Over the last year some 350,000 Kampucheans (Cambodians) have fled the hunger and fighting in their tormented homeland. Of these, some 130,000 crossed the western border into Thailand; even more traveled east into Vietnam, and the rest moved north into Laos.

Now, in inquiry sessions conducted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) with Thai government observers present, as many as 70 percent of those in Thailand have said they want to return. (The majority do not qualify for emigrating to other countries, in any case.) Even higher proportions want to leave Vietnam and Laos. The Vietnamese-dominated Heng Samrin government in Phnom Penh that now effectively controls most of Kampuchea says it is willing to take them back.

Assisting with the resettlement of these “returnees” allows at least one evangelical relief agency the opportunity to turn over a new leaf in relations with the Heng Samrin regime. And many of the Khmer people who entered Thailand as nominal Buddhists will return to their home villages as believers in Jesus christ.

Why is the human tide beginning to turn?

• Thanks to concerted relief efforts, says the UNHCR’s Robert Jackson, starvation in Kampuchea is no longer an imminent danger, even though aid is still focused on “life preservation.” Kani Wagner, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, reports that about 81 percent of the country’s rice farmland has been planted for the coming rainy season harvest. Refugees in border holding areas now believe they can survive after they are back home.

• Fear of a resurgence of the draconian Pol Pot regime is subsiding. Pol Pot loyalists are bottled up in a mountainous region of southwest Kampuchea and their grip on the surrounding countryside gradually is being pried loose.

• The Khmer are finding the Vietnamese, their ancient enemies, less harsh than they had feared. Although hardly operating a democracy, the new rulers have restored a degree of order and predictability. No one knows how much of the Heng Samrin government’s growing reasonableness in dealing with international organizations is aimed at influencing the upcoming vote in the UN over whether to seat its own representatives or those of Pol Pot. (The regime is as hostile to the church as its predecessor. Six of seven congregations meeting in Phnom Penh are reported to have been shut down—three at gun point.)

• The Heng Samrin government has agreed to receive its displaced citizens back to their home areas without “reeducation.” The UN agencies have developed a working relationship with the regime that will allow it to facilitate resettlement; and Thailand, in particular, is anxious to move out the displaced persons.

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Until recently, relief supplies distribution has been in some respects a no-win situation for the relief agencies. Some, such as World Vision, shipped supplies at high cost by sea and air to the Kampuchean capital and its port. Mostly confined to a Phnom Penh hotel, agency officials were frustrated by major docking and transport bottlenecks and were not allowed to verify that supplies reached their intended civilian recipients.

Other agencies, such as the National Association of Evangelicals’ World Relief and the Mennonite Central Committee, distributed across the Thai border “land-bridge” at much lower cost. But because the distribution points were adjacent to Pol Pot-dominated areas, the Heng Samrin regime considered their distribution an unfriendly act. This dilemma led a liaison official for one agency to remark facetiously that the best way to get supplies to the intended recipients would be to “drop the rice on a tree stump and run.”

Now the Kampuchean government is allowing agencies that have followed both approaches to deliver supplies inside Kampuchea and to monitor the distribution. They will be working in tandem with others such as Russian-supervised stevedores and Polish medical teams.

The agencies have been asked by UNHCR to begin with resettling 18,000 families by the end of the year, at a projected cost of $13 million. The eventual numbers resettled may reach as many as 300,000. UN agencies and the Red Cross have been given food, educational, and medical responsibilities. World Relief has been delegated the task of providing $2 million worth of garden seed, agricultural tools, and basic household utensils and tools for subsistence.

The voluntary repatriation will more deeply permeate Kampuchean society with a Christian witness than ever before. The intense evangelism engaged in by Kampuchean believers in the Thai border holding areas has brought this about.

The outstanding example is the Khao I Dang holding center, housing between 120,000 and 140,000 displaced Kampucheans. As many as 600 there were Protestant Christians, but there were never more than five trained Christian workers. The witness outreach began last November 30 when Christian and Missionary Alliance Pastor Chan Hom and 248 of his congregation crossed the border together. Pastor Ngem Sokun was among later border-crossing believers (Sokus weighed 51 pounds on his February arrival, his wife only 33 pounds).

