Asian churches grow despite adversities

Lutherans from across the globe have heard how churches in South-East Asia are growing despite political and economic diversities. On 12-14 May representatives from eleven countries met in Cambodia for the annual Mekong Mission Forum and three-yearly Partner Churches Consultation. Glenice Hartwich attended on behalf of the LCA.

Over fifty delegates from the Mekong Mission and partner churches, including Hong Kong, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Australia, participated in the consultation. The theme for the meetings, Holistic Mission – God’s Work and Our Contribution, was taken quite literally, with the forum focusing on the practicalities of how God’s mission can be carried out in an environment that is mostly hostile to Christianity.

LWF/Asia Secretary Dr Ginda Harahap explained that the purpose of the consultation is to ‘empower Christians and local churches for mission through concrete programs, which include diaconal projects, for the church and people amid the dominant religious communities and cultural, social, political and economic forces’.

The Partner Churches Consultation gave leaders and heads of mission departments the opportunity to share successes and discuss solutions to problems facing the region. ‘People have a real passion to share their Jesus with others’, Glenice enthuses. The role of the partner churches is to ‘encourage the body of Christ to grow in places that otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The political climate in some parts of this region is so difficult that we cannot give specifics about individuals and groups making significant progress in their communities, for fear of government retaliation towards them.’

Some churches are able to work with government permission, but they usually have limited scope. They are sometimes allowed to have a dedicated building for worship, but are forbidden to publicly evangelise. Many others must work secretly, meeting in private homes and moving locations to avoid government scrutiny.

Many inspiring stories have surfaced in the face of this adversity, including one about a church that started with only a pastor, his wife and two children. Today, this congregation has over 2,000 members.

The Mekong Mission Forum was established by the Lutheran World Federation to help churches and mission agencies working in South-East Asia to coordinate their activities. It also aims to encourage the Mekong Mission churches and support them through projects and scholarships to help with the theological education of their leaders and pastors. This mainly occurs through education facilities in Hong Kong and Thailand. The Mekong area includes Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Current Mekong Mission Forum projects include: workshops for theological education, a library program to try to distribute books throughout the region, a student – and faculty exchange program and a project to produce a study guide to assist members who are unable to participate in formal theological education.

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to