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Asia Pacific’s 700 least-reached people groups

By Russ Turney

It’s a primary focus for Asia Pacific — taking the gospel to the region’s more than 700 least-reached people groups, often located in hidden, remote places. They are part of the end-time harvest that will come from every tribe, tongue, people and nation, and the work of the Church is not complete until the gospel has reached them.

On a recent trip to Indonesia, I traveled to Nias, a remote island 50 miles off the western coast of Sumatra Island. Most of the 700,000 people on Nias live in mountainous villages. Earthquakes in 2004-05 brought much destruction to that area, and Assemblies of God World Missions has assisted with rebuilding 11 AG churches.

On the southern tip of Nias we passed rice fields heavy with grain ready to be cut. I was reminded that even in the midst of great difficulty the harvest is still available and ready for someone to step in and gather it.

As a mission, we seek to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in focusing toward least-reached people groups. There are amazing stories of God’s miraculous work among Indonesia’s hundreds of least-reached groups. Some of the most wonderful stories cannot be published, as they would jeopardize faithful workers in difficult areas.

Throughout Southeast Asia, AG personnel reach those who have never had an opportunity to hear the good news about Christ. At the same time, we are responsive to the vision of growing national churches as they commit to reaching their nation with the gospel.

The Holy Spirit is working in incredible ways throughout Asia Pacific. More than 400 churches were started last year in the Philippines, primarily through an emphasis called Summer of Service (SOS). Churches in the region mobilized and sent people to other towns for eight weeks of intensive outreach to the lost.

The Philippines AG also has implemented a program called Bayanihan (helping together) to help construct buildings for growing congregations in remote areas. They have identified and approved churches in hundreds of locations as candidates for new church buildings. This year more than 20 teams will travel to the Philippines to help congregations build some of the urgently needed facilities.

Travel with me to Southeast Asia to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. An entire generation was lost during the Khmer Rouge regime as Pol Pot tried to reshape the nation and killed more than 3 million of his fellow countrymen.

But today in Cambodia a new generation of young people is carrying the message of hope and life that Christ brings. In the past four years, the number of AG churches has increased from 20 to nearly 100.

At the AG Bible School in Phnom Penh last year, I saw 22 trained ministers graduate from the three-year training program. Each student, in order to meet the requirements for graduation, must participate in church planting while in Bible school.

When they complete their studies these graduates have already gained skills they need to plant churches, and they have a vision to reach their nation. This is a key reason the church in Cambodia is growing and reaching remote areas.

There were only a few known Christians in all of Mongolia just 15 years ago. Today more than 2,000 Assemblies of God members and 30,000 Christians among all evangelical groups comprise a growing body of believers. Five growing congregations are located in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, and one of those serves the deaf community. In Darhan, Mongolia’s second-largest city, a growing AG congregation has purchased a building that will allow them to expand their ministries.

The Fire Bible (Full Life Study Bible), recently translated into Mongolian, is a valuable ministry training tool for AG pastors and believers, as well as workers in other evangelical groups, to help them more effectively present the gospel to the least-reached. Mongolian believers have already gone on mission trips to China and Tuva. The national church is preparing to send its first missionary to the Mongolian people living along the northern border of China.

The 20 nations scattered across 30 million square miles of Pacific Oceania have many remote locations where people are waiting for someone to come with the good news.

Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), a chain of 12 principal and some 60 smaller islands, is home to many tribal groups with diverse cultures that have not yet received the gospel. AGWM missionaries tell us of distant villages where students from the Bible school in Port Vila are welcomed as they bring the good news.

Another, often overlooked, least-reached people group is found on university campuses. Young adults are searching for purpose and direction in life, and this is an ideal time for them to hear and respond to Christ. Campus workers in major cities of Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and throughout the region tell of young people coming to Christ. If this emerging generation of leaders is to be reached, it will require a significant commitment by both national churches and missionary personnel.

In His first sermon, Jesus set the pattern for ministry that the Father approved. He said the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to preach good news to the needy, bring freedom to prisoners, give sight to the blind, and set the captives free. The Great Commission is for all people in every place, and the work of missions has not been completed until the least-reached have had an opportunity to hear and understand the gospel.

The harvest is ready, waiting and abundant for those who are willing to go to hidden and remote fields of labor. Let’s ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into the waiting harvest fields of Asia and the Pacific.

RUSS TURNEY is Asia Pacific regional director for Assemblies of God World Missions.

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