The Asia Pacific region encompasses large landmasses and vast oceans with thousands of islands. Languages and cultures are diverse, and wealth exists beside poverty. Some people are isolated in remote jungles, while others live in massive apartment buildings in sprawling metropolitan areas. But the truth of God’s Word is transcending all barriers. In Asia Pacific, the highly educated and illiterate, the wealthy and poor are finding reality in Christ.
HISTORY and CHURCH GROWTH
The people of Fiji were among the first to receive the Pentecostal message. Albert and Lou Page arrived in 1913 and joined the Assemblies of God four years later. Within a few months, both died during a flu epidemic, but the ministry they established is still bearing fruit today. Now more than 62,000 believers attend the 715 Assemblies of God churches each week. The Fellowship emphasizes missions and has sent missionaries throughout the Pacific since 1966. South Pacific Bible College, outside the Suva — the nation’s capital, is training future pastors, missionaries and Christian workers from more than 10 nations.
In 1916, a Pentecostal publication reported that Koreans “are turning to Christ at the rate of 3,000 a week.” The Assemblies of God fellowship that formed in 1952 now has 2.8 million believers worshiping in more than 2,660 churches and preaching points. Today, the largest church in the world is in Seoul, South Korea. Yoido Full Gospel Church, pastored by Dr. David Yonggi Cho, has a membership of 800,000 and is the hub for ministries and Korean churches throughout the world.
Benjamin and Cordelia Caudle arrived in Manila in 1926 as the first AG missionaries. When illness ended their ministry in less than a year, no missionaries were available to continue the work. But God had a plan.
Many Filipinos had immigrated to the United States. Some accepted Christ, attended AG Bible schools and returned to the Philippines to minister. With the help of missionaries who arrived in 1939, nationals established the Philippines Assemblies of God the following year. World War II ended all missionary involvement from 1941-1945. Eight missionaries to the Philippines were imprisoned, but the Fellowship continued to grow.
Today, the Philippines Assemblies of God has nearly 12,000 churches and preaching points with more than 530,000 believers, a vibrant church planting program and missionaries serving in other nations. Sixty-four U.S. AG missionaries and associates partner with the national fellowship.
Carl and Frederike Juergensen took the Pentecostal message to Japan in 1913. Three years later, he wrote to ask for prayer. “Japan is a hard field,” he said, “but there is nothing too hard for the Lord.” The work grew slowly, and by 1931, 14 missionaries and 12 national pastors ministered at 17 churches and preaching points and one orphanage.
Missionaries were encouraged to leave the island as war developed in Asia. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Jessie Wengler was the only AG missionary in Japan. At the end of the war, missionaries returned and reported “a greater freedom for preaching the gospel.” Today, approximately 30,000 believers worship in 359 churches.
The newest Assemblies of God work in Asia Pacific was established in 2005 on the island of Nauru, the world’s smallest republic. Missionaries arrived in 2007 and are assisting national believers with compassion ministries, evangelism and discipleship.
Today more than 4.5 million people worshiped weekly in 23,534 churches and preaching points in Asia Pacific. “The Holy Spirit is working in incredible ways in the region,” says Russ Turney, Asia Pacific regional director. “Wherever the gospel is preached, lives are changed.”
UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS
The number of people groups in Asia Pacific exceeds 4,000. Papua New Guinea, with a population of more than 5.5 million, tops the list with 875. Each culture and language is distinct. Many groups claim a Christian heritage but know little of Christ. Over the years U.S. AG missionaries have consistently ministered in the nation, but the first resident missionaries were appointed in 2008.
The Assemblies of God has a strong work in Malaysia. More than 50,000 people attend 620 AG churches each week. Still, less than .01 percent of the 1.2 million Banjarese living in northern Malaysia has been reached with the gospel.
The strongholds of communism, Buddhism and ethnic religions have been barriers to reaching the lost in Laos. Of the 147 known people groups in the nation, the nearly 2.6 million Lao represent the largest of the 130 groups considered unreached. About 450,000 Khmu Ou who live in northern Laos have been animists for centuries. Now about 10 percent of the group claims Christ as Savior.
Indonesia, a vast area about three times the size of Texas, has the world’s largest Muslim population. More than 245 million people live on its 18,108 islands. More than 3.7 million Aceh Muslims occupy the northern tip of Sumatra in Aceh province, but the nation’s largest unreached group is the 30-million Sunda of West Java. National believers are working among them, but only .08 percent has come to faith in Christ. Other groups include the 4.2-million devout Hindus living on Bali and the 3.2-million Banjar on Borneo.
A primary focus for the Asia Pacific region is taking the gospel to the still-unreached people groups that often live in hidden, remote places where animism and religious bondage are woven together. In areas where people believe that supernatural power resides in trees, rocks, mountains or animals, the Holy Spirit is revealing the truth of God’s Word.
The gospel has yet to penetrate the minds and hearts of millions of people in Asia Pacific. Diversity of languages, cultures and religions pose many challenges. Poverty, disease and illiteracy plague not only those in isolated villages but also people living in crowded cities. Frequent natural disasters increase the suffering. In some places, political unrest and government restrictions limit missionary activity.
God is calling Asia Pacific believers to full-time ministry, and men and women are stepping into leadership roles. Yet many of them have little or no formal Bible school training. Missionaries are working to train these dedicated people, and a few national churches have instituted mentorship programs. Still, a concerted effort is needed to meet the demand.
U.S. military bases are scattered across Asia Pacific, but many of them have no church targeting this specialized community. Missionary pastors are needed to minister to military personnel and their families.
ADDRESSING THE NEEDS
U.S. AG missionaries and national workers are listening to the Holy Spirit and walking through open doors. In the Philippines, believers have established a goal to plant 5,000 new churches by 2015. Those ministering with Asia Pacific Media Ministries are reaching the lost and training disciples through full-length feature films, radio broadcasts, the Internet and literature.
Eight children’s homes provide a refuge for destitute children, and Book of Hope distributions reach thousands of children with the gospel. Several pastoral training centers, 54 Bible schools with 57 extension programs, and Asia Pacific Theological Seminary — located in Baguio, Philippines — prepare students to meet the needs of growing churches. Young adults are finding hope for the future through campus ministries. Recent outreaches among Japanese university students have brought new life to the nation’s AG churches.
Compassion ministries such as Asia’s Little Ones, Convoy of Hope and HealthCare Ministries help victims of disasters, feed the hungry and minister to the sick. When nearly 240,000 people in Indonesia’s Aceh province were killed during the December 26, 2004, tsunami, U.S. AG believers gave through AG Relief and compassion ministries to assist with food, clothing, water filtration systems, medicine, building materials, school supplies and sports equipment. Teams of AG workers rebuilt schools and constructed the first evangelical churches in the area. Many people now have come to Christ and are being discipled.
HOW TO PRAY
AGWM missionaries and national workers face the future in Asia Pacific with faith and anticipation of a great harvest, but they know that nothing can be accomplished for God’s kingdom without prayer. Pray that God will
- Soften people’s hearts to the gospel.
- Call people with diverse gifts to work in Asia Pacific.
- Open doors of ministry.
- Do mighty miracles of healing and deliverance to demonstrate His power to the lost.
- Give missionaries favor among diverse people groups and government leaders.
- Provide the necessary funds for church planting efforts and compassion ministries.
God’s work is not hindered by religious restrictions or government decrees. He is sovereign and is not willing that any should perish. Throughout Asia Pacific’s metropolitan centers, islands and jungle villages, the gospel is penetrating hearts as God establishes His church.