Pastor Alan Chan remembers the late Cherry Chang for her love of missions. “She said until I give my last breath, I will give it to missions, to do missions.” And she did.
Ministry to Syrian refugees in the Middle East is among the international outreaches of Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif.
Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif. (MBCLA), where Chan is pastor of church ministry coordination, today remembers Chang years after her death as the “walking Lottie Moon.”
Chang and her husband, the late Y.K. Chang, founded MBCLA in 1963 as perhaps the first outreach to Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrants in California, and were passionately committed to international missions.
The Changs’ legacy of missions spurs the church to give generously to Southern Baptist international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). In 2016, gifts from the 1,800-attendance congregation topped $558,000. That is up from about $120,000 just six years earlier.
“God is so good,” Chan affirmed to Baptist Press. “Every year, people are looking forward to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to be a part of it. (The) Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is always a big part of our church.”
Chan witnessed Chang’s commitment to evangelism on a mission trip to China when she was 84 years old, a decade before her death in 2007 at the age of 94.
“Even in her old age,” he said, “she literally traveled everywhere to share the gospel, and not just by herself, but she always led a small group to do some mission work. … Everywhere, every person she met, she would tell them of Jesus, and that’s why she got that nickname ‘walking Lottie Moon.’” Both Chang and her husband were born in China, and moved to the U.S. to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where they earned doctorate degrees.
Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, Calif. began in 1963 as an outreach to Mandarin-speaking immigrants, and today holds services in Mandarin, English and Cantonese.
With separate Sunday services in English and the Chinese dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese, MBCLA remains committed to local missions as well as outreaches within the U.S. and abroad. In addition to several children and youth services, three adult services are held each Sunday in Mandarin, two in English and one in Cantonese. MBCLA also provides worship space at no costs to a Spanish-speaking congregation, La Iglesia Bautista del Buen Pastor or The Baptist Church of the Good Shepherd.
“Our church has been replicating this very strong commitment to mission work,” Chan said. “And of course over the years we have also sent people through the International Mission Board to serve overseas in different countries.”
It was under the Changs’ leadership that MBCLA began a Woman’s Missionary Union ministry, which has been the driving force of LMCO giving annually, Chan said. And while none of MBCLA’s members likely have roots in the northeast corner of China where legendary missionary Lottie Moon ministered, Chan said, many members were led to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries. Chang herself was led to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries in Shanghai, China.
After several years teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to elementary students in Taiwan, MBCLA last year began an ESL ministry to college students in Eastern Taiwan, teaching them leadership skills.
“We find it very strategic, using teaching English as a tool. Our English congregation and our Mandarin … and Cantonese congregations can work together to render [an] English program for the college students, but at the same time, sharing the gospel,” Chan said. “We find it very effective.”
The ministry has grown through requests from colleges in Taiwan.
“Last year we only did it at one campus; but then other universities, they heard about it, and they invited us over,” Chan said. “And these universities like our program so much, they asked us to help them.”
For nearly the past 25 years, the church has conducted the Youth Summer Mission Program on Native American Indian reservations in Arizona, in cooperation with the Four Corners Association of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and more than a dozen other Chinese Southern Baptist churches from several states. The program has expanded from 30 youth taking the mission trip in its first year, to nearly 300 planning to take the trip this summer.
The mission outreach builds good relationships with Navajo and Apache Native Americans on the Fort Apache, the Navajo Nation and the San Carlos reservations, where students also conduct special short-term trips in the winter to lead programs for youths, Chan said. MBCLA has established a mission fund to support Southern Baptist congregations on reservations and finance seminary education for reservation church pastors.
Internationally, MBCLA has ministered for about two years to Syrian refugees in northern Africa and the Middle East in cooperation with International Mission Board (IMB) representatives already in the field. Two teams from the church will teach ESL classes for refugees in Europe this summer, Chan said.
Refugees already in California are also the church’s concern.
“We have a couple, they are very burdened to reach refugees here in the United States,” he said. “They really are trying to find opportunities to reach these people.” The couple and other Mandarin Baptist members help refugees resettle through World Relief ministries already in place.
Founded in Los Angeles, Mandarin Baptist has planted several congregations in its home state of California, including Chinese Baptist Church of West Los Angeles, Arcadia Chinese Baptist Church in Arcadia, Mandarin Baptist Church of San Fernando Valley, Mandarin Baptist Church of Glory in Walnut, MBCLA Glendora Mission in Glendora, and New Life Baptist Church, an Indonesian congregation in Baldwin Park. The mother church moved to Alhambra in the mid-1980s when the Cantonese language service was added to the Mandarin and English lineups, and has a second location, Garfield Worship Center, just a block from its main campus.
Peter Chung is senior pastor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)