Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley

RICHMOND – snapshots of faith

BY PETER BIGGS

conversations with pastors: 

Thrive Church – JB Lim |   Crucible Church – Jonathan Chan | More than twelve Church – Boz Poon  |  Tapestry Church – Albert Wu

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Chinese triad gangs, Spice Girls & Jesus   

by Danielle Martell

Garry Point dyke + Richmond skyline from the Skytrain above No 3 Road

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introduction

This is the eleventh in ‘the snapshots of faith’ series. Studies of each city/municipality has revealed striking differences.

Few will be surprised that Richmond is distinct. This low laying island, notable for being totally flat (only a meter above sea level) has a unique cultural and ethnic makeup. With a mostly middle-class to upper-middle-class demographic, Richmond politically has voted quite regularly along centrist lines. The city’s politics are well known in the often factious Lower Mainland, for how seldom political upsets or surprises occur.

population & ethnicity

Current Population 2017 (estimated): 218,307
Population 2016 (Census): 198,309 Population 2011 (Census): 190,473
Population growth (2011-2016) 4.1 percent.
The 2016 Census revealed 76.3 percent as belonging to a ‘visible minority’ – the highest proportion of any municipality in B.C.

The 107,080 people of Chinese background represent 54 percent of the City’s population. This proportion has grown from 34 per- cent in 1996, to 40 percent in 2001, 45 percent in 2006, and 49 percent in 2011. North Richmond has communities with over 90 percent visible minorities. In Steveston – at the South West of Richmond this figure drops to 43 Percent. The 2016 Census records Aboriginal people accounting for only 0.8 percent of the population (compared to 2.5 percent for Metro Vancouver and 5.9 for BC).

Richmond is home to many totally Chinese-oriented shopping malls, most of them along No. 3 Road. The Richmond Olympic Oval was built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and was originally configured with a speed skating rink. Following the Olympics, the venue was transformed into a community multi-sports park.

SkyTrain’s Canada Line, connects both Richmond Centre and the airport to downtown Vancouver and all points in between. It opened in August 2009.

Since all of Richmond occupies islands in a river delta, the city has plenty of rich, alluvial soil for agriculture. Richmond’s land, being only one metre above sea level is surrounded by a system of dykes. There is a possibility that, during an earthquake, the dykes could rupture and the alluvial soil may liquefy, causing extensive damage. Richmond is also at risk of a major flood if the Fraser River has an unusually high spring freshet.

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Richmond neighbourhoods

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finn slough

Finn Slough (pictured below) is a tiny authentic totally unspoiled Fraser River fishing community located at the south end of No. 4 Road. This unique community has approximately 30 residents who live in wooden houses, both floating and built on stilts, along the marshy river bank. Many of the buildings were built between the late 19th century and 1950s and many have decayed severely, while some have been carefully restored. Finn Slough was founded by Finnish settlers who came to Richmond in the 1880s.

For more: thetyee.ca/Culture/2015/04/25/Finn-Slough-Off-Grid-Urban-Wilderness-Fraser-River

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highway to heaven

Number 5 Road is nicknamed ‘Highway to Heaven’ as it has a unique row of religious buildings (Churches, Jewish Temple, Mosque and two of the largest Buddhist temples in North America, along with faith based schools). It runs north parallel to Hwy 99 after the Massey Tunnel. Last fall the BBC reported on it’s distinctiveness, with religious services in English, Mandarin, Minnanese, Cantonese, Arabic, Hindi, and Punjabi.

 For more: www. bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/highway_to_heaven

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homelessness – controversy

In partnership with the province, the City of Richmond is set build 40 homes on Elmbridge and Alderbridge Ways. The city owned land is currently an off leash dog park. The studio units will each have thier own kitchen and bathroom. RainCity will be onsite to connect residents to support services, meals, skills training, healthcare and around the clock oversight.

This initiative is receiving forceful negative public feedback. However churches are supportive as well as RUSH (Richmond United for Supportive Housing).

Richmond Poverty Response Committee has also expressed strong support for the project. Those visibly opposed are angry and vocal.

