastically as a missionary in Hong Kong, as a professor’s wife in Regina, and as the district superintendent’s wife. Her gift of hospitality was enjoyed by many. At one of the farewell services in Hong Kong, a young man came up to me to say a few words. I thought he was going to thank me for my inspirational teaching. Instead, he said, “I hope I can find a wife like yours!” 

I am also thankful for my children, who gracefully endured our many moves, back and forth across the ocean, without complaint. They loved Hong Kong, and Hong Kong loved them. It was a huge adjustment to move from there to Regina. The CBC staff and faculty, and district churches were a great help and support to us all during that time. 

I commend my wife Judy for her gracious love and support during our married life as the wife of the ECD district superintendent and wife of a pastor in Winnipeg, all while continuing full-time work with the NMC. 

And last, but certainly not least, I’m grateful for the privilege of serving the Lord throughout these years. 

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 2. Download your free copy today.


  1. See Making God Known: To Least-Reached People in Extraordinary Ways, Chapter 3: Caring for International Workers by Judith Milne Wiebe.

Share:


Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Find more posts about:


Image

The Alliance Canada

The Alliance Canada is people in churches sharing the love, truth, and hope of the Gospel with people worldwide who may never have heard the name “Jesus” before.
Learn more

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.


Donate

Comments

Leave a Reply