His hands, his feet, and his passion - Interview with Chan Ka-Leung, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Chinese Church

Interviewed and written by
Mimi Tang
Development Liaison
MDiv 1996

 

Handmade · To share and to serve

Ka-Leung is versatile in terms of his hobbies and interests. Simply looking at the photos of his Facebook profile, his diverse interests include making miniature models, growing plants, playing harmonica, playing saxophone which he loves the most, teaching drum class, making electric erhu (a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument) and re-modeling a bicycle from parts. Life is fun.

Ka-Leung is a handy man. He was a dentist before he was called to the full-time ministry. “A dentist should be handy too! I have done a personality test, the result of which showed that I am an idealist and I am a handy man. I really like to make things from my hands, and indeed I have a little bit idealism. Actually, most of my hobbies come from the needs that I saw or the problems I would like to solve.” To avoid disturbing others while he was practicing erhu, he himself made an electric one. One day, he found a set of drums buried at a corner of the church. He wanted to fully utilize the drums, therefore he learnt drum-playing and can master the tips at a short period of time. He then started to teach drum class at church while he was still in his intermediate level class. All the tuition income was designated for purchasing musical instruments for the church. “Young people love music, so I teach them drums. I love hiking and I go hiking everywhere with them. God uses my various talents, while the church gave me the opportunity, to share my hobbies in my ministry and allow me to be myself.”

2017 marks two decades of Ka-Leung’s pastoral ministry. He studied theology not because of the return to Mainland China of Hong Kong in 1997. “I had simple thoughts - God is so good to me and I just want to serve Him.” After graduation, he served at the Emmanuel Chinese Church (the “Chinese Church”) until now.

Church · To connect with the community

The Chinese Church is located at Ma Tau Wai Estate, To Kwa Wan. Fifty years ago, the district was an industrial area next to Kai Tak airport, and was at the border of the city. The original plan of the church was to build a cathedral and the funds were already available, but the church’s predecessors turned down the plan. They strived for social services. They combined church services with maternity home, primary school, and child care services so that the doors of the church kept open by serving the neighbors. “This story was reported by the South China Morning Post. The Lord has entrusted us with such a place to serve the many families through the primary school we established. With this background, our church became what we are today. It shaped our church and connected us with the community with a spirit of serving our neighbors.”

For the church, Ka-Leung has a dream. “The church as a community of faith has its role in the society, the role of a prophet. However, when the community needs the church, the church did not speak out. I did not take it lightly. The church should imitate Christ and should not be afraid of sufferings. But it seems that the church today wants to avoid difficulties, or stay out of the way, or even yield to the authority to protect its own interests. Those should not be the way of the church.” In the past two decades, Ka-Leung witnessed the district has an aging population, the influx of new immigrants, the increasing number of South Asian residents, subdivided flats everywhere, the crisis of Emmanuel Primary School being closed down, and the frustrations and depression of the young generation in the district. “In this city, many people are suffering from diverse difficulties in various degrees. As far as we can reach in this community, we will not close the door and will try to serve them. If we don’t know how to do it, we will work with others. What I hope most of all is that our brothers and sisters will practice what they are called from the above.”

Ministry · To let go of failure

Looking back at the two decades serving at the Chinese Church, Ka-Leung realized the two very distinctive stages of his ministry. “In the first decade, I focused on young people and music ministry. The second decade started in 2006 when the senior pastor left.” The senior pastor has always been his shelter, Ka-Leung thought about leaving as well. In the end, not only did he stay in the church, he even took up the responsibility of the senior pastor. Such a dramatic turn came from a thought in his mind: “Is the ministry your choice?”

“Why did I want to choose my ministry? One of the reasons was that I was afraid of failure! Everybody wanted to do well. I was good at the youth ministry. But I thought I was not good at leading the church.”

At that time, Ka-Leung attended a training course for senior pastor. Having finished the aptitude test, he got an advice from his mentor. “‘You better not be a senior pastor. If you do, it will be a disaster.’ I thought this was wonderful, given that my mentor even said this to me! However, there was a genuine need at church at that time. If I could accept my own failure, would I say NO? When I let go of my fear, I realized that it didn’t matter whether I could manage it or not. Therefore, I decided to give it a try. God always has grace!”

Ten years passed, the grace is so true. He got a breakthrough in his life. “I am an optimist. The biggest change is that I am willing to take up more responsibilities. I learn to focus more on the needs and less on myself. I try to do the things that could and should be done. Of course, today I am still in this challenge that I think I am not suitable and often have to face the gap between ideals and reality.

Bike ride · To change the society

His “take-it-easy” way of life allows him to take up responsibilities and enjoy his life at the same time. “I have always made it clear that I do not want to be a workaholic. I do not want my wife to complain: If she wants to see the pastor, she has to make an appointment. Being a pastor is not all of my life. There are other things as sacred as being a pastor. I often tell my brothers and sisters not to separate their lives as sacred and secular. Some people might think that they can serve God at church only. In fact, we have different responsibilities under different circumstances. We are sent to the community to witness God. The church should be like this. No matter whether you walk, or do your grocery, be a mother, a daughter, a teacher, a student, as long as you live and work with the mentality of serving God, it is sacred. Even if I am riding on a bike, I am serving God and this community.”

Inspired by the book Boycott the Property Conglomerates,1 he discovered that he could ride the bike to the church, which is quite close to his home. “What a surprise it is to find that it is actually very dangerous to ride a bike in this city! So, I try to solve the problem.” He found a cycling organization on the internet, and later joined as a volunteer and Chinese spokesman. “Understanding the solution to those problems, I feel that our community should not be like this. My idealism drives me to do something, to share with other people how to ride a bike safely in the city.”

Ka-Leung has five bikes, three of them are given by others. “Don’t waste anything. I can fix them and use them. In fact, I am a user of bicycles. I am not an enthusiast, nor am I riding it for fun. Bicycles are very special. They touch different aspects of our lives, including economics, transportation, health, environmental protection, energy, interests, exercises as well as wealth and pover ty, etc. They have a role to play in these areas. Cycling helps us to experience the city from a new perspective. It also helps us to discover many problems of the city. To some extent, I regard cycling as a social movement. I expect to change the society. If we can change the way we think, not only can we save the transpor tation costs, but also reduce air pollution and win back our health. Of course, If we want to change a city, we need to advocate at different levels. Yet, we do not have to wait for the government, we can ride our own bike every day. The more people doing it, the closer we are to the goal. I believe that we can change the society from our feet level!

On his pilgrimage of free and easy living coupled with responsibility, he faces life challenges day after day, with both his hands and feet. It is faith and it is also love.

 

 

1. Pong Yat Ming, Boycott the Property Conglomerates [in Chinese] (Hong Kong: Up Publications Limited, 2011).

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