Southeast Asia Field (SEA) is celebrating its 30 years of mission this year (2022). Dr. A. Brent Cobb, the former Asia-Pacific regional director shared some glimpses of how the mission started and spread in this field.
A Southeast Asia Timeline
- In the 1980s, we heard Pastor Earl Lee interview Robin Seia from Myanmar, a student at Fuller Theological Seminary who attended Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene in USA. Robin studied Nazarene beliefs and practices, joined the church, and met denominational leaders. In 1985, he returned to his home country to establish the Church of the Nazarene in Myanmar. We began praying for both Robin and for Myanmar.
- I met Southeast Asian refugees in Long Beach, California and interviewed them for a book I’d been asked to write to tell stories of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand refugees. Then, in 1987, we moved to Long Beach to lead the growing New Life Church for Southeast Asian refugees.
- Six of us went to visit a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border. Dr. George Rench, Asia-Pacific Regional Director at that time, joined us. We presented the gospel to people who had escaped from Cambodia, the land of “The Killing Fields.” Afterward, Dr. Rench took us to Northern Thailand where we met Sam and Lumae Yangmi. Sam took us to the Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home, and Huey Tad Village. In addition to starting a church, they treated people dealing with opium addiction. The family also worked with local farmers to help them switch to growing tea or coffee rather than opium.
- Michael and Rachel McCarty transferred from Indonesia to Thailand to serve as the Southeast Asia (SEA) Field Strategy Coordinator. Soon Richard Knox’s family joined them, and Eric Kellerer’s family arrived in 1992.
- Nazarene work in Cambodia began when some refugees who had come to Christ returned to their homeland with the good news message.
- After serving briefly in Cambodia, Philip Park’s family moved to serve in Thailand. As a result, the Yangmis, Kellerers, and Parks established the Northern Thailand District.
- When I became the Asia-Pacific regional director, Michael McCarty took me on a tour of Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Later, my wife, Marty, accompanied me to the SEA Field, plus Creative Access areas. We found it easy to love Southeast Asian people.
- Marty Cobb joined a medical team in Northern Thailand. Sam Yangmi and Eric Kellerer took the two doctors, two dentists, four nurses and a team of coordinators to tribal villages. The first three (Maw Phi,Sheh Taw and Ti Sheh) had not yet received the gospel. Then, the team went to Had Yao, Huey Tad, and Nong Wua Dang. Their last medical clinic was at the Mae Taeng Tribal Children’s Home.
- I went with Michael McCarty, Philip Park and Larry Bollinger to Laos, the homeland of some refugees my family had served in the congregations at Long Beach. Again, there was the reminder that no world area is “closed” to the Gospel and its transforming power in Laos.
- Tomoyuki and Ceny Hirahara, from Japan and the Philippines, respectively, arrived in Thailand. They led Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) for years, and in retirement, still serve in church planting and NCM in southern Thailand.
- Kent Pelton’s family transferred from Papua New Guinea and served well in Thailand through 2016.
- Lisa Lehman arrived in Thailand and has worked in literature, field prayer coordination, field member care and at the Bible college.
- Belinda Allder, from Australia, came to Northern Thailand and taught in Mae Taeng schools for seven years. In October 2009, Belinda was diagnosed with cancer, and she is now with her Lord.
- Rolf and Deb Kleinfeld came to serve as missionaries in Cambodia. Then they served in Thailand as SEA Field Strategy Coordinator from 2006-2010.
- In 2011, David and Naomi Phillips moved to Thailand from the Philippines to take on the role of SEA Field Strategy Coordinator. The Kleinfelds returned to serve in Cambodia, where Rolf was District Superintendent and Field Education Coordinator, and Deb did finance and administration until 2019. In addition, cross-cultural Nazarene workers began serving in neighboring Creative Access areas of Southeast Asia. Rolf and Deb served for twenty years mentoring indigenous people to lead the work of the church.
- Through the first thirty years of the Church of the Nazarene in Southeast Asia, cross-cultural workers have come from South Korea, Myanmar, Japan, Philippines, Canada and USA. Currently, the Field Strategy Coordinator Bill and Mill Kwon, are missionaries from South Korea. When they were students at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, I had the joy of receiving them as members of the Church of the Nazarene. These “glimpses” of the Southeast Asia Field gladden my heart. To God be the glory.
A. Brent Cobb was the pastor of the New Life Cambodian Church of the Nazarene in Long Beach, California, USA, in the 1980s. Before California, he also served in the American state of Texas and as a missionary in Korea for ten years. He also served as regional director in the Asia-Pacific Region from 1994 to 2005.