Ethnic background defines church

Anthony Ma, 17, lives in Naperville with his family and is about to begin his senior year at Wheaton Academy. Like most incoming high school seniors, he is enjoying what’s left of his summer and trying not to look too far ahead.

Ma participated in band and orchestra as an underclassman, and says he enjoys art and graphic design classes. He has applied to attend the University of Illinois in fall 2015.

In many ways, Ma doesn’t stand out from the majority of his classmates. But one thing he does outside of his school day sets him apart.

Ma attends Living Water Evangelical Church where he recently completed a school requirement to serve a two-week internship. Ma worked side by side with Tony Chon, youth pastor at the church.

“I learned being a pastor is not an easy job,” Ma says. “Even during two weeks of an internship, I could see how hard it is. You’re alone in the office most of the time. You have no co-workers. It can be really discouraging.”

Pastor Chon is Korean and grew up in the Chicago area. The church’s English Pastor Barry Gin grew up in Chinatown. Pastor Gin defines the evangelical church as “a Bible-believing church seeking to spread the good news of Jesus Christ not only to the nearby neighborhoods, but in mission programs, mostly in East Asia.”

The church primarily serves the Chinese community in Naperville, according to Gin, and its congregation is made up of those who speak Mandarin and those who speak English.

“The English congregation is made up of a full range of emptynesters to college students,” Gin says.

Within that group, Gin says, there are about 70 adults, 120 high school-age members and another 150 children ages 13 or younger.

The Mandarin-speaking population numbers about 500, according to Gin. Separate services take place for the two groups, with translations available for couples or families with mixed-language members. “Twice a year, the entire church worships together,” Gin says.

It’s that emphasis on community that Anthony Ma likes the most about his church. He is part of a close-knit youth group that ranges in age from 11 to 18.

“Freshmen and seniors wouldn’t usually get along in school,” he says. “But in our youth group, it’s really easy to get along whether you’re a sixth-grader or a senior. We’re all united in Christ.”

Ma just returned from a two-week trip to Taiwan where he and eight other members of a team taught English to elementary and middle-school students. The trip is co-sponsored by Advent Taiwan, which Chon says is dedicated to spreading the gospel to 9,000 students in that country each summer.

Ma credits Pastor Chon with bringing a renewed energy to the youth of the church.

“When I was younger, I felt like it was different,” Ma says. “We were at a different point. Four years ago, when our worship team started playing music, no one stood up. Now, when people see the worship team, they immediately stand up.”

Pastor Chon is equally proud of his congregation.

“One of the beauties of being an ethnic church is the ability to maintain our identity, but also be able to serve families and the larger community.”

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The church

What: Living Water Evangelical Church

Where: 1256 Wehrli Road, Naperville, IL 60540

Learn more: 630-983-5677 or lwechurch.com

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