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What is the Motive of a Missionary?

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

Missionary to America: Stella Yau, Hong Kong

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed Him.” Gospel of Matthew 4: 19-20

Have you ever wondered what causes someone to give up their current way of life and become a missionary? We can learn something about the motive of a missionary from the missionary Stella Yau.

Stella and her family fled Hong Kong when Stella was five. At the time the Chinese communist government was getting ready to take the island back from Great Britain. Many in Hong Kong, particularly Christians, were afraid.

To understand this just talk with a Christian from China. Christians and Christianity are tolerated but held in low regard. Christians are ridiculed and discrimination is endemic.

Stella’s family’s pastor in Hong Kong was the beloved missionary from America, Rev. Will Holt. To meet the flow of refugees, Missionary Holt was transitioned back to the US. He began a mission in San Francisco to welcome new immigrants from Hong Kong and China. This was around the same time Stella’s family was leaving Hong Kong – something that turned out to be a happenstance of grace for many Asians, and for Stella.

Making a new home in a new country is not easy. Because she was an immigrant Stella was bullied; she was called names, other children made fun of her accent. The little girl was lonely and afraid, except when she was in church, with Jesus, and her pastor, Will Holt. Holt had begun a congregation made up of Chinese immigrants. God blessed the church and it grew, not only in numbers, but in faith and in concern for those who did not know God’s unending love. The church was so committed to sharing the love of Jesus they began sending some members as missionaries to other countries. Holy Spirit Lutheran sent missionaries to China, to Hong Kong, to Thailand, to Africa. This was not lost on the young girl from Hong Kong.

As Stella grew up in San Francisco, she learned to speak English as an American, succeeded in school, and in college and began to climb the executive ladder at Honeywell. That is when it happened: the tug to leave the pursuit of the corporate life behind to become a missionary. She would go with Jesus to find those who did not know His love and show them a new Way. Stella wanted the new immigrants to America to know the love and comfort she had received from her church family. Today Stella Yau is a director for LINC (Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition) ministries in Los Angeles and a missionary. She works for an aging, declining Anglo congregation in a community that is now seventy percent Asian.

To reach out to its community, the Anglo church began a preschool. With twenty-two children, mostly Chinese, almost all immigrants, there are many mission opportunities. Stella brings the children’s immigrant parents together to help them understand what their children are learning about Jesus. Coming from China where children are taught the church is evil, an enemy of Asian people, it takes a long time to bring the adults to know the love of the Savior. Sometimes the Anglo congregation gets impatient; Stella’s ministry is to elevate their vision, so they see into the future, when Chinese leaders someday emerge to bring the good news of His grace to more people.

Thinking about what she gave up to be a missionary she says she loves her work and would do it all again in a heartbeat. And that is precisely what God did. He put off the privileges of His life and journeyed on earth, willing to sacrifice everything, because His heartbeat for a world that might know God’s gracious love.

When you have come to know the love of Jesus, the Spirit of God impels you to share His love, His forgiveness, His grace wherever you are. For some, it even causes them to leave their current lives to become a missionary.

Stella shares her experience in immigrating to America from Hong Kong

Watch Stella share her personal testimony.

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