My 92-year-old father, Reverend Andrew Leung, is still serving as a missionary in Panama. People said to him, "Reverend Leung, you are now retired!" He replied, "When a person retires, he can do what he likes, and this is what I am doing.”
Listening to God’s guidance
My father came from a big family, and he is the youngest among the 9 children. Most of his older siblings are extraordinary. My grandfather, Yat Sun Leung, was also a pastor, so my father grew up in a church community. My father was lively but shy by nature. He never thought of becoming a pastor because he would have to stand on the pulpit all the time to face a big crowd. However, because of my grandfather’s wonderful example, my father changed his mind and dedicated himself to the Lord at his young age.
Although my grandfather did not have a formal theological education, he set forth good examples to his children. He lived a rigorous life and demonstrated hard-working and perseverance as a rural preacher. Under my grandfather's guidance, several of his sons intended to dedicate themselves to the ministry; unfortunately, only the 8th son, who died soon after, devoted himself to it. And at the end, only my father became a pastor, and the 3rd aunt and 6th aunt also dedicated to the Lord.
At first, my father only intended to support his 8th brother’s ministry by cooking, doing laundries and chores for him. He partnered with his brother in such a way and expected to bear the fruit of the gospel to the Heavenly Father in the future. My father indeed values substantially on teamwork and he is a man who focuses on works rather than talks. He is not confident in himself, but in fact, he is very capable. He used to skill in farming, repairing, building houses, etc. He could also do plumbing and electrical works. Unfortunately, his 8th brother passed away early and left him alone. Nevertheless, God’s calling overcame my father’s shyness and introverted personality. In 1946, he went to Guangxi to study theology at the Alliance Bible Seminary and in where my parents met. They studied in the same class. In their final year of studies, they moved to Hong Kong with the seminary in 1949, when the political situation in China changed.
After graduation, my father’s original intention was to preach in the Northwest region of China. He felt that pastors should live a simple and persevering life, and build their own houses if they did not have one. However, it turned out he could not go back to China because of the sudden political changes in the situation and the needs that came up in Hong Kong.
At that time, there were only a few Chinese churches in Hong Kong, and the seminary students would have to plant and establish churches after their graduation. My father served God faithfully and worked hard to preach the gospel, but he was not good at dealing with people. He felt that he was not suitable to pastor a church, so after he established churches, he usually handed them over to other pastors to minister. Some of them were developed very well and became megachurches, while others did not work well and finally ended.
My parents got married a year after graduating from the seminary and served with the same mindset together. Unlike my father, who was shy and introverted, my mother was understanding and caring, so they complemented each other well. Their 10-year ministry in Hong Kong (1951-1961) was not so easy. Their journey was full of success and failure stories. At that time, there was no counsel, no association, and no supports at all; they moved forward merely based on their simple love for the Lord. Fortunately, with the care and assistance of the professors at the seminary, my parents were able to serve faithfully. Their relationship with the professors was deep and strong.
I and my other 3 siblings were born one after another. Back then, Hong Kong was still developing and poor, the pastor's salary was meager, and my parents had to grow our vegetables to consume, but my family did not find life was tough. We lived in Cheung Chau and my grandfather was very knowledgeable in farming, so my father was edified on different farming methods, and I thus assisted my father on it. This was the life between father and son, and our way of communication.
Father takes praying very seriously and is very disciplined in his communication with God. In addition to personal prayers, he also leads the whole family in prayers and intercession. The whole family discussed things together before making decisions. Most of the pastors of my father's generation lived and served by faith and thought very little of money or material things. What was so admirable about them was their obedience to God. They just did what God commanded them to do. Their will of dedication to the Lord was so strong. God called my father into ministries to serve, he just obeyed and broke through his character. He never let his limitations keep him from going forward, and he is not afraid to live in poverty.
Embarking on a missionary journey
At that time, The Western missionaries had already begun to send Chinese missionaries to preach and spread the gospel to the unreached peoples. After my father failed to make it to the Northwest of China, he decided to go to Southeast Asia for missionary work. Meanwhile, there were still no churches in many parts of Southeast Asia. Missionaries such as Robert Jaffray went to Indonesia, and my father wanted to follow in their footsteps. However, due to some errors made in his application paperwork, his approval was denied, and he ended up in Vietnam.
In 1962, my father uprooted the family and moved to Vietnam for his mission ministries; but within two years, a military coup and war broke out there. When it first started, the church was doing well and God's ministry was thriving, and father had a joyful moment there. But because of the war, the number of orphans increased; therefore, my father decided to open an orphanage. None of the children had the opportunity for education at that time. Thus, my younger brothers and I had to leave our parents to continue our education in Hong Kong and we were taken care of by our relatives. And my parents remained in Vietnam to serve. That was the time when my mother's health began to fail and was diagnosed with cancer; therefore, she had to return to Hong Kong for surgery and treatment. When her condition stabilized, my parents decided to return to Vietnam to serve again until my mother died in 1975. She was in her 40s then, and it was a great blow to my father. They served in Vietnam for about 10 years.
