The Chinese Baptist Church of Miami
A Brief History
I. Before Constitution
Under the guidance of God, Pastor Kwong-Wah Lau came to Miami in 1968 to serve Him. When we started out, there were less than 20 people (including children) in attendance for worship. We had to hold our Sunday worship in the afternoon, at a small fellowship hall in our mother church (Flagler Street Baptist Church), because over 90 percent of the Chinese populations at the time were grocery stores owners, and they had to do business on Sunday mornings. In the early days Pastor and Mrs. Lau went to visit each family almost on a daily basis. In less than two years, our numbers grew so rapidly that we ran out of space. So we started our building project, even before we were constituted as a church. Our initial fund drive netted $30,000, and we bought a piece of land that was two-and-a half acres. (There was a rumor that it was donated by a family, but it was not factual). We continued to raise fund until we gathered around $110,000.00. Then we built our main building which is now our fellowship hall.
On June 12, 1972, we completed the building and was constituted as a church. In the beginning we used folding metal chairs. The building was rather small, with no Sunday school classrooms. But brothers and sisters were faithful in their service, and loved one another. We held our Sunday school classes and worship service in the same room. We had only one movable shelf as our library. God has greatly blessed our church right from the beginning. We never owed any debt in the 31 years of our history, which is very unusual in the world. This is not due to our exceptional ability, but entirely because of the grace of God.
Even before our constitution, we had three fellowships. The earliest one was the CBYF, then came WMU and Brotherhood. Deacon Samuel Lee was ordained by our Flagler mother church before we became independent. Deacon Lee was the first Chinese to be ordained in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. After we became independent, the first deacon we ordained was Dr. Chang-Yu Wu, who is now with the Lord in heaven.
II. During constitution
In 1972 all we had was an empty hall that was like a match box. The most valuable items we had were the pulpit and the Lord’s table, which were made of Rose wood. We spent several thousand dollars to have them imported from Hong Kong. We have since donated these two treasures to our first spiritual daughter ?now the Chinese Baptist Church of Coral Springs. Later on, a funeral home donated some long oak pews to us. The owner of the funeral home was a deacon of our Flagler mother church. (Oak is a national treasure of America and is now protected from being cut).
Where you see lush green lawns and beautiful flowers surrounding the church building today, there was once emptiness. We bought a few truckloads of soil, some trees, and our brothers and sisters worked together to do the landscaping. Not long after our church constitution, we established more fellowships: TYAF, MYAF, JYAF, NCCF, CSAF, Sunbeam, and Jr. CBYF and so on. Because of our tight financial situation at the time, we did all the janitorial work ourselves, with brothers and sisters taking turns. Even Pastor Lau, Mrs. Lau and their children helped clean the bathrooms. In spite of such hardship, we did not forget the mission of the church ?to spread the gospel. In the same year of our constitution, we established the Mission Department, and appointed the second Sunday of every month to be the Mission Sunday. All the mission offerings go towards supporting missionary work around the world. Presently, we financially support 13 missionary organizations.
III. After constitution
Because God continued to add to our numbers, the beautiful sanctuary was completed in 1982, while the original hall became the fellowship hall, for meals and other activities. The completion of the sanctuary was not only a miracle, but it was also a great testimony. It was the first church built by Chinese Christians in the southeast region of America as well as the State of Florida. The government of Dade County was especially proud, because the Chinese population at the time was rather small, and yet we were able to build such a sizable church without incurring debt or requiring any loan from the bank. Accordingly, Mayor Stephen Clark (now deceased) proclaimed June 12, 1972 as the Chinese Baptist Church of Miami Day, and issued a certificate as memorial.
From 1983 to 2002, God greatly blessed us. Very soon we ordained Brother Gow Low and young Stanley Yu as deacons, and then began the third phase of our building project, which included the addition of classrooms and offices. We also purchased another piece of land of 2 acres, to be used as parking lot. With the availability of the classrooms, our Sunday school ministry prospered greatly. Our Sunday school, headed by sister Betty Ng at the time, was nominated as one of the ten fastest growing by the Florida Baptist Association. Our church choir, under the direction of the now-departed brother Antonio Ngo, also received a certificate of excellence from the Florida Baptist Convention.
In 1990, Pastor Lau proposed to the church a vision for short missions and church planting. The whole church overwhelmingly threw their support behind this vision. Church planting is a characteristic of the Baptist church. One of the reasons that the Southern Baptist Convention has become the largest Christian denomination is due to church planting.
Under the leadership of Pastor Lau, after two years of visitation and preparatory work, The Coral Springs Mission was instituted. Two years later, in 1994, the Orlando Mission was also instituted. Some of the hard workers at the time included Mission Department head Deacon and Mrs. Stanley Yu, Deacon Samuel Lee, Mrs. and Mrs. Bay O Tom, Sister Bonnie Ma, Brother Edward Au and others. Today the Coral Springs Mission has been constituted as a church. Our Orlando Mission is still striving towards that goal.
Our short missions also gave good testimony to the Lord. We went on three significant mission trips: in Orlando, in Jacksonville, and in St. Petersburg. Each trip involved close to a hundred workers. Those who attended the meetings ranged from 200 to 500. In addition, we conducted numerous gospel musical events. Pastor Lau adapted many popular Chinese folk songs by substituting the words with gospel messages. These events attracted many Chinese scholars to come and hear the gospel, resulting in many of them accepting Jesus as their Savior.
Subsequently, we ordained a few more young and capable deacons to help with our church ministry. These included Deacon Ted Lee, Deacon Kang Yen, Deacon Ton-Lo Wang, Deacon Edward Au, Deacon Lam Au, Deacon Ming-Liang Cai, Deacon James Feng, and Deacon Jin-Gen Xu. God has used these deacons greatly. In 2002, we also ordained Brother Linus Lau as pastor, to assist in the ministry of our Coral Springs Mission.
In recent years, God gave our church some brothers gifted in the computer work, and they helped us to put our church ministry on the web, using high-tech to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. Those in charge of this ministry are Deacon Ted Lee and Brother Gene Li.
In conclusion, after having shepherded our church for over 34 years, Pastor Lau consequently retired at the end of 2002. During the transitional year of 2003, Pastor Lau continued to help and guide the deacons in the church ministry, with Pastor John Lee taking care of the youth ministry, until the calling of a new senior pastor.