Story Magazine - Fourth Quarter, 2004

M.A. Student Crosses Borders to Build Up Congregational Leadership

by Sheri Booms Holm

Francis Tsui, M.A. Student

Each month Francis Tsui, '05, travels to what he calls the "outposts" of Christianity in such countries as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia and Thailand. There, he uses curriculum he has developed to teach local church leaders who are hungering for more theological training.

Tsui works for Asian Outreach, a 40-year-old interdenominational organization that helps spread the gospel throughout Asia through leadership training and mission support. Though headquartered in Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife, May Wong-Tsui, '03, Tsui is also a Luther M.A. student, specializing in congregational mission and leadership. Both he and May have been able to complete their coursework through a combination of on-campus and online classes, independent study, and courses taught at a Hong Kong seminary.

Tsui is currently writing his final thesis and plans to graduate from Luther in May. It's been a long journey for someone whose professional life has included college instructor, financial planner, and administrator for a foundation. He and May both sensed a call at the same time. They enrolled at Luther in 1999. Originally Tsui was in the Master of Divinity program, and May in the M.A. program but within a year they both realized God had different plans for them. The couple switched their degree tracks. In 2003, May graduated from the M.Div. program. She now serves as an associate pastor at Union Church in Hong Kong.

Tsui expressed thankfulness for how accommodating Luther Seminary has been. "Luther has been so good to us, a blessing to us. I haven't met anyone who hasn't been helpful," he said. And he has always felt a part of Luther, thanks to its Web site and Intranet, he added.

Courses Helped Him See His Call More Clearly

Tsui credits his classes and professors for seeing mission with new eyes. The "Reading the Audiences" course, taught by co-instructors Craig Van Gelder, professor of congregational mission and leadership, and Professor Emeritus Paul Sponheim, "planted the thought--we're in a post-modern society and mission is changing, even in a traditional church setting. I had a desire to learn more about mission."

He learned to assess individual congregations and their environments, and to fashion mission within the congregation's context, creating a unique, vital ministry.

Tsui found he could apply this idea to his mission work at Asian Outreach--and vice versa. "For someone who lives overseas, crossing borders so often, I was convinced that what was happening 'in the trenches' is formative for congregations to learn in terms of how to do things."

This is the premise of Tsui's thesis. "I want to take what God allows me to experience and use it to be helpful to the church."

It All Comes Together

A couple years ago, Tsui was running a Christian foundation when he started going on short mission trips through Asian Outreach to the 'frontlines' of Christian mission. "I was humbled, excited and exhilarated all at the same time," he said.

Soon, he was working full-time as a mission/leader developer. Recently he was promoted to vice president, with responsibilities in administration and finance.With this melding of his past experience and love of mission, Tsui has seen his call fall into place. "There's a sense of a convergence of my past to this time," he said. "I was thankful God called me from somewhere, but I didn't know what God called me to. It was scary and uncertain, but now it feels right. You have to have faith--God knows why he calls you. He may not be as quick as we hope, but he'll never be late."