Below the proposed site and artists impression of the new housing.

For more: churchforvancouver.ca/coalition-supports-modular-housing-for-homeless-in-richmond

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Christian schools

Cornerstone Christian Academy (K -Gd 7) and the larger Richmond Christian School (RCS) are on No 5 Road. Richmond also has two Catholic elementary schools – St Joseph the Worker and St Paul’s.

Richmond Christian School (RCS) has over 1000 pupils (Pre-school – Grade 12). The elementary school is situated on a separate campus (Woodward Road).The school has raised over $400K for orphanages in three Chinese cities.

myrcs.ca

 

Trinity Western University is the first university in Richmond. Situated in the downtown centre, it opened Fall of 2015 offering both undergraduate and gradu- ate degrees. Around 400 students study both full time and part-time at evening and weekend classes.

TWU also hosts four churches and the monthly Richmond Pastors group. TWU Director Katheryn Sayson says. “Over 95 percent of our students come from over-

come from a faith background, but parents choose TWU knowing it is Christian as they consider it ‘safer’. We also partner with Trinity Language Centre who have approximately 80 students enrolled.
“The Asian culture is very collective – they like to ‘blend in’,” Sayson states. A few students find the transition challenging. TWU offers Asian student counsellors called ‘wellness coaches’ who help students with issues.

“Richmond has more church plants than any other municipality,” Sayson says.

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www.twu.ca

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cross cultural mission…

Jonathan Chan

Every people group has many distinctives. Asked about how best to relate to the Chinese mindset, Jonathan Chan – Lead Pastor at Crucible Church comments “You need to be aware of Confucian values. There is an intense desire be the best in whatever position you are – be it a daughter/son, student, business-person… this merges with Christianity. for instance, many Asian churches emphasize intensive Bible Study with discipleship linked to how much Bible you know.

Albert Wu – Associate Pastor at The Tapestry adds, “There’s a striving for excellence – especially those things that will bring honour to the family. Many Chinese children feel a sense of duty, and many times pick a career path in high end professions for this reason.”

Chan also spoke of the ‘salmons’ – those who go away but return to spawn. “Some Chi- nese churches are bleeding, with an exodus of Millennials (25-45 year olds) however, now they are having children they are returning to the church because of the underlaying ‘fam- ily unit’ being important to growing their kids – input from their grandparents, uncles… etc. He also mentioned that discipleship can become the acquisition of Bible knowledge.

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pastors monthly prayers

This grouping, like many has waxed and waned. Currently there is a new energy. “The Ministerial has a whole new generation of Pastors with a real commitment to the city and the gospel,” says St. John’s Richmond Pastor Sean Love (his church meets 9 am at Trinity Lutheran Church)

Richmond Pastors pictured after April’s gathering at TWU Richmond

 

“Three or four years ago a group of us decided we needed to re-invigorate the Ministerial with a five minute devotional one of us would give, followed by praying for each other in small groups.

A second Pastor’s group (of 10 or more) also meets at another time as some Pastors have an ongoing scheduling conflict. This is facilitated by Stefano Piva – Lead Pastor at Bethany Baptist.

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conversions

We asked Richmond Christian School Superintendent Roger Grose how he sees Christianity in Richmond from his vantage point as a city-wide interdenominational ministry (RCS students come from 140 different congregations). He says,

“Many churches are vibrant, with Asian churches doing a great job of evangelism! ”

Roger Grouse

Richmond Pentecostal Church’s Senior Pastor Jim Caruso says. “I had an Iranian man turn up one day and told us that God had revealed himself in dreams to him. He was later baptized (along with his wife and his boss).”

Roger Grose

Most Sundays the church gives an ‘altar call’. “At our recent Alpha Course we had over 100 guests with 13 people becoming Christians. In our neighbourhood we are regularly seeing people coming in and getting saved. One lady with a Buddhist background, after her conversion destroyed all her statues & idols. She told us she felt so free she phoned [and witnessed to] her friend in Shanghai, China who immediately flew here and was converted!” Caruso says.

