South Vancouver is one of the most diverse communities in Canada. It’s a place where minorities are the majority, with Chinese people making up almost 40 percent of the population.

In other words, it’s the perfect location for a Chinese Salvation Army corps.

Church signA sign in front of the corps identifies The Salvation Army in both English and Mandarin.
Led by Aux-Captain Parker Shieh, New Life Church is a ministry within Southmount Citadel, where Aux-Captain Parker is assistant ministry director. The Chinese ministry began in 2012 with a Bible study of seven people; the church has since grown to more than 150 members.

“Praise the Lord!” Aux-Captain Parker smiles.

His vision from the outset has always been clear: “I want to do evangelism with the immigrants from China because most of them only know atheism—they don’t know anything about God,” he explains. All of the programs at New Life support this vision of bringing people into the church and introducing them to the gospel.

Since starting the Chinese Bible study, Aux-Captain Parker, together with his wife, Ling-Li, have launched various community ministries, including ESL classes, seniors’ ministry, tutoring for children, Chinese school, a choir, a youth group and more. “When people immigrate here, they feel insecure—they find it hard to fit into this community, this new culture,” says Aux-Captain Parker. “So we ask, ‘What can we do to help them?’ ”

Most of the church’s clients come through word of mouth. “When they arrive from China, the people here tell them, ‘If you need help, go to church!’ ” Aux-Captain Parker laughs.

For Lily Ng, a New Life member for more than five years, this focus on serving others is what she appreciates most about the church. “Parker and Ling-Li carry out the doctrine of practical Christianity—soup, soap and salvation, on a shoestring budget—with unselfish, heartfelt dedication and divine faith,” she says.

Lillian Lee, Sunday school principal, reads a picture Bible with a young church member.Lillian Lee, Sunday school principal, reads a picture Bible with a young church member.
The church’s youth group, which meets on Friday nights, is led by Aux-Captain Parker’s son, Edison. The Southmount building is within walking distance of one high school and is a short drive from another, making it easy to access for local youth.

As with the church generally, Edison hopes the group will help young people develop a relationship with God, but the church offers various activities to bring them in. Along with time for worship and Bible study, the Friday night gathering includes games and snacks. “It’s exciting for them to be able to meet new friends, and discover more about themselves and where they fit into society,” says Edison.

The youth group also volunteers with other Army ministries—in December, for example, they made chili for 1,000 people participating in the Santa Shuffle.

And while atheism can pose a challenge when ministering to Chinese adults, Edison says this is not the case with the youth. “Many of them don’t know much about Christianity so there aren’t any preconceived ideas,” he says. “They come in with a very open mind.”

These photos show just some of the ways God is working through this ministry. (Photos by Ray Shum)

Aux-Captain Parker greets church members at a Sunday meetingAux-Cpt Parker greets church members during a Sunday meeting. “When I came to The Salvation Army in 2012, I had been the pastor of a Presbyterian church for three years and had just concluded my ministry there. One day, I was driving by the church and had an urge in my heart to pull into the parking lot. I didn’t know why, but I listened to the voice inside me saying, ‘Go in there.’ I got out of my car and saw a person working in the garden. I asked him, ‘May I see your pastor? It seems like this is a church.’ And he said, ‘That’s me!’ It was Mjr Gordon Armstrong. So we sat at a picnic table outside the building and talked about our ministries, and he said, ‘We have a lot of Mandarin-speaking people in this community. Would you like to come here to do some ministry?’ I accepted his offer and started a Bible study; about three months later, we had our first service. Before Mjr Gordon was transferred to Toronto, he told me that they had been praying for a Mandarin ministry to begin at the corps for five or six years, before God led me there that day.”

Church members cut a birthday cakeOnce a month, the church celebrates the birthdays of members during the meal and fellowship time that follows the Sunday meeting.

Jennifer Chiao sings with the choirJennifer Chiao (second from left) is a member of the choir, which meets on Sunday afternoons, as well as the worship team, and she helps plan events for the youth group. “By being involved in all these things, I feel that I can use my talents, which God has given me,” she says. “I have been in this church since the beginning and I have seen how much the church and God are working on me and my children. At New Life, we are a big family.”

Leng-Ya Peng teaches ESL using a white boardLeng-Ya Peng teaches a level 1 ESL class. About 500 people have been through the ESL program since it began in 2013. “As director of the ESL program,” says Ling-Li Shieh, “what I enjoy most is getting to know the new students, helping them settle in Canada and helping them to know more about Christianity and become Christians.”

Two students read ESL workbooksLinda Nian is a student in the fundamental level ESL class. Along with regular curriculum, instructors use the Bible to teach students English. “In this way, they also learn about our faith,” says Aux-Cpt Parker. “This program has been very successful—quite a few people have become Christians through it, and some of the workers now also attend the church.”

The New Life Church youth groupThe Mandarin youth group, which has about 20 to 25 members, meets at the church on Friday evenings. Aux-Cpt Parker and Ling-Li (right) offer support.

Edward Hu sings with the worship teamEdward Hu is vice-president of the youth group and sings with the worship team on Friday nights. “Being part of the youth group has allowed me to become more mature and a better leader,” he says. “I appreciate the people who I have befriended here, and I appreciate volunteering when needed, especially at Camp Sunrise—seeing fellow Salvation Army volunteers help the children grow both spiritually and physically.”

Edison Shieh leads a discussion with members of the youth groupEdison Shieh (centre) leads a small group discussion with members of the youth group. “Within the Chinese families, many of the young people are single kids,” he notes, “so when they come here and we do activities together, they have an opportunity to learn how to work as a team, to plan and organize things as a group working toward a common goal.”

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