By Patrick Nachtigall
As most of you know, we started our missionary career in Hong Kong and China, where we lived and worked for just under ten years. Marco was born there, and we worked closely with the very young and fast-growing Hong Kong Church of God. It was a magical time filled with tremendous memories, wonderful friendships, and great ministry. We loved Hong Kong and our friends there and have missed it greatly. As a family, we made a commitment that we would return to Hong Kong before Marco graduates from high school. So, in December, we packed our bags and returned to see our old friends and our old home.
A wonderful return visit
We were all thrilled to be back on Hong Kong soil, listening to and speaking Cantonese, eating the food and drinks we love, and visiting our wonderful friends scattered throughout the city. We had a wonderful reunion with the Hong Kong Church of God brothers and sisters. So many of them were teenagers or in their early twenties when we first arrived. It was amazing to see them now, married and with children of their own. We are so impressed with how they have grown up and matured. Their children are precious and delightful.
The church’s strength is still reaching young people for Christ. There’s a whole new generation of teens and twenty-somethings who are actively involved in ministry and cell groups. Pastor Edmund is still leading the congregation, and Grace, who was our nineteen-year-old church secretary, is still the wonderful person who keeps everything together, and she organized our reunion party.
We also joined the Christmas morning evangelism service out on the streets of our old neighborhood. It was wonderful to see the children of “our children” singing Christmas songs to the passersby.
Another highlight was visiting our old favorite restaurants, places to sightsee, and the apartments were Marco spent the first half of his life. We even visited the hospital where he was born and his pre-school and elementary school. None of us wanted to leave when it was time to go, and we hope to return many more times. Sadly, Hong Kong is undergoing difficult times as China puts more pressure on Hong Kong people to give up their desires for democracy. Every single friend we met was very concerned about the future, the escalating violence, the economy, and their children. We are so proud of our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong and will be praying for their safety and the security and freedom of this beautiful city.
China takes two steps back
On the journey to Hong Kong, we had a brief lay-over in Beijing. As everyone knows, China has made incredible progress and has gone from an underdeveloped country to a very futuristic, advanced society in record time. When we lived there, China was always changing rapidly, but it is increasingly becoming unrecognizable.
Unfortunately, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is taking many steps backward. Freedoms are being curtailed, Xi is creating a cult of personality, foreign things are being shunned, and China’s human rights record is worsening. It didn’t take long for us to see how cameras, fingerprinting, and eye-scanners are turning the whole country into a surveillance state where the government can monitor everything.
During our years in China, the Chinese were very open and curious about foreign things. This enabled us to do a lot of ministry and travel. Today, many Christian workers are being kicked out of the country. Sometimes they are not even given one day to get their things and leave the country. There were about 7,000 foreign nonprofit organizations working in China when we were there. Now, only about 300 remain. It is very sad to see how China is becoming more closed to the world, but this follows a predictable pattern that can be seen throughout Chinese history.
We especially pray for the Christians in China who experienced a lot of growth and increasing freedom over past years. Now many churches are being closed, persecuted, and even razed to the ground. We pray that this new time of persecution fuels even further growth for the Christian movement in China.
Editor’s note—Concerning the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Patrick urges, “Please keep praying for our dear friends in the Hong Kong Church of God. A number of them are medical workers.” On February 6, Patrick received a video from a friend from the Church of God in Hong Kong. He describes it an “adorable video of a five-year-old daughter showing Mom how to put on an anti-virus mask. But also, sad, troubling, and worrying. Keep HK CHOG in your prayers as the outbreak grows.” Thank you for your prayers, Church of God!
Patrick and Jamie Nachtigall serve as regional coordinators for Global Strategy in Europe and the Middle East. Learn more about the Church of God around the world at www.chogglobal.org.