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 (Manna 65: Missionary Work)
Interview with Elder Joshua Phoong, Director of the Eastern Hemisphere Department of World Missions (EHDWM)
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Interview with Elder Joshua Phoong, Director of the Eastern Hemisphere Department of World Missions (EHDWM)

              The Department of World Missions (DWM) was established in 1975 as one of the departments under the International Assembly’s Executive Council. Its aim was to plan, coordinate, execute and supervise tasks for world evangelism. It was subsequently divided into Eastern Hemisphere (EH) and Western Hemisphere (WH) departments. For this issue, Manna magazine had the opportunity to interview Elder Joshua Phoong about the missionary work in the Eastern hemisphere. He shared with us how the work began, what the current developments are, and the challenges that lie ahead.

              Elder Phoong, when and why was the DWM split into Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere departments?

The DWM was divided into the EHDWM and WHDWM during the World Delegates Conference in 1997.

There were several reasons for this. The workload of the DWM was getting too heavy. There were too many pioneering areas for the DWM to take care of—other than the seven countries with General Assemblies, all the other areas were considered to be pioneering areas. It was not possible for the DWM to care for all these countries.

We also wanted to strengthen efforts and increase the focus on pioneering work in the two hemispheres. Splitting the DWM in this way would allow better utilization and mobilization of resources in both hemispheres. It was thought that this would be a more effective and efficient way of pioneering new areas in the two hemispheres.

              How is the EHDWM structured and which countries are taking care of which areas?

The EHDWM has the support and participation of all the General Assemblies (GAs) and Coordination Boards (CBs) in the Eastern hemisphere. Each GA or CB appoints a Mission Committee (MC) that coordinates the divine work in a country allocated to it. They send personnel from their own countries first. When further assistance is needed, they may request it from the EHDWM.

Every year, the chairmen of the GAs and CBs, together with the coordinators of the MCs, meet to discuss, plan and support the divine work in the EH.


Members of EHDWM

Areas under their care

Korea GA

North-eastern China

Taiwan GA

Thailand, Hong Kong/ Kowloon, Japan, China

Sabah GA


Malaysia GA


Indonesia GA

Pioneering areas in Indonesia

Singapore CB


Australia CB

Fiji & Papua New Guinea

New Zealand churches



Vietnam, Cambodia, Samoa, other new areas



              To which countries in the Eastern Hemisphere has the gospel been preached since the EHDWM was established? Which countries were the first to accept the gospel?

After the establishment of the EHDWM, we began to strengthen the divine work in existing pioneering areas like India, Philippines, Thailand, Fiji and Myanmar by allocating them to different GAs and CBs.

Evangelism to new areas began in the same year. In 1997, evangelistic work began in Vietnam and Cambodia. In two years, a total of about fifteen were baptized. However, because of unfavorable conditions, the work stopped two years later. In the year 2005, we re-established the work in Vietnam and Cambodia.

A visit was made to Nepal in 2003 through a contact from the Internet, but there were no further developments here.

The work in Tonga started in 2005 when we realized that we had some China members there. We have now registered the church in Tonga.

We went to Papua New Guinea in 2006 to contact some China members. However, due to security reasons, we only returned to continue the work in 2010. This year, 2011, we started the work in Samoa, where we have ten China members and some truth-seekers. We have also explored the possibility of preaching in Laos and Bangladesh.

              What are the objectives of the EHDWM?

Our primary missions are to pastor and to evangelize. This involves caring for the existing pioneering areas in the EH and bringing them to maturity.

In addition, we strive to further extend the evangelistic work in newly pioneered areas, to preach the complete gospel to areas that it has not yet reached, and to assist in the evangelistic work in countries which request our assistance.

              What is the current scope of work of the EHDWM?

Firstly, the EHDWM seeks to actively identify potential pioneering areas. We do this by following up on contacts we have received through the Internet and also by starting pastoral and evangelistic work in new areas to which our members have moved.

Secondly, we are trying to step up evangelistic efforts in existing pioneering areas, and finally, we are continuing in our efforts to develop a pool of voluntary resources.

              What do you expect from this ministry?

As the world becomes a global village, accessibility to different countries is getting easier. Many of our members are moving to new countries to work. The political situation is changing to favor greater religious freedom. We expect the pace of evangelism to accelerate in the coming years. In preparation for this, we must have our resources in place to face the challenges ahead. Greater efforts should be made towards producing evangelistic literature in different languages and towards effectively mobilizing our voluntary workers.

              In your view, what are the major challenges in this ministry and how can the church overcome them?

Language is one of the major problems that we are facing. We cannot be sure how accurate the interpretation of local interpreters is. We also need literature to support the work of evangelism; we are translating these from existing languages, but progress is very slow.

In addition, cultural and behavioral differences can cause misunderstandings. Some of these behavioral patterns are created by the long-time presence of other denominations. For example, many truth-seekers have come to expect financial aid from us, as other religious organizations in their countries provide such aid. Furthermore, many Christian denominations compromise with the local traditions. Drinking, smoking, ancestral worship, idol-worshipping and superstitious practices are commonplace and therefore accepted. It is not easy to change such well-entrenched practices.

Finally, our ministry is mainly supported by volunteers. The lack of a full-time presence in these pioneering areas is a problem. A constant change of workers is also unhealthy.

              How does the work of the EHDWM relate to the believers in general? (We may sometimes consider missionary work to be the preacher’s job only.)

Soon after the EHDWM was set up, it embarked on efforts to mobilize believers in general to work for God. We began to entrust pioneering countries to different GAs, which promotes greater participation of the various GAs in the pioneering work. Moreover, the Voluntary Mission Team gives members in general the opportunity to participate in pioneering work according to their availability. We also have a Voluntary Ministers Course that prepares ministers to make a greater contribution towards pioneering work.

Apart from that, the EHDWM has just started its own website: eh.tjc.org. It serves to create greater awareness of pioneering areas and to encourage members to pray for, contribute to and join in the work.

              How can TJC members support this ministry?

Since all GAs and CBs are responsible for at least one new pioneering country, individuals can refer to the Mission Committee in their own countries to join in the work. Those who wish to participate in the work in other countries can contact the EHDWM. They can also join the Voluntary Mission Team Training and the Voluntary Ministers Training. We will then make arrangements for these volunteers to join upcoming missionary trips.

              Thank you very much for this interview, Elder Phoong.

              As we can see, the church faces many challenges in this work, not least of which is a shortage of workers. We hope this interview has encouraged you to contribute in whatever way you can, be it through prayer, financial support or by joining a Volunteer Mission Team in your area. All we need is a willing heart to do our part to support the work of global evangelism that has been entrusted to us!

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