His congregation of 500 or so has people from 60 different cultures, with Chinese and Filipino being the largest. They offer real-time translation services.

www.richmondpentecostal.org

 

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Brighouse United Church set for huge changes

As part of a BC Provincial agreement with the BC Conference of the United Church of Canada, the church is poised to build 165 rental homes on its ageing underused property. Half the units will have rent fixed to 30 percent of gross income.
Pastor Stuart Appenheimer (pictured below) told the Vancouver Courier “A lot of us are sad. I’ve been the Minister here for 30 years. But I think there’s some excitement around having a new facility.” The church is now seeking an interim place of worship. According to the Courier, in order to fit 165 units into the space, the church is pro- posing to build a 14-storey tower at the rear of the re-zoned lot. To either side will be low-rise apartments that will flank the townhouses next door. A childcare centre and church hall will face Bennett.

There are currently three other United Church sites being considered.

FOR A DETAILED LOOK at this development go to: www.bc.united-church.ca/wordpress2017/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Brighouse-Presentation-April-2017.pdf

Photo by Vancouver Courier

Current church property

Future proposal

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a word from Richmond’s Mayor

We reached Mayor Malcolm Brodie who was happy to express his support for the faith comunity in Richmond.
“The churches in our community have always played a a prominent role in our community. Churches and their members are prepared to discuss politics and community concerns.”The Mayor and council are currently grappling with an issue important to many Chris- tians. The placement of the modular 40 unit housing. A tough decision that will not please everyone.

As Christians we are called to pray for those God has placed in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2) . . .

Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Councillors: Derek Dang, Bill McNulty, Harold Steves, Ken Johnston, Chak Kwong Au, Linda McPhail, Carol Day and Alexa Loo.

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conversations with pastors

JB Lim

• THRIVE CHURCH is headed by Pastor JB Lim (who had previously practised law in Taiwan). The church provides Man- darin translation, It is unique as a church plant with growth coming from high schoolers showing up. “We started, meeting in homes with only 5 people, with the influx of teens we adjusted what we did,” JB told the Light. The average age of their congre- gations 200 or so is 25. “People are open, by last August we had baptized over 100,” he says.

www.thrivechurch.ca

• CRUCIBLE CHURCH has recently (October 2017) been ‘replanted’. They are one of four church plants that meet in the TWU Centre in Richmond centre.

Jonathan Chan is the Pastor. Academically highly qualified he spent 15 years in the corporate world but was troubled by a dis- connect between the Gospel and his work. After completing his MDiv at Regent College he has a passion… In 2011 he founded‘Company of Disciples’ focused on the business community. Crucible Church carries some of this DNA. “Our vision is to reach out to young professionals in the community of city centre Richmond,” he says.

Chan is keen to collaborate with other churches, indeed last New Years Bethany Baptist, Church on Five, Richmond Presbyterian and Compass Church joined with Crucible for a celebration. The mostly millennial generation members now have kids; so they have just hired a kids worker who is also a magician! Crucible is also pursuing grants to purchase a Sprinter van that they will use to serve the elderly.
“On Good Friday we organized a big community dinner, only to be shut down as we would not be preparing the food in a commercial kitchen. I sent out a ‘HELP!’ to Rich- mond churches – Church on Five immediately stepped up to help.”

www.cruciblechurch.com

Boz Poon

• MORE THAN TWELVE CHURCH meets Sundays 2:30 pm in the Trinity Western University centre on Mineru Bvld. A largely Asian church, they re-planted with a small number last April (having previously attempted they needed to ‘re-group’). A previous recording artist, Lead Pastor Boz Poon has a remarkable background – com- ing to Christ whilst serving a 4 year prison term 7 1/2years ago. He connected with Point Grey Community Church and grew in their Commercial Drive campus.

They have karaoke Friday evenings and a contemporary (rap) worship. The church now sees 50+ each week. “We’ve lately seen Chinese Triad Gang members and others from the ‘underworld’ coming.” Poon says. [See Chinese Triad Gangs…]

www.mt12church.org

• THE TAPESTRY on No 2 Road has two services and around 800 attendees in Richmond along with a further 100 or so each at their Marpole and Mundy Park Campuses. We interviewed Associate Pastor Albert Wu (Lead Pastor Albert YS Chu is on sabbatical).