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The believers were aggressive in witness and discipleship. They held small group Bible studies and children’s meetings. Converts were immediately given Bible training and encouraged to participate in continuing the evangelism. By last month there were 75 congregations in the sprawling camp. At least 26,000 had expressed some form of Christian decision, a full 8,000 were regarded as having become firmly established in Christian discipleship, and 2,600 adults had been baptized. In less than a year the original 600 professing Christian faith, assisted by only a handful of C&MA and Overseas Missionary Fellowship missionaries, had doubled their numbers more than five times.

These figures are especially impressive when contrasted with the number of Protestant Christians in all of Kampuchea before the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975: less than 6,000.

What accounts for this remarkable increase? H. Robert Cowles, editor of the C&MA organ Alliance Witness, discussed that question in a September editorial: “First, the Spirit of God is evidently moving g among the refugees.… Second, the Kampucheans at Khao I Dang’s have been … deprived of homeland and all material resources. Their gods have failed them. Hardly a person among them has not despaired of life itself.… People in extremities like that tend to be cordial to the message of God.

But Cowles went on to list the diligent witness of the believers as the third and perhaps decisive factor and held it up as an unrivaled model for world evangelization in this generation.

Wichita Crusade Offers More than an Evangelist

The last time churches in Wichita, Kansas, jointly supported a major, citywide crusade was in 1912. Then, boisterous evangelist Billy Sunday called attenders to “walk the sawdust trail” in a sweating, stomping, old-style revival.

Evangelist Leighton Ford led a different kind of evangelism campaign during the past year in Wichita. His “Wichita Reachout,” which culminated last month with a week of preaching meetings, may indicate that evangelism—and particularly the traditional crusade—is adjusting to a new era. One evangelism strategist said Ford is the only major American evangelist now using the kind of comprehensive approach evidenced in Wichita.

Ford’s goal, like Sunday’s, was new converts. But after eight days, and a total attendance of 30,900, some 350 inquired about making Christian commitments. This 1 percent response rate somewhat disappointed the campaign organizers. However, they cited added Christian decisions coming in the previous events. They also believed that the campaign’s value lay in what will come after: new cooperation is expected between the pastors and the churches, who have a history of going their separate ways.

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About 150 of the city’s 300 churches took an active part in organizing the September 21–28 campaign, which, in fact, was not called a crusade. The executive planning committee preferred calling it “reachout,” since “there’s greater sympathy among secular people for that term,” said local chairman and First Baptist Church pastor Roger Fredrikson.

The “reachout” budget topped $180,000 because of its multifaceted program, Fredrikson said.

Ford’s team and local organizers formed a comprehensive strategy with linking events that lasted over the course of a year. Whereas in Sunday’s era crusade meetings revolved entirely around the evangelist and had an impact only as long as the meetings lasted. Ford’s “reachout” was designed to have a broader impact.

“A lot of people tend to view a crusade as a climax to a period of intensive effort,” said Preston Parrish, who moved his family to Wichita 13 months ago to begin coordinating efforts for the Ford team. “We’ve been talking about the crusade here in Wichita as a catalyst to ongoing evangelism at the congregational level.”

Local pastors tossed around the idea of a Leighton Ford crusade about 10 years ago. However, serious plans began less than three years ago under Fredrikson’s leadership. The American Baptist pastor said events were planned in order to involve all churchmen—not just an evangelist or the pastors—in the evangelization process.

One event built upon another; in chronological order these were:

• A one-day seminar on congregational evangelism, led by United Methodist church evangelism officer George Hunter, and attended by more than 180 key pastors and laity.

• A small-groups discussion series. About 90 churches and 6,000 people participated in a seven-week study series, “In the Spirit of Love,” which was designed to deepen congregational life, Fredrikson said. This was followed by a four-week personal evangelism series, based on Ford’s book, Good News Is for Sharing.

• A banquet on May 13. This was designed to challenge Christian families to build relationships with their neighbors. Ford gave an address, and the executive committee showed a locally produced, 35-minute videotaped presentation of ideas for ways Christians could open their homes and make friends with unsaved neighbors. About 550 family units committed themselves to making contact with a neighbor sometime during the spring or summer. (The committee had hoped for the participation of 2,000 to 3,000 Christian families, but Fredrikson suspected the idea “was such a new thing” that many didn’t take part.) One example was Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, who was an early organizer of the Ford meetings. He arranged for a block party attended by some 60 to 70 of his neighbors.

