Burnaby, B.C., is one of the largest multicultural hubs in Canada, with more than half of its population classified as immigrants. Since the majority of this population were born in China, Metrotown Citadel has been hosting Mandarin language lessons to meet the needs of their community. This program acts as an alternative to the standard English conversation program that many Salvation Army corps provide for culturally diverse communities.

Captain Diane Cross, corps officer, believes that Chinese lessons have facilitated community building.

“Our world is so multicultural. Anything that we can do to contribute to the education of our children and the future leaders within our church and community is supported by our corps,” says Captain Cross. “Parents feel like their children are losing their cultural identity, so the program addresses the needs of the Chinese community and assists them in keeping their culture relevant for their children.”

Since the establishment of the program, more than 50 students aged five to 11 have been consistently showing up to church an hour early to attend class before the Sunday-morning meeting. Parents of these students spearhead the program by volunteering as Chinese teachers, facilitating language exercises that teach written and spoken phonics using workbooks ordered from China.

“By attracting the children to church, we can have conversations with the parents and introduce community members to Jesus. It's win-win,” says Captain Cross.

Lucy Ma, a member of Metrotown Citadel and parent volunteer with the program, has been teaching Grade 1 Mandarin for three years. Ma enjoys the written and spoken components of learning and teaching Mandarin to young people.

“I wish to see all Chinese children know how to speak, read and write in their Chinese language in Canada,” says Ma. “I've learned that patience is needed when teaching them.”

Just as the teachers have put in the effort to teach, students are expected to complete homework assignments, which are graded during the following week's class. A graduation ceremony is held during a Sunday-morning service in June to celebrate their achievements.

For eight-year-old Claire Shi, attending Chinese lessons has given her the opportunity to learn her native language in a way that connects her to her peers and church. “My favourite part of the class is when my teacher plays games with us by using Mandarin words, and I love the Sunday Bible study,” smiles Shi.

Shi has been attending classes since she was six, expanding her knowledge of the Mandarin language while still immersed in an English public-school curriculum.

“Since my first language is Mandarin, when I get older I can remember my language and culture better,” says Shi. “I have learned new difficult words, I can do some reading in Mandarin and I can write in full sentences.”

Like Shi, many students and parents have been connected to other corps ministries, such as Sunday school and the kettle campaign, through the program.

“Many of these families are led by single moms providing for their children while the dads work at home in China,” explains Captain Cross. “The family dynamic of those in the program is a huge cultural shift from what many of the people in the Chinese community are accustomed to, but our corps community is a family and a place where people can belong.

“Both my husband and I are huge advocates for anything that promotes wellness and wholeness for the families in our community,” concludes Captain Cross. “This ministry rests at the core of The Salvation Army's mission and it meets a basic human need.”


On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, Kristin Ostensen said:

Hello Shirley,

Thank you for your interest in the program. Since this article was published in 2015, this program is no longer active.

If you are interested in attending a Mandarin-language Salvation Army church, there is one located in South Vancouver at Southmount Citadel. They meet at 11:30 am on Sundays and offer many weekday programs. For more information about the church, see https://www.facebook.com/SouthMountCitadel/

God bless, Kristin Ostensen, associate editor, Salvationist.ca


On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, Shirley said:

Hi, for your mandarin class, are you teaching simplified chinese or traditional chinese?

Thank you,



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