“I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6). This was an answered prayer concerning a call to lead ISM work in New Zealand as I was meditating by a lagoon where we live. The call took into consideration that my wife and I were international students there some 40 years ago.
New Zealand had, at that time, 110,000 international students from as many as 120 nations. It was and still is one of the top most preferred countries for international students, especially from Asia. It was as if God was telling me that what an opportunity to bring the Gospel to these nations.
God has designed an elaborate scheme to bring these students into New Zealand, telling the churches and Christian organizations that His “salvation may reach to the end of the earth” without leaving their country – harvest field at their door steps. Also, many of these students came from difficult countries where the people are more resistant to the Gospel.
For years, millions were spent to send missionaries to these countries. It is understandably difficult for missionaries to adapt to different cultures and languages, let alone leading people to Christ. Amazingly, God opened the hearts of many of these students to come to know the Lord while studying in New Zealand. There were as many as 60,000 students from difficult Asian countries in New Zealand and many were keen to hear the Gospel, as they had never heard it before. Many of these students have returned home, carrying with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some students had commented during our annual conference that they would not have come to faith in Christ had they not come to New Zealand. Many are still in contact with us.
In New Zealand, we opened our home to these students, served them, loved them, taught them, cried and laughed with them, and became their foster parents. The conducive environment, the people, and warm churches had added to the progress of the Gospel in New Zealand among these students. But we were also facing with some challenges. The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few. The most difficult task for ISM is to recruit and train right kind of laborers, who would demonstrate genuine love for these students, skilled in discipling them, making sacrifices, and have a long-term vision to see the potential of individuals beyond where they are.
THE MALAYSIAN CHALLENGE
Having spent 5 years in New Zealand, we returned to Malaysia, and were confronted with the same opportunity. We discovered that Malaysia has become one of the top destinations for Asian and African students. Malaysia now has more than 180,000 international students. By the year 2020, the government is expecting as many as 200,000 to come here, making Malaysia a very fertile ground for the “salvation to the end of the earth.” The challenge, however, is for the churches and Christian organisations here to fully engaged together in God’s defining plan.
A small group of us have been praying for the past 2 years, asking God to help us form a team, locals and from other countries, to reach out to these students. The process is tough and slow, but with God’s promises and His leading, we are plodding along.
Teng Yang & Jenny Tan
Brother Teng Yang Tan became a Christian when studying in New Zealand through The Navigators.He entered into full-time students ministry with The Navigators Malaysia in 1986. Later, he started and led a prayer ministry for The Navigators before being seconded to New Zealand International Student Ministries as National Director for 5 years. Now back in Malaysia, he helps co-ordinating an interdenominational team to reach out to the international students in Malaysia. He is married to Jenny Tan with 2 grown-up children.