Home to some 1.8 billion people, Foursquare Missions International’s (FMI) North Asia region is one of unparalleled diversity, a region Corey (last name withheld for security reasons), Foursquare’s area missionary to North Asia, describes as “a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural milieu.”
Having been born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Corey, now 51, is right at home ministering among such a diversity of people groups. He grew up with friends from many different ethnic backgrounds, he says, and a multicultural environment has simply always seemed normal to him.
“I had many friends who spoke a language, or two, other than English at home,” Corey recalls. “However, it wasn’t until I was saved during my senior year in college that I began to see that this ability to understand and appropriately value language, ethnicity and culture was a gift from God.”
Married with two teenage children, Corey serves a dual role, both as senior pastor of a Foursquare church in Hawaii, and as area missionary to North Asia, a position he’s held since 2003. Prior to this, he pastored in the Greater Tokyo area and served as director of missions for Foursquare Japan. More important to him, he notes, is the fact that he has been a church planter since 1992, when he went to Japan at the invitation of then national leader Rev. Seita David Masui.
“I have always desired to be ‘glocal’ in ministry,” explains Corey, “with a local-church ministry role serving as a base for overseas ministry.”
FMI North Asia includes the countries of Taiwan, Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia and China. Security issues in North Asia make publishing specific ministry statistics inadvisable and potentially dangerous to Foursquare works in this region. We can share, however, that Foursquare ministry in this area comprises 47,505 members and more than 185 churches and meeting places.
There are 26 Bible institutes. Asia LIFE University in Daejeon, South Korea, is the first accredited Foursquare graduate seminary. Additionally, Foursquare North Asia partners with Foursquare workers from 14 nations in what Corey calls “creative access settings.”
South Korea has missionaries in 14 nations, making it a stage-four work in Foursquare’s Four-Stage Development Model. Japan and Hong Kong are stage-three works, meaning that congregations are being multiplied. The remaining nations are either stage-one works (the “initiate/evangelizing” stage, where disciples are being developed), or stage-two works (the “nurture/strengthening” stage, where leaders are being developed). All of the registered national works, Corey notes, are self-supporting.
Several short-term missions teams went to Japan, South Korea and China last year. The biggest opportunities to serve in the next 12 to 24 months are likely going to be in northeast Japan, in the wake of the 9.0 earthquake in March and resulting tsunami.
Ministry in North Asia requires a heightened sensitivity to people and their cultures. As Corey succinctly puts it, the majority of them “do not see or talk about the world as we do.” To minister effectively here, one must be mindful of this and respectful of others.
Many believers in the U.S. have false assumptions about North Asian cultures—and those assumptions can stand in the way of bridging the ministry gap. For example, Corey explains, Buddhists are not all alike. In fact, if you are knowledgeable about what a Buddhist actually believes, you can find an open door to the gospel message.
“The teachings of the Buddha,” Corey says, "while lacking the revelation of Jesus Christ as God’s provision of redemption, reconciliation and salvation, can be an effective tool to communicate the sinfulness of mankind and our need for a savior.”
Similarly, the assumption that all Chinese are alike would be wrong. There are 57 recognized ethnic groups in China, notes Corey, who are representative of many other smaller unreached people groups, each with their own language and dialect.
“Sometimes the biggest obstacle to faith for someone from North Asia is not their history or religion,” Corey asserts, “as much as it is our ignorance of their history and religion, and our sometimes inappropriate, culturally and linguistically indecipherable representation of the person and message of Jesus Christ.”
Praying + Support
So how may those of us in the U.S. best pray for and support the people of North Asia? Corey requests prayer for: (1) spiritual, emotional and material preparedness for the eventual reunification of North and South Korea; (2) awareness of and commitment to making our best contribution in the discipleship of Chinese-speaking people groups; and (3) willingness and availability to pray, give and go as part of an eventual long-term commitment to relief, recovery and redevelopment in northeast Japan, with the aim of aiding a great awakening through holistic ministry, discipleship and church planting.
Additionally, Corey notes what great things could be done if there were more money and people who are called and skilled, possessing the right giftings and language skills.
“It would be advantageous,” he explains, “to deploy them to one or more of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in North Asia. There are at least 15 cities in North Asia that are larger than Los Angeles, and room for many more Foursquare works and workers.”
As he looks toward the future of ministry in North Asia, Corey points out the importance of true partnership between the Foursquare family in the U.S. and the Foursquare family in North Asia, akin to the partnership shared by biblical figures such as Paul and Barnabas.
“If we are to fulfill the commitment entrusted to us—interdenominational and worldwide evangelism—I see a much more functional and less formally organized church,” Corey explains, “that needs to learn how to adapt to the vast spectrum of lifestyles and cultures ranging from the Mongolia nomad and ethnic minority groups of China to the metropolitan urbanites who will live in the world’s biggest cities.”
Rev. Kim Yong Chun is one example of what can happen when ministry leaders and organizations partner together for the sake of the gospel. Rev. Kim, Corey says, was a South Korean missionary who had at one point been dispatched to both South Africa and the Philippines. But he had always had a burden for Japan.
An agreement was worked out between Foursquare South Korea and Foursquare Japan to have Rev. Kim intern under FMI Missionary Jeff MacKay in Osaka, Japan, for a year before being sent out to plant his own church. MacKay, Corey notes, has been very effective in Osaka, encouraging and helping to plant 17 temple and house churches.
“Rev. Kim learned both church planting and Japanese quickly,” Corey shares, “planting a second church in his second year after going solo. He now also serves on the Japan Foursquare Cabinet. He is a great example of how a regional council and FMI missionaries can partner together for the sake of interdenominational and worldwide evangelism.”
For information on helping FMI works around the world—including how to support the Global Missions Fund, a missionary or project, or to donate toward disaster relief, log on to https://give.foursquare.org. One-hundred percent of every dollar given to the Global Mission Fund goes directly to the mission field. For details on short-term missions teams or other information related to FMI, visit www.foursquare.org/missions.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles