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Serving where belief matters

CMS missionaries Ian and Narelle Hadfield have served in church-based ministries in Australia and South East Asia for several decades. In this article Ian shares how the population and people groups within our region need to hear the gospel of grace.

There are over 680 million people living in the nations of South East Asia, which is approximately 8.5% of the total world’s population. The people of this region need Jesus and the Church in these nations needs help to strengthen their growing Christian witness. Australia’s neighbouring countries in South East Asia are populated by followers of the world’s major religions. Indonesia, for example, is the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world with Malaysia and Brunei also being majority Muslim. Buddhism is the majority religion in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Hinduism is in the majority in nearby India, and is also the religion that most people follow in Bali. Catholicism is the dominant faith in the Philippines and Timor-Leste.  

Religion in South East Asia is part of a person’s identity, much more so than in Australia. This means having spiritual discussions in Asia is so much easier than having a conversation about faith in Australia.

The broader region of Asia contains the top three most religiously diverse nations in the world. Singapore, where we serve, is the most diverse, Taiwan (East Asia) is second, followed by Vietnam at number three. 

Drawn to serve in Asia 

We have been serving the Lord, CMS Australia and the Church in South East Asia and East Asia for almost 15 years—nine years in Indonesia, three years in Hong Kong and almost three years so far in Singapore. In each of these locations we have been working in international churches which are attended by local Christians but also believers from all around the world, including various countries throughout South East Asia.  

Where faith and religion matter 

One of the great advantages of serving in Asia is that religion is important to people. When you fly with Indonesia’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia, the inflight magazine features six prayers to pray before you take off, one prayer for each official religion.  

To be an Indonesian is to be religious—you must have a religion stated on your identity card, you cannot have ‘no religion’. Religion in many parts of South East Asia is part of a person’s identity, much more so than in Australia. This means having spiritual discussions here is so much easier than having a conversation about faith in Australia. In South East Asia there is a greater awareness of the supernatural, ghosts, curses and the presence of evil, again making it easier to talk to others about the Lordship of Christ. Our neighbours need to know Jesus.  

Singapore and beyond 

We are currently serving in the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, which is passionately working towards seeing viable Christian Churches in the six neighbouring nations of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam. The ministries in these countries are offshoots of the Anglican Church in Singapore and are known as deaneries. We actively support church in these countries as they show practical Christian love to people. 

I serve with the deanery in Laos, which means overseeing the work of ministries like ARDA (Anglican Relief and Development Agency). ARDA runs four languages centres, providing classes in English and Lao languages, as well as a skills centre, which teaches vocational skills like plumbing, carpentry, electrical trades and domestic help. Each of these centres are staffed by Christians, local and international, who share their faith with their students. Hope Centre is another Anglican ministry which cares for children who have been abused, orphaned or are vulnerable. God is at work through these ministries to show his love to the people of Laos in practical ways. 

Each of the six Deanery nations, supported by Singapore, need people who love Jesus and will bear witness to God’s life-changing love. Could you come and serve with CMS in South East Asia for a world that knows Jesus? 

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Christians can serve in a diversity of roles in South East Asia from parish-based ministry to allied health roles. Contact your local CMS branch to see how you could participate in God’s work in this region.