Expanding their reach

written by Ellyn Schellenberg

For some, COVID-19 has been a damper on their life and ministry, but for ShunShun* and her husband WayEn* it allowed them to experience a new depth to the ministry they are involved in. “We did a lot of relief work [during COVID] and it expanded our reach into the community by maybe three times,” ShunShun shares.

The culturally-Chinese couple from Southeast Asia work among an impoverished community of marginalised people from another country. For several years they served at a Christian education centre in the majority Muslim community, through which they were able to establish relationships and trust with people. In communal cultures, relationships are a critical part of everything. Spending time in someone’s home with them is where a friendship can really deepen and grow.

“But we felt that our impact was actually limited,” ShunShun says. The work schedule was such that they had limited time to spend in people’s homes building deeper relationships and their formal presence as part of a Christian centre meant that many people were cautious about interacting freely with them. Just before COVID-19, the couple decided to change their ministry approach and left the education platform so they could spend more time in being with people. Because they already had some established relationships and contacts, they invested time in meeting up more regularly with the children and families they already knew. Through these home visits and deepening friendships, they discovered more needs that they could help meet and began expanding their visits to more and more families. People shared their lives more freely with them, and the couple found many new opportunities to speak about the Kingdom of God.

Having an impact

“It takes time to break down the stereotypes and assumptions that [Muslims] have about Christians and Christ,” WayEn explains. One day, a man approached him after the couple had given a donation to a family in need of financial support to buy food. The man compared WayEn with another person who had gone into their community and handed out bags of rice with his own face printed on it—even going so far as to bring the local press with him to gain good publicity. “I want to learn to give like you give, without showiness, but in a quiet way,” the bystander told WayEn. He had rejected the other man’s donations because he thought the man was just using him, but he had noticed that WayEn quietly gave to various families within the community and always encouraged recipients to say nothing about it. Conversations like this one, with an individual who observed a difference in how the couple behaves and interacts with others, is how WayEn and ShunShun are able to note the impact they are having. Their growing reputation in the community as helpful, kind and trustworthy has given them opportunities to speak about the ultimate giver––God.

Fruit from Spiritual conversations

For people who follow Islam, there is uncertainty about earning their salvation according to the five pillars of Islam—the question remains whether they can ever do enough. Jesus’ offer that whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life is an invitation to confidently receive His gift of salvation. “We want to raise up peoples’ spiritual awareness—to create awareness of what they believe and compare it with what they have experienced,” ShunShun says. “Helping them to ask good questions about how they live out their faith and bringing them to the point where they can see that the only way to be a good Muslim is to show them that they need Isa, Jesus, too.”  This requires ShunShun and WayEn to be intentional about living out their own faith in their daily lives, dialoguing with people who ask questions—and asking questions in return—and praying for wisdom about what to say and do in each circumstance. “We have many opportunities to plant seeds of Truth,” ShunShun shares. “We pray God will water what is planted in peoples’ hearts, and we will see the fruit from our conversations and service.”

*names changed

South East Asia: A teacher teaching lessons and helping students in a Christian education center in a marginalized community in South East Asia.

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