Written by: Edward Lai (Senior Communications Officer)
A Haitian woman sits on the floor beside several circular mud cakes. She rubs pieces of dust off the mud cakes, and slowly puts the cakes into her mouth, chewing slowly. To her, and to many other Haitians living in poverty, these cakes – made by mixing mud with water and salt, kneading the mixture into the shape of a cake, and setting the cakes under the sun to dry – were their daily meals; their life-saving meals.
Our founders, Mr and Mrs Oliver Mark, were deeply touched by the sight of women eating mud cakes. They were in the UK at the time; after returning to Hong Kong, they were inspired to think about how churches and believers in Hong Kong could help respond to the needs of the poor.
CEDAR was established in Hong Kong in July 1991. Ever since, CEDAR has been a helping hand for Hong Kong’s church community, cooperating with churches and Christian organisations around the world to develop communities and alleviate poverty.
Time has flown; CEDAR is now 30 years old. Over the years, CEDAR’s co-workers have stood firm on the foundations laid by our predecessors and adhered to the organisation’s core principles and mission when serving the poor. We have ensured that the poor not only have adequate clothes and food, but also that they can live out their lives according to God’s will, and experience the dignity and value associated with being God’s children.
Hence, the theme for CEDAR’s 30th anniversary is ‘Beyond Feeding the Poor’. This theme is not only a slogan, but also represents the beliefs and values of CEDAR and our overseas partners have while carrying out our work with the poor. As Mr & Mrs Oliver Mark said while celebrating our 30th anniversary,
We follow the principle of “From Church‧Through Church” to reach our goals. Our work is not simply to alleviate poverty, it is also for others to hear of the gospel, or even to obtain eternal life. Therefore, the theme “Beyond Feeding the Poor” is most suitable.
On 9 July, CEDAR held the 30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Sharing Session on ‘Beyond Feeding the Poor’ at EFCC Tung Fook Church (CWB). Pastor Eugene Leung of EFCC Jachin Church shared his experience working with CEDAR to promote the global perspective of the youth. He believes that working with CEDAR has allowed young believers to take part in caring for the poor and to fight against the injustices of the world.
When CEDAR comes to our church, it seems as though they are here to collect donations. But I say that this is not the case. In 2 Corinthians 8:4, the Macedonian Church repeatedly asked Paul to accept their gifts for the poor in Jerusalem and to have the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. Instead, we should be thanking CEDAR for giving us the opportunity to participate in poverty alleviation work overseas and to share in this service.
The Power of Commitment
Another one of CEDAR’s church partners who shared during the 30th anniversary event was the MongKok Baptist Church. During the event, the church shared how, through CEDAR, they were introduced to CEDAR’s workers in Yunnan, China. These workers serve people living in the mountains, and help with drug rehabilitation through sharing the gospel. Since 2015, the church has visited Yunnan three times a year to establish relationships with beneficiaries and provide them with suitable assistance, including subsidising meals for children in mountainous areas, organising activities for those going through rehabilitation, such as Bible study, role-playing, movie screenings and ball games; these helped the people grow and transform both physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Mr Wong Wai Man, Chairman of the church’s Mission Committee, said, ‘We may be limited in what we can do, but through regular visits, we are able to witness the transformation in people’s lives. We have seen how drug addicts have changed after receiving the gospel and going through rehabilitation. One former addict even decided to enter a Christian seminary. His life has encouraged and inspired us greatly.’
CEDAR is grateful that our project has become the church’s ‘mission field’. By working together with churches, we have tried to help the marginalised communities in society. We are also happy to see that although CEDAR is a small organisation, it has become a platform that allows local churches to serve the needs of the poor overseas and fulfil their mission.
Chief Executive Chan Pui Si used planting as a metaphor at the meeting. She said CEDAR is just like a farmer that helps to take care of the Lord’s farmstead. During this process, CEDAR has seen many difficult issues that need to be watered and cared. However, through the Lord’s grace and the fellowship of believers, the Lord has allowed us to work and spread blessings to communities in need.
An Unchanging Mission Throughout the Years
In the future, CEDAR will aim to respond to the needs of local and global communities on three different levels.
1. Local Integration Mission Promotion:
To understand how CEDAR’s experience in alleviating poverty overseas can contribute to projects in Hong Kong by conducting research, and to continue to work with the church community in order to carry out the integral mission that aligns with local characteristics. CEDAR will also connect with Christian communities that serve ethnic minorities, organise training sessions and seek cooperation.
2. The New Norm of Poverty Alleviation:
During the pandemic, we continue to flexibly deploy resources and revise our project contents to better respond to local needs. This included increasing anti-pandemic components and stabilising the emotions and spirituality of our partners to support their work on the front lines. Apart from this, we focus on the serious online sexual exploitation of children by targeting and preventing online sexual trafficking in developing regions.
3. Peace and Reconciliation:
Amid tense international relations, regional conflicts continue to surge globally. In addition to promoting peace and conducting restoration work in the Middle East, Asia (including Myanmar and Hong Kong) and Africa, we have also cooperated with various organisations, sharing experience in peacebuilding, which enable us to establish new methods of poverty alleviation and development.
In the face of growing and new needs, CEDAR will, as always, work with churches and believers to serve together. We will also expand our human resources and office space. Our office will be relocated to 2,700 square feet unit in an industrial building in Hing Yip Street, Kwun Tong.
The larger office space will allow for multi-purpose use; it will provide educational activities and project resources for church communities, support the local integral mission ministry and help remote supervision of projects.
We are looking forward to welcoming our new milestones and promise to unwaveringly uphold our integral mission.