My father was a man I admired
I have witnessed my father in all these changes and hardships, but he never complained. He just followed the Lord’s lead and submitted willingly. The problems he encountered were not easy to deal with; one of the examples was the collapse of the orphanage during the war, and 30% of the people passed. How should he explain to their families and the public? Many other things happened, but we still do not understand and will not be solved until we see our Heavenly Father. However, none of these things could change my father's heart to continue serving the Lord.
Father always felt he was not worthy to be a pastor. He was not afraid of poverty or hardship, but only felt that he was not good enough, so he often trusted in God and obeyed Him. This is the reason why my father was used by God.
One time he was framed at work and my mother was ill, and she said to me, " Today will decide whether we would stop or move on after this incident." I saw that my father was still planting as if nothing happened. To him, everything is in God’s hand, he left everything to Him. He did not want to argue or defend. He fully trusted in God and believed that God would take care of it. Finally, God solved the problem for us. Father was a man who could withstand challenges and shocks!
Mother's last will
I admire both my father and my mother. My mother was the 3rd child in her originated family. She partnered with my father closely after their marriage. She had an incredibly positive outlook, never thought of any downside; and she was very friendly. When the building collapsed during the Vietnam War, she and dad were saved by the Lord and were lucky enough to survive and climb out of the rubble. She was so grateful, delight, and gave thanks to God! Soon afterward, she was diagnosed with cancer. After the operation in Hong Kong, we thought she was cured; unfortunately, a relapse happened 7 years later and she had to battle with the disease again. She thus returned to Hong Kong for surgery and treatments once again. When her condition stabilized, she returned to Vietnam to serve in the ministry, and finally died in 1975 and was taken back to heaven.
My mother's dream was to be a writer, she loved to write. But to her surprise, God called her to be a pastor’s wife. She spent her life assisting my father to evangelize and did not write much. When she was sick and stayed in bed, she finally had a chance to pick up the pencil by her bedside to write. In her book “The Sunset Gate”, she wrote, “I am 44 years old this year, but still have an inspiration for literature that I cannot suppress. I do not want to join the ranks of poets but just want to be an ordinary and happy person. I once had a bright dream and indulged in the creation of literature and art. Now I am more refined and have found a more beautiful and eternal goal. I am dedicated to being a follower of the Lord.” Many people felt sorry for my mom’s passing and she was forever missed!
My dedication to the Lord was influenced by my father, and directly by my mother's last words. My mother once said in “The Sunset Gate”, " I am sorry because God has given me so much grace, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do to repay Him for passing away so young. I am hoping that my sons will rise and continue to serve the Lord. I would not have obeyed my mother's words so submissively if she was not terminally ill. I, therefore, made a vow to God and say, "This is my mother. May You heal her; thus, I will dedicate myself to You to repay Your grace." However, my mother finally died, and I was very sad. After all, I thought I would not become a pastor, but then God asked me, "What else do you want me to take away from you to obey?" I was so heartened by this and finally obeyed and dedicated myself to the Lord in 1975 and embarked on the path of pastoring.
Valuing the name of God
My father used to serve at the seminary in Hong Kong, then he was sent to the United States and served in the New York Chinese Alliance Church (NYCAC) in 1977. This church started out well, but because of its overwhelming expansion, it resulted in a huge financial burden. People’s hearts were weakened, even preachers left the church. The church was in huge debt and full of negative news. However, a group of female garment workers loved this church and strongly believed that God's church could not be closed and they were determined to support it. There were only under 10 people left at that time. In 1977, when my father heard about this news, he was moved and decided to come to the United States to help in any way he could.
My father heeded God's call to serve in the church. He did not choose a well-developed megachurch to serve. He highly respected the name of God, just like King David, he felt that God’s name should not be dishonored. He always felt that a well-developed church needed a competent ministering pastor, but he was just an ordinary one who could simply offer help to a church that needed it. When he came to the United States, he could only take my three younger brothers with him. Since I was 21 years old, so I could not immigrate with them but just stayed in Hong Kong.
Upon my father's arrival in the United States, he led the NYCAC congregation and told them to pay off their debts as it was biblical teaching. He led the Church to continue the path of missions, they never stopped even during the toughest time because he was clear that missions were the core value of the Church. His vision was: “never let the existing financial situation limits the Kingdom ministries; more importantly we should do the right things and do it correctly.” Under his leadership, the congregation worked together to live hard and frugally. And they built a sincere relationship with each other. Since then, the church has been actively involved in mission, planting churches; and supporting the ministries of Vietnamese churches with prayers and money.
Missions never stop
My father served in NYCAC for more than 10 years. In 1987, he was in his 60s, he felt that he had reached the plateau in his ministries. Therefore, he felt he should find someone to take over and continue to develop it, so he suggested me to come to the United States. I was very happy as I thought I finally would have the opportunity to serve with my father and be reunited with my brothers. After I came to the U.S., my father went on a mission trip to the Suriname Republic of South America in 1991. He asked me to stay, and I became the lead pastor of NYCAC.
According to my father’s ministerial strategy, he always wanted to develop the missionary heart for the church. He believed that a church must have a mission heart to grow and develop well, otherwise, the congregation could not experience any revival.
