First Posted: 4/20/2015
NEWTON TWP. — “I was born in Vietnam. My wife was born in Taiwan. We speak Mandarin at home. When we travel to Panama, we speak Spanish. And when we come back to the states, we speak English.”
Missionary Michael Liang opened his speech with those words as church members of Country Alliance Church laughed.
During the worship service on April 19, Liang, a missionary of Christian Missionary Alliance, shared his experiences of his church planting in the small country of Panama where he and a team of missionaries established the first Chinese Alliance church. Currently, there are five Chinese Alliance churches in Panama which have sermons in both Spanish and Chinese because the younger generation grew up speaking Spanish.
Liang mentioned that Panama has about 200,000 people from China, who have moved there for better living and the freedom to have more children. Residents of China are only permitted to have one child. He also said that he and a team of missionaries established a daycare center in Panama because parents don’t have time to take care of their children, forcing some of them to send their children back to China.
“Their parents (grandparents of children living in China) would take care of their children, so we saw the need to build the daycare center in Panama,” said Liang. “Right now, there’s about 35 kids in the daycare center every day.”
For 15 years, Liang and his wife Meichu have been doing mission trips to Panama for a four-year interval, then return to the United States for one year before returning to the fields of Panama for another four years.
During his speech, Liang shared his appreciation for Panama’s abundance of fruit.
“We have watermelon,” he said. “We have mango. We have papaya. We have banana. And they cost 25 cents per pound.”
When Laing was a senior pastor of Harrisburg Chinese Alliance Church from 1994 to 2000, he received a calling from God to do missionary work. He shared that calling with his wife and the missions committee of his church.
“They (missions committee) decided to send two couples to two countries,” said Liang. “I asked what countries. They said one in Brazil. The other one in Panama.”
The other couple expressed their interest in Brazil.
“That’s why I chose Panama,” he said with a laugh as the audience also laughed.
Liang and his wife Meichu left Harrisburg in 2000, and spent a year in Costa Rica to study Spanish. Then, they started their mission work in Panama.
“When we lived in Panama, we asked our fellow brothers and sisters, ‘We have to share the Gospel with your friends, your relatives, your family, because this is very, very important,’” Liang stated.
Liang said that Chinese people in Panama worked all day and were only interested in making money.
“When they accepted Jesus Christ, they changed their minds,” he said. “They closed their stores to come to the church to worship God.”
Liang shared the Bible passage Matthew 28:18-20, in which Jesus tells his disciples to share the Gospel with all nations.
“When we look back, I just praise the Lord,” he said. “Because God led us to overseas. Because we obey God’s command to go.”
The Liangs will return to Panama in July to continue to spread the Gospel there.
“We have to build a relationship with God everyday,” Liang preached to the Country Alliance members.
Liang attended Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York, (the same seminary which Pastor Rob Lopez of Country Alliance Church attended). There, he received his masters of divinity in 1994. He and his wife have two daughter Jane, 20, and Karen, 19.
The worship service concluded with a luncheon for which church members made and brought food.
“The church is very good,” Meichu of the Country Alliance Church. “I felt warm and welcomed.”
“It was a joy to have them,” Pastor Lopez said of the Laings. “It really inspired me to share my Christian faith with those around me.”