Shine On Till Jesus Comes!
A report from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division president
During this past quinquennium the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) joined the world church in emphasizing revival and reformation as the heart of mission and evangelism. The motivating slogan “Revival, Reformation, and Beyond” became the foundation for programs and activities in the entire region.
The rationale for this adaption of the world church’s slogan is that there have been calls for revival and reform in the past, which started with great zeal and enthusiasm. After a while, however, the movement flickered and faded away. Thus, the word “beyond” was added to emphasize the overarching objective of revivals and calls for reform— the finishing of the proclamation of the gospel and ushering in the return of Jesus.
Related programs from the world church headquarters were contextualized with the goal of members becoming more intentional in prayer, Bible study, and personal witnessing. SSD departmental directors developed programs for these areas and made sure that all church departments, services, and agencies were involved. Participation in annual Weeks of Prayer, Ten Days of Prayer, the 777 prayer initiative, and daily Bible studies were encouraged at all levels of church organization.
Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle
As an umbrella for all SSD revival and reformation initiatives, the Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle (IEL) plan was conceived. Using a family approach, every baptized member is encouraged to be personally involved in acaring and lovingministry within the home and immediate neighborhood in partnership with the local church. Essentially this long-term program focuses on personal witnessing and nurturing of new church members.
With this family approach to evangelism, IEL progresses in three phases over the course of a year. Two major components make the initiative effective when properly conducted: the IF (intercessor family)and the CF (cared family).The IF is the Adventist family who spends time in Bible study and prayer as they experience personal revival while establishing good relationships in their locale. While a traditional family was the original focus, any Adventist member can invite other Adventists in their social circle to join together to make a family group.
An IF befriends a non-church member family to become its CF. The bond between the IF and CF breaks down barriers as the friendship develops. This encourages open conversation about family life, health, and spiritual matters. A weekly study group is formed between these two families/family groups, using health and family materials as a starting point.
Over time this group moves from these topics to Bible study. Meanwhile the local church hosts community-friendly activities with the CF in mind. Eventually the CF is invited to an evangelistic series. The goal of this long-term collaboration between the IF and local church would be that the Adventist church become a home for the CF. After baptism, new members continue to meet weekly with their care group for nurturing and discipleship. Where this program is properly conducted, missions and conferences experience tremendous growth.
In order to achieve the ideal use of the program, individuals from the local level to administrators were introduced to the concept in a variety of ways. Members received resource materials to use in the local level. Training sessions about nurturing were held in the unions, missions, conferences, and institutions, as well as for local pastors. Additionally, church administrators in the region accepted the challenge of personally modeling the program.
As a result, members were strengthened spiritually and became more involved. Former members returned to church, and new members joined. As a result, more than 200,000 new members were added in the challenging territory of SSD during this past quinquennium.
In addition to emphasis on personal witnessing and one-to-one relationships, the SSD also focused on tapping technology to reach people on a larger scale. While the traditional way of sharing the good news is still effective, the use of print media, the Internet, radio, and television have been vigorously promoted in areas with such access.
In October 2013 Hope Channel Philippines was officially inaugurated with the acquisition of a national TV franchise and frequencies in major towns and cities across the country. Hope Channel Philippines is also on satellite broadcast. Today there are Hope TV stations in three major Philippine cities: Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro. More than 20 FM and AM Adventist radio stations now broadcast positive programming throughout the archipelago. Programs in the four major dialects of the country—Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Ilocano—are produced. To support the ongoing operation, church members have committed to giving at least 50 cents every Sabbath.
On August 8, 2014, Hope Channel Indonesia was also officially inaugurated in Jakarta. Today millions of Indonesians watch the Hope Channel in their own language. A small Adventist FM radio station was also inaugurated in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It broadcasts the good news of the coming kingdom to approximately a half million people.
Mission to the Cities
The urban areas of SSD are prime audiences for our technology ministries. However, a more personalized approach is also needed. To meet this need, Adventist city dwellers in SSD have developed unique evangelism programs in their communities. The urban evangelism initiative known as Mission to the Cities has been heartily embraced here and was officially launched in Metro Manila with world church president Ted N. C. Wilson as the main speaker. In addition, 75 satellite meetings were held simultaneously in different parts of Manila during the two-week series.
