The History of International Christian Assembly, Hong Kong
In 1972 the late Rev Otis and Irene Keener were visiting the International Correspondence Institute (ICI) office in Brussels which was newly started by District of Foreign Missions (DFM). He ministered that Sunday to the US missionaries at their Sunday evening prayer meeting which was conducted in English.
It was on this trip that he also visited Hong Kong and received the call to pioneer an International Church to reach the English-speaking foreigners of this city: "Standing one night on the Peak, the Holy Spirit pressed my heart about coming to Hong Kong and starting an English-speaking church. That was late summer in 1972. I had just preached a series of meetings in Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFG) for Dr Cho Yonggi and came to Hong Kong for a conference. We had been ministering many times in Hong Kong since 1962 and prayed for God to send someone to reach the business community."
In autumn 1972, the Holy Spirit confirmed the burden in Irene's heart and DFM in the US sent the Keeners to Hong Kong to pioneer the English-speaking congregation in spring 1973.
The first services were held at New Life Temple. Then the Lord performed a series of miracles which opened up the Furama Hotel as a regular meeting place on Sundays. This led to the church to initially being called the Furama Fellowship – An international English-speaking service. From its beginning in 1973, the church was sponsored by the American Assemblies of God Division of Foreign Missions (DFM) and led by Assemblies of God (AG) missionary pastors who were funded by the American Assemblies of God General Council.
Amazingly in May 1975, the Keeners left Hong Kong to pastor Brussels Christian Center. The Sunday evening prayer meetings in Brussels eventually evolve to become Brussels Christian Center in 1976. Bill Lovick was the first "pastor" and they met in a villa on Avenue Solvay. Today, the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) has over forty international churches in Europe (http://globalicn.com).
Rev Howard and Rosella Ridings came to Hong Kong to continue the work. In the two years of their ministry, the attendance grew to 500. June 20, 1975, was an exciting day as they dedicated the new Christian Action Centre. When the Ridings departed suddenly in 1976, the Keeners were asked to return for a few months pending the search for another pastor. The Keeners returned in November 1976 to August 1977 and served for almost 10 months before they were replaced by Rev David and Nancy Cawston (July 1977 – August 1979). The first language ministry was started for the Filipinos sometime late 1978.
The Cawstons' parents, the late Rev Alfred and Elizabeth Cawston, also came to Hong Kong to help. And in September 1979, Rev Alfred and Elizabeth Cawston (September 1979 – November 1980) became the pastor. The late Rev Lester and Betty Jo Kenney were appointed as the pastor on November 1980 but left on December 1980. However their son Rev Dave Kenney who had a brief time with ICA Hong Kong went on to start a new International Church (IES) in Jakarta. Today, there's also a strong and vibrant ICA church in Surabaya and Bali.
Rev Eldon and Sue Brown arrived on December 1980 and there were about 250 members attending the Sunday services at the Furama Hotel. The church grew in numbers during the first year of the Browns' ministry, making it necessary to begin a second morning service in late 1981. It became increasingly difficult to handle the crowd at the Furama; the lobby, lifts, stairways and rest rooms were filled to capacity. The hotel's management then asked the church to look for other facilities, ending a nine-year use of the place. It was during this time that a new name for the church was needed.
It was Rev Otis Keener who named the church "Furama Fellowship" at its founding in 1973, which continued under the Ridings, Cawstons and Kennys continuing into the tenure of the Browns. However it was the Browns in 1982 who were instrumental in developing a constitution and charter which established International Christian Assembly (ICA) as an official church organisation under Hong Kong laws.
Rev Brown was asked by DFM to lead Furama Fellowship's official board in developing an official church constitution and bylaws patterned after the American Assemblies of God and officially chartered the church with the Hong Kong government. This was finalised in 1982 at which time the church name "Furama Fellowship" was changed to "International Christian Assembly of Hong Kong." It was at this time that the name ICA was coined and now used by many others around the world. From that time in 1982, new international churches planted by Assemblies of God missionaries across Asia and Europe took on this name. For example, ICA Bangkok (1989) and ICA Kiev (1995).
Also during this time, the fourth floor of Queen's Centre was purchased for use as offices and chapel services. The Browns left Hong Kong in summer 1984 and in 1989 pioneered ICA, Bangkok.
