by Roy S. Askins
The Asia region of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has based its operations in Hong Kong for the last 10 years.
Recently, our leadership team in Asia, together with the Office of International Mission leaders in St. Louis, revived an ongoing discussion regarding the relocation of the regional operations office to reduce costs and increase the church’s effectiveness in reaching the lost.
After carefully weighing the options, it was decided, with the blessing of the Synod’s Board of Directors, to move the Asia region headquarters to Chiayi, Taiwan, Republic of China.
Good, responsible, biblical stewardship calls for the LCMS to regularly evaluate its mission strategies to ensure that it uses its limited resources in the most productive ways to preach Christ and Him crucified.
The decision to relocate our Asia operations center from Hong Kong to Taiwan already has freed up mission dollars for better use in the region and will continue to do so into the future. Although this is a significant benefit, it is not the only one.
Operating from Taiwan will encourage and build up the LCMS partner church in that republic, the China Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC).
At its peak, the CELC had more than 25 congregations; it now has 12. As the church recovers from a period of struggle, it needs help in rebuilding scattered congregations through faithful preaching and teaching.
Rev. Andrew Miao, president of the CELC, welcomes the new transition.
He wrote: “I’m very glad that our synod can provide the Luther Building in Chiayi for the use of the LCMS Asia office location. I not only welcome this move, but also look forward to better and increased cooperation and partnership with the LCMS in the work of the Gospel here.”
The pastors and church members of the CELC repeatedly have asked for catechetical instruction, particularly in southern Taiwan where the regional office will be located.
Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, missionary and theological educator in Taiwan, concurs: “The CELC needs help building up congregations,” he said, noting that the church body recently started to recover lost church properties. “They need pastors to come and preach and administer the sacraments. They need pastors to teach the catechism.”
Dr. Paul also shared that the other Lutheran church bodies in Taiwan are open to receiving theological support from the LCMS. For example, recently, Christian leaders from various denominations attended two theological seminars conducted by visiting LCMS theologians. The new facility can serve as a place to offer future seminars and workshops.
In addition, LCMS involvement at China Lutheran Seminary (CLS) allows us to reach even beyond Taiwan to Chinese people worldwide.
Paul said, “As the only Mandarin-speaking Lutheran seminary in the world, there are many ways that China Lutheran Seminary can influence Chinese Lutheranism beyond Taiwan.”
The Same Mission with Greater Capacity
The work outside of Taiwan—including in Hong Kong and mainland China—will remain largely unchanged.
Rev. Charles Ferry, LCMS regional director for Asia, stated, “We remain committed to supporting our partners in the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod.
“We also remain committed to placing personnel in Hong Kong as their vocations demand,” he added. “Our church partners in Hong Kong and surrounding communities will notice no interruption in our work together.”
At the same time, the Luther Building in Taiwan, provided by the CELC at no expense to the LCMS, will help the region in several ways. It will provide a place for on-field training with meeting and conference rooms. It also has audio and video recording facilities to create evangelistic and educational content for use in Asia.
The region plans to use these facilities to create materials for training pastors and lay leaders. These resources will be subtitled into various languages and used in the region for training pastors and laity.
Regional Director Ferry said, “The Luther Building will serve the entire region and support the operations of [the Synod’s Office of International Mission in] Asia in a way that will be cost effective and make use of the gifts God has given through His church.”
Helping Missionary Families
The move from Hong Kong also will benefit the missionary families relocating to Taiwan. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places in the world to live and work.
At the same time, the financial and business news website Business Insider ranks Taiwan among the top places to live for expatriates, based on quality of life, affordability and excellence of medical care. And with two major airports on the island, Taiwan also provides very cost-effective travel throughout the region.
In short, Taiwan will reduce the financial burden on our missionaries, who now will spend less time raising their support and more time doing the work of the church.
Missionaries will continue to receive spiritual care. Salvation Lutheran Church, the CELC congregation in Chiayi, has a Mandarin-English bilingual church service. Meanwhile, the Luther Building has a chapel for regular times of corporate devotion and prayer.
Relatively few missionaries will be affected by this transition. The new regional office will provide housing and office space for the regional director, the communications team, and the regional business manager who will relocate with their families.
Further, it will provide economical temporary housing for those passing through the region, such as theological-education instructors, missionaries in transit and short-term volunteers.
New Location, Same Mission
While the transition undoubtedly will provide challenges as families relocate to new homes and a new culture, it also will provide great opportunities for the church. The Asia region will continue to serve the Asia mission field and increase its effectiveness in reaching the lost.
“The only constant in life is change,” the saying goes, but the people of God know this is not entirely true. Christ is constant, and this change in location from Hong Kong to Taiwan will not change the mission of His Church.
It may be a new location for our base of operations, but the mission in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and throughout Asia remains the same.
When Jesus told St. Peter and the disciples, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), He was not referring to a piece of real estate. Rather, He spoke of Himself and the confession of His name. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the message of Christ and Him crucified.
Please join the Asia team in giving thanks to God for these new opportunities. Please also keep the families undergoing transition in your prayers as they learn how to serve Christ’s Church in this new place.
The Rev. Roy S. Askins is the director of communications for the Asia region of the Office of International Mission.
Posted Feb. 5, 2018