Although I live in Malaysia and do most of my ministry in Cambodia, the Asian head office of my mission, Trans World Radio, is in Singapore. Over the past several months TWR has made significant changes to the organization of their work in Asia. This week I went to the Singapore office to discuss how those changes impact my role. I had the opportunity to present my vision for ministry both verbally and in the form of a funding proposal that I prepared.

As I am not in the Singapore office on a daily or even weekly basis, there are many who do not fully understand what I do for the mission. (I dare say there are many in Canada who don’t either!) So it was entirely understandable that it took me a few days and several meetings to explain alll that I have been doing for the past five years. However, with patience and perseverence I managed to cover not only the particulars of what I do, but also my Christ-given burden and passion for the lost and desperately needy of this part of the world. Along with an increased understanding of my role, I left Singapore with a new job description as Co-ordinator of Wholistic Ministries for SE Asia.

I can understand if the title doesn’t convey much to you. It does sound like a fancy way of not saying much, doesn’t it? Perhaps I can help you put it into some kind of perspective. Last evening as I was doing some editing for the monthly report of the Community Health Project that we have been doing in Cambodia I came across a testimony from a pastor who had attended a lesson given by our TWR staff on moral issues. (I promise that in a near post I will give you an example of one of the scenarios we use in the field). His response helps to define what a ‘wholistic ministry’ seeks to achieve.

Romdoul is the pastor at Beth El Veal Rinh Church. He didn’t think that he would be able to attend the training because he was busy planning for a camping trip the following week. However, he felt compelled by God to come, and he was happy and excited that he had. He said in his letter, “I know it is not an accident but rather God who planned for me to be here. I feel so surprised and excited with all lessons I have heard because they are new and wonderful to me. Actually, I feel so sad and concerned because one of the kids in my church has died because of careless parents and an uncaring church.

“However after I learned one lesson about good health I started to realize that I am missing some part of taking care of my church. I care about the spiritual things but I never think about the physical. But this lesson motivates me to think about good health which involves spiritual, physical, social, and relationships (shalom). Good relationships is the part that I really love because it helps me to reflect about where I am right now. A good relationship is the source of good health.

“There are four parts of good relationships which are self, others, environment, and God. So, this lesson guides me to think about God’s ministry. After this training, I have a plan to train my church members to know about CHE [the program of moral lessons that we use] and develop my church and community. One village that I need to start in is named Tro Peang Ro Pove. In that village the people have no higher education and they never care about their family plan or children. I know it will be hard to develop and change their thoughts but I surely know that God is with me and I can do all things through Christ.”

This godly man has cared for the people of God for years, but never knew how to reach out into the community and begin to change the lives of the people in the broken places that they live. Alcoholism, unemployment, parental neglect and ignorance stalk the villages of South-East Asia like a plague. Simply preaching the gospel “at” these people is not enough to bring about change. Throwing money at the problem that simply disappears into the hands of the greedy and dissolute doesn’t help either. Change needs to come from the community itself.

That is what wholistic ministry seeks to do. What I seek to do is to bring many groups together using the resources of the country itself to bring about that wholistic change. It is a daunting and sometimes thankless task filled with misunderstanding and frustration. A new title is not going to change that reality. But it does give me a new place to stand. I would appreciate your prayers.