Imagine the challenge of catering food for the largest convention center on earth. Within this vast building housands of different groups are meeting, and they all need to be fed.
Feeding the 5,000 Times 500,000
Serving the four largest unreached population groups
By James H. Park
Imagine the challenge of catering food for the largest convention center on earth. Within this vast building housands of different groups are meeting, and they all need to be fed. The people are hungry, you have good food, but there is a huge problem. Despite doing your very best to feed that hungry throng, rarely do any of the multitudes show even the slightest interest in your best recipes! So one day your tiny catering company gets word from the world headquarters that special funds2 will be made available to select and train 60 chefs over a five-year period.3 The goal is to come up with tasty dishes for each of four major groups that are meeting in the convention center.4
Creating Local Cuisine
By now you must have realized that this article is really not about a real catering company or the training of chefs. Rather it chronicles a God-guided initiative to reach four major groups, Buddhists, Chinese, Muslims, and urban dwellers located in Asia. It is also the story of a small educational institution, the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS), located in the Philippines, dreaming big and being blessed with special funds from the tithe blessings received at the General Conference in 2007.
By a miracle of God’s grace, the first class begins on Monday, September 20, 2010, with exactly 60 pastors. The best chefs, professors, from all over the world are brought in to teach the students how to prepare tasty food for each of the groups. About a third of the students focus on spreading tasty treats for Buddhists, a third zero in on ringing the Chinese cuisine bell, and a third go to town trying to figure out what would delight the appetite of Muslims.
While three of the years are spent together on the central campus, one of the annual gatherings found the Buddhist’s chefs in Bangkok, Thailand, the Chinese cooks in Hong Kong, and the Muslim menu makers in Jakarta, Indonesia. They spent six weeks trying to catch the tastes of the urban dwellers and hone their cooking skills together. The pastor chefs were divided into small groups to create simple and easy-to-use recipes for the millions of member chefs that are trying their best to feed the group of more than 2.5 billion (5,000 times 500,000)5 hungry, unreached people in the convention center.
Many missionaries from various denominations have spent more than 100 years trying to interest native Thai Buddhist people in Christian food with little or no success. Billions of people in China have never even met one Christian in their entire life. Such high theological and sociological barriers have been erected between ristianity and Islam that providing loving service has become extremely challenging.
On top of these challenges, the limits of a tiny Adventist presence in that vast constituency make our attempt to cater a meal in the 10/40 window like putting a small table of food out in the parking lot during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl or the second half of the World Cup soccer final. Consider the figures from an abbreviated table noted in the General Conference’s 2012 Annual Statistical Report, which shows how small our footprint is in this vast and extremely diverse area:6 Until a few years ago, the only way to produce attractive, colorful brochures and materials (appropriate to interest the local population) was to engage a publisher with a big printing press that needed to run many thousands of copies.
With the advent of the laptop and the affordable inkjet printers now available in Asia, local pastors can create and print materials for the extremely low cost of 500 copies per US$1. Therefore, this print revolution has led to a dramatic decentralization of the production of materials. Local chefpastors, many of them with master’s degrees, should be encouraged to start making “dishes” for their own local communities. This creation of local, contextualized materials is exactly what Jesus did when He walked and taught in Israel. According to Ellen White, “the prince of teachers, [Jesus] sought access to the people by the pathway of their most familiar associations.”7
The Big 4 Student Projects
As part of the creative process of focusing upon the challenges of the Big 4 communities within the 10/40 window, each student had to develop either an individual or a group project of contextualized materials for their particular ministry situation. In 2013 AIIAS professors visited all of the students in their field in order to ascertain the challenges and help guide them in the selection and development of an appropriate project.
Each student or group had to write a concise academic paper that explained the principles they used to develop the materials. Professors evaluated each project (including the paper and the developed material) and signed an approval sheet. Following the completion of their projects, Big 4 students put on a successful ministry
fair on the campus of AIIAS on March 6, 2014, that led to more discussion of creative ministry approaches and inspired other students to think creatively of contextualized mission.
Some of the best projects were later presented to Adventist world leaders during the Annual Council’s focus on evangelism on October 11, 2014. Here is an overview of some of the projects, which were developed and are currently being used to reach out to the peoples of the 10/40 window.
Mongolia: Rainbow Bible Study Guides: These introductory Bible study guides were developed by a pastor from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This is the first set of Bible study lessons developed for the newly emerging field of Mongolia, and is based on the colors of the rainbow. The rainbow has deep cultural meaning in Mongolia, and each of the different colors illustrate a biblical truth. Thailand: Small Group Training Materials: These small group training materials were developed by three pastors from Thailand. Sensing the need of developing small groups in the urban centers of Thailand, these pastors created dynamic, contextualized materials to train pastors and
members in starting and nurturing small groups. Reaching Chinese Shanghai: The Year of the Horse Bible Studies: This is a bound book of Bible studies developed and printed by the wife of a principal of a Seventhday Adventist music school in Shanghai, China. The studies are based on the year of the horse and are wonderfully
illustrated and printed locally. Indonesia: Chinese Family Network Goal Device: The pastor of a Chinese church in Makassar City, Indonesia, built a device that attempts to capitalize on the extensive family networks within Chinese communities.