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• Lay witness forums. In late August, about 60 couples, representing a variety of working and social backgrounds, spent a week in Wichita. Their areas of expertise provided local Christians with evangelism opportunities. For instance, Christian Legal Society executive director Lynn Buzzard spoke at a seminar, attended by local lawyers and judges, on Christian conciliation. Former steel company executive Wayne Alderson of Pittsburgh led one of his Value of the Person seminars for about 450 local labor union and management leaders.

• A locally produced TV special aired September 13—the final event prior to Ford’s preaching meetings. Those Christians who had been forming relationships with their neighbors all summer were asked to invite those neighbors to their homes to watch the program.

The special was “deliberately planned to be provocative,” said Fredrikson, with the idea that it would spark conversations about spiritual things. Some Christians reported the Christian conversions of neighbors as a result, said Fredrikson.

Called “On This BB Spinning,” the program got its name from a local man’s opening comment, “Man, if all we’re doing is sitting on this BB spinning, then suicide is a reasonable alternative.” Parrish said the TV special carried interviews with Wichita residents who asked four questions pollster George Gallup has found Americans are asking: How can I cope with life’s problems? How can I find meaning in life? What’s Christ got to do with all of this? In an on-the-air interview with Fredrikson, evangelist Ford discussed God’s answers to those questions. The two men sat outdoors, within view of the convention center where the meetings would begin the following Sunday.

Ford’s “reachout process” has evolved though trial and error, Parrish said, and emphasizes five principles that help congregations “discover and experience evangelism.”

These principles are: (1) establishing specific objectives; (2) identifying people’s needs; (3) equipping the laity; (4) reaching out and discipling; and (5) celebrating and evaluating. The Ford team has been developing these principles since a crusade several years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. For those meetings, the team drew upon the help of audience research specialist James Engel, communications department chairman of Wheaton College (Ill.) Graduate School.

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Engel is a leader in the use of mass media and other strategies in presenting the gospel to an audience whose needs have been determined by surveys or other research. He said Ford is the only major evangelist in North America using the kinds of techniques and strategies in evidence in Wichita. Parrish said the Ford team will present some of its materials and videotaped programs in seminars.

Reachout organizers ran into some problems with their congregational approach. Parrish said organizers found many Christians lacked any contact with secular friends: “We [Christians] have become so ingrained, so ingrown, that most Christians lack meaningful relationships with unreached people.” The Ford team tries to erase Christians’ fears of discussing their faith with the unsaved by “helping them see that evangelism is really making friends for God,” Parrish said.

A second problem is getting all churchmen involved in evangelism—not just “the motivated 10 percent,” Parrish said. He believed this problem was at least partly overcome in Wichita, since a number of Wichita churches reported an increased involvement in small group programs even after Ford’s campaign ended.

A Giant in Hiding

Eighteen percent of England’s adult population in 1979 belonged to a church, but only 11 percent attended. So states a newly published survey of the British and Foreign Bible Society, sponsored by the Nationwide Initiative in Evangelism.

The survey, Prospects for the Eighties, draws its data from a 1979 census of England’s 40,000 churches. It claims to offer “a unique collection of information.” since all the main Christian groups in England cooperated for the first time in a joint statistical project. The survey covers the 46 administrative areas in England (excluding Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) and gives figures for each.

Mainstream Protestant churches are still losing members, but the loss in attendance is not correspondingly as high; Baptists show an actual 1.3 percent annual increase in attendance since 1975. Roman Catholics reflect an opposite trend: a fractional increase in membership but a 2 percent drop in attendance since 1975.

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Three groups of churches show the most encouraging figures: the Pentecostal/Holiness grouping shows an annual growth of 2.3 percent (3 percent in attendance), the Independent figure is 5.4 percent (5.4), and the African/West Indian figure is 5.5 percent (4.7).

In a chapter assessing changing trends, Gavin Reid writes: “The churches are the sleeping giant in England. Were they to organize themselves to press for any agreed end, it is hard to see how they could be resisted, but … the giant is not only sleeping, it is in hiding.”


World Scene

The number of Protestant believers has doubled or tripled within the last decade in Central American nations, according to recent figures compiled by the Institute of In-Depth Evangelization. The San Jose, Costa Rica-based agency, which in seminars emphasizes “holistic church growth” and the discipling and mobilization of the laity, cites the influence of the charismatic movement, religious freedom, and political unrest and natural disasters, as promoting new religious awareness and ultimately the evangelical cause.

