LAWTON—It’s 6:30 a.m., Monday. Chunhai Li is loading up his car with Bibles, Christian literature, song sheets and heading out with a few faithful members of Oklahoma City-area Chinese churches toward Lawton. Chunhai is a worker in Oklahoma’s Chinese Hidden Harvest, one among several of Oklahoma’s under-served, overlooked people groups or population segments.
Li is pastor of the Oklahoma City, Northwest Mandarin, but every other week he is leading a church planting ministry in southwest Oklahoma. The idea for this ministry began
“In the summer of 2015, an opportunity came up for me to translate for a Chinese chef at a hospital in Lawton,” Pastor Li said. “His eyes were injured, and (he) needed to visit his eye doctor. After the translation, I visited two church friends. They brought me to a local Chinese restaurant, Asian Buffet. Once there, I was pleasantly surprised to find three Chinese Christian women working in the restaurant.”
“We feel so thirsty and hungry spiritually,” the ladies told Li. “Last night, we asked God to send a pastor to come here and visit us, and now you are here. You are an answer to our prayers.”
“Yes, I believe I must be,” Pastor Li beamed. “Ever since then, our church has come down to Lawton to have fellowship with them, encouraging the Christians and reaching out to those who do not yet know Christ.”
In August 2016, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) began supporting the ministry as a church plant. Lawton, First Chinese is still building and discipling their core group. In less than a year, the group has grown to 15 people who are active with another 15-20 prospective contacts from Lawton’s Asian population of 3,268.
“Most of our active members own or work in Chinese restaurants,” Li said. “They are very busy, so it works out better for them if we meet in their restaurants. We rotate our meeting location between two restaurants, Hibachi Sushi & Buffet and Asian Buffet. We have a bi-weekly worship service at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays before the restaurants open.”
After a time of worship, Pastor Li leads a small group to do outreach to workers in all the Chinese restaurants.
“A little while after we began, I realized that a group of overlooked people needed our ministry, the women who work in Lawton’s massage parlors,” Li said. “I spoke to my wife about this need, and she said, ‘If we don’t show the love of God to these women, who will?’”
Each week, Pastor Li and his group of faithful witnesses can be seen traipsing from restaurant to restaurant, and massage parlor to massage parlor to meet with, witness to and pray with workers there. Sometimes the team visits the same location a few times as other workers to whom they minister are arriving for work.
“We also make home visits with people who contact me via social media,” he explained.
The harvest work continues. Pastor Li is praying that God will raise up some faithful local leaders.
“We also are praying that God will lead some of our faithful Chinese Christian families to move to Lawton for two or three years to help us win and disciple new believers who can become leaders in this new church. And they can continue to spread the Gospel for His Kingdom,” he said.
You can learn more about Oklahoma’s Hidden Harvest near you by hosting an exploratory luncheon for your ministry area, contact BGCO Church Planting Strategist Chris Forbes 405/942-3800 Ext. 4386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.