The Australian Government issues special work permits to backpackers to work for one year, then travel and enjoy the hospitality of this ‘sun-baked land’ for the next year.
Many of these young men and women find their way to the “Ai Chun English Club”
Here is the story of this unique ministry
The church that thrived because of this innovative ministry
By Judy Low
Alison was working as a nurse and in her job she saw many deaths. She was disturbed and confused and so began her search for the answer to life. She went back to university to study Philosophy for another 4 years. She read about 300 books but still could not find the meaning of life. It was in this state that she came to Australia as a backpacker. When she was introduced to English Club, we gave her the one book that she should read – the Bible, the world ‘s best seller. Through reading this book Alison found Jesus Christ and the meaning of life and her God- given purpose. She returned to Taiwan and shared the good news with her family. They saw the new Alison who was so full of hope and faith. They all readily accepted Jesus as their Lord too.
Alison is one person whose life was impacted by the Love Community Ai Chun English club, (愛群英文班) a ministry which began with a drop-in centre in Perth’s Chinatown in 2007 by the Full Gospel Assembly leaders who had a heart for backpackers. They provided a listening ear, internet access for them to contact family and home cooked meals. The centre became overcrowded very quickly with an average of 30 people dropping in every week. God then provided the Overflow Café for their gatherings. They continued to meet every Tuesday evening for the next 8 years. The church who owns Overflow also meets on the same night for their prayer meeting. Intercession upstairs and backpackers outreach downstairs – surely God would work there.
The backpackers who came were from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. Japanese and Chinese students from China also came. English lessons started at 6.30pm. We taught them from Bible passages and answered their questions. Group facilitators prayed and shared the Gospel when opportunities and hearts opened up. At 8pm, those who are Christians would join small discipleship groups. The many newcomers would gather to sing, hear testimonies and a gospel message. Through these interactions many came to know the Lord. They spread the invitation in the backpackers’ hostels and brought others, while students brought their friends from their schools and universities. Transportation was provided to those who wanted to come to the Sunday Chinese church service.
Connect to church
From the beginning of 2015, English Club core leaders sensed that God was leading them into a new season. More backpackers were coming to the Sunday Chinese service than the Tuesday evening English Club.
The focus also shifted more to those from Hong Kong and Taiwan rather than Korea and Japan. After 8 years over 15,000 visitors had come through. Previously newcomers were often brought by backpackers.
These days, they would come on their own after finding us on the internet. We sensed that God was leading us to meet in our church on Sundays. So from Nov 2015, English Club was held in our premises at 12 noon, after the Chinese church service.
Backpackers can thus experience a 3 in 1 experience of: Fellowship in church with other Christians, learn English and enjoy lunch afterwards.
God’s mandate and anointing in Matthew 28 is for us to make disciples so they can go and make other disciples of all nations. We make evangelism the key of our ministry.
We train the new believers to sing songs and share their 2 minute testimony. Through this we see their lives impact even their friends because they would bring them to the Sunday gathering. Often these friends will readily accept Jesus because they have seen the change in them.
The backpackers who went home have established networks to keep in touch with one another in Taiwan and Hong Kong. We pray Philippians 1:6 for them that “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We pray that the good work begun in Perth will be completed back in their home countries.
Judy Low a former business woman is the pastor in Full Gospel Assembly (now renamed Kingdom Light) who with a team of faithful helpers run the backpackers ministry.