by Robert L. Niklaus
Reports from around the world.
CAMBODIA: Never Again the Same
Should Communist-supported Prince Norodom Sihanouk return to Cambodia ‘Khmer Republic) he would find a drastically altered Protestant church scene. When he was deposed as head-of-state by a military coup in 1970, the capital city of Phnom Penh had only one small church of seventy members. Now there are nine churches and over six hundred enthusiastic believers. Recent converts include the chief justice of the supreme court, a high government official responsible for all historical sites in Cambodia, and the senior military officer responsible for the defense of the capital.
It was no coincidence that the spiritual awakening occurred shortly after Sihanouk’s fall from power. He had subtly encouraged the people to believe he was the savior long promised by Buddhist tradition and prophecy. His downfall created a critical crisis of confidence among many Buddhists. The youth especially began showing interest in the Gospel.
The Cambodian Evangelical Church, freed from persecution under the Sihanouk regime, became vocal and visible in their witness. Public rallies climaxed in 1972 when over 3,000 Cambodians declared themselves Christians during two rallies with Dr. Stanley Mooneyham of World Vision, Inc. Nearly 4,000 decisions were registered by the year’s end – six times more than the total church membership after forty-nine years of evangelism.
Many of the professed converts were not heard from again. But the Christians persisted in following up results of the rallies, and in personal witness. One school teacher led fifty adults to the Lord and started a new church in his area of Phnom Penh.
The principal missionary force until deportation in 1965 was the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The military regime which ousted Sihanouk welcomed the Alliance back in 1970. Together with the Evangelical Church of Cambodia, and World Vision Inc., the missionaries organized medical and refugee relief work. They also launched a crash program to train Christian lay leaders. But in August of 1973, the military situation forced them out of the country again.
Although Roman Catholic missionaries worked in Cambodia for many years, 90% of their converts came from the sizeable Vietnamese community living in the country. After the fall of Sihanouk the Cambodians turned on the Vietnamese and forced many to flee the country. The exodus left the Catholic Church in Cambodia with few supporters.
A Communist regime would surely mean trouble for the church, just as did the Sihanouk regime. Key laymen and pastors would be special targets. But the few years of religious freedom under the Lon Nol government enabled the Evangelical Church to become stronger and larger than ever. The country can never again be the same. Those short years of the reopened door let in too much light.
EUROPE: More Evangelism Than Ever
Robert P. Evans, European director of the Greater Europe Mission
(GEM) looked over the continental situation in June and noted, “I am encouraged to note more evangelistic activity in Europe than ever before.” Response has been encouraging too.
David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade, toured nineteen European cities and spoke to over 90,000 people. Nearly 5,500 young people responded to the invitation to “give God 100 percent of your life.” GEM reported that in several cities multiple services were held to accommodate the crowds. The final rally in downtown Oslo attracted 10,000 people. Teen Challenge, founded by Wilkerson and specializing an rehabilitation of drug addicts, now works in sixty European cities.
Lyon, France, was the object of a united evangelical effort. They invited an evangelistic team from the European Bible Institute to conduct the tenday campaign. An average 600 people attended each evening, and attendance reached 1000 during the final meetings. Over 100 professed salvation.
Paris as well received special evangelistic witness. The French Assemblies of God plan to reach the 10 million people of greater Paris with a gospel witness. Already the original goal of visiting 100,000 homes has been reached; over 110,00 Gospels of John were distributed. The Assemblies are now going after the remaining 1.9 million unvisited homes. Kenneth Ware, coordinator of the effort, estimates that one Parisian in twenty seven has never seen a Bible.
A shorter, larger effort was made by Operation Mobilization which brought in 1000 youth from six European countries as well as France. They mounted a massive poster campaign and put salvation tracts into mailboxes throughout Paris’ twenty zones.
Europe is to experience even more evangelistic attention. A major Billy Graham Crusade will visit Lisbon, Portugal, in June of 1974. The crusade planners are considering the rental of a 35,000-seat stadium. Efforts are already underway which will give the crusade maximum effect. NUCLEO, a Portuguese literature group, is working to reach every home in Lisbon with the gospel. Over 100,000 homes have already been visited.
Another evangelistic approach to Europe will come through the air waves. Trans World Radio has signed a contract leasing a megawatt (one million watt) AM transmitter . The new unit, owned and operated by Radio Monte Carlo, will go into operation in mid-1974. The new station will broadcast on an AM band during prime evening and night hours.
