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Why Does ACEM Carry A Business?
– Good Shepherd Day Care Centre

Simon Shiu

In 2013, the news disclosed that there were many illegal daycare centres operating unchecked in Toronto. Some were ill equipped, unclean, untrained; some were simply profiteering; some were totally in disregard of the laws. In a few cases, they caused illness to the children, even a death!

In wake of such news, some members of ACEM churches were surprised to find that ACEM is the licence holder of Good Shepherd Daycare Centre (GSDC hereafter.) They followed with the question: “Why does ACEM carry a daycare business?” If Rev. John Kao were there, he would give a full and complete answer to this inquiry. He might even start his answer with “Why not?”

Indeed, Rev Kao had long instilled the concept he embraced: a holistic ministry - which the church not only ministers to its congregants in a church setting, but also cares for its sheep as early in life in a daycare and as late in life in a senior home - a complete life cycle - from cradle to grave. What a grand shepherding concept!

In Rev. Kao’s vision, ACEM will operate daycare centres, schools, senior homes and even cemeteries. He had convinced the early ACEM Board to put this vision in ACEM’s Constitution.

Being a man of action, when Rev Kao saw a need, he would soon galvanize able bodies with same conviction to bring the vision to realty. So, shortly after TCCC erected its building, Rev. Kao proposed to the TCCC Board to start the first daycare centre. Elder Chester Hu, then the Deacon of Finance, and Mandy Lo, an experienced daycare teacher with her ECE qualification, took on the challenge. In just a few months, GSDC came into being.  In October 2013, GSDC has rendered 30 years of service.

In the beginning years, parents of GSDC were mostly members of ACEM churches. In the past 10 years, we have many new immigrant parents. GSDC became an entry point for these unchurched families to connect with a Christian church.

Perhaps it was the utilitarian nature of Rev. Kao that spurned him to start GSDC:  to optimize the otherwise unused facility during the week. Perhaps it was his financial shrewdness: to bring in rental income to help service a large mortgage. Perhaps it was his outreach savviness: to create a point of contact to reach out to the unchurched parents, while at the same time providing day care service to the community.

One may ask: If daycare is such a great idea, why don’t other churches follow suit? 

These may be the factors.

Space Limitation: governmental regulations require a minimum space for each kid to play and learn in. It needs a certain number of children, (thus lots of space), to make it a viable operation. Some churches just cannot meet this requirement. Even if a church has large facility, its layout may not be able to secede a self-contained area that the children are kept out of harms’ way. Security of the children is of utmost importance in the day care operation.

Concession from the church: for ease of uninterrupted operation, the rooms that day care occupies may be precluded from church usage during the week. This demands a lot of understanding and concession from the church. [GSDC is thankful to TCCC and TMCCC for their generous accommodation all these years. Their support is imperative for GSDC’s existence.]

The next factor could be the lack of committed overseers to ensure that the operation of the day care meets government’s criteria, complies with regulations, works smoothly with the church board, etc…

Last, but not least, perhaps some churches do not believe that there is evangelistic opportunity in running a daycare, or they even doubt if  day care is a ministry.  But there is and it is!

All churches run different children’s programs. Besides Sunday school, there are Boy Scouts Club, Kids for Christ Fellowship, just to name some. The church begs the parents for a few hours’ time to instill the kids of God’s teachings. In a day care setting, the parents put the kids in our charge for 6 to 7 hours daily. We partner with the parents in their upbringing. We give feed back to the parents about their children’s ups and downs daily. We have three children performances a year with songs, dance and drama to highlight various Bible stories. The parents are our captive audience to a short and focused preaching. We gain the trust of the parents and ease their way into the church.

We are glad to say that over the years, many unchurched families have passed our way and have been channeled to different ACEM churches. 

In retrospect, when Rev. Kao initiated the day care 30 years ago it was not a fluke. It was an inspiration from above.   He planted it. Our teachers continue to cultivate it. God sustains it.