Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Ken McIntosh and his wife, Iweeta, flew to Hong Kong to serve as Methodist missionaries. They are now returning to Hong Kong for the 160th anniversary of Methodism in the region. They were scheduled to be special guests of President Lung Kwong Lo of The Methodist Church of Hong Kong on Oct. 27.The veteran missionaries have flown across the Pacific hundreds of times in their years as missionaries in Hong Kong and nearby Macau. At that time, Hong Kong was under British rule, and Macau was a Portuguese possession. Today, Hong Kong and Macau are both part of China.
While in Hong Kong, the McIntoshes will renew longtime ties and remember departed friends and colleagues, such as Rev. McIntosh's seminary friend Chester Yang, who first urged him to volunteer for Hong Kong.
That decision to go on the mission field was not easy for the young couple, who had already sacrificed much. They had met as teenagers at the old Lancaster Avenue Methodist Church in South Dallas. World War II interrupted their courtship as young Ken joined the Army in 1944, getting his father's permission to sign up. He was training to be part of the Japan invasion force when the war ended in 1945.
After his discharge as a sergeant in 1947, Ken returned to home, church and Iweeta. He enrolled at the Perkins School of Theology, SMU. He and Iweeta married in 1949, despite the reservations of his staunchly Baptist father-in-law. The patient young Methodist seminarian finally won over Iweeta's dad by listening to countless hours of him reading from the Baptist Standard.
Ken was ordained in 1950 and began serving North Texas churches. He became founding pastor of Lake Highlands Methodist Church in Dallas. Then the pleas of his friend in Hong Kong tugged at his heart.
The McIntoshes began working with what was then called The Board of Missions and were sent to Yale to study Chinese and the Asian culture. They arrived in Hong Kong in 1961 and were confronted with enormous challenges. Refugees were streaming in because of famine on the Communist-ruled mainland. There were thousands to feed, house and educate, as well as churches to build.
A consummate organizer, Ken acquired 14 noodle makers, flour from the U.S. surplus available through the Meals for Millions program, and deployed equipment and supplies throughout the mission area. They packed noodles in newspaper-like sheets for distribution to hungry people.
They also helped organize schools and churches, many of them on the rooftops of the seven-story walk-up buildings the government built to house refugees.
Ken's first Hong Kong church was composed of seven garages. He went to the mainland to look at land and later became founding pastor of a church named for Bishop Ralph Ward, the first American bishop in China.
The two older McIntosh children, Mark and Mary, grew up in Hong Kong. When the third child and youngest son, Matthew, returned to the U.S., he had trouble figuring out whether he was Chinese or American, the couple said.
While in Hong Kong, Ken was recalled into the U.S. Army as a chaplain major. He worked with troops deployed in Hong Kong, Taiwan and, later, Vietnam, where he traveled to Saigon to assist the Protestant chaplain. He retired from the Army after 25 years of service.
He was invited back to Hong Kong for five more years to assist the church during the transfer from British to Chinese rule. Though anxieties ran high, the transition went smoothly and The Methodist Church continues to thrive in the region.
Both Ken and Iweeta speak fluent Chinese. After China began to emerge from isolation and open up to travel from the U.S., she became an expert tour organizer, shepherding countless groups to China.
Both Ken and Iweeta have redefined the concept of retirement. He directed the NTC's Project Pentecost, a foreign-language church planting program, and she continued to plan and lead tours. The years have not stopped Ken from visiting the language churches he helped plant.
The couple now resides at C.C. Young Retirement Community. To contact them, e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.