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Kenny Ly Takes Passion for Christ back to Shanghai

June 20th, 2012

By Sarah Pride.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Ly climbing walls in China

The distraught young man on the phone was crying, telling Kenny Ly that he was tired of living, and that he intended to end it all. Some months before, Ly recalled, the young man had had a powerful encounter with God at the Shanghai youth group Ly leads in the city of 26 million off the East China Sea. Over the next hour, Ly prayed for and reminded the teen of that unmistakable touch from the Lord, assuring him that Jesus loved him and had an awesome plan for his life. The phone call ended positively, with a sense of hope and relief, and Ly followed up repeatedly with the teen in the coming weeks, making sure the crisis had passed.

“Once I reminded him, he said ‘Kenny, even now, I know that moment was real,’” Ly recalls. “I got off the phone and was just so thankful he called me and that God gave me the right words to say.”

In many respects, moments like this have become almost standard procedure for Ly, who since graduating from PHC in 2009 has served as an unpaid worship and youth leader in Shanghai, China. He earns his living as an English professor at Shanghai International Studies University, teaching Chinese professors looking to study abroad. Yet for a growing group of 80-plus Christian international students from Britain, Australia, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, among many other countries represented, Ly is fully a pastor, preacher, worship leader, prayer partner, counselor and, perhaps most importantly, friend. Pastoring spiritually hungry and often desperately lost and searching international students in the heart of one of Asia’s most intense, colossal industrial metropolis’s, was certainly on Ly’s radar upon graduating from PHC as a Government: American Politics & Policy major. But today he believes that, if he has not in fact found his life’s calling, he is venturing tantalizingly close.

“I have found my sweet spot,” he said on a recent trip back to the States to visit family and friends. “I have never felt as happy and fulfilled in my entire life as I do today, worshipping with and ministering to this group of international students. There have been many times when I’ve questioned why God brought me back to China, but I finally feel like all the pieces have come together. This is what I was created to do.”

Eight years back, before attending PHC, when Ly himself was a homeschooled international student in Shanghai trying to find his place, he discovered his love for Christ reignited at the very same youth group he serves today at Shanghai Community Fellowship Church. His family had joined the more than 200,000 internationals from around the world that live in Shanghai, drawn by jobs and business. The young Ly, like many teenaged Shanghai internationals – a large percentage of whom weren’t Christians – learned of the youth group on the street and simply dropped by looking for something to do, hoping to connect.

“I look at these kids today and realize that, eight years ago, that was me,” he observes. “God changed my life in that youth group. It’s where I caught my passion for the Lord, just an ordinary homeschool kid meeting all of these kids passionate about worship, passionate for the Lord. At the end of the first week I asked, ‘Is it always this good.’ The next week it was even better. For those who know me as a Christian, that group was, aside from my parents, the most influential reason for who I am today.”


Ly in China

Who Kenny Ly is today is pretty much who he was at PHC, the same young man who loves God and young people. During his time at PHC, he uplifted the campus with his infectious passion for Christ, and in three summers as a Teen Leadership Camps counselor he earned a reputation as an ardent mentor and worship leader, quick to laugh, ready to listen, steadfast and focused in his quest to lead others into an intimate relationship with the Lord. Today, those same traits are equipping strong disciples for Christ in China, among a most unlikely population of foreigners.“As a teenager, the group shifted my paradigm of what walking with God should look like,” he says. “It’s not just evangelism, but every part of your being serving God, wanting to live for Jesus. Now that’s my passion, to help other people understand and experience Christ in that way. He’s everything; life is all about Him. He’s something that consumes every part of you and who you are. God is using this youth group in crazy ways, and I believe that He is going to sweep through the international community of this city.

“Shanghai is where east meets west,” he adds. “It’s a significant global crossroads, the center of east Asia, where people come from all over the world to pursue money, happiness, fame, fortune. I’m praying it will become known for Jesus.”