The former Portuguese colony of Macau is forty miles along the coast from Hong Kong. It was handed back to China in 1999 and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic. It has been described as a 'rock on which it is hard to plant a Church', because it is the only place in the whole of China where gambling casinos are allowed to operate. It is seeking to rival Las Vegas as a gambling centre and in 2007 almost fifty casinos were said to be in operation. Macau has a land mass of only 28.6 sq. km., with a population of 520,000, and the gambling industry deeply influences almost every aspect of life in the enclave. It is claimed that about 80% of the work force have jobs which, in some measure, are associated with that industry.
Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China, landed in Macau in 1807 on his way to Canton. In 1834 his body was returned from Canton and he is buried in the Protestant cemetery, next to his wife Mary, who predeceased him in 1821.
A mission was launched in Macau in 1989 by the Methodist Church in Hong Kong. The Methodist Church there meets in a two-storey flat and had some 40-50 members by 2007. But it is carrying out social work in a poor area densely populated by immigrants from China, single parent families and low-income groups. Its work includes counselling for individuals and families, courses on family life education, and help for those addicted to gambling. Because of its social work it is highly respected by both people and Government and in 2007 the Special Administrative Region government asked the Church to start new social work at Tai Pa, an area populated by middle class families and very different from the poor environment where it was already at work. When the Church was unable to find suitable premises, the Government stepped in and found a first-floor flat, large by Hong Kong/Macau standards, above a row of shops. Plans were put in hand to start social work early in 2008 and to plant a church in this new area.