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The Chinese Christian Community: Old and Young Experience God Differently

This week, we’ve been looking at the Chinese Christian community in Springfield, as part of an ongoing series exploring the lesser-known faith groups in the Ozarks. Today, KSMU’s Jennifer Moore looks at the differences between the older and younger generations within the Chinese Christian community of Springfield.

SOUND: Adults reading Psalms in Chinese

In the Sunday morning church service at the Chinese Christian Church of Springfield, the congregation is reading a Psalm from the Bible in Chinese.

Meanwhile, right above them in an upstairs Sunday School room, their children are coloring and learning about Jesus…in English.

Sound: Young girl reading.

Ann Cheuk teaches the children’s Sunday School teacher.

Cheuk was born in Indiana. Cheuk graduates from Drury University this month, having majored in biology and chemistry. She intends to go on to medical school.

The nine children in her Sunday School class today come from a variety of backgrounds.

She said one girl recently moved to the US from Hong Kong, and two boys moved from China. Most of the others, she says, were born in the US.

For these children, the Chinese Christian Church provides an opportunity to learn about faith, as well as their Chinese heritage. The church incorporates major Chinese holidays into its celebrations—for example, the kids make crafts for Chinese New Year.

In addition, Ann Cheuk says, for her, it has played an important role in her identity as a young American of Chinese descent.

While she’s upstairs with the children, Ann’s father, Philip Cheuk, is downstairs giving the sermon. He says although the older and younger generations of church members hold the same beliefs, the youth who have grown up in the church have a different perspective on God.

"They are quite different because the older generation--because our concept of God--we don't have a concept of God like our children have. Our children know that there is only one God, he is the creator of the universe, he is the sustainer, and all the basic concepts that they have," he said.

Cheuk says about 95 percent of the older generation are converts to the faith. He says those who grew up in China grew up Atheist, or Agnostic, or Buddhist, and that it takes a long time to adjust to placing all of your faith in one God.

Cheuk says both the younger generation and the older generation have their own struggles with faith. The younger generation may find it easier to believe, he says, because that’s what they’ve always been taught. But they haven’t been through the struggles that come with a conversion, and so Cheuk believes they are more likely to take their faith for granted.

"Since the older generation--they have gone through so much to understand their faith, to experience this God--they tend to have a deeper understanding of God. Because faith for them is not easy. They really have to make a choice," he said.

Sound: Young girl reading story of Mary in the Bible

FOR KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.