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How Can God Reach These People? (2)

A Look at the Chinese Diaspora in Southern Africa

In my previous post, we asked the question, “How can God reach these people?” That is, how can God reach the Chinese immigrants in Southern Africa. The closing comment was, “God continues to bless through a variety of means and through his faithful servants of different races, ages, and backgrounds resulting in many hundreds of Chinese people coming to faith and being discipled to God’s glory.”

Here we continue to explore the answers from various online and in-person interviews that I conducted with members of the Southern Africa Chinese Outreach Network (SACON) earlier this year. From those interviews, I discovered that there are multiple organizations, churches, and individuals who are reaching out with practical care and help to Chinese individuals and families. These efforts have resulted in many people joining local Bible study groups and churches, and in finding the Lord Jesus as personal savior in the process.

In this post we will consider some of the implications that came out of their responses to the following questions:

  1. What hopes or aspirations do those currently involved in the network have for ministry going forward? 
  2. Have any of the groups in their context reached beyond the diaspora Chinese community to other people groups in their area?
  3. Could they use new co-workers? If so, what kind of people would be most helpful?

Opportunities in Chinese Diaspora Communities and Beyond

Several of those interviewed said there are many opportunities with both new and established communities of Chinese peoples—echoing the universal cry we hear in missions and local church work, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!” Several of those interviewed are intentionally moving to other areas or reaching out through short-term ministry from their groups to other areas.

I went on a vision trip with other members of SACON to Eswatini (known previously as Swaziland) and Zimbabwe. Chinese people were everywhere! God put them on my heart! Now I’m reaching out to them using fitness and sports outreach.

One pastor has retired from his large congregation outside of Johannesburg so that he can plant another church in Cape Town—where there are many unreached Chinese people. Other similar locations include multiple sites in Pretoria and greater Johannesburg, other locations on the southern coast including Port Elizabeth and Mossel Bay, and east of Cape Town, just to name a few in South Africa. Neighboring countries like Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe also have multiple pockets of diaspora Chinese peoples.

The retired pastor mentioned above was originally called to Southern Africa to reach Muslims but he has been engaged in ministry among diaspora Chinese for the past twenty years. As he prepares to start a new church among the Chinese community in Cape Town, he also has the intention of simultaneously starting another congregation using a different language, hoping to see Chinese believers reaching out to unreached people who are the “other” to them.

Value of Mandarin Proficiency

One reality for Chinese living in South Africa is that people are targeted for bribes and scams constantly. It is not uncommon for shop owners to have a stack of cash available for people who are looking to “shake them down.” So, it is understandable when a “foreigner” approaches a shopkeeper, that there would be immediate distrust and even fear on the part of the Chinese person. The non-Mandarin speakers really hope they can partner with those who are fluent, so they can lower this threshold of anxiety and relationships can be begun.

When discussing new coworkers, several themes emerged from the group—fluency in Mandarin would be optimal for each of these:

  • There’s a need to strengthen existing churches for outreach, follow-up, and discipleship
  • Those gifted in evangelism can be used in any of these locations! Partnering with those who are not fluent in Mandarin is desirable
  • Those who can help plant new congregations will be welcome
  • One of the respondents mentioned sports ministry—different aspects of sports and fitness could be used almost anywhere
  • Mobilizers can be used as “bridging people” to motivate the growing groups to reach beyond their own Chinese community

One of the SACON members is a returnee to South Africa, blocked by COVID from returning to their long-term ministry in the [China]. This family is now discovering how to use their language and culture expertise to help serve this outreach effort. Might there be other such “displaced workers” who may be living in their home country now, but who are looking to the Lord for a new chapter of ministry? The SACON network would welcome such workers and do everything possible to help with placement.

Opportunities for Short- and Long-Term Involvement

All of those interviewed repeatedly said they could use shorter- and longer-term workers. Once COVID restrictions have been loosened, it will be possible for SACON to host short-term teams. It would be great to start with vision trips for short-term teams made up of church leaders, mobilizers, and candidates who are considering joining the work. A large congregation in Johannesburg has the facilities to host teams, and to house people who may stay for longer periods of time. Possibilities for internships through partnerships with sending churches have also been discussed and were carried out prior to COVID.

Opportunities for Workers from China

There are opportunities for Chinese people to come as English language students and receive visas for several years. Coming as students gives them time to understand the Southern African context, and partner with one of the churches or projects for longer-term placement.

More Practical Ways and Strategies to Consider

In a recent presentation to SACON, one member presented the following points about reaching the Chinese community in Africa:

  1. Look for gateway persons (persons with multi-cultural background).
  2. Take the long-term perspective (raise up leaders for the next two generations).
  3. Help Chinese people integrate into your affinity groups.
  4. Teach them local language and culture: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, and others.
  5. Help them participate in local cultural activities, sports, and other events.
  6. Develop programs for young people to help them integrate and to identify future spiritual leaders.
  7. God will raise up multi-cultural, multi-lingual persons from the Chinese diaspora who will reach the multitudes.

He also made the following statement:

One of the more interesting phenomena in missions today is the emergence of Chinese Diaspora Kingdom Workers (CDKW). In a book by Wan and Lau, CDKWs are defined this way: A Chinese Diaspora Kingdom Workers (CDKW) is a Chinese Christian who lives in diaspora and commits himself/herself to be “actively involved in fulfilling the Great Commission, regardless of vocation and denominational affiliations.” A CDKW may be involved in same-culture, near-culture, and/or cross-culture evangelistic missions locally or in a foreign country.1

I am familiar with Dr. Lau’s proven ministry among CDKWs in a highly sensitive context in a “closed region” reaching majority religion people who are largely unreached. This type of ministry is certainly possible in the more open environments of Southern Africa.

Another of the SACON members is a certified coach specializing in disciple-making movements (DMM). In his book Mobilizing Movements, Dr. Murray Moerman gives this simple definition of DMM:

DMM—Disciple-making movements is a micro strategy focused on obedience-based responses to Scripture in small discussion and accountability groups. Small groups aim to begin other groups rather than enlarge. Many DMM practitioners view four spiritual generations of disciple-making groups as foundational. David Watson is often associated with the early development of this movement.2

This SACON member is currently coaching another diaspora network in a sensitive area that is reaching out to other local unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs). We believe the potential exists for the Chinese diaspora Christian communities to engage in missions in this way.


What an exciting prospect to see Chinese people, who are themselves “scattered people,” raised up to not only reach their own in effective outreach and discipleship multiplication, but to also see them reaching out to the many unreached people groups in their new surroundings.

To conclude:

  • Many opportunities for ministry are available both for Mandarin and non-Mandarin speakers
  • There is a network in place seeking partners which will help with short- or long-term placement of workers. Individuals and churches are welcome
  • Missions multiplication is possible as the CDKWs are equipped and mobilized to carry out ministry with, to, through, and beyond the Chinese diaspora to other peoples

And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9

To find out more or to enquire about possible vision teams or placement of people, write to and your email will be forwarded to the author.


  1. Enoch Wan and Jacky Lau, Chinese Diaspora Kingdom Workers: In Action and With Guidance (Western Seminary Press, 2019), p. 5.
  2. Murray Moerman. Mobilizing Movements (William Carey Library), Kindle Location 253–256.
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R. Coleman

R. Coleman (pseudonym) and his wife have served in Asia since 1980. They began by helping facilitate church health and disciple-making in established churches. Over the years, the Lord opened up a work of facilitating missions mobilization in several countries of East Asia. Most recently, they have begun a new …View Full Bio

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