South East Asia Conference
I wonder what it means to you to be part of a global family of churches? The keyword in that question being ‘family.’ Considering we are over 3000kms from the closest church in our family, it may seem like this family is only made up of very distant relations. That’s one of the many reasons why it was such a privilege for Mike and I to be able to travel to Thailand last week to be part of the Newfrontiers South East Asia Conference. It truly felt like being with family.
We went to join 80 leaders based in nations across South East Asia (I won’t name them for security reasons). Many of these countries are closed to the gospel, yet the churches, led by indigenous people, are pioneering amazing kingdom advance to totally unreached people groups. It was truly humbling to be there and see the mighty move of God happening amoung our global neighbours. I had no idea that God was moving so mightily in this region of the world.
We started the trip by stopping over in Cambodia to join Liberty Family Church Phnom Penh. It’s a busy bustling city and the church reflected that flavour. The worship was filled with joy and there were lots of encouraging contributions. I had the opportunity to preach, and as much as I would love to write my own favourable review, the translation really threw me, which meant that I had to throw out most of my preach but we live and we learn, all part of the experience I guess. The service ended with a good number of the church members gathering for a home cooked meal, so we certainly ended on a high! You can see a few picture from that below.
The next day, we headed to Thailand for the conference. It ran from Monday night to Friday afternoon. There were three sessions a day. Two with worship, exceptional preaching and an opportunity to hear stories from leaders across the region. The other sessions were a choice between a number of different seminars. One of them was led by Mike on leadership which was excellent.
The stories were the highlight of the week. I don’t have the time to tell you any of them in great detail but I took notes on one update in particular so I can share some highlights. The nation in question has a population of 51 million and only 6% are Christian. The majority of the population are Buddhist but there are also many totally unreached people groups. The leader of the churches was saved and felt a passion to reach the nation. Not long after starting a church with no support he found himself pastoring a growing congregation. Due to the poverty of the local people, he had very little income which meant that he and his family (he has 3 children) ended up being homeless. For three years, he, his wife and kids had no permanent abode. They were offered a role which came with a home, a car, a wage, an assistant pastor, and two children’s workers. This was on the condition that they remain working for this individual for the rest of their lives. It was a very tempting offer, but they felt the call to plant churches right across the nation and not simply this one church. They turned the offer down, and they now lead a movement of 66 churches with a plan to have 100 by 2020, something they are on track to accomplish. The have over 2000 members across these congregations and saw 131 people baptised last year.
Since rejecting that offer, somebody has amazingly built them an enormous fantastic home which they are now all living in. God has honoured the amazing zeal and commitment to Him and His kingdom. Can you see why I said the conference was challenging? I mean I consider it a sacrifice to go without coffee in the morning, let alone not having a home to live in for 3 years! God is really doing something amazing in this part of the world.
So it was very exciting to meet these members of our global family. Although a number of them were not officially part of Newfrontiers we are certainly working in partnership and supporting them where we can. It is probable that Newfrontiers is now working into more churches in South East Asia than in the UK, the place where it was birthed. How exciting! The more we can rub shoulders from these family members, the more we can learn from them and hopefully replicate some of what they are doing. The great news is that behind each story was the faithfulness of God blessing them mightily as they stepped out for him. We know that God wants to exactly the same thing in our nation.