HONG KONG (Mennonite Mission Network/Eastern Mennonite Missions/Mennonite Church Canada Witness) – Hong Kong’s International Christian School opened one set of doors and closed another.
On February 19, a large bronze statue created by Esther Augsburger was unveiled at the official opening of the new International Christian School campus in Hong Kong. The statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet is the first thing visitors see as they walk up the school’s front steps.
Augsburger’s creation means a Mennonite presence will remain at the school even though official Mennonite church involvement in its operation soon will cease. Mission workers through Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network who are teaching and serving on the school’s board of directors will leave Hong Kong this summer.
International Christian School opened in 1992. It has grown from a small facility with 12 staff members serving 56 students to a fully accredited institution with nearly a thousand students and a faculty of 87. It offers affordable, Western-style education in a Christian setting, a setting where one ninth-grade student said joy is synthesized and a 10th-grade student called a “beacon of hope.”
“God has placed many people at ICS for a reason, for a specific purpose,” said Pearl Chan, an administrative assistant at ICS since 1996. “The longer I am associated with the school, the more I see that.”
Mennonite missionaries have played key roles in the school’s history. In the 1990s, mission workers served on the ICS management committee and helped the school set policy, establish financial support and plan for future growth.
Susan Wade, who has provided pastoral care to Hong Kong congregations through Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness with her husband, Andy, took over the ICS board position in 1998 from previous Mennonite mission workers. Her two sons also were ICS students. At the recent opening of the new campus, former headmaster Dean Croy paid tribute to Wade and the hours she gave to the school as its development committee chair. Wade helped steer ICS through the application process for a Hong Kong government land grant and helped obtain and renovate alternate facilities for the elementary school until the new campus was completed.
June Kauffman, supported by Eastern Mennonite Missions with her husband, Glenn, who is the EMM Asia representative, has represented Mennonites on the ICS Board since 2003 when the Wade family left for home leave. When the Wades arrived back in Hong Kong, Susan Wade returned to ICS as a teacher and community services director. Kauffman worked together with other board members to see the building project completed and a new system of school governance established.
Kauffman contacted Esther Augsburger in 2006 hoping to commission an artwork for the new school building. Augsburger, an internationally recognized Mennonite artist, mentioned a sculpture of Jesus and Peter she had just completed for Le Tourneau University in Dallas. Le Tourneau graciously agreed the design could be used again for an ICS statue. Augsburger traveled at her own expense from her Virginia home to a Pennsylvania foundry to supervise the sculpture’s creation. Stoltzfus Trucking in Pennsylvania transported the statue free of charge to Los Angeles where it was shipped to Hong Kong.
The Augsburger statue is a visual reminder that “service to the community” is part of the ICS motto. Kauffman said, “The statue is especially meaningful to the Mennonites in Hong Kong, because it is by a Mennonite artist and it symbolizes the long history Mennonites have of service in the name of Christ.”
Kauffman, who is involved with local Hong Kong Mennonites in establishing a community ministry center, has tried to emphasize the Mennonite values of service and stewardship during her term as the school’s supervisor. She acts as a direct liaison between ICS and the Hong Kong government.
June Kauffman hopes she and Glenn can encourage other North American educators to consider service at ICS.
“The school will always have a special place in our hearts,” Kauffman said.