Mike Wu: Re-envisioning Missionaries and Homecoming

Malaysian church planter Mike Wu studied in the west, then felt called to go home.

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Mike Wu
Mike Wu

Mike Wu is a pastor and church planter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—and a 2022 Seeds Fellow. He and his wife are currently in the very early stages of planting a new church after several years serving a large church in Kuala Lumpur.

Mike was born in Shanghai, China. His family moved to Melbourne, Australia when he was five. Mike is the first Christian in his family. Before ministry Mike worked in the banking sector in Melbourne and while he was still in that career he recalls sharing the gospel and walking with over 40 people as they developed a relationship with Christ. 

Mike married his wife Viola, who was born in Hong Kong and also raised in Melbourne. She was also the youth pastor at the church Mike was attending. After a short while he too felt the call to full time ministry. They moved to Pasadena, California to study at Fuller Theological Seminary. 

Mike said their time at Fuller was very formative for them. It was a time when they were discovering who God was calling them to be. They are both very passionate about leadership and innovation. Originally, they thought this passion for innovation was going to lead them to plant a church in the Pacific Northwest, in the Bay area, to reach other innovative people, but through discernment, they felt God instead calling them back to Asia. Mike said they were open to four places: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nanjing, or Singapore, but God gave them Kuala Lumpur, which was never on their radar. They fasted, prayed, and took a scouting trip while still in seminary and ended up moving to Malaysia. 

Church as thought leader

Mike became the connect groups & discipleship pastor for HTBB, a charismatic Anglican church on the top of a downtown shopping mall, and Viola became the director of operations for St. Paul’s Theological College, a local bible college that has connections to HTBB. They had never been Anglicans before, so they decided to try it for two years, but now have decided that Anglicanism isn’t quite for them. In Malaysia, women in the Anglican church can’t be ordained, which is a very important issue for them and their understanding of the development of Christianity and God’s unfolding story in Asia. Mike explained that from an Asian context, especially China and Korea, women have been the backbone of faith for a long time. Mike said that they “stand on the shoulders of our spiritual mothers” and mentioned several stories of women being catalysts for revival throughout both Southeast and East Asia.

Mike sees a real opportunity for the church to reclaim a space as a thought leader in Malaysia and help solve real social problems. He said that the benefit of living in a Muslim country is that people look to religious leaders in life. “Instead of being a church that has the most bums in seats, biggest auditorium, or handing out the most food aid, what if the church was able to play at a different level and lead the way in not only providing basic needs but building up financial literacy and other transferable skills to help people stay out of the poverty cycle?” He also mentioned helping refugees in Malaysia, who have almost no rights. They can’t open bank accounts or have tax numbers and are pretty much excluded from the financial system. Mike wonders what a microfinancing initiative would look like to help set people free from the poverty cycle and he sees the church having the opportunity to be a leader in this area.

Global and mobile

Over the past few months Mike has been focused on the image of “the journey” and seeing ministry as a part of our collective journeys here on earth—as well as back home to heaven. He recognizes that the world is increasingly globalized and mobile, and Kuala Lumpur is a major financial hub in Southeast Asia. People work in other parts of the world during the week and fly home on weekends, only to return and leave again. Life and people are transient; people don’t stay forever. Mike wants to help build a community that is good at receiving and welcoming people but also a community that is equally good at releasing people. 

Mike has also been captivated by the word “homecoming.” Recently, he was talking to a Singaporian-Australian friend who said “What if we’ve had it wrong this whole time? What if our 25 plus years in Melbourne and Sydney showed us that we were children of the exile? And what if us coming back to this part of the world is actually part of our homecoming?” 

Mike said that Asia does not need more missionaries, but it needs resources. “Many people still have a largely colonized mindset where ‘West is better,’ but we need people who are both authentically Asian, yet able to comfortably traverse the Western landscape. People who know intimately and understand Asian and Western culture, and don’t need to do as much cultural exegesis when serving the people in Asia.” 

He sees tremendous potential for Asian people who grew up in the West to come back to Asia for ministry. “I pretty much grew up in China. When I was in my household with my parents, culturally and linguistically, I was basically in China. But when I opened the front door and I stepped outside it was Australia. I really believe that a lot of Asian-Westerners in this century are going to be called back by God.”

When asked what advice he has for someone who is thinking they might be called to this sort of ministry Mike said, “Discernment begins with prayer and just talking to God. Revival movements throughout history began with people on their knees praying, not with 5- or 10-step plans.” Nevertheless, you are still to do your homework and “count the costs”, know what you’re getting yourself into, and then give it over to God. Lastly, have some people around you who can hold you accountable and won’t just tell you what you want to hear but rather what you need to hear in honesty and at times with tough love.

Prayer 

God of the global church, give your Spirit to all who preach your good news to the places you have called them to be. Continue to open doors for church planters as they seek to establish new communities. Give us all the courage to follow your call and honor the process even when we can’t see the ending. Amen.

  • Timothy Bowman

    Timothy Bowman is a Luther Seminary graduate, a co-pastor with his wife at Zion Lutheran Church in Stewartville, MN, and a member of the Seeds Project.

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