The late Rev D.L and Marion Nultemeier arrived on June 1984 until December 1984. Then the late Rev Lowell and Edna Ashbrook came on December 1984 until December 1988. On August 8, a second morning service was started. A third service started about a year later. Meanwhile, the Filipino Fellowship continued to grow under the direction of Moira MacPherson.
Rev Ken and Linda Benintendi became the interim pastor from December 1988 to March 1989 until Rev Jack and Mildred Ellsworth arrived on May 1989. One month after their arrival, a fourth Sunday service began at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The first service was on June 4, a date ever to be remembered by the people of Hong Kong. Under the Ellsworths' leadership, the Family Worship Service expanded to include the Vietnamese Ministry, started by Keith Holcombe. In March 1991, Monit Brion assumed responsibility for the Filipino Fellowship and the Thai Ministry was started by Rev Wiphawan Thirasetmanakul, who arrived from Bangkok in April 1992.
Rev Leroy and Janice Cloud came in January 1992. It was at this time that ICA planted many new churches in this region; Mongolia and India. The language ministries continued to expand; Cantonese, Sri Lankan and Indonesian, In May 1993, the church bought a cinema in Chai Wan for the Filipino Congregation. The Family worship services continued to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre until 1997 when the congregation moved to a cinema on 483 King's Road in North Point and was fully paid off by June 30, 1998, after 24 months of fund-raising activities. The Clouds left in 2001 but returned to Asia again to pastor ICA, Cambodia.
The Benintendis became the pastor again in September 2001 and further expanded the ministries to include the Indian fellowship. It was at this time that ICA, Macao was pioneered by Rev Olinto de Oliveira with the assistance of ICA, Hong Kong.
In 2008, Rev Edmound and Yvonne Teo became the first non-missionary pastor of ICA. "Expectation precedes blessings" is one of his principles. The church was called to fast and pray for 40 days each year. As the church celebrated her 35th anniversary (2009), he called on the church to renew her relationship with God, each other and the lost. The ministries expanded to more than 50, cell groups to more than 60 and five new language ministries were started – Nepali, Putonghua, Brazilian, Tamil and Hindi. The staff grew to over 60 strong with the pastoral team enlarged to include many homegrown leaders. The church expanded to include two other facilities and its office to include the second floor at Marble Road. Today, each week the church provides over 35 worship services in 12 different languages at 7 different locations all over Hong Kong. Many special guests, including some of the world's biggest and most well-known pastors, evangelists, and spiritual leaders ministered at ICA; Dr Jack Hayford, Dr William Wilson, Dr Kenneth Ulmer, Dr Yonggi Cho, Francis Chan, Dr Lee Young-hoon, Dr Ravi Zacharias, Dr Heidi Baker, Dr Ajith Fernando, Dr David Mohan, Dr Gwen Shaw, Nathan Morris, Dr Os Guinness, Dr John Lennox, Dr Kay Arthur and many others. Rev Teo also had the privilege to minister at Yoido Full Gospel on November, 2013. At the recent 40th anniversary (2013) a book on the history of the church, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary God" was put together to commemorate the rich heritage of the church.
In 2011, we held our first charity carnival called 1 PEOPLE 1 CITY (1P1C). 1P1C is the international community coming together and celebrating our diverse culture in Hong Kong and it is where we unite with community leaders including government officials and consul generals, NGOs and corporations to give back to the city we love by raising funds to help those less fortunate and in need. Products and services are donated by both corporate and private sponsors and all proceeds go toward the cause (beneficiary) of the event. The first 1P1C raised HK$600,000 for 5 grass-roots charities. The second one in 2012 raised HK$1 million for one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong, Tin Shui Wai district. The third one is being held in May 2016 where we hope to raise HK$1.5 million to help fight human-trafficking in Hong Kong and Asia. On top of the fund raising, the event has non-stop live performances, gourmet food, games for all ages, bargain bazaar, and celebrity appearances.
In 2016, we held the pioneering conference called Global Church Conference. Nearly 300 International church pastors and leaders from all over the world assembled at ICA to unite and be in the vanguard of this movement, “A Global Church for a Global World.” The 4-Day conference was packed with keynote speakers including Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Os Guinness, and Dr. Rodney Woo, as well as workshops and network gatherings.
Today, ICA is a growing and dynamic church in Hong Kong with a vision to reach the generations and releasing them into the nations. All glory to Jesus!