Under the radar in South East Asia
Some places where our missionaries work, like China and some South East Asian countries, are “creative access nations”. This means the governments are not welcoming of Christian mission activity and missionaries need to be creative in how they operate there. For this reason, the missionary profiled here is not named and we cannot publish photos of him and his family, nor reveal the exact country where he works. However, if you’d like to learn more about him and his work and/or send a donation to assist him financially, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you know God was calling you to missions work in South East Asia?
Though I grew up in a Christian family, I went off the rails for a few years while at university. When I came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus, I realized the field that I was studying, and not enjoying, could be a blessing to many in creative access nations. Within a few months of being saved I felt called to SE Asia to serve in a tent making role.
Did you experience culture shock when you first arrived?
Yes! People were very friendly and helpful but I found it hard to communicate on any deep level. I made a lot of efforts at language study which has helped. Sometimes in the first few years, I wouldn’t want to go out of the house or meet anyone for a few days or weeks. Now I suffer more from reverse culture shock going back to NZ.
Can you describe the kind of environment where you live and work?
Although I was based in rural areas for a few years doing poverty alleviation projects, I am now based in a large city. I live in a flat with my family and drive a scooter around the city to work and meet people. If I go out with all of the family, we tend to take a taxi.
What is the main focus of your work in SE Asia?
I work with a team of church planters, who focus on training and supporting rural churches. This also involves mentoring and coaching new leaders. I also work in a consultancy company for a fair part of my time.
Can you describe a typical day?
There aren’t many typical days for me but if I am in a routine it will be up at 6:00 am for a quiet time. I pray with my wife and then head off to a meeting with the AO team. We do a bible study and discuss our recent and upcoming activities, strategize next steps and coordinate our work. Then I head off to another office and work with a team of local consultants. I get home around 6:00 pm and tend to eat rice fairly often.
Why is it important for you to keep your work with AO under the radar?
Although the central authorities seem more open to see the benefits of Christianity than in the past, it can be hard to predict what will happen in the future. Some of AO’s activities are now open, but our role in church planting isn’t at this stage. In the past, many missionaries have had their visas revoked and not been allowed to return. This hasn’t happened very recently though.
What positive change have you seen since working in SE Asia?
The church is now much more free than when I first came. In the late 1990’s police would follow around both foreign and local Christians. Now the church is relatively free in urban areas and repression is localized and often mainly from family.
How receptive do you feel people are to the gospel message?
There is growing interest as people meet issues they cannot resolve such as illness and personal crises. However, many start off well but turn away due to family pressure. Not participating in ancestral worship is considered a betrayal of family. It is one of the main obstacles to growth.
What are the major cultural differences you face?
After my first few years I was near giving up working here due to the corruption I was surrounded with. But working more with the local AO team has encouraged me about what the Lord is doing. Locals are very pragmatic and tend to be looking for what advantage can be gained from you. It is much easier to have a genuine friendship with Christians as you understand each other on a deeper level.
What is your vision and hope for the people in the community where you are based?
The AO vision is “holistic change at all levels of society.” Seeing the openness of government authorities to the Good News is encouraging. Now we pray we will see this openness spread to the rural areas and towns. Approval for Christian education, influence in media, business, healthcare and government would be wonderful.
What do you find most challenging about the lifestyle you’re living?
Most challenging now is the extreme heat, and increasing pollution. Also, with children the recreational and educational options are quite restricted and expensive compared to home.
What food and cultural-experience do you miss most about NZ?
Chocolate and cheese and ice cream. Driving a car through the countryside with beautiful music playing. And going to the beach.
How can we best pray for you and the local people you’re working with and serving?
I often ask people to pray Psalm 67 for my family and the nation we serve. There are many people groups here who don’t yet know to direct their praise and worship to their Creator and Saviour.