Being Holistic

Being Holistic

Toronto Chinese Community Church was founded thirty-five years ago by Reverend Dr. John Kao whose passion for missions is evident in their ministry today. The church has grown to a five congregation, multi-ethnic mega church with services in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.

Toronto Chinese Community Church was founded thirty-five years ago by Reverend Dr. John Kao whose passion for missions is evident in their ministry today. The church has grown to a five congregation, multi-ethnic mega church with services in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.

A few years ago, Rev. Dr. Harding Ng (MDiv ’89), Senior Pastor, found himself, and others in leadership, challenged by the name of the church. As a large church in a middle-class neighbourhood, the danger was that they would remain safe within their walls. “We wanted to live up to our name [community] and not just talk about it,” Dr. Ng says. Since then the church has begun to explore ways it can serve the community. “Chinese churches, regardless of denomination, were started because of the generosity of Canadian churches that helped us,” says Dr. Ng. “Now that God has blessed us with more people and the ability to acquire buildings, etc., I said to myself, ‘Isn’t it our turn to help other ethnic groups?’”

Dr. Ng does not simply mean physical help either. “God seems to keep nurturing in me this concept that our Christian testimony should be holistic,” he shares, “meeting the body, soul, and spiritual needs of our people.” Toronto Chinese Community Church is attempting to do that through several ministries.

Approximately six years ago, a member of the church returned from overseas missions in South Africa. She had spent time ministering to people in prison in South Africa, and when she returned to Canada she began a prison ministry in the church and mentored those who volunteered. When some of the prisoners were released, they started coming to church.

Meanwhile, a few of the youth at the church had visited a Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold program (MIOTC) and wished the church would participate. Out of the Cold is a program that offers space, usually in a church, for homeless people to sleep, get cleaned up, receive some food, and be in a safe environment. Some of the members were worried about security or potential bad influences on their children and were initially skeptical about the program, but with educational sessions held by MIOTC, many of the fears were addressed. “I think there was a lot of fear and apprehension at the time...but I think there was a break through,” says Dr. Ng. “I think God really used that to shake us up. These are people who are just like us; these are people who need God’s love. Look at what Jesus did when He was here on earth.” Members of the congregation sought to help in whatever ways they could. Volunteers ranged from hairdressers, doctors, nurses, and even people to cut finger and toenails. Afterwards they saw their careers anew—as ways to show God’s love.

In 2010, the church purchased a 46,000-square-foot warehouse right behind the church. “God really laid it on our hearts that we need to use this for the community,” says Rev. Dr. Kinson Leung (MDiv ’92), Lead Pastor for the English congregation. “This is not about building a bigger church.” The new building, called the Gibson Centre, is already being used to serve the community. In partnership with Five with Drive, they host a food bank in their new building. When they were in the planning phase, an Afghan woman came into the church asking for some food. Dr. Leung gave her the Five with Drive food bank contact information and told her when the food bank would be opening. He saw it as an affirmation of what they were doing. After the food bank opened, Dr. Leung delivered food to that same woman and her eight children; her husband had died in Afghanistan. Along with Dr. Leung, approximately 200 members of the congregation volunteer at the food bank.

Toronto Chinese Community Church is now in the process of raising funds to renovate the Gibson Centre to make it a place for the whole community. “Hopefully it is a place where people of all walks of life can come,” said Dr. Ng. “Let’s see how the love of Christ can be experienced here when the ethnic and cultural barriers can be broken down because of the cross of Christ.” Dr. Ng, Dr. Leung, and the church have spent hours in prayer waiting on the Spirit in this time of growth and transition for their church. The initial plans are for the community centre to have a food bank, a youth drop-in centre, care for the elderly, a counselling centre, and more. He prays that the community will become a better place to live with reduced school drop-out rates, a decrease in crime rates, and reduced numbers of elderly living in isolation. “The faith journey is moving as God stirs us,” Dr. Leung says, “and I just feel that, at this particular juncture of our church growth, the Lord is stirring us to something greater.”