Another development – not directly related to evangelism, but essential to it – is the opening of a new theological seminary in Seeheim, Germany. It will be the first interdenominational and evangelical seminary founded in Germany. The Greater Europe Mission which sponsors the school says it will “seek to maintain the academic level of other German faculties of theology, but biblical inerrancy will form the keystone of the seminary’s theological position.”
Germany badly needs such a school. For the first time since the Reformation, Protestant church membership has declined to less than half (49%) of the West German population. Roman Catholics account for 44.6% of the people. Some authorities think the Protestant decline is partially due to a growing revolt of the public against the traditional church tax.
ECUADOR: Indian Uprising in the Spirit
News of an Indian uprising stirs grotesque mental images among Hollywood-conditioned people. And the Quichua Indians of Ecuador could add a few lines and scenes Hollywood never thought of. Generations of exploitation by outsiders and their “fire water” have turned the Quichuas extremely volatile and suspicious of change.
But the Gospel Missionary Union in Chimborazo Province of Ecuador has witnessed an entirely different kind of rising up. Quichua Christians numbered only 315 baptized members among eleven congregations in 1968. By the end of 1972, 956 baptisms helped swell the fifty congregations to 2,356 baptized members, 4,300 believers and a total community of ten thousand.
Other missions hope the movement will spread among the eight to ten million Quichuas living in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. An adjoining mission in Ecuador did sense some stirrings this year. Instead of the usual six or eight conversions in Agato, sixty were baptized.
One factor contributing to this remarkable church growth was a switch in tactics by the GMU missionaries and Quichua believers. Instead of lingering around the outskirts of Quichua community life and hoping to pick up a few fringe people, the Christians started going first and directly to the influential community leaders. Once their approval was secured, the entire community opened up.
But missionary Henry Klassen cited smother strong factor of response in a Church Growth Bulletin: persecution. He listed four incidents in the past few years where missionaries and local believers were severely beaten by fanatic Indians enflamed in some cases by liquor supplied by the local Roman Catholic priest. He then observed that in each case of persecution, growth and blessing in the local church followed.
The most recent outbreak of violence occurred in July at the GMU Colts station. The police moved in and opened fire on the mob. The local priest blamed the Protestants for causing the trouble through their divisive teachings.
Given the pattern of previous similar events, the Colts area can soon expect to see accelerated church growth.
AFRICA: Mounting Hostility Toward Jehovah Witnesses
In mid-1973 Kenya joined the growing list of African nations banning Jehovah Witness bands. Gabon, Cameroon, Zambia, Guinea, Zaire, Tanzania and other black African countries have also banned or restricted the religious sect.
Kenyan members of the sect have not reacted with the same fear that drove an estimated 20,000 Malawi Witnesses into Zambia when the ruling party adopted stern resolutions against them. But since Zambia had already banned the Jehovah Witnesses, the refugees were declared unwelcome and sent forcibly back to Malawi on Army trucks.
The chief contention between the religious group and African governments centers on political involvement, according to a spokesman of the international headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a matter of conscience, Jehovah Witnesses refuse to participate in any political activity or carry cards of any political group.
Since the Bantu philosophical universe sees religion and government as integral parts of a whole, African leaders reject the Witness’ distinction between spiritual and political. Some leaders accuse the sect of perpetuating Western ideology harmful to African nationalism and it is therefore subversive.
Strict adherence to the principle of political neutrality by the Jehovah Witnesses can be counted upon to cause them more trouble as the pattern of militant one-party rule spreads through other African countries.
AFERICASIA: Getting Together
The 200-plus mission agencies of the Third World have been rarely noticed and never united. Sixty-five representatives from several of these groups met at Fuller Seminary in May to find ways of working together. They founded the Afericasia (for Africa, Latin America and Asia) Mission Advance Fellowship.
The primary objective of AMAF is “to advance the cause of world evangelization by intensifying the evangelistic and missionary efforts in the Third World by its own nationals.” A Korean representative said he knew of “one hundred Koreans ready to move into full time missionary service but they need proper training and adequate missionary structures to be effective. AMAF is designed to meet such needs.”
A Japanese churchman said later that whereas only a few missionaries now go from Japan, mission-minded Japanese Christians are planning to send out a thousand.
Samuel Kim of Korea was elected chairman of the new board. Other officers were drawn from Japan, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Dr. Donald McGavran of Fuller Seminary’s School of Word Mission likened the beginnings of AMAF to the famed Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1808 which sparked a powerful student missionary movement. Considering the diminishing value of American and British currencies to finance overseas church work, and considering the increasing missionary candidate shortage in these two countries historically leaders in missionary enterprise, McGavran may be right. Is God raising up the next wave of witnesses to sweep through the world?
