In my last couple of posts, I might have given the impression that the primary feeling I am experiencing when I think about returning to Singapore is grief, but that would not be entirely accurate. My emotions on this issue are multilayered and range from sadness to excitement.
Lately, as the time of return draws near, the sense of excitement is growing and makes me want to say more about the reasons for it. I already mentioned in a previous post that God has clearly called us and we want to obey Him, but there are some very practical and strategic reasons as well.
First, after living eight years in Singapore, we have lots of valuable experience and will have fewer cultural adjustments when we return. We’ve already been through a lot of the bumps and bruises that come with learning to live well in a foreign country and will likely have an easier transition back.
Second, what we at EAST do is meeting one of the primary needs of the church in Asia, namely the intentional development of biblically-minded, godly, indigenous servant leaders. Christianity is exploding in Asia, but without adequate training and discipleship, immature leadership can create all kind of problems for the long-term health and impact of the church. We help provide the firm foundation upon which church leaders can build and grow.
Third, this need for leaders is so great, Asians are seeking further training in droves, but they often do so in seminaries far removed from their Asian roots. They attend schools in Europe and North America that sometimes confuse and squelch their spiritual passion, or lure them away from Asia with prospects for ministry in places where there is already a surplus of qualified and effective Christian leaders. Such opportunities draw many gifted leaders away from returning to Asia where they are needed the most. For those who do return, they sometimes bring unbiblical teachings and contextually insensitive methodologies that can cause further conflict and confusion in Asian church communities. By training Asian leaders in Asia, we keep them engaged in their local ministries and help them return to the needy mission fields where they are needed most and can be highly effective.
Fourth, and closely related, I am reminded of the quote: “Do not do what others can and will do. Rather, do what others cannot or will not do.” The fact is, America is abundantly supplied with qualified, gifted, and godly seminary professors, so much so, that many cannot even find teaching jobs in their field. In contrast, seminaries in Asia like EAST are sorely understaffed and pleading for qualified teachers to come and meet the growing need for advanced Christian leadership development. Barbara and I are uniquely called and suited to help meet this growing need in Asia.
Finally, and most importantly, I think of the godly and amazing students we’ve had the privilege of teaching and mentoring at the EAST.
I think of Tunji, a humble pastor from Nigeria, who came to EAST after miraculously surviving a Muslim riot that took the lives of some of his congregation. He is now a leader of leaders, developing pastors in the sometimes dangerous and spiritually challenging countries of northeastern Africa.
There’s Jackie and Cindy, Singaporeans faithfully working among a spiritually resistant and unreached Muslim people group in East Asia. There’s Moses, a Korean, who is reaching out to North Korean refugees in both South Korea and East Asia. Bataa, a Mongolian, is now the country director for a growing Christian ministry in his home country, and Singaporean Bessie is regularly teaching courses on spiritual warfare in East Asia, a subject where biblically sound and practical information is desperately needed.
I also think of Shirley who came from East Asia to our school as a relatively young Christian. Through the process of her time at EAST, she significantly matured in her faith and discerned God was calling her to minister as a missionary in Cambodia where she currently serves and regularly helps coordinate ministry internships for EAST students.
Honestly, the list could go on and on. There are many more graduates I cannot mention due to security concerns and space limitations, but the privilege of working with high-level faithful Christian leaders like these is one of the most humbling and exciting aspects of what we do at EAST. And I would not trade the chance for anything.
Why are we returning to Singapore? We are called, equipped, needed, willing, and privileged to be a part of what God is doing there at such a time as this.