Ministry to Seniors and Ministry of Seniors: A close encounter with Grandma Kwong
“The whole Church, taking the whole Gospel, to the whole World.” - The Lausanne Movement
During the time that I served as Lausanne Catalyst for Diasporas1, I had the honour of meeting men and women from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Truly, I witnessed the Holy Spirit’s moving through the whole Church to take the whole Gospel to the whole World. This moving continues to be awe-inspiring, humbling me to give thanks to the Lord for his faithfulness to the Church that is historically and spatially borderless.
In 2019, my last year of service as Lausanne Catalyst, in Toronto, Canada - arguably the world’s most multicultural city,2 I was introduced to an extraordinary woman, “Grandma” Kwong (nee Fan, Wai Lim), born in Guangdon province, China, on July 15, 1908, while the last emperor of China was still on the throne. Her grandson, Philip, and his wife, Amy - young partners of the Lausanne Movement brought me to her. At 111 years old, Grandma’s mind was clear, her grin was radiant, and in her prayer for Kingdom workers, for the Lausanne Movement, and for myself and my family, her deep and life-long devotion to Jesus and his Kingdom was steadfast. I later learned that, well beyond her centenary year, Grandma continued to partner with the Lausanne Movement in both faithful prayer and in generous financial support. As she held my hands in hers, I was moved by our fellowship in Jesus—it transcended physical, cultural, and linguistic borders, and I was struck by the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had no age borders.
On December 27, 2020, at 112 years old, she left her temporary earthly home for her entrance into the Church Eternal. In celebration of her life, Philip writes:
Grandma deeply cared about mission, church growth and people believing in Jesus. She loved having visitors—the first thing she wanted to know was if they were believers. She would take the initiative to engage with the young adults (those who could handle some Chinese) and find out how she could pray for them or their families. In essence, Grandma was our young adult ministry partner—she kept her notes on them and would pray for them as a group and as individuals….
Phil recounts Grandma’s last days with them: “True to her being missional, Grandma expressed her mission mindedness in her reminders to us on praying and giving one last time. As always, Grandma never ceased to amaze or inspire us…”
I reflect on Grandma’s life in the context of unique circumstances. In the early fall of 2019, when we first met, we could not have expected the “unprecedented” realities that 2020, the upcoming year, would bring. In February and March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic closed down much of the globe’s geographical borders. Migrants were urged to return to their home countries and people were encouraged to remain in the borders of their own homes. In July 2020, I suffered a severe stroke and for two months my family was told to await long-term prognosis. By the time of Grandma’s home-going in December 2020, I had lived five months within the borders of hospital walls, while the world had experienced nearly three-quarters of the year in isolation, and while, markedly, Covid-19 claimed millions of lives.3 In Canada, where I live, “deaths caused directly by COVID-19 disproportionately affected the elderly.”4
My extended stay in hospital care, with over two months in geriatric units, and then over three months in a hospital unit with primarily senior citizens in care, gave me a new perspective on seniors citizens. Though I am not yet qualified the honourific of “senior citizen,” in their midst, I witnessed seniors in missions, and missions to seniors. There were senior citizen patients who prayed for me, for each other, and for the world.
Seniors in Missions & Missions to Seniors
Further, in the midst of the global pandemic, while isolation seemed paramount, there were men and women, often times hospital staff, sometimes regular volunteers, who prayed for seniors as they washed them, fed them, braided their hair, pushed their wheelchairs, brushed their teeth, organised socials, and wiped away tears for them. I cannot count the number of times, I observed medical team members encourage seniors to press on, “because, even now, you are loved, and because there is always Hope.” I even met an octogenarian gentleman-a former patient of the hospital, who after decades of weekends, continued to minister to the hospital patients on Sunday mornings. I asked him why he persisted in old age to lug over his saxophone and devote his Sunday mornings to the hospital, he replied: “Jesus loves me. He saved me. I owe Jesus everything.” Indeed, there are no successful borders to Jesus Christ’s Gospel and Church, not even age.
The United Nations notes:
The global population aged 60 years or over numbered 962 million in 2017, more than twice as large as in 1980 when there were 382 million older persons worldwide. The number of older persons is expected to double again by 2050, when it is projected to reach nearly 2.1 billion.5
Grandma Kwong is representative of the many senior citizens—members of the whole Church— who are committed to bringing the whole Gospel to the whole World. As the global pandemic rages on, and even after it has waned, we must remember and support those on the edges of age and those who minister to them. They continue to be Kingdom workers and continue to be a mission field. And, they are honoured and loved.
“The whole Church (including the aged), taking the whole Gospel, to the whole World (including the aged)”.
This blog has been published with the permission of the author, Dr. Sadiri Joy Tira
Sadiri Joy Tira DMiss, DMin, is Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University, Calgary, Canada, and is the coordinator for the Lausanne North American Diaspora Strategy Group.
1 The Diaspora Catalyst was formerly known as Lausanne Senior Associate for Diasporas. Sadiri Joy Tira served in this position from 2007-2019.
3 At the time of writing, the World Health Organization reports a global death toll of 2,232,233 3 (January 20,2020-February 2, 2021). See “Overview” February 2, 2021 at https:// covid19.who.int.
5 Quoted from https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/ 5 WPA2017_Highlights.pdf. I do not know how the Covid-19 pandemic has adjusted these projections.