SOUTH KOREA: Spiritual Super Power?
“Apparently the largest gathering in church history,” commented Christianity Today. The occasion was the final day of Billy Graham’s Seoul Crusade in Korea on June 3. Close to 1.1 million attended the rally, bringing total attendance to 3.2 million for the five-day campaign. Another 1.5 million heard Graham’s associate evangelists in six provincial cities.
Almost all the 1,600 Protestant churches in Seoul supported the crusade. The Christians prayed for many weeks and then two weeks before the meetings, nearly 40,000 Christians from 6,142 churches distributed literature to every home in Seoul (population: 6.6 million).
The record-breaking rally attendance is only one event in a country which some think is becoming a spiritual super power. A spiritual awakening has begun in the South Korean army. In 1970, 12 percent of the army was Christian. In 1972 the total jumped to 35 percent. About 140,000 servicemen have been converted and baptized in the past two years. Three-fifths of the 5,000 student military academy have professed faith in Christ.
This soldier movement began in 1970 when General Shin Han, commander of the First Army – and himself a Buddhist encouraged evangelism among his troops because he observed that Christians make the best soldiers.
Although some conversions are probably due more to the spirit of competition ‘between army units and officers than to the Holy Spirit, Army Chief of Chaplains Joon Sup Han estimates that one-half were converted through reading the New Testament. The Korean Gideons are now raising funds for one million Testaments to distribute to every serviceman in the armed forces.
Robert T. Coote of Eternity magazine warns against the dangers inherent in a Christianity become “the thing to do,” and encouraged by military leaders for political purposes. But he also points out how significant this evangelistic effort can be in light of universal military training: “every single Korean young man during his three year service in the military will have opportunity to hear the claims of the Gospel of Christ.”
The movement among the military has a counterpart among the civilian population. Dr. Kim Choon-Gon, Korean director for Campus Crusade for Christ directed the selection of 13,715 village leaders and teachers from every district in Korea. After they completed the intensive 58-hour curriculum of a week-long leadership training institute, they were sent back to their villages with a specific goal: evangelize the nation’s 59,000 villages within the next three years. Each trainee vowed publically not to rest until Christ was known throughout the nation.
The massive Village Plan will get a big assist next year when Campus Crusade will hold Explo 74 in Seoul. More than 300,000 Koreans are expected to attend the leadership training week.
In addition, Korea will be the first country to receive help from the Agape Movement, Campus Crusade’s mobilization of Christians with vocational skills to “share the love of God in action as well as in word.” The Korean government has invited a corps of 1000 Agape members to teach English from the Bible and Campus Crusade material.
Some observers predict that by such efforts Korea will be 80% Christian by 1980. According to Dr. Graham, the Korean church’s doubling in size every ten years makes it the world’s fastest growing church. These statistics lend weight to his conviction that “perhaps the gravitational center of Christianity is now moving to the Far East.”
According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, the South Korean government last summer arrested four Christian leaders and referred 11 others to summary court. The Seoul district prosecutor’s office, in announcing the arrests July 6, charged the four with planning an anti-government revolt.
Those arrested included the respected pastor of the First Seoul Presbyterian Church, Park Hyong Kyu; an evangelist of the church, Kwon Ho Kyung; and a young former staff member of the opposition New Democratic Party, Nam Sam-u.
The 11 were subsequently released, but as of mid-August Mr. Park and the others were still an prison.
The timing of the arrests appears to have been planned carefully, as the charges concern an incident that took place more than two months prior to the arrests. On April 22, at an Easter sunrise service in Seoul’s South Mountain Park, some anti-government leaflets – 400, according to the announcement – were distributed in the crowd of worshippers.
The prosecution charged, however, that the four Christians were plotting a coup and attempted to lead demonstrators to occupy the capitol building, the KBS broadcasting station, and other government buildings.
At the time, the government’s failure to arrest the leaflet distributors was taken as a sign that the government was a little more relaxed about criticism. From the declaration of martial law until then, the South Korean Government had more or less treated Christian leaders with kid gloves. Korean undercover agents harassed ministers who implied from the pulpit that Christians must stand up for freedom, according to Protestant sources in Seoul.
But sentence was left hanging for months in the case of one Presbyterian minister arrested late last year in Chonju. And one prominent Roman Catholic bishop was released from house arrest earlier this year.
The arrests last summer may indicate that the government relaxation was only temporary, however – possibly to create a good impression during evangelist Billy Graham’s visit to Seoul.
Copyright © 1973 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.