I hope you had a wonderful meaningful Christmas. We anticipated a smooth transition into the New Year, but we were jolted into the New Year with news out of Japan of a national disaster and a major plane crash related to a relief plane. In 2024, we do expect many great things as ministries are expanding and deepening in many places. God has been profoundly good in allowing John to travel with a new 120% knee and now with a pacemaker. God continues to bless our relationships with key Asian leaders in so many places and it seems that we will CONTACT and CONNECT with many more of these leaders in 2024. So we are fastening our seatbelts and ready for the adventurous ride of 2024. Glad you will continue in every twist and turn of this adventure with us.
FOCUS ON JAPAN
On New Year’s Day a major earthquake of 7.6 magnitude followed by a tsunami struck Japan in Western Ishikawa Prefecture, a shock was felt throughout most of the nation. What was particularly sad was realizing that the emperors family, who normally brings warm greetings for the New Year to the nation, had to cancel because of the disaster. At the time of this writing over 200 have died and about 25,000 are living in evacuation shelters. Challenges continue with a lack of water and people cut off from help. We have heard through our friends that a few churches were damaged but many more are being used to house evacuees. Several teams of volunteers are engaged with relief work through churches and Christian organizations. Pray for their efforts as relief work can go on for many months, even many years dealing with disaster and trauma. Pray that the gospel will penetrate this hard soil of Japan.
LOOKING BACK ON ASIA 2023
God really blessed last year with some significant accomplishments. Our Converge Asia Impact Team (AIT) developed our strategy process for collaborating with leaders in Asia. We worked out four stages of ministry development with local Asian leaders: 1) Contact, 2) Connect, 3) Equip and 4) Multiply. We have been busy implementing this strategy. In 2023, I was on five trips to Asia with AIT partners working directly with dozens of key leaders in at least 9 countries.
First, we quickly moved our partnership with the Tangkhul Naga Baptist Convention (TNBC) from the Contact stage to the Connect stage aligning our ministries together. They asked us to attend a major gathering of 6-7,000 believers last February. We agreed to help this large denomination in Northeast India to better equip, mobilize, and deploy their over their 60 sent missionaries reaching 4 countries and at least 10 Unreached People Groups (UPGs) throughout the region. I was appointed the AIT point person for this project. More updates later. Another AIT leader is heading up the similar RIM Project for another part of India.
Second, through previously developed contacts, we visited Vietnam to challenge key leaders with prayer and leadership development ministries. A group of 150 key leaders in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have agreed to start movement-based church planting training. We quickly moved from Contact in May, to Connect in September, and will be at the Equip stage when we begin training in February 2024.
LOOKING AHEAD ON ASIA 2024 and BEYOND
The purpose of the Converge Asia Impact Team is to equip local leaders to fulfill a vision for a gospel movement among UPGs. Our AIT has set some future goals to move some leaders from the contact to the connect stage and into the EQUIP stage of ministry.
- As mentioned above, Vietnam will have the preview church planting training in February and in early 202410 churches in the 2 regions will begin 18-month training in church planting multiplication.
- Several of our team will have a strategic planning meeting with the Tangkhul leadership (TNBC) that will result in a timeline for implementation of the Equip stage for their mission leadership and staff. This project should take no more than 3-5 years to implement.
- We continue to expand our CONTACT with new leaders in 3-6 additional countries with UPGs. This year we hope to make progress with Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In 2024. we will plan vision trip visits for some.
- John, Phu, and Mark from the AIT will participate in the 2024 Global Summit on Church Planting in Batam Indonesia, February 26-March 1. Several key global networks including Global Church Planting Network and Lausanne will meet to discuss collaboration on reaching the unreached. This Batam conference of about 200 global leaders we know will generate more Contact with leaders in Nepal, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Japan, Taiwan, and the like. We are anticipating several vision trips to several of these areas in 2024 and beyond.