Television and radio made the greatest impact during evangelist Luis Palau’s recent two-week crusade in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The nation’s largest television network, “Telecentro,” broadcast Palau’s live question-and-answer program for 12 nights, and radio station HCJB in Quito transmitted Palau’s crusade messages into at least 10 countries in Central and South America. The crusade, held in a 10,000-seat stadium, averaged nightly attendance in the 6,000 range, with 2,850 making Christian commitments. Organizers report new evangelistic inroads to the nation’s professional and middle-class people.

Evangelicals in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden should form their own segment of the church. That was the call issued by 400 participants in the Uppsala meetings of the Fellowship for Church Renewal in Sweden. They agreed with proponent Bishop Bertil Gärtner of Göteborg that a “Swedish Confessional Synod” should be formed, so that those among the 8-million-member church who believed that membership involved “obedience to Jesus” should not be dominated by the majority in a politicized social institution. Voluntary associations, such as the Swedish Evangelical Missionary Society, already exist within the church, but Archbishop Olof Sundby said he feared that the proposed synod would help cement and institutionalize opposing attitudes—over ordination of women, for instance.

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The people of western Crete got the bishop of their choice and, in the process, dealt a setback to the authority of the Greek Orthodox church hierarchy. After supporters “kidnapped” and held for two weeks the popular Metropolitan Eirinaios Galanakis of Germany (Oct. 10 issue, p. 77), the ecumenical patriarchate gave in. It found a vacant diocese and elected to it Metropolitan Naktarios Hadjimichalis, clearing the way for Eirinaios to return to the diocese he formerly served.

Lev Regelson was given a five-year suspended sentence by Soviet authorities last month. Regelson, a Russian Orthodox layman, was a leader of the Christian Seminar (a discussion group of young Orthodox intellectuals) and author of The Tragedy of the Russian Church, 1917–45, which documents accommodation of the church to the Soviet regime under Metropolitan Sergi. Tass news agency reported that during the trial Regelson, imprisoned since his arrest last December 24, expressed repentance for his activities and asked forgiveness.

Zimbabwean President Canaan Banana has called for a “radical transformation” in the nation’s church groups. The ordained Methodist minister said last month that some of them turned a blind eye to oppression and injustice when the white minority was in power. He did not single out any denomination. His comments came at a gathering of Anglican churchmen, (who have been criticized at other times by the new government).

Nearly a thousand Christians who consider themselves Zionists gathered in Jerusalem last month in a festival of support for Israel’s existence. The event was organized by Dutch preacher Jan Willem van der Hoeven, who has lived in Israel for more than a decade. The New York Times quoted van der Hoeven as saying, “There are many millions of Bible-believing Christians who feel they are not represented anymore by their governments. They would like to say to Israel, ‘We are with you.’ ”

Revival is sweeping through the Kachin tribal area of northern Burma. Kachin Baptists are in the final year of a three-year thrust to commemorate the centennial of their beginnings. The call for a “Gideon’s band” of 300 young Kachins to give three years without remuneration to evangelism and renewal efforts resulted in more than 600 volunteers. The selected 300 were trained, formed into teams, and sent throughout the mountain region, singing, telling Bible stories, sharing testimonies, and distributing medical and other supplies. A resulting marked increase in baptisms brings the denomination’s membership to over 90,000. The Assemblies of God reports parallel renewal and growth among Pentecostal believers, with their members now estimated at 50,000.

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Several Christian relief agencies have urged that the United States vote against seating the Pol Pot regime in the United Nations. They advocate instead a vacant seat for Kampuchea (Cambodia). This, they assert, would allow the U.S. to oppose both human rights violations and aggression “with greater integrity.” Issuers of the statement included the Mennonite Central Committee, Food for the Hungry, and Church World Service.

Religious organizations with branch offices in Indonesia will be required to channel contributions through the Indonesian government and not to those branches directly. That is the expectation after President Suharto spelled out a new approach to missions in a speech to Indonesia’s National Council of Churches last summer. He pledged that religious freedom would be maintained, but said national interests must guide policy concerning “the relationships between Indonesian religious bodies and their overseas counterparts.” This regulation, he said, was “not meant to build walls of restriction.”

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