Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centers. It has been crowned the most competitive economy for the second year running by the International Institute for Management Development, and, according to Business Insider, it’s the second most wealthy and economically healthy city in the world.
But there’s another side to this vibrant, fast-paced, beautiful place. The city’s rising housing costs have created an acute crisis, forcing up to 200,000 residents to rent and sleep in wire cubicles, known as cage homes, measuring four by six feet and stacked three deep in cramped apartment buildings. Foreign domestic workers are paid less than the city’s normal minimum wage. The South China Morning Post reported, “Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities continue to face barriers when accessing housing, employment, health and recreational services.” And Business Insider recently stated that Hong Kong’s wealth gap has widened to a historic high, which makes it the second-most unequal city in terms of income, right behind NYC.
And it is here that Ebson Simick and Tryfina Phipon have planted a church.
Ebson and Tryfina grew up in Darjeeling, India. Separately, they moved to Hong Kong — Ebson to work with young minorities living on the street, and Tryfina to be part of YWAM Hong Kong. Being minorities gave them a unique perspective and compassion. They met, married and began serving together. As they shared the gospel, many came to know Christ.
Feeling ill-equipped to care for these new converts, Ebson and Tryfina went to a seminary in the U.S. for further theological training. While there, they heard about CTC and felt God affirming their growing vision to plant a church in Hong Kong. They wanted this church to be a place where people without families could become family. So, with the support of their home church in Hong Kong, they planted Hope for All Church.
Hope for All Church is in the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood of Hong Kong. Both the name of the church and the makeup of the area are significant. Yau Ma Tei is a highly urbanized area. Like many areas of Hong Kong, the residents range from wealthy to very poor. Its highest populations are from Nepal, India, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, with many residents being part of the 1.5 generation — individuals who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens.
Ebson and Tryfina say, “These individuals were born in their own countries and came to live in Hong Kong when they were very young. They’ve had to change their environment — losing their identity — and they are kind of confused. They often have little proficiency in their native tongue, Chinese or English. Chinese is a must language for them in Hong Kong, so without it, it’s very difficult for them to do well in school or to get jobs. God is calling us to be a church for these people.”
Ebson and Tryfina find much depth in the people God is gathering. Tryfina says, “The people are so rich in hospitality and gifted in teaching. They love God and are not afraid to tell people about Jesus Christ. We see it as a place of growth — economically and spirituality. God is moving in the hearts of the people.”
Ebson is excited about the potential. He says, “We see so much division. But what if there is a church where all these minorities with different economics are all included, treated as God’s image-bearers? This is a beautiful picture that only God can create.”
In May, Ebson and Tryfina attended City to City Asia Pacific’s Intensive in Taipei, a two-week training event for church planters. They are still affected by the gospel-focused teaching they received. Ebson says, “I’ve been asking God what does it mean for me to be renewed, especially during this time when we are praying about gospel renewal in our community.”
The sessions on mercy and justice spoke deeply to Tryfina, and she’s excited to see this teaching impact their new church. She also came away with a new way of relating to the gospel. She says, “I’ve always thought of the gospel as in the past — when I became a Christian. But I’m seeing it differently. I was a sinner, and God saved me. That’s in the past. But in the present — I am loved. It’s not just the past. It’s present and future as well.”
Hope for All Church launched in September 2017. Join us in praying for Ebson, Tryfina and the community they serve.
This article originally appeared in the CTC Snapshot. For more information, visit redeemercitytocity.com