HONG KONG (Eastern Mennonite Missions/Mennonite Mission Network) — Forty years ago, Ira and Evelyn Kurtz, workers with Eastern Mennonite Missions, moved to Hong Kong to begin a ministry of compassion and church planting.
Four decades later, workers supported by Mennonite agencies with connections to five countries work alongside Hong Kong leaders in an Anabaptist ministry that includes three churches, a Christian center and international mission work of its own.
More than 80 people attended the Feb. 12 kick-off celebration marking 40 years of Eastern Mennonite Missions ministry in Hong Kong and 30 years since the first church plant: Lok Fu Mennonite Church – later renamed Agape Mennonite Church.
The anniversary ceremonies at Grace Mennonite Church featured sharing by founding members of the three Hong Kong Mennonite churches (Agape, Grace and Hope) followed by an inspiring and challenging sermon given by EMM worker Glenn Kauffman.
Ira and Evelyn Kurtz operated a student ministry and study center. From those efforts, the Agape church formed. Workers from a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network arrived in 1980 and joined the church in development ministry. Currently, mission workers serve in Hong Kong with support from and in partnerships with Mennonite Mission Network, EMM, Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines, and PIPKA (the mission agency of Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia). Mennonite Church Canada Witness also supports the Hong Kong ministries.
Mennonite Central Committee, in the 1950s, pioneered a relief program that included hot meals for thousands of refugee children in makeshift rooftop schools and invited EMM to help move ministry to the next step. MCC workers continued to nurture the church through the mid-1970s.During certain periods, the same workers handled both EMM and MCC operations.
"In Hong Kong, we celebrate the fact that local church members see the missionaries as one team," said Andy Wade, serving with his wife, Susan, and their two children through Mennonite Mission Network with support from Mennonite Church Canada Witness. We don’t allow differences in mission policy or 'culture' to adversely affect the way we minister together and, in designing the local conference, we’ve done our best to pull the best from each agency and allow a new, contextualized, conference emerge.”
The Hong Kong ministry has led to an outreach to the nearby enclave of Macau primarily through the efforts of a former Mennonite Mission Network represented, with support from the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Hong Kong and other Mennonite agencies.
The anniversary recognition will continue throughout the year, culminating in an October ceremony where past mission workers, including the Kurtzes, will return to Hong Kong to teach and to celebrate.