Every Christian’s life is a journey. For many Christians, that journey involves a life change as they seek to follow God’s will for their lives. For Pastor Kewen Dong, that journey of following God would lead him to not only change professions and become a church planter, but also to travel across the globe.
BSC screenshot from video
Pastor Kewen Dong plants churches among restaurant workers. He founded Friends of International Restaurant Employees.
When he was a young man in China, Dong was forced by the government to leave his family and become a farmer. During this time, he faced hardship and experienced the Lord’s provision, gaining a personal knowledge of the Lord and vowing to follow wherever He would lead. Soon after, Dong was selected by the government to study at a university and pursue medical degrees. He continued to seek God’s will and glorify Him, even while living in communist China.
In 2004, nearly 40 years after he had dedicated himself to the Lord, Dong was living in the United States as an accomplished medical practitioner. God had opened the doors for him to further his education in the U.S., but soon, Dong felt God leading him away from the medical field and on to something else.
“In 2004, God closed the doors to my research work in the medical school,” Dong said. “But if I would no longer pursue a lifetime career, what would I do?”
Dong’s answer came about in the form of a business that God had led him to own in 1999 – a Chinese buffet restaurant. Throughout his years of owning that restaurant, Dong would visit with the restaurant employees, learning about their lives and their hardships. He began to feel God moving his heart to care for these people. It was because of this experience, Dong said, that he began to realize where God was leading him in his future work – to plant churches among Chinese restaurant workers and share God’s Word with them.
“There are 1 million Chinese restaurant workers living in the United States,” Dong said. “Many of them live in small cities … and in these cities, they don’t have a Chinese community, and also, they don’t have any Chinese church. And these people live in very, very isolated conditions.”
In 2006, Dong began a late-night worship service for restaurant workers in Virginia Beach. Then, in 2010, God led him to North Carolina to partner with a Baptist church in Elizabeth City to create another outreach to Chinese restaurant workers. In 2013, Dong again felt called to begin another worship service for workers in Rocky Mount.
Because of the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) Dong was able to provide his churches in North Carolina with resources. Each year, 28 percent of funds received through the offering are allocated to church planting – Dong is one such church planter who received offering funds so that he can provide his congregants with Bibles and other tools to better know the Lord.
Dong’s church in Rocky Mount, which meets in the building of Sunset Avenue Baptist Church, holds worship services on Sunday evenings after restaurant hours. Often, workers are tired after working a long day. They typically finish work very late – around 10:30 p.m. – so holding worship meetings late at night was necessary in planting a church that these restaurant workers could feasibly attend.
This church is just one of many for Chinese restaurant workers in the U.S. In May 2013, Dong founded Friends of International Restaurant Employees (FIRE), which exists to reach Chinese restaurant workers in smaller American cities with the gospel. In North Carolina alone, FIRE has started a monthly Bible study in Greensboro and has begun church-planting efforts in Fayetteville, Cary and Aberdeen.
Though Dong has traveled far with the Lord, he knows that he still has a journey ahead of him. He feels called by the Lord to continue to reach Chinese restaurant workers in other states in the American Southeast, a place where there are few efforts to reach Chinese people with the gospel.
“As I look back … I see how God has been with me all along the way,” Dong said. And surely, God will be with him for the journey in the years to come.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – To watch a video about Kewen Dong’s ministry, visit vimeo.com/channels/ncmo. If you would like to learn more about the church-planting efforts funded by the North Carolina Missions Offering, please visit ncmissionsoffering.org.)