God at Work in Northern Asia
By Ron Maddux, director
The stories of Northern Asia’s rich history and creative genius date back thousands of years. We are indebted to this region for such inventions as papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, fireworks, printing, the kite, and wheelbarrow – just to name a few. Many early forms of 21st century technologies were also developed here.
The church in Northern Asia also has a rich history, and believers around the world benefit from knowing their struggle, sacrifice and perseverance. The gospel reached the region in 635AD. In the early 1900s, pioneer Assemblies of God missionaries – Victor Plymire, Marie Stephany, W.E. and W.W. Simpson, and B.T. Bard – labored to reach the lost and train believers in Northern Asia’s far-reaching corners.
Christianity grew slowly, with many setbacks. By the mid-twentieth century, there were less than one million Christians in the entire region. The church was strongest among rural peoples. Peasants readily accept the message of Christ’s love and his compassion for them in their poverty.
Revival swept across the region in the early 1980s and millions of people came to faith in Christ. Today’s church is comprised of approximately 100 million believers now located in both urban and rural areas. Christians can be found in every strata of society, from farmers to factory owners. Some estimate that thousands accept Christ each day, and two-thirds of Christians are Pentecostal.
The growth of the Church has been a sovereign move of God among 400 diverse people groups in the region. No one can take credit for the revival, and no part of the continent has been left untouched. Hungry hearts, both poor and rich, have turned toward Christ and made the journey from darkness to light. We can only come alongside and partner with Him in this mighty influx of souls into His kingdom.
One remarkable trait of this revival is the way God is using women. In a part of the world generally considered to be patriarchal, women have been used by God to win the lost to Christ and lead local congregations — including many large urban churches.
With increases such as these, national church leaders are looking to the Northern Asia team to assist with training in developing doctrinally sound leaders. We provide educational tools, including 3 million copies of the Fire Bible and biblical reference works, and some of our team members teach at established Bible schools.
Global University is an important educational base in the region. A significant number of courses, including discipleship materials, practical ministry training courses and theological studies, are available in the region’s major language and are in great demand. One Christian body in the region recently requested 10,000 copies of one course.
Another powerful tool is radio. Every day we broadcast the message of God’s love to millions of people who have never heard that Christ gave himself for them. Some programs are designed for training pastors who have no opportunity for formal education.
God also opened other doors to work in partnership with national churches. Our team has helped with church and Bible school construction, compassion ministries and orphanages. Through Northern Asia’s Compassionate Touch, we assist with community development, school construction and refurbishing, and health and clean water projects.
Disaster relief has increased since more than 80,000 people were killed in the May 2008 earthquake in a mountainous region. Besides initially providing food, medical supplies, blankets, tents and water, we continue to partner with the national church to provide ongoing assistance to children who survived the earthquake.
In the past 10 years since Northern Asia became a region, tremendous growth has occurred. Our team has grown from about 40 to 200 men and women, and we have added many outreach areas. The needs, however, are almost overwhelming at times as 1.3 billion people live scattered over 3.7 million square miles. We are asking the Lord of harvest to increase our workers so that every unreached people group in Northern Asia will hear the message of hope through Christ.
Ron Maddux is the Northern Asia regional director.