First-Ever Asia-Pacific International Conference

First-Ever Asia-Pacific International Conference

As May came to a close, Wesleyan church leaders and pastors from more than 20 countries gathered together in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the first ever Asia-Pacific International Conference of the Wesleyan Church. It was historic and felt as such, as many leaders met and greeted one another for the first time, or reconnected with some they don’t often get to see.

The conference was centered around the theme “Stronger Together,” igniting a vision for these leaders to work together in the efforts of extending God’s Kingdom across the least reached, most densely populated continent in the world.

Powerful worship and prayer time flooded the room with a variety of languages and cultures. Some remarked that it was truly a taste of heaven.

And for these leaders, who are serving in one of the most unreached areas of the world, it was especially sweet simply to be among fellow Christian leaders.

Rev. Anup Salve, lead pastor of Kingdom Connection Church in central India, said he really enjoyed the fellowship among leaders throughout the conference. It was particularly meaningful to fully see and understand that he is part of a big, Wesleyan family.

“My church started nine years back, and I used to feel alone … but now I feel it’s a big family of Wesleyans,” he said.

During main sessions, the group heard from a variety of leaders who shared stories of joyful successes, painful struggles and devastating persecution. In these church reports, vulnerability brought people together in rejoicing, in sorrow and in prayer.

Several pastors and leaders from the Wesleyan Church of Mongolia attended the conference, including Rev. Tsetsegee, Rev. Anhaa and Pastor Enkhjargal. They said that hearing these reports from other churches in the Asia-Pacific regions was a valuable learning experience. Meeting so many Wesleyan brothers and sisters in person created a fire in their hearts to begin praying for the various churches.

Throughout the week, discussion groups gathered to explore a variety of topics – like how to reach and empower the next generation, how to send missionaries from Asia-Pacific cultural contexts, an approach to developing a contextualized Discipline and more.

In addition to meeting one another, worshiping God and discussing ministerial topics – these leaders began to brainstorm and dream of ways their churches can partner with each other. It was these dreams and connections, perhaps, that were some of the most exciting things to take shape.

Fijian-born Rev. Atu Lagi, who serves as the assistant national superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand, and as the regional secretary for the South Pacific region, said that learning how other countries have been pursuing global missions was a helpful experience for him.

After the conference, he said he felt the need to take missions more seriously and to encourage his church to do the same. In fact, after meeting and getting to know pastors from Indonesia, he hopes to stay in touch and begin sending short-term teams their way within the next year.

“I just felt we need to take the next step,” he explained. “So, we’re looking forward to Indonesia!”

Rev. Lex Akers, district superintendent of the New South Wales district in Australia, also enjoyed making new connections. One exciting connection he made was with a couple from India who is interested in planting a satellite church in Australia, to reach the growing number of Indians there.

Some leaders also experienced a level of conviction as they heard about the struggles of reaching the unreached, and were reminded of the urgent calling Christ gave to “go” and proclaim the Good News.

Darla*, a missionary serving in India, recalled a moment on the last day when a leader from the Philippines stood to share what the Lord had placed on his heart during the week spent together. Earlier in the week, he shared about the success The Philippines Wesleyan Church has had with expanding and church planting, but took this moment to confess to the delegates from South Asia that he hadn’t considered beyond the Philippines. Then, he asked for forgiveness.

“As he spoke, he was overcome with emotion,” Darla recounted. “… He left the conference with his eyes open to the spiritual need beyond the Philippines and with a greater burden to fulfill the Great Commission.”

While together, an Asia-Pacific Missional Advisory Council was elected by three different regional caucuses. Made up of nine individuals, the council will exist as a sounding board for the leaders in the Asia-Pacific regions and will continue to discuss how to best work together, to see the Asia-Pacific area reached.

Those elected include Rev. Kong Sithan (Cambodia), Pastor Enkhjargal (Mongolia), Rev. Nathaniel Sulis (Bougainville), Rev. Sitta Sibro (Indonesia), Rev. Silveriano Lumahan (Philippines), Mrs. Seema* (a member of the International Board), Rev. Ben Ward (GP Asia-Pacific Area Director), Rev. Cedric Rodrigo (Sri Lanka) and Dr. Victor* (South Asia).

“Can you believe we get to do this together?” Dennis Jackson, executive director of Global Partners asked the crowd, smiling, as the conference began to wind down. “We get to do this together. We get to be a part of God’s kingdom. We get to be a part of salvations happening not only in this region, but around the world. We get to be a part of God’s work.”

*Last names omitted due to security guidelines.