“We mostly reflect the population demographic around us. The congregation is mostly Asian – 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation. However we’ve seen a recent influx of non-English speakers. In the Asian culture ‘evangelism’ is better served through hospitality. Along with that the ‘western mindset’ may ask ‘is it true?’ – if it is then they respond positively. I remember so many ‘intellectual’ conversations with my father {who had not become a Christian]. The ‘apologetics’ approach never swayed him. Then his mother (my grand-mother) died and he saw how a Christian handled grief. That caused him to begin to believe. The Asian often says, not is it true, but ‘does it work’ – if it does then it must be true.”

Tapestry church – outdoor baptisms

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www.thetapestry.ca

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Chinese triad gangs, Spice Girls & Jesus
by Danielle Martell

“He had one foot in the world and one foot in the church.” Those are the preacher’s words that many recall ringing true about their own spiritual condition at one time or another. In an interview with Richmond’s More than Twelve Church leader, Boz Poon he recently spoke these words about a Chinese triad gang member – ‘Tony’ (not his real name).

Poon himself is no stranger to gang life. Several years back he was caught up in the un- derworld lifestyle until he hit rock bottom… in prison. It was in jail that the redemptive light of Jesus radically transformed his life. His conversion was life changing, quickly becoming an inmate peer councillor and chapel worker. He took Bible courses in prison and after jail, still fired with Jesus, he interned at ‘MT12 Church’ and was eventually com- missioned as a pastor. He took on the lead role at the church last year. Poon says, “My heart is for the lost and for the people who don’t fit in traditional settings.” His church has had a unique min- istry with the Chinese gang underworld. Meet ‘Tony’…who heard about Poon’s story through friends and now attends MT12. God was weaving the redemptive work of Jesus into him. 

Though Tony had grown up with a Christian background, gang life and the violence that went with it had gripped his life. In an effort to straighten out, he tried leaving – not an easy thing to do. Alas it wasn’t long before he was back in the thick of it. Scheduled for a fight, Tony debated using a gun, but opted for, as Poon puts it, “an electrical volt to bang [the guy].” That’s when God again connected Tony’s path with Poon’s. They prayed together. He was open to Poon’s gentle counsel to ‘not to go the route of violence’… Poon could only pray…

Tony debated using a gun, but opted for,
as Poon puts it, “an electrical volt to bang [the guy].”

With the fight two days away, Tony messaged Poon. God had been speaking to him through a surprising messenger, the Spice Girls of all people! He couldn’t get their song ‘Let Love Lead the Way’ out of his head. In the chorus the Spice Girls sing, “just keep the faith and let love lead the way.” Amazed by ‘God’s’ voice, Poon realized: “God was speaking to Tony at his level.”

The time for the fight came… Tony showed up but left his “high voltage electrical stick” in the trunk of his car.

He later had a dream. In it he got into his car. He went to push the gas to go forward, but the car drove backward. It was in reverse gear, “I was crashing into everything!” He later told Poon. When he woke up and thought very little of the dream. Eventually in real life, on his way to find Boz, he was in his car and heard a buzzing in his trunk…. the ‘electrical stick’ had spontaneously turned on and was about to “bang” into his gas tank.! Struck by this close call, he turned it off but connected the dream, and realized… God was speaking to him.

Tony expressed this to Poon, “I thought my life was going forward but it was going backward… I think I’ve been doing life out of my own will and it’s been wrong – destroying me and everybody around me.”

Tony was hearing God speak to him personally and since this powerful encounter with Him, Poon says Tony has been regularly increasing his church attendance, even coming up for prayer after services. “God really has his finger on him,” comments Poon.

It may be an untraditional story of God reaching a Chinese triad gang member, speak- ing through the Spice Girls and drawing someone to Jesus, but reaching lives like this is exactly what God has been doing at MT12 church in Richmond. It’s refreshing to see that our extraordinary God still reaches people through ex- traordinary means to draw them to himself and to call them to something greater in Jesus.

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