This February, Port Moody (B.C.) Pacific Grace MB Church celebrated its tenth anniversary.
In celebrating, we reflected on the church’s history and traced its beginnings to the positive response of Henry G. and Sara Classen, in 1949, to a B.C. MB Conference request that he come to Vancouver as a city missionary. The work focussed on visitation, street meetings and Sunday school.
In 1956, a chapel called Pacific Grace Mission Chapel of the Mennonite Brethren was built. The Pacific Grace Mission was founded to reach all the residents of the area surrounding the mission, including the Chinese from Chinatown. Initially, about one in seven attending the mission was of Chinese extraction.
With the increase in Chinese immigration and movement into the area, the ratio began to change. Henry and Sara began taking Chinese language lessons. A key ministry focus was home visitation, accompanied by their Chinese helper, Rose Wong. Attendance at the church increased and it became apparent that a Chinese worker was needed.
In May 1972, Paul Li, who had just graduated from Northwest Baptist Bible College, and his wife Great, were appointed by the MB Conference as workers in the Chinese section of Pacific Grace. The Chinese fellowship grew from a small group to a large fellowship sharing the Sunday school and sanctuary space. No major tensions ever developed between the Chinese and Caucasians in the mission.
Classen’s three-fold challenge to the youth was: be very sure you are a disciple of Christ; read and believe the Bible; make friends with the older generation.
Pacific Grace Mission Chapel celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1975. When Paul Li died suddenly in 1975, his friend, Eddie Chu, succeeded him.
The Chinese work continued to grow while English membership decreased, and in 1977, Pacific Grace dissolved as an organized church. In its place emerged a blossoming Pacific Grace Chinese Church. Classen’s fruitful and visionary ministry would be handed over as precious cargo to the Chinese Christians. He retired from full-time service in 1977 due to failing eyesight, and passed away in 1988 at 81. The dedication, perseverance, humility and integrity of this man’s faith and life vividly confirm the truth and power of the gospel. This was the foundation upon which Enoch and Grace Wong built when taking over the Pacific Grace Chinese Church in 1980.
In celebrating the Port Moody Pacific Grace MB Church’s history, we celebrated not only our history as a granddaughter church of the Pacific Grace MB Church, but being a daughter church of Burnaby Pacific Grace, planted in 1990. The Port Moody Pacific Grace MB Church came into existence in 1995.
A constant theme for the Port Moody Church has been dealing with issues of rapid growth. The church reached attendance in the mid-400s within the first four years. God has been gracious in helping us transition change and build capacity for new leaders (John and Birdie Hua, Leo and Helen Chai, Anthony Cheung, Xavier Law, Fiona Wu, Bernard Loong, Anthony Wong, Wilson Ma, Gabriel Chin).
We have had a strong family culture where the values revolve around service, sacrifice, duty, being together, obedience, respect, loyalty and traditions. We have been embarking on a discipleship culture in being intentional about reproducing disciples at all levels who can connect faith, life and service. And we have embraced the vision of earlier leaders Henry Classen and Enoch Wong in passing the gospel on to others, in particular through planting another church, the Mandarin Pacific Grace MB Church, under the leadership of Leo and Helen Chai.
As a congregation, we are mindful of Deuteronomy 8:2, which tells us, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you.” The acquisition of buildings and staff, or growth in members, are not the most important things about the way the Lord has led us. We also want to remember what the Lord has been teaching us as a faith family. We look back to our past to gain new meaning on the present. Our role as we move into the future is to discover how we can complete the work of the past and, with God’s guidance, take it to a higher level.
—Matthew Todd, English Ministries pastor of Port Moody Pacific Grace MB Church.