Ho Tong attended a Christian primary school when he was young. He did not accept Jesus; however, the seeds were planted in his heart. A few years ago he came to our elderly center and attended our evangelistic meeting. We studied the Bible with him, and he was baptized at the age of 78.
Ho Tong’s spouse, now 70, has worshipped idols for more than six decades. She said, “When I was small, I blindly followed my parents in worshipping the idols.” But for all these decades she found neither peace and joy nor help from these gods. When she accepted Jesus as her Savior, she found the peace and joy in her heart that she was seeking. Now she finds Jesus’ help in big or small matters. She turned to Jesus as she saw the changes in Ho Tong after his baptism, as well as God’s blessings to him. She began coming to church and was later baptized.
A Time for Everything
ANTICIPATION: Ho Lit Wai (second from left) waiting to be baptized.
Elderly evangelism in some people’s minds is a waste of time and resources. They think the elderly are too old and can’t make much of a contribution to the church. Even some of the elderly are negative about themselves. I once visited a single elderly man who told me that the elderly “are third-class citizens.” In Chinese, “class” and “wait” are pronounced the same. What he meant was that the elderly are waiting for three things: to eat, to sleep, and to die. It may be the picture of those who do not know Christ and the hope of salvation and heaven. But to us it is a joyful moment to see the elderly baptized in the last stage of their life.
Elderly evangelism is a challenging ministry. The elderly are often neglected, and they don’t have much time left to live. Also, the number of senior citizens is growing in Hong Kong and in many other parts of the world. According to statistics, the elderly in Hong Kong will increase from 900,000 to 1,600,000 in the next 15 years, which constitutes 20 percent of the population. It is further suggested that there will be a 30 percent increase by 2030.
The Church’s ResponseThirteen years ago Hong Kong-Macao Conference started a new elderly center at Siu Sai Wan, Hong Kong. Since then the membership of the center has increased to more than 800. The center offers various classes and activities throughout the week. I served as the first pastor. After I was transferred to another church, my wife, Linda, succeeded me as pastor. With the Lord’s blessings, we have witnessed 66 elderly baptized.
It is both easy and hard to conduct elderly evangelism here. It is easy because when the hearts of the elderly are open, it will not be long before they are baptized. It is hard because it is difficult to change their mind-set in regard to their traditions, beliefs, and practices.
Accepting Christ is not an easy task for them. Reasons include their worship of ancestors; opposition from children; changing their mind about baptism; they’re too old, too sick, etc. So when we share the gospel with them, we must make the gospel simple and easy to understand. But we must also treat them with respect, love, and care.
Below are strategies we use in elderly evangelism:
1. From Traditional Worldview to Biblical Worldview
Many Chinese are ancestor worshippers and are superstitious. Accepting a foreign religion is not easy for them. We start by describing God as “heaven,” and we emphasize that “heaven” is the Creator God in the Bible. We also emphasize that we are to honor our parents—which is the first commandment with blessing. The Israelites offering sacrifices to God is also in harmony with their beliefs. These are in harmony with the teaching of Confucius.
2. From Literacy Class to Bible Class
Most elderly in Hong Kong are illiterate. We, therefore, offer literacy classes in the center. We then slowly teach them memory texts of the Bible. We use a pictorial Bible to share the Bible stories with them. Because the elderly often forget easily, we emphasize that what matters most is that they believe and accept Christ.
3. From Opera Songs to Gospel Opera Songs
Elderly love music, especially the traditional Chinese opera songs. We replaced the lyrics with gospel content. The elderly like the new songs very much, and the message gets into their minds easier and in a more natural way.
4. From Chinese Festivals to Celebration and Feast
There are many traditional Chinese festivals, and they are times of joy, gathering, celebration, and feast. We make use of these festivals as golden opportunities to share the gospel with the elderly, just as Jesus used them to share the gospel with those He came in contact with. Usually after the Sabbath sermon, we have a feast together. Many elderly attend and celebrate.
5. From Confrontational Evangelism to Friendship Evangelism
After gathering their names through celebrations that they have attended, we begin friendship evangelism and visitation, then Bible study. We divide the young people, mothers, kids, and elderly into teams of two and three to visit the elderly each week. Some are poor, so we take food to them. It is the love and care that win their hearts.
Twelve years ago I gave a Bible study to Ho Lit Wai. She was a Methodist, so I studied the 2300-day prophecy with her briefly. Afterward, I made the appeal for baptism. She declined. Some years later, at the end of an evangelistic meeting, we asked her again. This time she nodded her head. During these years she joined our worship service and experienced our love and care.
Once I visited an old man. He came to my evangelistic meeting. He was a new immigrant, and he attended the church and Bible study class for some time. But he did not make a decision to be baptized. As Linda and I were visiting him, he said to me, “Pastor Tsui, I cannot be baptized because I am too old, too weak, I forget too easily.” I prayed to God for an answer, and immediately I said to him, “You are right that you are too old, too weak, forget too easily. That is why you must be baptized soon before it is too late.” Not long afterward, he was baptized. An excuse for not being baptized became the very reason for baptism!
They Shall Run and Not Grow WearyElderly evangelism is challenging, but in the years that we have been involved in elderly evangelism we have learned to be wise, kind, and loving toward the elderly. Through love and care we will win them to the kingdom of God.
One day in heaven we shall see many elderly there. But they will no longer be old and weak. As the prophet Isaiah says: “He who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth” (Isa. 65:20, NIV).
Being involved in this ministry is, indeed, a blessing to us as it builds our character to be more Christlike. It could also be a blessing to you!