In the months leading up to the evangelistic series, church members and leaders engaged in a variety of community evangelism programs in the areas of health and wellness, parenting, children and youth, and compassionate acts. The SSD’s One Year in Mission (OYIM-SSD) focused on friendship evangelism in the business sector of Manila and subsequently studied the Bible with interested young professionals there.
With more than 3,000 people baptized during the May evangelistic series and the 7,000 baptisms resulting from related community programs offered by local churches, Hope Manila 2014 has resulted in more than 10,000 baptisms.
Field school training for city evangelism was offered to leaders of the nine unions and two attached missions of the SSD. This training enabled them to initiate Mission to the Cities programs in the urban areas of Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and other parts of the Philippines.
Centers of Influence
Another long-term aspect of Mission to the Cities involves centers of influence. These are wholistic ministry establishments located in popular urban areas, and offer interest-based services. In the SSD they include restaurants, music schools, and language centers. They are designed to be places where people can build relationships and find a sense of belonging among new friends.
In Laos a vegetarian restaurant in the capital city of Vientiane offers healthy food and lifestyle improvement classes. In Thailand members offered health, cooking, and music classes as a prelude to a 25-site evangelistic series. After the series, interest in the music classes remained so high that a music school was opened to reach the community. There is even a mobile center of influence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Originating from an existing urban health ministry, a mobile medical unit brings health care to high-need areas there.
Health care continues to be a practical method of meeting community needs. Countless medical missions are held in many of our SSD countries each year and bring free medical care to underprivileged communities.
A university-based blood drive held at the Asia-Pacific International University (APIU) campus in Thailand received government recognition after hosting a mobile eye surgery clinic for the Thai Red Cross Society.
After 30 years of dreaming, planning, and praying, the education program of the SSD has achieved a major breakthrough with governmental approval for the opening of the first Adventist College of Medicine in Asia. The College of Medicine at the Adventist University of the Philippines will begin classes in August 2015. It will be the sixth College of Medicine for the Adventist education system worldwide.
Outreach to Marginalized Groups
With more than 70 ethnic groups and hundreds of dialects in our territory, we have a rich cultural spectrum. Within this diversity we have a number of marginalized groups that we have attempted to reach in the last five years.
For example, in a mountainous region of the Philippines, more than 70 Protestant church leaders from the same tribal group converted to Adventism. Nurturing of this specialized group continued in this quinquennium with culturally centered fellowship and training and livelihood programs. Subsequently the number of converts has continued to grow while membership retention remains stable. In other areas of the SSD, dedicated Adventists serve ethnic minority groups through literacy programs, livelihood projects, and health-care outreach.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) continues to maintain an essential presence in SSD countries. During times of disaster ADRA volunteers bring hope and needed supplies to the people most affected. In the aftermath of tragic events, rehabilitation and livelihood projects sustain the well-being of communities.
In many areas of Southeast Asia there is a long history of not only this much-appreciated service but also of life improvement. ADRA Vietnam recently celebrated 25 years of service in the country and has initiated more than 200 projects among marginalized groups. With a focus on health, livelihood, environmental issues, and education, past projects have included disease prevention, microbusiness development, sanitation, and student sponsorships.
With almost 1 billion inhabitants in the 14 countries of the division territory, most of whom are non-Christians, the challenges are many. Religious freedom is being challenged in some of our countries, but doors that were previously closed are opening in others. Societal problems such as poverty and secularism are overwhelming in some areas. But our members give and serve as abundantly as they can in spite of this. Civil unrest is part of the history in parts of the region, but our churches seek to be centers of peace and positive influence.
Sometimes it seems an almost impossible task to accomplish the mission of the church in this part of the world. However, the joyful service, selfless attitudes, and resilient faith of our members inspires us. They walk with Jesus through their tiny villages, crowded neighborhoods, and maze of metropolises bringing a word of encouragement, hope through health seminars, and enthusiasm for long-range lifestyle improvement. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division believe that in God’s own time the work will be finished.
For what has been accomplished during these past five years, we ascribe glory, honor, and praise to God. We thank Him for all His blessings and guidance. We also thank the General Conference and other sister organizations and institutions worldwide for the assistance they have given to support the work in the SSD