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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Reaching Peninsular Asia

By Russ Turney
Sept. 5, 2010

The countries of Peninsular Asia are strikingly similar in many areas of lifestyle and culture. Yet each country has its own unique needs and deep-seated struggles that challenge the spread of the gospel.

Of the approximately 375 missions personnel working in the Asia Pacific region, almost a third serve in Peninsular Asia. A regionwide goal is to have a missionary team of one member to every 1 million population. Peninsular Asia falls short of this goal by nearly 100 missionaries. More help is needed to meet the challenges and seize ministry opportunities to plant the Church in unreached areas.


Most of the world knows about the suffering of Cambodia and its people.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime attempted to lead a nationwide purge of people deemed “undesirable.” As many as 2 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships or starvation.

Today, however, opportunities to share the gospel abound. God has brought together a highly capable missionary team, which includes Dareth and Thida Ly. During the Khmer Rouge years, Dareth and Thida came to the United States as refugees. They met while attending North Central University in Minneapolis and were later married. Soon both sensed God calling them back to their homeland as missionaries.

The Lys understand the struggles Cambodians have experienced, since their own family members died during the time of “cleansing.” Their personal identification helps them minister to others in their suffering.

Initially, the AG established a presence in Cambodia through compassion outreaches. Ministries such as Asia’s Little Ones and Mission of Mercy have made a tremendous impact, considering that about one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, and more than 50 percent of the population is younger than 21.

But as Cambodia emerges from its difficult past, God is opening new doors of ministry. Churches are growing, and new churches are being planted. The AG missionary team is becoming increasingly effective in helping the national church reach all areas of the country. Little by little, the focus of ministry is widening as leadership training and church planting become possible.

A Bible school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is a vital component to church growth as students prepare to be pastors, church leaders and church planters. Some 70 percent of the school’s graduates are currently involved in a church planting ministry.

Starting new churches is part of the school’s core curriculum. Students reside on campus for two years, and in addition to their studies they must be involved in a variety of weekend ministries in local churches. Afterward they must complete a one-year internship that focuses on church planting. Upon completion of their studies, they can either return to pastor the church plant or move to another area and start a new work. Missionaries come alongside graduates to mentor and assist them in their ministries.

Of the approximately 125 churches in Cambodia, 75 percent of them were started by Bible school graduates. God is building His Church in Cambodia!

As with the rest of Peninsular Asia, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has experienced its share of hardships.

In 1966, the last resident AG missionaries left Myanmar during a time of political upheaval. Other missions agencies in Burma had adopted the practice of paying national pastors with organization funds. When persecution came and the pastors’ source of funding dried up, their churches closed. But U.S. Assemblies of God missionaries had established the Burma Assemblies of God as a strong, indigenous Fellowship. When American AG missionaries left, the national Fellowship had 172 churches with 12,668 members. Today, there are 1,300 churches, several hundred home fellowships and more than 250,000 members.

A seven-member missions team is preparing to go to Myanmar and should be in place before the end of the year. They will assist the church, using a platform that involves teaching English, medical ministry, coffeehouse outreaches and other ministries of compassion similar to those used in the rest of Peninsular Asia.

When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008, about 140,000 people died and 2.4 million were displaced or severely affected. Through the combined effort of the national church, missions teams, Convoy of Hope, HealthCare Ministries and the generosity of U.S. churches, many thousands of people were helped. Twenty village “community centers” were started, and entire villages benefited from the rapid response of churches in the United States and Europe. In partnership with the Finnish Pentecostal Fellowship, missionaries and national churches effectively offered both immediate and long-term relief.  In the midst of suffering, opportunities to bring the hope of Jesus to Myanmar are increasing.

Across the Asia Pacific region, some 700 unreached people groups have no AG personnel working among them. A greater focus on these unreached people groups is paramount.

With the help of the Lord, our goal is to place missionaries among these unreached people to share the gospel and plant the church. Missionary Alan Johnson is directing this initiative, and personnel are preparing to go. But the work cannot be accomplished without prayer. We need people who will partner with us to pray specifically for this effort. Missionaries in the region have been encouraged to pray for guidance about their involvement in an unreached people group in conjunction with their normal missionary ministry.

The countries of Peninsular Asia have known deep suffering, but God has not forgotten them. He is burdening hearts and calling people to reach these countries with the good news of Christ. The Peninsular Asia team has strategically created locations where anyone can connect to a ministry and assist missionaries in reaching the lost. You can have a part in praying, giving and going to the people groups in this area. There is a place for you to serve in these final days of harvest before Christ’s return.

RUSS TURNEY is Regional Director for Asia Pacific.

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