The recently concluded Mission Consultation in Bangkok was an historic event. 11 Presbyterian Denominations from Asia came together for the first time. Presbyterian Churches in Asia were founded by Western Missionaries since 19th century. This single gathering of leaders from 11 nations was a dream fulfilled. Each national leader shared his or her country report and collectively the delegates discerned what God has been doing in the region. We shared similar church structures and Presbyterian distinctive and yet the growth is varied. Presbyterian Church of Korea has about 2.7 million members. Presbyterian Church of Taiwan has 270,000 members. Even Indonesia (GKI) exceeds 200,000. The youngest among us is the Presbyterian Church of Vietnam which has a history of only 6 years (2001). The story of Presbyterian Church of Vietnam (PCV) is interesting.
I interviewed Rev. Khoa and his wife Lien. These were their words: "The Holy Spirit swept through Vietnam in 1994. We began as a house church movement. At that time we had 1000 Christians. We were constantly harassed and persecuted by government officials. Most of our churches are in rural areas and the people are mostly farmers. We do not have a legal status with the Vietnamese government. I went to America to study in the seminary (Rev. Khoa) and I was very impressed with John Calvin's theology and his formulation of church government. My interest in Presbyterianism grew and I felt that I needed to organise the house church into a more formal structure. We opted for Presbyterian identity and structure. We have since grown to about 7000 members." Lien is conversant in English and acted as her husband's translator. Rev. Khoa is the Moderator of PCV. He is the key leader of the denomination. As the church is relatively young in history, it has only 10 ordained ministers and 11 licensed preachers. The acute shortage of pastors present a need for leadership development. They need experienced pastors who could teach them exegesis, biblical studies, and leadership development in the Asian context. When they found out my credentials, they immediately invited me to go to Vietnam and to train them. I told them that I am most willing to serve them but I have a tight schedule to fulfill. "Why don't you come at the end of Oct?" "No I can't. The earliest date is second week of December." "Ok, lets confirm the dates then." Talk about determination. These Vietnamese leaders are most persistent. I could see that their circumstances have trained them to be dogged in whatever they do. They love Jesus, they love their people and hence the urgency. Would such spiritual hunger be found in Malaysian churches? We have so many conferences, seminars, training workshops in KL that Christians in Malaysian particularly those in KL are inundated with abundant opportunities. We can become spiritually constipated!
I was pleasantly surprised when Saruon from Cambodia Presbyterian Church gave an outstanding PowerPoint presentation of his country report. It was easily one of the best among the delegates. Given the fact that Cambodia is not as technologically (IT) as savvy as Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia, yet Saruon floored us with his superb PowerPoint's. A very gentle, amicable personality, Saruon spoke good English and came across as a humble leader. At the close of the consultation, we broke bread and sipped communion wine to celebrate our oneness and unity in Christ. Saruon requested prayer for navigating through the new Bangkok airport. It was his first trip to Bangkok and the gigantic airport awed him. After all Saruon is a Cambodian kampong boy. His simplicity and childlike faith is inspiring. His country had gone through the nightmare of killing field and an entire generation was massacred by the Pol Pot regime. He kept asking us to help them in Children education. Many children in rural areas do not go to school. The literacy rate is very low indeed.
As I reflect on the sheer needs of these two nations, not to mention Laos, I think of City Discipleship Presbyterian Church (CDPC). I do not know how to impress and inspire the church to serious discipleship. I think of the many talented and gifted and well endowed individuals who could spare their time to go to these nations and help. I could see that many are so busy with their careers. They have been squeezed dry by their companies. They have to take care of their family needs. They are involving in church ministries. How to create additional time for mission?
I came back from Bangkok physically exhausted but renewed spiritually. I slept in the airplane (probably snoring). It was good to be home. It was good to catch up with Constance and Sam. On my way home, I witnessed to a taxi driver. Ben Wong opened up his misery (his second day as a taxi driver) and I seized the opportunity to share Christ with him. The gospel seed has been sown. It will be another story another day.