What a great encouragement it is to have Wanda Ho come to town. Wanda is our national Chinese Alpha Coordinator, and as much as I enjoy Wanda's company, that's not the only reason.
No; among other things, the reason I like her visits is that we get to visit with Chinese Churches. Last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent in a number of meetings in various areas of Edmonton, seeing and hearing what is happening in the Chinese community. There are a number of Chinese churches running Alpha in Edmonton (and elsewhere, of course) and a real growing interest in our Relationship Central materials, the Marriage Prep Course, Marriage Course, Parenting and Parenting Teenagers courses.
I am not a sociologist or whatever kind of ologist I would need to be to have my opinion carry any kind of professional weight, but there are some things I see in our Chinese communities. There are at least two communities, if you like, the Cantonese- and the Mandarin-speaking. Many Chinese churches have three congregations and hold three services; both the above as well as an English-speaking congregation.
Speaking very generally, the Cantonese are the ones made of up of immigrants from Hong Kong. Several pastors have told me that these congregations face at least one of the problems that some of our own western churches face - that of aging congregations. These are first-generation immigrants, and their grown children tend to gravitate toward the English-speaking services, even if it is in the same church. Mandarin-speakers, on the other hand, are mostly from Mainland China and consist of more recent immigrants and international students, here to attend our universities, so the problem of age has not yet caught up with them.
Many Chinese churches are concerned with, "the next generation," to use a term I heard over and over again, so Alpha's Youth Film Series is on special interest to many of them. So also, as I said above, are the Parenting courses, both for young children and for teenagers.
The Chinese churches are a pleasure to deal with. They are extremely courteous, extremely hospitable, and extremely concerned that they are doing Alpha right. Many of them go out of their way to ask, often several times, if they are doing things properly. And they are so pleased to show us how they are doing.
Hospitable? Every time we go to lunch I am treated (?) to a new food experience, not always sure what it is I'm eating. Every restaurant we go to seems to have only chopsticks around the table, but they have only to see me and are immediately concerned if I would like a knife and fork.
And we've been invited to join the Chinese Ministerial in Edmonton. Cool.