Eric is like many immigrants in the restaurant industry who work long hours to piece together a living for their families. Their work-shifts often stretch late into the evening, and sometimes preclude them from attending church on Sunday mornings.
Eric and his family eventually became drawn to a Cantonese-speaking Christian community of restaurant workers called Taste of Life Fellowship, an outreach of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, a congregation in the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC).
Taste of Life Fellowship meets weekly on Tuesday nights. Because of the challenge of the work-shift hours and demands on the restaurant workers, the fellowship holds services, Bible Studies, and community suppers after the evening shifts end, sometimes as late as 11:30 p.m. In addition, they sponsor Monday afternoon ping pong gatherings each week where newcomers are invited to come, meet new friends, and enjoy an afternoon of fun and fellowship.
Through the ministry and care of the community of Taste of Life Fellowship, Eric gave his life to Christ. Seventy people gathered for Eric’s baptism and, as this top chef with a short temper stood to be baptized, he apologized publicly to his wife and son for his angry outbursts. It is exceptionally rare in Chinese culture to hear a father humble himself in public and ask for his own son’s forgiveness, but Eric’s life had been transformed through the amazing work of the Gospel.
Mrs. Astor Lam is the coordinator of Taste of Life Fellowship. The fellowship began in 2009 based in the Richmond-area on the outskirts of Vancouver. Richmond is predominately made up of Chinese immigrants, many of whom do not yet speak English, and many who work full-time in the restaurant industry.
Gambling and drinking are growing problems in the Richmond community. Taste of Life Fellowship has responded by holding special monthly gatherings that focus on the needs of families so that they can hear the Good News of Christ and be encouraged in God’s love and care for them. Like Eric, many are coming to Christ, being baptized and confirmed, and growing in their new Christian faith.
The fellowship is innovative in how it reaches out to its members. “For all the members of the fellowship,” said Mrs. Lam, “we encourage them to read the Bible by having daily Bible Trivia. Questions are introduced every morning through an online group chat and all the members can play and respond throughout the day.”
“During the beginning of this year as certain members’ relationship with God became more mature,” said Mrs. Lam, “two discipleship training and formation groups were introduced. After they had finished the eight classes, two social networks were created as a follow-up for those who participated in the course.” Mrs. Lam continues to provide guidance and mentorship for those groups.
Taste of Life Fellowship is part of a network of ministries reaching the immigrants of Canada. Asian and Multicultural Ministries in Canada (AMMiC) is a ministry of the Anglican Network in Canada, a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America. The Rt. Rev. Stephen Leung is the bishop overseeing AMMiC. He is also rector of Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Vancouver, where Taste of Life Fellowship began.
Noting the fast-changing demographics in North America, Bishop Leung feels a growing sense of urgency. Visible minorities are now almost 20% of Canada’s population and he admits it can feel overwhelming at times since the need is so great.
“Just as Jesus focused on the marginalized in His ministry, so we seek to serve immigrants in our communities,” said Bishop Leung. “May God give us hearts for the ‘stranger’ in our midst and a growing vision for working together across the Anglican Church in North America to reach ethnic communities.”