To the Ends of the Earth. From Melbourne to Shanghai, and from Molong to Calgary
The Story of Australian Pentecostal Jessie Wong
Through a family history lens, this essay outlines the extraordinary life of an Australian Pentecostal who spread the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.” Jessie Wong was born in Melbourne and travelled to China where she would establish a ministry amongst the Cantonese in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s. Her mission was bombed by the Japanese in 1937 but she managed to continue within the International Settlement during the chaos of the Japanese occupation. Following World War 2, she ministered in Hong Kong, North America, and Australia. She possibly chose to minister in Canada because of bonds formed during her ministry in China, and because the white hegemony of Australia in the 1950s meant that she might not be accepted as a Pentecostal preacher in Australia’s major cities. Perhaps she also found the harvest to be sparse because the Chinese population had diminished so substantially in comparison to the Australian population during her 44 years overseas. Jessie Wong’s story challenges the white/Western discourse that currently dominates the Australasian Pentecostal movement and perhaps even its self-identity. This Australian Pentecostal’s story has arguably been forgotten because she was a Chinese Australian during the White Australia period. But the world has changed since Jessie’s times: the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements have shone a light on the discrimination that people from Global South cultures faced and continue to face. Retelling Jessie’s story might help us to understand the past to be more inclusive in the future.
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