Another world crammed into a small area between Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. It's a busy, bewildering assortment of restaurants, casinos, hair salons, Chinese medicine shops, massage parlours, flats, dark alleyways and souvenir shops.
Keri Lim guides us through this unique part of London.
The original Chinatown began in the Limehouse docks, not too far from one of our other ministries, Husk Coffee. Chinese sailors, coming off ships filled with silks, tea and spices, settled in the area until their next assignment. The docks unfairly acquired a sleazy reputation as a hotbed of gambling and opium dens due to much exaggerated and sensationalised stories by the penny press and novels such as the Fu Manchu series of the early 20th century. What was seen as a slum full of crime and drugs consisted in reality of around 300 Chinese making a living from launderettes and small shops.
A celebrity death by overdose and the drug raid of a famous Regent Street Chinese restaurant saw the ‘yellow peril’ taking the blame for the rising drug use of the British. Riots broke out in 1919 and the government took action by razing the ‘slums’ in Limehouse. The shopkeepers and restaurateurs had to relocate. The return of soldiers from the Far East ensured Chinese food rose in popularity and a new Chinatown emerged gradually into the more ‘respectable’ tourism-friendly location we now know near Leicester Square.
Medicine for the Soul
As she meanders through the colourful jumble of flags, signs, lanterns and Eastern imagery, Keri is aware that a dark underbelly to this area exists nonetheless. The Chinese Church in Soho she works with is beginning to understand how to navigate the cultural intricacies and secrets that the maze of Chinatown holds.
Many of the friends and contacts she’s made over the years have come and gone but Keri continues to visit the souvenir shops and medicine stalls nonetheless. She is confident that even if she has lost contact, God’s word is soul medicine and never comes back void.
She tells us of one lady she’s met:
Please pray for F who attended Christianity Explored a while ago and always reads the Chinese Christian newspaper and devotional material that I give her, though she has not committed her life to Christ - yet. It's hard to talk with her, as she is often busy working. Pray that the Lord will again open up good discussions about the Bible with her in the future.
The church hosts an evangelistic event twice a year for students of their English classes. Four or five who came wanted to find out more about Jesus. Keri and the church rejoice for the past 5 years of such events when around half a dozen students have come to Christ each time! But the high turnover of the area makes it difficult to follow up.
- Pray for these new Christians to be nurtured and cared for with a healthy dose of Holy Spirit ministry, regular feeding from the word of God and a warm welcome into a church family.
- Pray for F and the English class students attending the Christianity Explored Course in September, who question their faith but have not yet committed to following Jesus.
- Pray for wisdom, boldness and passion for Keri and the Chinese Church to reach this community, particularly the most vulnerable in situations unknown to the public. Pray for God to bring healing and rescue.
- Praise God for the Chinese Church in London’s faithful service and that the church in China is the fastest growing church in the world!