I struggled through the crowds and got off the Hong Kong MTR at Prince Edward Station as instructed. Finding exit C2, I came out to the street and walked the prescribed 50 meters down Prince Edward Street to number 100. There it was! My destination: Mother's Soup.
The automatic door opened and I saw the restaurant was full. No tables available, but my host, Ron Yu, waved me over to the table he had snagged for us. Ron had insisted that I meet him here for lunch. He wanted me to see for myself this special place.
As I sat down, Ron ordered lunch for us. The Mother's Soup, for which the restaurant was named, turned out to be a good soup without any MSG. Additionally there was a full Chinese menu with great Chinese food. Ron began to tell me what was so special about this place that he wanted me to see it for myself. You see, Monday through Saturday it is a busy restaurant, but on Sunday the restaurant space turns into a church; a church for poor people called Christ Transcending Poverty Church.
With a break in the lunch rush, Carmen, the manager, joined us and told me the story. The senior pastor, Pastor Wong, had taken 4 years to learn the restaurant business so that the business would serve its clientele as well as be a sustainable business. Pastor Wong's goal is to disciple people. When the church gets to 50 people they split off, start another restaurant. Starting a restaurant is starting a church. (Their website is http://www.ahma.com.hk/time.html; use Google Translate if you don't read Chinese)
The World Chinese Restaurant Mission http://en.worldcrm.org/Index/index has trained over 4000 people during the last 3 years in how to start a Chinese restaurant that is a church. We all know that Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous around the globe, now many of those restaurants are also serving Christ as churches with a heart for the poor.
But I found out that it's more than just Sunday. During the week the staff of Mother's Soup take lunch boxes to the park and feed homeless people. Hong Kong has a growing poverty and homeless problem – the cost of housing is rising as Mainland Chinese buy up property.
The staff doesn't just pass out the food boxes, but they sit with the homeless people in the park, talk with them and make friends. That lets people feel loved enough to come into the restaurant cum church on Sunday. After the Sunday morning service they spend time with families. They help the children learn to read and parents learn positive parenting practices.
Their newest ministry is marathons. Turns out that if homeless people begin to walk and exercise they begin to think differently about themselves. Carmen showed off their T shirt that is both the restaurant uniform and the shirt for the runners. In Chinese it says "The Power of Jesus."
Carmen earned an M-Div so she could serve the congregation as well as the restaurant. I call her the COE: Chief of Everything: a very dynamic young woman who clearly follows Jesus's call to serve the poor. They truly care for the poor with a successful Business 4 Blessing.
Ron showed me a card that connected biblical businesses of all kinds, including more than 50 restaurants in Hong Kong. To encourage people to use these businesses they provide a discount after paying an annual fee of 50 HKD (about 6 USD). What a great way to connect and build like-minded businesses! Turns out there are a lot of businesses that follow biblical principles in Hong Kong and China. (http://www.hkcrm.org) Ron also works with many kinds of business through China Ministries International: http://cmihk.org.hk.
My eye-opening lunch at Mother's Soup was like finding a treasure in the midst of the crowded streets of Hong Kong. Imagine: thousands of these restaurants around the world. What a beautiful example of Business 4 Blessing. This is an example others can follow sharing God's love in a very practical self-supporting way.