One missionary traveling to Asia many years ago was asked if he anticipated making an impression on the continent. He replied, “No, sir, but I expect God will!” And God has. Through times of peace and times of unimaginable upheaval, God has spread the gospel word of Christ throughout Asia. As churches in one closed country in East Asia begin to experience rising persecution, we are seeking God’s wisdom as we continue to train pastors in the face of these new challenges.
Mid-2019 marked the last time that WordPartners trainers were able to get into the closed country and interact face-to-face with our in-country partners. During that trip, a workshop was raided by the police, and one of the trainers was interrogated. The political climate has become much more hostile toward Westerners since then. Communication with our partners has been severely restricted. Security has tightened, and our trainers have not been able to travel into the country.
One of our directors recently reminded us that these new restrictions have not stopped the gospel from advancing. He has heard reports of in-country pastors who “are still actively involved in carrying on the movement of God’s Word in the country.” At this point, we are aware of seven training-group networks across the country led by roughly 16 partners. This has resulted in approximately 200 pastors and church workers being trained throughout the last year.
Our brothers and sisters in the country continue to hunger for God’s Word. One pastor who longed to know the Word more deeply taught himself to read Hebrew and Greek. He then waited prayerfully for original language texts to be smuggled into his region. Other believers risk repercussions to engage in online Bible studies so that they may learn more of God’s Word.
As the Word of God continues to advance, we hear two cries coming from the church in Asia. One of them is, “Come and equip us to do the work!” Before 2019, several in-country partners graduated from our Core Training and were beginning to go through Advanced Training. The police raid in 2019 interrupted this process. But the pastors’ zeal for the Word has not cooled. Their heart is to grow in their ability to equip more pastors so that the Word of God may flow into more regions.
There is also a cry from believers for their pastors to become more faithful in the exposition of God’s Word. The prosperity gospel, syncretism, Mormonism, and other false teachings are infiltrating the churches in Asia. Faithful churches long for pastors who know how to handle God’s Word with God’s heart. Finding ways to further equip our training partners will fuel the spread of Word-centered ministry among local churches in Asia.
As we considered the tension between growing security risks and the strong desire among pastors for training, we sought the Lord’s help. We know that He who turns the hearts of kings like a stream of water in His hand is in control of the changing political situation in East Asia. We also know there are no laws or developments in AI technology that can hinder God’s Word from going where he wills. If he could lead Peter past sleeping guards and through locked gates, he can make a way for his church in East Asia to be equipped with his life-giving Word.
Through prayer and counsel, God has given us wisdom. WordPartners has developed a secure plan to train influential East Asia training partners. Under the heading “creative-access countries,” we have identified safe avenues of transportation and locations where communication and workshops can happen freely.
Unlike most of our training workshops, the transportation costs will be much higher to ensure the safety of our in-country partners. We estimate that travel costs will top out around $32,000. Timing is also a critical aspect of the planning process as we consider the cost and safety of our in-country partners. We are praying for the training to take place in May or June of 2024. Despite the higher complexity and cost, we know the value of this project for continued effective training in East Asia.
We invite you to become a part of this strategic opportunity. There are a few opportunities for you to consider:
We engage in this work expectantly. As the regional director recalled, “You might say that the door had opened over these earlier years, and people rushed in. The situation has changed, and the door is closing but hasn’t been shut. And so we’re finding other ways of bringing in the gospel, God’s Word.” As we do, “we’ll see if the Lord desires that for WordPartners in 2024.”