Ambassador International Church can trace its roots to the work of missionaries active in Hong Kong during the years after World War II. These missionaries came from Brethren fellowships, independent Christian congregations descended from an evangelical movement that began in the U.K. during the early 1800s. Their outreach in post-war Hong Kong was primarily to Chinese people, and many of the Cantonese-speaking churches they planted then remain vibrant to this day.
The Ambassador Hotel
Alongside this cross-cultural missionary activity grew a bilingual fellowship, made up largely of Chinese and European businessmen and professionals, calling itself the Hong Kong Gospel Hall Assembly. In 1967, when this Assembly had grown to about 30-50 adults, it purchased a flat on Austin Road in Kowloon. Attendance at the Austin Road fellowship gradually increased, and by 1978 the space had become too small. At this point, the Cantonese- and English-speaking elements in the Assembly agreed to separate, with the former continuing to meet in the flat and the English-speaking members renting an outside space on Sunday mornings.
The space they found — a conference room in the Ambassador Hotel, located in the heart of Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district — became the English-speaking congregation’s home for many years. This location inspired the group to adopt the name Ambassador Fellowship, drawing on the link between the name of the hotel and a well-known verse of Scripture:
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5: 20
Although the English-speaking fellowship did not formally align itself with any particular denomination, it preserved for many years the Brethren format of two separate services on Sunday mornings: the Breaking of Bread, or communion, followed by an equally traditional Family Bible Time hour focusing on Scriptural teaching and worship. In 1996 these were combined into a single meeting, called the Family Worship Service.
Glenealy Junior School
It was announced in the late 1980s that the Ambassador Hotel had been purchased by a Japanese company and would be demolished. The Ambassador Fellowship took the name elsewhere, eventually finding a new home in 1990 at the Glenealy Junior School on Hong Kong Island. Amongst the new location’s many advantages were that it had plenty of parking (a rarity in Hong Kong) and that the lower operational costs of meeting in a school permitted a higher level of giving to missions and other Christian ministries. However, the new location was not particularly convenient to public transport and the church gradually found that it was no longer expanding.
Meanwhile, as Hong Kong’s transfer to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997 approached, a creeping exodus of expatriates gathered pace: civil servants from British Commonwealth nations began to be replaced by local staff and the employment contracts that had brought many English-speaking people to the colony began to expire. As part of this general emigration, many Ambassador members moved back to their home countries, and by the end of 1997 the church was actually smaller than it had been when it was founded in 1978. Understandably, this led to some fears about the viability of Ambassador Fellowship.
However, numbers stabilised over time, and after much prayer a new vision for the future of the church began to form. In 1998 the church launched its first Alpha course (a 10-week programme in Christian basics developed at Holy Trinity Brompton in London) which brought people together in a new joy of fellowship and discovery.
At about the same time, the church began a six month dialogue about where Ambassador Fellowship was going — and to help the church’s members discover their gifts and their calling as ambassadors for Christ in Hong Kong. The brainstorming that followed resulted in a rebirth of spiritual vitality within the fellowship, and with this new vision there came a new name: Ambassador International Church. Since then, the church has grown slowly but steadily, and currently numbers about 180 adults.
In the summer of 2001, the church had to find another place to hold Sunday services and we were fortunate to find excellent facilities at a reasonable rental in the Conrad International Hotel at Pacific Place, a major transport hub for Hong Kong Island. This new location proved so convenient — and so much easier for newcomers to find — that we began to think about remaining at the hotel. After much discussion and prayer, we felt that the Lord wanted us to remain at the Conrad, and we have remained there ever since.
The convenience of the new venue was a further catalyst for growth, and the leaders began to sense the desirability of calling a full-time pastor. In late 2003 the church confirmed Christiaan Hofstra as their first pastor and he served from April 2004 until July 2007. After this, John and Joanna Fryling, who were former members of Ambassador, served the church while it looked for a new pastor. The current pastor, John Percival arrived in August 2010.
As we look back on our history we are thankful to God for his faithfulness to us. Throughout its history, Ambassador has had a marvellous record for church unity despite the cultural and denominational diversity of its membership. Today, our heritage continues to be enriched by certain distinctives: an emphasis on teaching from God’s Word, an every member ministry, weekly communion, and an abiding desire to help people follow our Lord Jesus Christ.