Sometimes life seems as though it goes in circles.
For Bill Wong, a corporate chaplain who attends Vancouver Chinese Alliance Church, God has brought him full circle in his ministry.
Bill was a professional engineer for most of his career. In his last job as a consultant, he managed marine terminal projects in Vancouver and other places around the world. It was early in his career as a plant engineer, where he oversaw a crew of 120 tradespeople, that he realized people had life issues and they often bring them to work. If their mind was on their issues, then it wasn’t on their work. This was a safety concern.
Reflecting on that ten-year period in his life, Bill said, “Everyone has issues and most just want someone to listen. When I listened to them, their situation was diffused and they could return to their jobs and work safely.”
At the time he was acting like a chaplain but didn’t realize it.
Engineer & Chaplain
In the summer of 2002 Bill took time off work to attend seminary at Regent College. Here he began to recognize what God was doing in and through him as a chaplain. While at seminary, Bill met the founder of a marketplace ministry who asked Bill to join him in his corporate chaplaincy. Since 2005, after graduating from Regent College in marketplace theology, Bill has been bi-vocational – working as both an engineering consultant and a corporate chaplain.
Corporate chaplains are skilled practitioners who provide listening, encouragement and support to local businesses. In 2016 Bill retired from engineering and focused solely on corporate chaplaincy. Bill now serves with Corporate Chaplains Canada (CCC), a ministry under Outreach Canada.
A Day in the Life
While with CCC, Bill has served at several auto dealerships, a machine shop, a wheel and tire supplier, a product testing laboratory, a door and window screen plant, and a print shop. These businesses are multi-faith and multi-cultural, and are comprised of roughly 10% Christians and 90% non Christians, but every person benefits from the confidential care provided by a chaplain.
Some of the issues that Bill responds to include health, family, finances, marital, addictions & depression, just to name a few. These people need a sounding board and encouragement with their daily struggles and Bill provides this.
What does this look like?
- When Bill walks into their work space, he begins with an open ended question, “How are things?”
- As he becomes familiar to them by continually showing up (building trust), people open up.
- Bill listens. He tries not to offer too much advice and reflects back to them so they can come up with their own solutions. They know that what they share with Bill stays with him.
- Sometimes Bill prays with them and usually when he does, they are grateful because they feel it is a last resort for them. These are fruitful and meaningful relationships developed over time.
When I asked Bill about his motivation for doing this, his answer was clear and full of grace, “Because I love God and Jesus touches them. I find a satisfying sense of accomplishment when the ‘least of these’ who are enduring personal crisis find hope or purpose in life.” For Bill, Matthew 25:31-46 highlights his passion for his ministry.
One time, Bill went onboard a cargo ship at the Port of Vancouver hoping to share the gospel with any seamen who were available. He met these two fellows in the galley and found out both were Christians. They had a great time sharing and encouraging each other!
Life came full circle when Bill began serving part-time at the Lighthouse Harbour Ministry in 2016.
This ministry takes the gospel message and the listening heart of chaplains to the same marine terminals that Bill worked on as an engineer. He boards cargo ships that come to Vancouver and ministers to the seafarers on board.
Bill says the seafarers lead lonely lives, being away from their families for up to nine-month periods. Most are from developing countries and driven by the money, as they can make up to four times more money on a ship than at home. However, many dislike their jobs but they feel they have no choice because they love their families and are trying to provide for them.
The interactions with the seafarers are brief, often during a work break and filled with urgency. When they arrive in Vancouver, the seafarers are often receptive to the good news and see urgency in coming to faith. Bill greets them, shares the good news, and often prays with them. And God is blessed!
Check out this other article Bill wrote sharing about his work with the seafarers in Vancover: "A Port Chaplain's Reflections". Every day, port chaplains are reaching out to seafarers that arrive on ships to the Port of Vancouver, sharing the love of God and the Good News with them.
A version of this article was previously published by the C&MA and has been re-published with permission. You can find the original article HERE.
Prior to serving as a chaplain with Outreach Canada, Bill was a professional engineer, working 10 years as superintendent at a large manufacturing plant with over 500 employees, and then 20 years as an engineering consultant managing projects at marine terminals all over the world. He enjoyed the travels and meeting people in different countries. It’s amazing how God is now using Bill in his current chaplaincy ministry, having gone full circle to now serving in the marketplace and at the Port of Vancouver, where he had previously worked as a consultant.