Posted on March 22, 2024 Cloud of Witnesses – Feature David Kung-ming Ngai

Cloud of Witnesses – Celebrating 210th Anniversary of International Ministries

Rev. Dr. David Kung-ming Ngai

Retired and former Senior Pastor of Kwun Tong Swatow Baptist Church



My association with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS, aka International Ministries) started in 1969. As a 15-year-old college boy, God’s blessings on me were manifested when I met Rev. Herald Schock who was a missionary of IM serving as the director of the Chuk Yuen Christian Centre run by IM. Chuk Yuen was at that time the urban fringe located on the steep foothill of the Lion Rock on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. The Christian Center is perched in the midst of hundreds of stone cottages that were built by Church World Service for the resettlement of thousands of the poorest people in Hong Kong who had lost their homes in a big fire elsewhere. Like many young gangers growing up in this place, my heart was full of frustration and my soul was hungering for meaningful goals. During an accidental conversation with late American Baptist missionary Herald Shock at the playground outside the Christian Center, I came to know Jesus Christ and accept Him as the Savior of my life. Thereafter I was invited to join the youth programs held in the center where I got precious chances to receive leadership and discipleship training. This was where my aspiration to serve God for the rest of my life started.

After my graduation from the university and seminary in Toronto, I came back to Hong Kong and served as the Assistant Director of the Chuk Yuen Christian Centre as well as the Interim Pastor of my mother church the Chuk Yuen Chapel (associated with the Swatow Baptist Churches) in 1979. In 1980, supported by the new Director of the Centre Rev. Keith Tennis, I received a scholarship from the Board of IM of American Baptist Churches to finish my Master of Divinity degree at Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago, as well as a Master of Social Work degree from nearby George Williams College. My pastorate and friendship with Rev. Dr. Ray Bakke gave me the opportunity to join the Graduate Theological Urban Studies program for seminary students organized by SCUPE, which was developed by Dr. Bakke. Dr. Bakke was known as the “father of urban ministry” and was also a close associate of American Baptist International Ministries.

In a nutshell, the works of IM, ever since it was grounded in Hong Kong and its relation to me, have always been associated with the Swatow Baptist Churches. Looking back to the dates I joined and served in those Swatow Baptist churches, the influence of IM on me and those churches was indeed deep and wide.

First, from a personal aspect, I had witnessed how the frontline missionaries in Hong Kong had lived a down-to-earth life with those whom they served. Most of those missionaries spoke Swatow even better than the second generation of the Swatownese here. From them I saw how Christ’s image was imitated, how Jesus’ name was made known to others, and how people’s lives were transformed entirely. From them I was one of the people that were so gracefully blessed.

Secondly, from the aspect of resource provision, I had experienced how IM assisted to build and equip small church congregations by providing basic leadership and discipleship training. IM missionaries taught us how to enrich and vivify the church life of congregations like setting up musical bands and worship choirs in churches with greater potential. In the two grassroots Swatow Baptist churches in Chuk Yuen and Kwun Tong that I served, generous financial support were assured unconditionally for ministries like church building, church planting and renovation projects, which might yield greater benefits to the churches and eventually blessings to their parish. Thanks, and respect were given truly to IM deep down in my heart.

Thirdly, “to serve the poor in the love of Christ,” as the original aspiration of IM in Chuk Yuen area had deep impact on me. I witnessed how IM acted upon what they believed in this area. They entered into the least privileged urban fringe, helping the people by the name of Jesus Christ to free themselves from the suffering of drug addiction, teaching the illiterates to read and write, resourcing the grassroots with self-respect and dignity and made it a blessing to other people and the community they belonged. All good deeds had become the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night to my ministries in later days.

In 1983, after completing my master’s degrees and my ordination by the Chicago Chinese Baptist Church, God gave me a strong mission in mind to integrate urban ministry and the grassroots together in Hong Kong. Same year, I was entrusted by Rev. Keith Tennis and Kowloon City Swatow Baptist Church to found the new Shun Tin Christian Children and Youth Center in the midst of a newly developed public housing estate. The center was commended as a pioneer laboratory and a successful model for building a community church among the grassroots in Hong Kong at that time.

In God’s will, in the winter of 1985, I was invited by a group of young deacons of the Kwun Tong Swatow Baptist Church to fill their immense need for church renewal. Encouraged and supported by Keith again, I agreed to accept the challenge as the Senior Pastor of the church that eventually lasted till 1996. During this period, significant growth in the church was observed and two churches were planted. At the same time, in God’s faith, we launched a large project in Jieyang of Guangdong to help rebuild the Truth Christian Church which was commended as one of the most exhilarating ministries in our church’s history.

The story continued when I was entrusted with the task of being the Senior Pastor of Kwun Tong Swatow Baptist Church again from 2009 to 2020, the year I retired from the church. After years of preparation, through new ministries and spiritual renewal, in 2012 the church launched a HK 140-million-dollar mega-project to rebuild the church premises in-situ. Despite the immense pressure felt on the shoulders of the church’s leaders and me, in God’s grace, three years after the demolition of the previous premise, in November 2016, the congregations moved back to celebrate God’s blessings in the newly constructed premise which was commended as the largest church in East Kowloon. We were delighted to make our church a blessing to our neighborhood in return.

When I wrote this piece of tribute to IM for its 210th Anniversary, it always echoed in my heart what Jesus said: “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) May the fruits IM bears and the blessings IM brings to others for the love of Jesus Christ flourish and abound. All glory to God almighty!