Asia: good news, big challenges, great hope

Asia (MNN) — Sometimes, security risks in a new ministry zone are big enough that specifics can’t be shared…but sometimes, the story is big enough that we can talk about the shape of God’s hand in that nation.

(Photo of John Pudaite, courtesy of Bibles For The World)

Such is the case with a Creative Access country in Asia. This is not a totally new field for Bibles For The World, says President John Pudaite.  “We have been working in this one country now for about eight years.  We have seen the body of Christ grow incredibly — 600 percent in this time — when there was just small handfuls of believers in this country before.”

He’s talking about 600 percent growth in an Asian nation that not only has a state faith, but is dominated by it.  Persecution exists because followers of Christ are perceived as rejecting their national heritage.  Yet, Pudaite says something has stirred a hunger and passion for the Word of God — that’s not only evidenced by a 600 percent growth, but also by something else he witnessed during their last visit.  “We had a four-day training seminar for some of the young leaders.  It sends shivers down my spine because I usually ask them, as we get to know them, ‘How many of you are first-generation believers?’  Just about every hand in that audience went up.  We had over 100 of them gathered at that time.”

The significance then hit him: he was witnessing history being made by this nation’s First Church — a Book of Acts unfolding before his eyes.

“For this country, this is the first generation of believers that are going out with that fervor, with that passion to share the message of Jesus Christ with their fellow nationals.”  Because they’re first generation believers, they needed mentoring.  “There’s a role that we’re starting to play, not just in providing the resources that we do provide for them, but also just to steer them, to guide them to some of the resources out there that are available.”

(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)

Pudaite says this window of opportunity won’t stay open forever.  They’re making those connections, training, and resourcing, but even with that, it’s an effort made with the long-term goal in mind.  Bibles For The World is acting as a catalyst for the indigenous Body of Christ.

“What we have been doing is using a lot of Christians, solid Christians, from a neighboring country, to go in there. They have access to the country, there’s a lot of economic trade between the countries, things like that, diplomatic relations, so we take advantage of that and have put together a group of missionaries (though they don’t go under that title) who are working there to help strengthen the body of believers.”

With some of the funding issues that have cropped up recently in other Asian nations, Pudaite said their approach had to be toward encouraging and resourcing this baby Church in rapid self-sufficiency.  Again, their approach was one of discipleship, and of protection, in the long-run.  “We have challenged this neighboring country’s Church: ‘You provide them (resources).’  We don’t want this to be provided, necessarily paid for, and printed by the West.  We don’t ever want there to be a charge that the Christians in that country will face: ‘you’re just products of Western missions’.  No.  We want it to be indigenous; we want it to be in their heart and from their heart that we see this growth.”

(Photo courtesy of Bibles For The World)

Even with a glowing report, rapid growth brings its own challenges, says Pudaite.  The one uppermost in his mind:  “I think we need to pray that those who are there working for the cause of Christ, those who are in ministry, those who are pastors, evangelists, missionaries, that they will be so strong and certain in their faith, that they will not waiver; that they will not look to the left, look to the right.”