As told to Carmen J. Ringhiser
Rolf Kleinfeld and his wife, Debbie, were missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene from 2003-10. Serving on the Asia Pacific Region, Rolf was field strategy coordinator for the Southeast Asia Field in Bangkok, Thailand. They have two grown children, Joshua and Susan, and three grandchildren.
In his leadership role, Rolf oversaw the development of Christlike disciples on the field, from church development and literature translation to World Mission Broadcast, from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) to child development and education programs, from living rooms to campuses.
This is a world area where people believe in many gods (polytheism). Presenting the reality of God (monotheism), can be a challenge when the polytheistic view is ingrained in persons individually and in society. God is using the hands and feet of His people to break down these barriers one at a time.
Raised in Ohio, the Kleinfeld's home church is Richmond, Virginia, Southside Church of the Nazarene.
"For this is what the LORD says . . . 'I am the LORD, and there is no other.'" Isaiah 45:15Accident and Hospital Room
Not long ago, Goh, our Thailand District Nazarene Youth International (NYI) president, was in a serious motorcycle accident and nearly lost a leg. Providentially, the ambulance took her to the only hospital that had a doctor who performs the type of surgery necessary to save her leg.
As hospital roommates came and went, Goh was able to share about Christ with them. During a phone call with Debbie, Goh said, "Pastor Debbie, the next time you come to visit me, my roommate wants to accept Christ." Debbie asked, "Does she want to become a Christian now?" Goh responded, "Yes" and Debbie reminded her, "Goh, you already know all that you need to know to help lead her to the Lord now
So Goh hung up the phone. Twenty-five minutes later the phone rang. Debbie heard laughter in the background and Goh shared excitedly, "Debbie! My roommate has become a Christ follower!" In that hospital room, two women were celebrating this new life in Christ and praising Him for His joy.Marketplace and Neighbors
The task was enormous when you consider the variety of backgrounds represented in the people with whom we crossed paths daily. It was a God-sized job. When we arrived and sought God's will on this very thing He said "Begin with what's in front of you." Building relationships with people. Contacts in the marketplace. Local pastors. District leaders. Neighbors in our apartment complex. It was necessary for us to model what we were asking the church to do and to be in the community.
Initially, we were treated with respect, and yet with some uncertainty. We were from another culture, ethnicity, and nationality. Certain assumptions were made of us regarding perceived beliefs. For example, many assumed that we were Christian and there to change them. As we listened to our neighbors, they realized we were not there to build a religion. It was then that God opened the doors and allowed us to speak for Him.Religions, Languages, and Histories
The Southeast Asia Field is a melting pot of major world religions. The field also has a population of 225 million. Of this, 110 million are considered unreached people-approximately half of the people in this world area. Over half of the population is age 25 and younger. Here, we also have over 400 various languages.
It is interesting to discover that everyone wants to be prayed over, or blessed. For instance, we talked with our landlord. She's an older woman and expressed concern for her knees, mobility, and family. She let us pray for her. After we prayed, when her family asked her about going to the temple where the family worshiped, she replied, "Pastor Rolf has prayed for me this week already." Meaning, she felt she didn't need to go to the temple.Prejudices and Cultures
Christianity is seen as a relatively new and foreign religion-not as one of many religions familiar to the people.
Many in this area are unreached by the gospel of Christ. Some of this has to do with access and where people groups are located. Some areas are difficult to access for a variety of reasons-prejudices, closed status towards visitors, lack of materials in the local languages, or no one to take the materials to the people.
People in villages still speak in local dialects rather than broader languages. It is a challenge for the church to reproduce itself. These reasons, and many more, contribute to the challenges of reaching individuals on this field.
Add to this a multiplicity of gods and ancestor worship. People groups have been praying to the same gods for a thousand years. Some of the temples are that old, too. Such beliefs are ingrained and entrenched in the culture. A lot of people equate their religion with who they are. It wasn't a choice for them in their minds. They were born into their religion. Challenges and Prayer Requests
Various factors enter in to someone making a commitment to serve Christ. It depends on that person's position in the family. For a first-born son, it would be difficult. For a woman, it's not seen as such a threat. Males are expected to carry on the traditions of the family. However, if the leader of a family chooses to accept Christ, it's possible that the family, or village, will also follow the leader in turning to Christ.
We encourage Nazarenes to pray for heads of households and villages. They play a vital role in families coming to, and remaining in, Christ.
Pray that God will raise up the body of Christ to bring transformation and advance His kingdom on the Southeast Asia Field.Nazarenes and Caroling
The Church of the Nazarene is involved in NCM child sponsorship, AIDS ministry through New Life for Thai, VBS, Youth in Mission, teaching English, Work and Witness, Christmas outreach events-all kinds of things. The churches have Easter and Christmas celebrations. The church even goes caroling! As the church members carol in different neighborhoods, people come out of their houses and listen to the Word of God sung.Carmen J. Ringhiser
is managing editor of Holiness Today