The reason why my father chose to preach in Suriname was he saw the mission heart of the churches there even though the number of believers was still low. As he expected, the churches there are still doing a good job in evangelizing today. My father’s philosophy of ministries was to lead the church to become a mission-minded church, and he had no interest in the size and number of people in the church. Thus, he took discipleship very seriously, so that the brothers and sisters would grow into deeper life and they would be willing to go out on mission trips.
After serving 6 years in Suriname, my father believed that the Suriname Christian & Missionary Alliance Church (SCMAC) was mature enough to move forward on its own, so he planned for his departure. The way he left was by taking the lead in sending out missionaries to places where no one was going and continuing to lead others in his footsteps. He took the initiative to ask the congregation to send him to Panama as a missionary, and he has been serving in Panama ever since until today. Thank God! This year, my father is 92 years old, and he is still there sharing the gospel and doing discipleship.
A Passionate Missionary Heart
There were only a few Alliance churches when dad graduated from the Seminary in Hong Kong, he then started one. He was an introverted and humbled man with big dreams. After I came to the United States, he brought me a document and discussed it with me, saying, "Look, which countries should we start with in Central and South America? Where should I start my ministries first? And what should we do next? We circled the four countries with the largest Chinese population; namely Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, and Peru; he thus set his sight on those four countries. My father wanted me to stay in New York, and he started these four points on the front line. He used them as a base to reach out to other places.
Whenever he saw me, he would talk about missionary work. At some points, I would think in my head that “can we talk about something else, like our family?” My father is so occupied with missions, that is always what we are talking and planning on. He wanted me to partner with him to carry on his heart and ministry. He is always delighted to know that our brothers are willing to be partnered with him.
I understand that my father has some inner "pain" now that he has committed himself to the mission field. In the past, he was not afraid of poverty or hardship, and he went where no one else would go; but today, he is too old and weak to keep going. In the past, he was not afraid, and he went on his own if no one dared to go; but now, his ability is limited, and not many people are willing to go with him, so he feels lonely! This is the problem he is facing now, but he is still relying on the Lord to keep going.
Teaching by Example and by Words
My father's teaching by example and words had a great influence on us (the four sons, namely Daniel, Caleb, Mel, and Israel). It is not easy to be a pastor, you have to be very strict in your behavior, and this is one of the reasons why I was not so willing to be a pastor. I thought to myself, "To be a preacher, my family has to sacrifice a lot, and once I decided to become a preacher, I had to be strict with myself. Some family members who are not pastors tend to embellish what it is like to be a pastor, such as preaching with authority from the pulpit, being respected by brothers and sisters, etc. I grew up in a pastor's family, so I could see the whole picture and was always prepared for it.
The pastors of my father's generation were so trusting in God that He would solve their problems when the time came. I witnessed this clearly, so when I was a pastor I knew that planning is planning, but you can't plan everything yourself, otherwise, when something doesn't go as we planned, the person will collapse. We need to know that time is in God’s hands and He has His timetable. I saw this in my father's ministry, so I often looked to God for guidance and did His will.
My father never took other people’s words for it when it came to Bible scriptures, he seriously studied hard himself. And he trusts that God would speak to him in the process. He taught me how to cooperate with God and man and this has influenced me till today, and it is always true! My way of thinking was immensely influenced by my father, and here is an example: My father believes that the problem of faith is that people do not enter into the center of it, and this is exactly the problem with the churches today. I remember about 5-6 years ago when my father was in his 80s, there was a time when he had given up salt so much that his body became weak and his limbs were out of control. He thought he was about to go to heaven, so he said to me in a very solemn way, "From now on, you should preach more about the truth of losing your life to find it, and about taking up the cross to follow the Lord; because people don't preach about this any more in this age. But we must preach this as this is the most important teaching!” Later he obeyed the doctor's order and took salt again, and after a while, his body recovered. Praise to the Lord!
I also learned the true meaning of humility from my father. Humility is not something you need to learn how to do on purpose but just accept your true self. Many people say that my father is humble, but he does not feel that way. He did not think he was humble; he was just doing the way he was. My father often felt that what he did was not worth mentioning and would rather do discipleship when he had time to train a few more people. He made me understand that one is not humble until one accepts that one is limited. It is meaningless to force someone to do something that he/she cannot do. The true meaning of humble is the understanding of the limitation of ourselves and trust only God can do it.
I learned to give whole-heartedly from my father, who never tried to gain respect from others. Even in the situations he felt that he did not have enough resources, he still trusted that God would provide if he surrendered completely to the Lord and served Him faithfully. When father knew that something he could not handle, he would leave it to God, and his heart would not be in turmoil. He accepted his shortcomings and knew the greatness of God as that was the source of the power, so my father could live his life calmly, face everything plainly, and take everything in stride. He did not just play the role of observer to see how God works when he felt incapable to do it himself, on the contrary, he played an active role in it to allow God to manifest Himself through him. This shows that humility is not a sign of retreat, but a great strength! Humility is precious, there is no reason to deliberately push yourself up so high!
My father never retires and serves the Lord faithfully all his life. His missionary heart not only influenced his 4 sons, but also many others!