Through this device his Chinese members are encouraged to list all their immediate and extended family members and pray and work for their conversion.
Malaysia: China the Wonderland: This engaging resource was developed by a student from Malaysia. It features a complete Vacation Bible School program in both Chinese and English based on famous landmarks of mainland China with a vibrant program, songs, crafts, and teacher guide.
Philippines: The Eight Big Blessings: These eight colorful brochures were developed by two college teachers and a staff worker for Philippine Frontier Mission. These brochures take the traditional Chinese blessings such as wealth, family, and prosperity and give them a more genuine spiritual and biblical basis.
Reaching Muslims Indonesia: Bible Study Guides: Four pastors from Indonesia developed a highly contextualized series of Bible studies based on a folk hero of a minority people of central Java. They also filled an inexpensive MP3 player with local songs and materials to give lessons to people who are unable to read. Indonesia: Javanese Folk Puppet Show: A pastor developed a wonderful outreach based on traditional local puppets, which are still extremely popular in the open-air markets. Taking as his point of departure wellknown traditional stories, he has transformed these stories in ways so that people can begin to understand the basics of faith. Malaysia: Famous Food Bible Studies: A worker from the Sarawak Mission created a colorful and creative study tool featuring famous foods from his region. A background of the food is given, as well as a picture and the recipe. Spiritual lessons are then drawn from the food, providing a unique avenue to engage the local population.
OLD AND NEW: This very creative approach taken by a pastor in Indonesia uses wellknown traditional Javanese folk puppets and traditional stories with a new twist that plants the seed of faith.
Philippines: Muslim Student Outreach: A Filipino pastor, together with a college administrator, created a series of lectures for students of a major Muslim university in the southern Philippines called Ayat Allah (“Verses of Allah”). Through these 12 lectures, which includ a professional handout with a test, Muslim students are introduced to genuine spirituality through verses of the Koran.
Looking Toward the Future
The original Big 4 funding provided a budget for the rollout of these projects. AIIAS has been working diligently with the students and various Adventist Church departments within the region to make sure the students and projects are properly supported. Through careful management of the original funding, US$150,000 was left over to implement the rollout of the projects and add to the AIIAS library acquisitions in this area.
The 2014 Metro Manila outreach with General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson was strongly supported by providing training modules. Major research into nderstanding and ministering to Buddhists during their funeral services has already begun. Three years will be given to develop a specific curriculum for Buddhists, Chinese, and the work with Muslims in the 10/40 window. A cost-sharing plan has been developed between the Big 4 program, the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and the Center for East Asian Religions, located in Bangkok, Thailand, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the funds.
The project also envisions annual training programs for pastors in Myanmar, mainland China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In Indonesia, pastors will be taught how to better understand Muslims and present God’s love in this particular context. Many years ago, at the end of a very long day of ministry, Jesus asked His weary disciples to feed 5,000 men (plus women and children) in a remote place. With time fast running out, all they were able to muster was a boy’s half-stale lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish. But as their humble human hands placed that meager meal into the mighty miracle hands of Jesus, there was a brilliant flash of Genesis creative power, and the tiny pittance was multiplied until “they all ate and were filled” (Matt. 14:20).
The sun is about to set on the big convention center. There are billions to feed, and our resources are scant. Let’s bring with the same faith whatever we have and place it in the nailpierced hands of Jesus, who can infinitely multiply the tiniest morsel into warm, fresh loaves to feed the 5,000 times 500,000.
James H. Park, is professor of discipleship and mission in the Applied Theology Department of AIIAS and also serves as director of the Big 4 project. He ministered in the Los Angeles area for 25 years before accepting a call to teach at the Theological Seminary of AIIAS.
1 The Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) is a General Conference institution located near Manila in the Philippines. It offers graduate degrees in business, education, health, and religion.
2 AIIAS wrote a proposal in 2009 to receive specially designated tithe funds to educate 60 pastors and develop materials for Asia.
3 This program, which involved AIIAS giving a master’s in ministry to 60 pastors, was called the Big 4 project because it gave practical instruction on how to reach Buddhists, Chinese, Muslims, and Urban dwellers within the 10/40 window.
4 For an excellent article citing the immense challenges facing the SDA Church in the 10/40 window, please read Mark A. Kellner, “Statistics Reveal Massive Adventist Missions Challenge, Leaders Say,” at http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6675/archives/issue-2013-1527/27-cn-statistics-reveal-massiveadventist-missions-challenge-leaders-say.
5 While there are currently almost 5 billion people living in the 10/40 window, half of these, or 2.5 billion (5,000 times 500,000), are considered “unreached.” See the Joshua Project for an excellent overview of the number of unreached peoples at http://joshuaproject.net.
7 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, are introduced to genuine spirituality through verses of the Koran.