At the Southern Asia-Pacific Division ministerial advisory, Jonas Arrais had the opportunity to talk with leaders from each union, discovering the challenges they face, the commitment of the church members to the church’s mission, and how pastors and local church elders are working together. We hope this information will help you in your commitment as church leaders.

Houtman E. Sinaga
Southern Asia-Pacific Division Ministerial Secretary

This division is comprised of eight unions and two fields, with more than 6,000 churches and 1 million members. A population of over 720 million—distributed across Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam, Myanmar, and other territories—makes this division diverse with culture. 

Edison Pandjaitan
West Indonesia Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 636
Members: 102,603
Population: 119,117,390
Primary religion: Islam
Church elders: Approximately 1,300
Pastors: 426

A major challenge in our union involves reaching urban areas, where people practice a more materialistic lifestyle. Obtaining government permits to build church buildings is also a major issue. We challenge our pastors to train local church leaders and laity to conduct evangelistic meetings on their own.

Ventje Lumowa
East Indonesia Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 634
Members: 92,471
Population: 22,814,619
Primary religions: Islam, Protestant, Catholic
Church elders: Approximately 1,500
Pastors: 294

Our main challenge as a union is to reach the Muslim people. They comprise approximately 80 percent of Indonesia’s population. Conversion to Christianity is punishable by death in the Muslim culture, and public evangelism is forbidden in their communities. We are training pastors and church elders to reach Muslim people for Christ.

Edward P. Chambugong
Bangladesh Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 105
Members: 24,320
Population: 144,233,000
Primary religions: Islam, Buddhist, Hindu
Church elders: Approximately 110
Pastors: 28

Penetrating Muslim areas and involving lay people in the evangelistic work are real challenges for us. Open evangelistic meetings are prohibited by the government. The government frequently asks what the church is doing and teaching. As pastors, we are training local elders— not only in how to care for the church, but also how to be involved in home cell-group ministry. Church leaders are doing a great job giving Bible studies and visiting church members. We need to recognize their work, provide additional training, and prepare supportive materials.

Caleb Paw
Myanmar Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 204
Members: 24,853
Population: 50,519,000
Primary religions: Buddhist, Hindu, Christians
Church elders: Approximately 125
Pastors: 92, and 65 licensed ministers

We need freedom of worship. Sabbath worship cannot be held regularly in the same place. We are not allowed to hold evangelistic meetings or build new churches. We cannot operate our schools. Almost all examinations and tests in public schools take place on the Sabbath. Church members are faithful, but they lose the chance to study. Our pastors and elders face huge challenges as spiritual church leaders. We would like to provide more training for laymen in areas such as preaching, giving Bible studies, and counseling.

J. William Reith
Sri Lanka Mission Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 36
Members: 3,480
Population: 19,722,000
Primary religions: Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christians
Church elders: 36
Pastors: 14, and 11 licensed ministers

Our challenges are with the Buddhist and Hindu resistance to the gospel. It is a challenge to involve lay members in evangelistic programs. We have been training local elders to prepare sermons and give Bible studies. The field recognizes the important role of church elders and the necessity of getting them to work in harmony with the Church Manual and mission policy.

Francisco D. Gayoba
North Philippine Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 1,290
Members: 187,924
Population: 52,427,153
Primary religions: Christians, primarily Roman Catholics, comprise nearly 80 percent of the population
Church elders: Approximately 4,500
Pastors: 256

The main spiritual challenge in our Union is to equip pastors and elders to nurture spiritual growth. We also have to train them for evangelism in a growing secularized context. Through their worship programs, visitations, and evangelism, they must renew and redirect church life. Doing this provides a more effective method of discipleship for everyday church members.

Agapito Catane, Jr
Central Philippine Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: Nearly 1,500
Members: 107,000
Population: 14,647,392
Primary religions: Christians, primarily Roman Catholics, comprise almost 80 percent of the population
Church elders: Approximately 4,200
Pastors: 159

Local church elders have fostered the spiritual needs of members by preaching and visiting. They are also involved in leading the evangelistic thrust of the church. The field recognizes the work of these elders in many ways and supports them by providing good resource materials and conducting leadership training whenever possible.

Leonardo R. Asoy
South Philippine Union Ministerial Secretary

Churches: Nearly 1,900
Members: 432,321
Population: 17,690,455
Primary religions: Christians, primarily Roman Catholics and Islam in some areas
Church elders: Approximately 7,500
Pastors: 259

Our main spiritual challenge is the influence of secularism. People are easily influenced by the current trend of being worldly. We need to decrease the apostasy in our midst, and local leaders are important in this process. They are preaching, visiting members, and doing evangelism. We need to offer them more training and workshops to maintain their spiritual focus.

Smehl Gallen
Guam-Micronesia Mission Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 22
Members: 4,112
Population: 437,000
Primary religion: Christianity
Church elders: 60
Pastors: 17

Our territory’s population is very materialistic. They see religion as a second choice. In our culture, people tend to retain the beliefs of their parents and grandparents; they do not readily accept new beliefs. Church elders work actively with pastors to face these challenges. We are also trying to provide additional materials and information to support their ministry

Elton Lee Ki-Plin
Southeast Asia Union Mission Ministerial Secretary

Churches: 296
Members: 73,178
Population: 198,340,000
Primary religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism and Christianity
Church elders: Approximately 2,000
Pastors: 177

We face many challenges in our Union: diversity of languages and cultures, lack of freedom in some countries, diverse teachings, and limited theological training for many of our pastors. Local elders are helping to translate English materials into the Malay, Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodian languages.