News Articles

Seminary students challenged to reach World A for Christ

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–If Texas were like the area known as World A, the state would have 20 small churches, 18 of which would be composed of Nigerians, Germans and Koreans — no Texans. Only two or three, 10 to 15-member congregations would actually be composed of Texans. About 500 Texans would have heard the gospel while traveling outside the state and upon return, would be scattered, not knowing about other Christians. In fact, they would be secret Christians, finding it very difficult and even life-threatening to share their faith.
That describes life for the 150-million people living in World A regions of Southeast Asia and Oceania, according to Donald Dent, International Mission Board regional leader for Southeast Asia and Oceania.
“The obstacles are linguistic, cultural, political and spiritual, but Jesus told us to be light,” Dent said. “He didn’t just die for part of the world.”
Dent’s challenge to change worldviews came as part of “Push Back the Darkness … Pray,” a day of prayer at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the region Oct. 29. The Southwestern community was invited to prayerwalk around the campus, using sites along the route as prompts to pray for the region. E-mail containing urgent requests from Southeast Asia and Oceania missionaries poured into the school’s prayer room throughout the day. The World Mission Fellowship sponsored a program later in the evening that allowed more dialogue with missionaries to that area.
“Imagine you’re in a dark room,” said Dent, who spoke at the day-of-prayer chapel. “It’s so dark you can’t see anything at first. The longer you sit in the dark, though, you notice lots of light that you didn’t see before. Then you notice another room with far less light. The darkness you’re in is actually brighter. America is a dark place, but there is a darker place than the one you’re in.”
Dent spoke of a region where 135 unreached people groups of at least 100,000 each have no access to the gospel even if they wanted to know. Islam and Buddhism, crowd out the gospel’s light to 400 million more. These lost souls live in the countries of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Austria, New Zealand and Fiji.
While millions of Westerners are attracted to the region’s religions that teach the denial of human desire, the area is itself known for easy-to-get “booze, babes and buzz,” Dent said. About 300,000 prostitutes, which equals three quarters of Fort Worth’s population, inhabit one city. A large percentage of these women are sold into prostitution between the ages of six and 10 for $200 to $300. The girls spend the next 10 to 15 years in prostitution. Then around the age of 20, old and worn out, they are sent back to their villages to find husbands and start families often with just a few years to live because of AIDS, Dent said.
Meanwhile the women have boosted the region’s economy, which receives one in four dollars from prostitution, he added.
When death does claim one in this region, Dent said monks chant death cries like, “This brother is gone and will be no more. This friend is departed and not coming back. This life has ended and there is nothing else.”
“Can you imagine such darkness?” asked Dent. “These lost people are, as Paul described them, they’re strangers and aliens.”
Dent explained the region’s history, which has often been resistant to Christianity. For 350 years Dutch Calvinists controlled the area and built beautiful chapels, uplifting God but brutally putting down opposition.
“These (indigenous) people brought to us something you’ve probably already had a cup of this morning — java,” Dent said. “You wonder what they think of Christianity. They are aware of Christians and know bits and pieces of what Christians believe, but they were taught that Christians are not righteous and their religion is false. They know the name of Jesus but nothing of his love for them.”
Yet modern missionaries are pushing back the darkness, according to Dent. For two years he said he visited a village in the northern hills of Thailand that sold its children into prostitution and was controlled by an ex-communist guerilla. He and other Christians shared the gospel, and today, he said, every person in the village claims the name of Jesus.
A few weeks ago 450 Bibles were distributed in one of the most restricted areas of the world where law prevents the use of words like God, Jesus, gospel and prophet. Foreigners have freedom, though, where villagers have none, and under tremendous prayer shield Bibles were passed out. Only ten people rejected the gift, Dent said.
“This is so symbolic of people in this region,” he added, reporting in one country the number of Christians grew from 5,000 to 80,000 in seven years, churches have been started and recently seven monks who dedicated their lives to studying Buddhism were led to Christ by an 80-year-old International Service Corps couple.
“We can push back the darkness. It’s a deep darkness, but God’s in it,” said Dent. “I’m reminded of 1st John, which speaks of the darkness passing and the true Light already shining.”

    About the Author

  • Cindy Kerr