The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 10

Mission Conference (Part I)

We thank God that the missioners whom Herald has been supporting in the past 15 years were able to join us at our Missions Conference on Saturday, 23 February 2019 (held as part of Herald’s 15th Anniversary). Each of them has been called in different ways to spread the gospel of Christ in their own home country.

We thank God for Christ’s Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mat 28:19,20)

We thank God that our missioners could come and share about their part in the gospel ministry in Indonesia, N Thailand and Myanmar. They shared about how God has seen them through the ups and downs of the ministry. They shared how they are much encouraged by the love and care shown by members and friends in Herald. They shared of their appreciation of how, even as a small church, Herald has been used of God to support and bless them as they serve God.

They are much encouraged that many in Herald are praying for them as they persevere on in the midst of the challenges they are facing.

Many in Herald have expressed how they have learnt more about the gospel work which we are supporting. They now have a better picture of what the missioners are doing, and the challenges they face. They are determined to continue to pray for the missioners, and to carry on supporting them financially.

For the benefit of those who were unable to attend the Conference, we have summarized the challenges that our missioners have shared. For various reasons we are not referring to specific person(s) or country, but will continue to uphold them in prayer.

Challenges faced in the gospel ministry

Our missioners do not live too far away from our small island. In a nearby country, the pastor shared that Christians seemingly have the freedom to worship in church. But this freedom could be suddenly taken away if those residing near the church were to make any protest to the authorities. Many churches have already been asked to remove the cross from their church buildings, and in other places, the church buildings have been burnt.

Christians are not disheartened by this, but continue to stand firm in their faith.

This pastor also shared that some young people in the church have responded to the call to be trained in theology. But their own churches do not have the means to pay them well, and many of these who graduate from Bible School do not return to serve in their home churches. They are attracted to mega-churches in the bigger cities because they would get a pay that is twice or more than what they would receive in smaller churches. He shared that of the 12 young people who were sent for theological training, only one returned to serve in his own church. Though the pastor is very disappointed, he still believes that God will continue to raise others who are willing to serve in smaller churches with a smaller pay.

Another challenge faced in his church is that very few attend the prayer meetings. Believers will spend time attending enrichment programmes or courses to upgrade their work skills, but few would come for prayer in church. The parents of children who have been attending the church’s Sunday School are now beginning to send their children to temples which now have their own programmes on Sunday. He feels strongly that believers in church need to learn to reach out to newcomers and to welcome them with sincerity.

Another missioner, from a country where our mission teams have gone to, shared that he is concerned for the training of the next generation of pastors. The churches in his country also face the same challenge of keeping the Bible School graduates in their own villages. Those who graduate from Bible seminary do not return to serve in their village churches. Growth in the village churches is slow, and remuneration for pastors/evangelists is also low. Many of the children and/or young people leave the villages to study or work in the bigger cities, and often do not return to their own villages. When they settle down in the bigger cities, many marry non-believers, or even abandon their Christian faith.

In a neighbouring country, another missioner shared that the Christians in his country have many needs. Many come from poor families and have difficulty finding jobs or feed their own families. When he becomes a Christian, his family and/or village will persecute him because they have other religious beliefs. Thus, when the Christian (or someone in his nuclear family) falls sick, he is unable to reach out to his extended family or neighbours for help. The missioner and his church members thus need to reach out to these and help them with medical treatment or financial needs.

The churches in his country also have many needs. The village churches need filtered water and electricity. (He is thankful that they were able to build a hut with filtration equipment with the gift sent from Herald last year). They may have been given a piano or keyboard, but do not have electricity to maintain the piano or play the keyboard. In some poorer areas, Christians do not have proper places of worship.

In another country, many Christians are facing much persecution from the authorities. They cannot worship the Lord Jesus or preach God’s Word publicly. Many churches have been asked to remove their crosses, or their buildings demolished.

The evangelist and dean of a Bible School shared that training of the next generation of preachers / pastors / evangelists will become even more challenging. The young believers struggle with the attractions of materialism, and think twice before deciding to be enrolled in Bible School. Older Christians are happy with the basic standards of living, and are keen to learn from the Word of God. The younger ones tend to be distracted by material comforts and concentrate on becoming richer to keep up with their richer friends or family members.

There is a great need to pass the baton of the gospel work to more young people; need to train more young people who will persevere in the Christian faith despite persecution. We need to help them have a proper perspective of the life of being a pastor/preacher/evangelist. We need more full-time ministers of the Lord.

How then do they view the growing persecution by the authorities, and uncertainty of the gospel ministry in the country? The evangelist shares that “if the authorities allow the church to continue, it is alright. If the authorities do not allow the gospel work to carry on, it is still alright.” Why is this so?

If Christians are prohibited to worship Jesus Christ in churches or big groups, they would just disperse and worship in smaller groups. In this way, more believers become involved in the ministry of the church, or in the worship service. More homes are opened for worship of God in smaller numbers. The gospel work will carry on in spite of Satan’s plans to make the life of Christians difficult.

In his experience with students in his Bible School, many of the Bible students/graduates face parental opposition and sometimes do not have financial support from the family. The challenges are greater when these are faced with their own survival needs, or that of the family. At least 50% of the graduates have returned to serve in their own home churches, while others who struggle to make ends meet will take on secular jobs. Though the enrolment at Bible School is now lower, the work of training future preachers/pastors/evangelists must carry on. Ten years ago, when persecution was high, the Bible School had to stop the training. But with prayer and support from Herald and others, the training carried on. The pressures faced cannot be clearly seen. Uncertainty of actual problems cannot be clearly described. But God’s work will carry on with God’s strength and the support of fellow-Christians.

Pastor Bob Phee

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