“GO AND LOVE THEM!”
Tse Wai Man
In 2016, the Lord called me to serve the African refugees and asylum-seekers in Hong Kong. 1 When I asked the LORD, “What can I do for them?” The LORD said, “Go and love them!”
Therefore, I departed from my pastoral ministry at church in the following year and began my full time ministry serving the refugees.
Love is to treat one other equally and keep watch over one another
The first platform for encounter was the African Refugee Fellowship in an Englishspeaking church. After the fellowship, they gathered at the church for lunch. I tried to sit together with the women, hoping to catch up on the topic and talk to them. However, they communicated in African languages which I didn’t understand at all, and it was rather awkward to ask them to switch to English. I, therefore, smiled to them as a warm greeting, and sat next to them quietly. On the other hand, men took the initiative to talk to me and exchange phone numbers with me. Later, I found out that this gesture represents their wish to develop further relationships. Hence, I deliberately removed myself from them and avoided contact with men alone. I felt quite miserable in loving them! When discouragement overwhelmed me, I kept pondering, “Can I really love them? How is God's commandment able to be fulfilled?
Some people comment that it is not easy for refugees to trust others and they seldom reveal their past and present stories. Many refugees admitted that they have no real friends in Hong Kong.
Half a year later, a refugee woman came to me after the fellowship, “Where have you been last week?” I realized that they noticed my absence and cared about me. I was elated, and I gave thanks to the Lord because I felt accepted in this community. Since then, I have learned more about the situation of refugees from her and have encountered more refugee women through her. We shared each other’s needs, encouraged one another with God’s Word, and prayed for one another.
I realized that to love the refugees is to treat them equally; to give, and receive; to love and be loved.
Love is rooted in God’s Word and built up in truth
Some people say that refugees generally have to stay in Hong Kong for 10 years or more. Even if they have stayed in Hong Kong for 20 years, they might not be successful in applying for torture claimants. Only those who confirmed their refugee status can apply to settle in other countries. During the review process, they are not allowed to work in Hong Kong. They live on the monthly allowance of the government, which is far below the basic living expenses. These put a tremendous pressure on their lives. Thus, they are most eager to confirm their status as soon as possible, so that they would be able to migrate to the prospective country and resume normal life. Perhaps for this reason, many male refugees want to stay in Hong Kong by marrying Hong Kong citizens.
Having heard of many negative stories, I deliberately stayed away from male refugees whom I felt “suspicious.” I also tried my best to avoid exchanging phone numbers or talking with them alone. However, I was full of struggles. I cannot give up loving people because someone might have ulterior motive. The Lord commanded me to love the refugees. He reminded me to love them with His Word. Having reflected on His Word, I finally decided not to evade, but learn to respond to them with the Word of God, such as the biblical view of marriage and how to get along with friends.
I realized that to love the refugees is to learn to respond to them with God’s Word. God teaches the refugees how to understand and follow His Words through the real-life examples of those who keep his words. I realized that to love the refugees is to build up their lives with the truth of the Bible.
Finally, I understand why the Lord commanded me to serve the refugees is to love them first. If I don't love and learn how to love them, I can’t really know them, and I won’t understand their real needs, not to mention about serving them. Every time when I saw the refugees thanking the Lord for His love for them, it was the happiest moment of my ministry. I thank the Lord for loving them, and through them I learn the love of the Lord.
1. According to the “Refugee Pastoral Care Handbook” published by the Refugee Ministry Group of the Hong Kong Christian Council in 2016, there are about 10,000 asylum-seekers in Hong Kong, but less than 1% have been successful tor ture claimants. In fact, some people have been repatriated and some have come to Hong Kong. Therefore, the number is constantly changing. (http://www.hkcc.org.hk/acms/content.asp?site=hkccnew&op=showbyid&id=48944, sited on May 15, 2018.)