LAWTON—Chunhai Li pastors Oklahoma City, Northwest Mandarin, a dynamic congregation reaching the Asian population in the Oklahoma City metro.
Li also leads a growing church planting ministry in southwest Oklahoma that reaches into what has been called a “Hidden Harvest,” one of several of Oklahoma’s under-served, overlooked people groups or population segments.
Li is one of the many God has called to reach people in Oklahoma through Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) church planting and is supported through the Edna McMillan Oklahoma State Missions Offering.
“Most churches have ministries and desire to reach out to people,” said Christ Forbes, BGCO church planting strategiest. “But not everyone approaches life the same way, or sees things the same way or speaks the same language. By establishing new churches, we’re reaching out to people who speak a different language and have a different culture. That fellowship results in opportunities for people to hear the Gospel and be exposed to the Gospel.
“When you give to the State Missions Offering, you are partnering with a church planter in some of the places you may never go, and you can go with them by supporting them, by praying for them,” Forbes added.
On Mondays, Li loads up his car with Bibles, Christian literature and song sheets and heads out with a few faithful members of Oklahoma City-area Chinese churches toward Lawton. He tells how he first became involved in the church planting effort.
“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 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 more than 3,000.
“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 visiting different places in the Lawton area 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.
Li’s example is one of many church planting efforts in Oklahoma being blessed by God. Nearly one of every three dollars given to the Oklahoma State Missions Offering goes to fund the vital, growing area of church planting.
For more information about the State Missions Offering, visit www.statemissionsok.org or contact the BGCO Women’s Ministry office at 405/942-3800 ext. 4348.