Mission stories: Hong Kong

The most important job

Robert A. Siirila

“What’s the most important job in life?” This question changed the life of Angus Au. He serves a Lutheran church in Hong Kong and is helping train the next generation of Christian leaders there. This is his story.

Come follow me!

In 1989, a classmate introduced Angus to an English class at Sam Shing Lutheran Church. Angus recalls, “It was a warm atmosphere and a good example of Christian love. I paid just a little for the classes, but the teacher gave me so much help!”

Angus quickly got involved in the youth group. As he thought of Baptism, he was concerned about his non-Christian parents. “Because I was an only son, I had the responsibility of doing rituals like burning fake paper money for my parents after they pass. My mom wondered who would provide for her in the afterlife if I don’t burn that money.” Angus assured her he would always show love for her. “My Dad didn’t forbid Baptism. I found out later that friends had told him that many people get baptized and then forget all about it. So they told him not to be worried.”

After graduating from college, Angus got a job as a project engineer in a toy company. He remained active in his local church, leading worship and the youth group. The more he served, the more he realized he needed training. The church body in Hong Kong was called South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) at first, and it had a Bible institute where Angus took classes on Christian counseling and a few theological subjects.

After a few years Angus had a chance to get a better paying job. But it would be very demanding on his time. “I talked to my pastor. He asked me a question that changed my life. ‘What is the most important job in life? It’s sharing the gospel. Do your plans fit in with this?’ His question deeply challenged me. So I made a decision. I eventually quit my job and two days later applied to a seminary.”

The first seminary WELS started in Hong Kong had closed due to lack of manpower. So Angus attended a different seminary even though he knew that the seminary was not strong in teaching all the doctrines of the Bible. WELS professors, however, did occasionally come to Hong Kong for short teaching visits. “In 2001, Dr. Glen Thompson was here. We were in class when we heard about a disaster in the USA. It was Sept. 11,” says Angus. Several WELS mission committee members were in Hong Kong for meetings and were also stranded because all flights to the States were canceled. Angus and other SALEM members cared for the visitors and even arranged a prayer service to help both Hong Kong and American Christians deal with the tragedy.

Time of testing

Angus graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in theology. That fall he was called by the Sam Shing church to be a full-time evangelist. About this time Missionary Rob Siirila arrived from Taiwan to direct WELS work in Hong Kong. One goal emerged at this time. The work in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region needed a new generation of native pastors and teachers. The solution seemed obvious: reestablish the seminary. Working toward that goal, plans were drafted to start a new regional seminary. The next year Dr. John Lawrenz was called to start the seminary.

Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) officially opened on May 29, 2005. Its purpose was to provide solid Lutheran theological training for SALEM students as well as others in Hong Kong and beyond.

Angus jumped at the chance to be in the first class. He now looks back with appreciation to Dr. Lawrenz. “He always talked with me. He encouraged me to study more.”

In January of 2006, Angus married Ceci Lee. Less than three months later, he went to see a doctor and found out he had cancer. “This was a huge shock! But thanks to God, my cancer treatments went well. I was in recovery but still weak,” says Angus. God had more plans. “Ceci knew I needed to further my theological study. She wanted me to reduce my workload, so she offered to work and support me. But then she got sick. We talked to Dr. Lawrenz and wondered what we could do.”

That year ALS had a visiting professor, Dr. Allen Sorum, from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS). “Dr. Allen Sorum and Dr. Lawrenz came up with a plan. I could go to the USA to study for a year! Studying with ALS and WLS, I would work towards a Master of Divinity degree. All I needed was funding,” says Angus. And God provided! A generous WELS donor enabled Angus and Ceci to go in 2008.

“It took time to adjust to the new environment. I didn’t know many people,” says Angus. “My parents came to Wisconsin to visit and told me ‘You live in heaven! It’s not so crowded like Hong Kong. The people are so friendly and polite.’ ”

But that wasn’t his main discovery. “Leaving my familiar surroundings helped me experience new things. I didn’t know much about denominations. I saw a synod that had been going on for over 150 years because they held to Scripture. I hadn’t thought much of the value of good doctrine. From faculty and students I saw an integration of doctrine and life. They were following Jesus in the classroom, family, church, and community.”

Hong Kong and the future

Angus and Ceci returned to Hong Kong in 2009 with lots of experience and a new baby boy! A year later, Angus became the second graduate of ALS to receive a master’s of divinity. Now besides continuing as a full-time church worker, Angus has become an assistant instructor at ALS. He continues to grow as he works with seasoned professors. And his family has grown with the addition of a daughter and another son.

“In Hong Kong and East Asia there are many first-generation Christians. Chinese people need to be built up so they know the good news,” says Angus. “We need to learn to interpret and use the Bible well in our Asian context. We need to show how the doctrines work out in life. We want our Chinese students not just to get notes from a class. That knowledge is limited. But knowing Jesus Christ is unlimited.

“I have a good friend whose spiritual journey is much like mine. He’s now at ALS and sees how we are committed to God’s Word. Our teachings all line up with Scripture. I pray he and many others can receive this kind of training.”

Is there anything more important than that?

Rob Siirila is field coordinator for East Asia.


Mission Facts:

South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission
Established: 1976
Baptized members: 2,251
Congregations: 9
Missionaries: 1, plus 4 who are teaching at Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS)
National pastors: 5
Evangelists: 10
Unique fact: 10 percent of the adult members of SALEM have attended classes at Asia Lutheran Seminary

 

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Author: Robert A. Siirila
Volume 102, Number 5
Issue: May 2015

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