In 1975, I went to the ‘Jue Sue’s Electrical Store’ on Main Street in my home town of Atherton, to buy my very first transistor radio with money that I had saved up from doing an early morning paper run. Sometimes, after school, I would return to the Main Street with my school friends to get a milk-shake and jelly snake from ‘Fong On’s Café’. I asked were those store owners the Jue Sue and the Fong On families?
Readers of this District Newsletter may not know that there are Chinese migrant families on the Atherton Tablelands whose generations extend back to the 1870s, when the North Queensland gold rushes saw families migrate from China to Australia to seek new lives. Those two stores on Main Street in Atherton were owned by families from that extraordinary history of Chinese settlement in Australia. I went to school with fellow students from various Atherton Chinese families, and if you closed your eyes and listened to them speak, you would not hear any hint of an accent apart from a long “Aussie” drawl.
In recent times we have seen significant increases in families from Chinese backgrounds settling in Australia. Currently about 5% of the population of Brisbane is made up of people who identify with a Chinese background.
In our Lutheran Churches, we have seen a variety of Chinese people over the years, including Lutheran families of Chinese background from the Papua New Guinea Lutheran Chinese communities. There has been an ever-increasing awareness amongst Christian Churches, including our own, that there are needs for increasing witness and service amongst the newly settled Chinese citizens.
Although there have been Chinese Lutheran communities working together for some twenty years in Queensland, on Sunday the 13th of October, there was an extraordinary event in the life of our Lutheran Church’s work amongst Chinese people. The recently-recognised ‘Queensland Asian Congregation’ (QAC), with its constitution established and its ministry planned, met at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Rochedale, to extend their call to a pastor. This was a momentous occasion as this congregation is now like any other congregation in our Synod, with office-bearers and responsibilities, and has the right to call a pastor to serve them.
The people of QAC did the regular pre-call work, then they met and prayed and resolved to call Pastor Brian Shek. He is now asking the Lord of the Church to guide him as he considers this call. Please pray for Pastor Brian and for the people of the Queensland Asian Lutheran Congregation, at this significant time in the life of Asian ministry in our Church.
Next time you see a group of people of Asian background in your town and suburb, I invite you to reflect on the following information we are given by the 2016 Australian Census. Although 50% of people in Australia who have full or partial Chinese ancestry identify themselves as having “no religion” or “Chinese religion”, the census tells us that 23% of Chinese people in Australia are Christians. So, when you see a group of five Chinese people, remember that one in five people of Chinese background in Australia are Christians.
This means that our Churches do not speak simply of “witness and service” TO people of the Chinese community, but witness and service “WITH” people of the Chinese community.
Part of our work with people of Chinese background is finding ways to help with the current issues in Hong Kong. There are families in Hong Kong divided over the protests, with some in favour and some against. There are also people in our own Chinese communities in Queensland who are conflicted over the issues. Please pray for a peaceful solution to the Hong Kong struggles we see in the daily news reports.