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Florida Conference launches first Chinese congregation

Florida Conference launches first Chinese congregation

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference launches first Chinese congregation

July 10, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0879}

An e-Review Feature
By John Michael De Marco**

The Rev. Po-Hsiung “Andrew” Yang’s vision for China is providing new life and hope to a growing gathering of his fellow countrymen in the Orlando area.

The Rev. Po-Hsiung “Andrew” Yang (left) is recognized with other pastors of new churches during a business session of the 2008 Florida Annual Conference. Yang launched New Life Chinese Mission, the first Chinese-speaking congregation in the Florida Conference. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #08-0922.

Yang was recently invited to bring his New Life Church congregation into the Florida Conference, making it the conference’s first Chinese-speaking congregation.
An ordained minister with the Evangelical Formosan Church, Yang is reaching individuals working primarily in the restaurant industry with intensive Bible studies and Sunday morning worship. His congregation meets at Kirkman Road United Methodist Church.

“God gave me a calling, and said, ‘Your new name is New Life Church,’ ” Yang said. “We have a vision for China. There’s a big need.”

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, superintendent of the East Central District, recalled meeting Yang after the pastor moved to the area from California, where he had also led a Chinese-speaking United Methodist church. Yang says he was influenced by Methodist missionaries as a youth in China.

Wiatt took note that Yang’s Chinese-speaking house church in Orlando had grown to nearly 60 participating adults, many of them young adults. Yang was renting a storefront at the time.

“He was independent and wanted to come lock, stock and barrel into The United Methodist Church,” Wiatt said. “We met, and I introduced him to (the Rev. Dr.) Mont Duncan (Florida Conference director of New Church Development). We had conversations and went through all the formalities over the course of a year. He continued to worship in the evenings across three different house churches.”

Wiatt says the congregation, now called New Life Chinese Mission, is growing steadily.

“I think it’s really groundbreaking,” he said. “We have had some Korean worshipping congregations. They have a tremendous networking among themselves. Every time I meet an Asian-American I always hear stories of a United Methodist church influence.”

Wiatt says New Life’s strength has been the home cell group. “The worship service on Sunday is certainly an outpouring of that,” he said. “The worship is very close-knit, probably because they do feel so isolated in so many ways.”

Yang said the home groups are particularly helpful since the majority of his congregants work in restaurants and often cannot attend Sunday morning worship. His church’s leadership team is comprised mostly of restaurant owners, whom Yang said have more time to be involved. Yang leads the Bible studies, but he is training small group leaders.

“For almost all the church members, it’s their first time studying the Bible,” Yang said. “They are new Christians.”

On a larger scale, Duncan said the conference is trying to be very intentional about reaching out to all of the non-English speaking groups that have been identified in Florida.

“We have a huge number of Haitians, and we are projecting a new full-time Haitian start the first of next year in the South East District,” he said. “We have a lot of folks from Haiti come over here who want to become United Methodist.”

Duncan said a Hispanic summit focusing on a model for starting new churches in the Hispanic context was held in January for clergy and laity. A Haitian summit will be held in the fall, and
an African-American summit will be held next year after a director of African-American congregational development is hired. The position was approved at the 2008 Florida Annual Conference.

Duncan said Yang has a true heart for evangelism. “That gift of his has helped him to start and grow this church,” he said. “The folks in his church have said they are pleased with his leadership. They are doing some outreach into the community to invite other Chinese folks to be a part of that new church.”
Yang recently returned from a month-long trip to his home country, where he said thousands are being baptized each month and ministerial supply cannot keep up with spiritual demand.

“They need 18,000 pastors to go and help them every year,” he said. “Only 500 pastors graduate from China each year. It’s not enough.”


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is an ordained deacon of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant based in Nashville, Tenn.