He was only a teenager when he answered God’s calling. Feeling an overwhelming, unconditional love for the physically and spiritually impoverished population of India, he stood on an elevated rock amongst a bustling Bangalore bus station. He was only 16 years old, skinny, too young to even be part of the mission teams that proselytized in Northern India, and painfully shy. Yet he still stood on that mound, responding to the distinctive voice of God. He sang a familiar children’s chorus and then began preaching to a crowd of strangers, allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to fall from his lips like cool water to a thirsty desert. This same teenager later studied under a scholarship at the Criswell Bible Institute in Texas and became pastor of a small Dallas church at the age of 23. But working amongst the wealth and affluence of America’s population led K.P. Yohannan back to his original call—to serve India and the desperate needs of Asia. His pastoral experience in the U.S. provided wholeness to his vision, focusing on the local church to take the forefront in God’s master plan for worldwide evangelism.
K.P Yohannan and his wife Gisela founded Gospel for Asia (GFA) in 1979. GFA is a Christian missionary organization that shares the Gospel with those living in the 10/40 Window, a region containing the largest population of people still unreached by the Gospel in the world. As a pastor, Yohannan realized the missing link in mobile missions was permanence. These regions needed church planters to tend to the seeds of faith and help them take root, flourish, and bear fruit. Inspired by God’s clear voice, the young couple began funding the missionary movement out of their own pocket, completely changing their lifestyle to save funds for the movement. Eventually, Yohannan developed a missionary sponsorship program and began single-handedly touring the country to raise funds for his cause. Through continuous prayer and perseverance from Yohannan and Gisela, the native missionaries, and mission supporters, the organization has expanded and grown.
There are currently 67 Bible colleges in South Asia, training and instilling in 9,000 men and women the goals of GFA and the skills to spread the Gospel to the unreached. The three-year training course, set directly in the mission field and taught in the local language, lends plenty of on-the-job training with church planting and outreach. Studying in the field gives students the opportunity to experience the more difficult truths about missionary life: persecution and hardships. The students are trained for a commitment to the reality of this ministry, while maintaining the spiritual nourishment and encouragement of experienced missionaries.
The affiliation of Christian ministries with the Western world, colonization, or even abusive religious leaders in the past has created suspicion and resistance within unreached populations. GFA found that native missionaries could better overcome these negative perceptions and worked more effectively for outreach and church planting.
The uniqueness of GFA’s approach is its focus on using native missionaries to evangelize. The ties of missionaries within history have placed a general cloud of negativity that can overshadow the many accomplishments. The affiliation of Christian ministries with the Western world, colonization, or even abusive religious leaders in the past has created suspicion and resistance within unreached populations. GFA found that native missionaries could better overcome these negative perceptions and work more effectively for outreach and church planting. The 10/40 Window, a term coined by Christian missionary strategist Luis Bush, is a region in the eastern hemisphere located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. The 10/40 Window includes Northern and Saharan Africa, as well as much of Asia. Though many diverse peoples live in the region, the area in general is characterized by limited resources, widespread religious persecution, little religious freedom, and a multitude of socioeconomic challenges; all of these hinder the spread of the Christian message. K.P. Yohannan has focused GFA’s efforts on this area.
The advantage that native missionaries have over Western missionaries is immeasurable. Living and knowing the social customs and language, or at least having a more heightened awareness of them, allows native missionaries to assimilate and communicate more easily within regions in this Window. When Western missionaries come to work in foreign lands, there are usually extra costs to provide some semblance of Western lifestyle they are accustomed to and for language learning, as well as a higher cost for travel. Native missionaries are not only cost-effective, allowing more resources to go elsewhere in the ministry, but they live and breathe at the level of those that they serve, eliminating the social barriers that Western missionaries often face. Currently, GFA reaches populations in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Gospel for Asia was the result of divine intervention, complete obedience to God’s plan, as well as familial and communal support. However, the ministry continues to need help, and there are many ways to offer support. Check out www.gfa.org for ideas on how to be involved in this important mission. Some of these ideas include:
– Becoming part of GFA’s prayer team which sends e-mails on monthly prayer points along with emergency prayers. Even without signing up, simply keep GFA in your prayers.
– Become part of the GFA’s Volunteer Network and encourage in-country support for the native missionaries abroad.
– Become a GFA intern, staff member, or enter their School of Discipleship in Texas, working as an essential link to missionaries and partners around the world.
– Build awareness in your own communities and churches by informing others of GFA’s sponsorship programs, fundraising activities, and gift collections including, Bridge of Hope, Push the Pedal, and Harvest Foundation. K.P. Yohannan’s book Revolution in World Missions is easily accessed online and is free for distribution. Also, if you have a website, you can add Gospel for Asia as one of your links.
Simply put, if we were to harness the ideals of Gospel for Asia, one of the great things we can do to support the mission is to be a native missionary in our own city. Share with the spiritually starved wherever you are and serve those that lie in your “window”.