"Letting the light shine onto others"

Members of the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church ventured south on a SOOP Service tour

A group of five people taking a selfie photo
Jason Yuen (far left) and Sandy Yuen (far right) with SOOP volunteers from Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church. Photo courtesy of Jason Yuen

Sandy and Jason Yuen are a couple whose faith, and works, grew like a mustard seed through MCC’s SOOP (Service Opportunities with our Partners) program.

The Yuen family are active members of the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church in Toronto, ON and have three children of eight, eleven and thirteen years. In 2019, when their youngest was just three, this young and passionate family embarked on their first SOOP missional trip to Macon, Mississippi. They spent time serving, reflecting as well as touching lives at the Mashulaville Dormitory. When asked what service means to them, the Yuens said, "Service means letting the light shine onto others, so that God can be glorified (Matthew 5: 16)". A motto they live by and hope to mirror for their children.

In spite of the pandemic interruption, the Yuen Family returned to serve with SOOP in 2023 with a prayer to include their children and church missions teams to serve with them. That was a prayer pleasantly answered, with as many as 29 people signing up. Not deterred by the enormous number of people and the need for extra resources, the Yuens with the help of their church, embarked on a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000. The church, through a youth bake sale and various other activities, exceeded that goal and raised $28,000.

A table with various baked goods for sale
Some of the products sold at the youth bake sale fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Sandy Yuen

The group that made the long and rainy journey from Toronto to Macon was multi-generational with 15 members of the group younger than 15. Super SOOPers, Larry and Maxine Miller hosted this large group. The Millers have served in the Mashulaville community over the last 50 years. The Yuens' group joined the community of Mennonites who have lived in the Mashulaville area since the 1960's when the Mashulaville Chapel, a Native American (Choctaw) mission, was established. The Mennonite Service Center, a non-profit entity, operates the community improvement and educational services. A small fellowship of believers also worships here, including African American, Native American (Choctaw) and Mennonite congregations.

A group of women and girls cooking in a kitchen
(Pictured left to right) Liping, Amber, Marina, Esther, and Summer making Chinese Sesame balls. Photo courtesy of Sandy Yuen

During the Yuens' time of service, the SOOP mission group ran the Vacation Bible School for the first-time after the pandemic. They also did repairs, cleaned and painted five homes in the local community. With the team also comprising of wonderful cooks, they prepared delicious Chinese food not only for their group, but also for the children at the dormitory, local volunteers, seniors and the disabled in the community. They delivered homemade dumplings, spring rolls, sesame balls, amongst many other things well loved by their new friends.

A group of people painting the outside of a house
SOOPers both young and old getting their hands dirty painting Mr. P's house. Photo courtesy of Sandy Yuen

Part of the SOOP mission is to meet people in the community. The group met Mr. P, a 92-year-old veteran and widower, whose house needed roof repairs and painting. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest SOOPers, rolled up their sleeves, joined in the work and fun in painting his 100-year-old farmhouse. Mr. P was very pleased with his "light blue" house and thankful for the work.

The team shared their 4th of July celebrations with Mr. P*, as he is affectionately known, and other people in the community. This included Mr. M*, a 65-year-old disabled man living alone. Over two days, the team painted his living room and dining room, repaired his wheelchair ramp, fixed his kitchen plumbing and cleaned his kitchen. The team, along with a couple of the VBS kids, went to deliver a meal for him. Mr. M was moved and filled with gratitude for the prayers of the team and that God had answered his prayers for a ramp.

A group of volunteers taking a photo together
SOOPers pose for a photo with hosts, Larry and Maxine Miller. Photo courtesy of Sandy Yuen

The Yuens had this to say about their experience, "We were truly blessed to be able to serve in Mississippi! The team spirit was strong, and everyone worked so hard. Some of the local volunteers in Mississippi thanked us for coming. One volunteer, in particular, shared with me that she was burnt out from serving over the years. But seeing our team in action at VBS gave her energy and inspired her to persevere. We are excited and planning another Mississippi mission trip this July 2024! Please keep in prayer for more workers, and for the people in Mashulaville to know and draw closer to God."

Like the Yuens and the missions team of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, you can be a SOOP volunteer by applying on our website.

*Full names not used for privacy reasons.