Moffett paints no pretty picture of the challenges facing the majority-world mission movement in Asia. "We're starting from way back," he says. After 2,000 years of mission work, the population of Asia is no more than 8 percent Christian. "We're not doing very well. Asia is more religious than any of the other continents," he says, yet Asians perceive Christianity as an "alien" religion, even though "Jesus was born in Asia." This perception can give Koreans a unique advantage in bringing the gospel from one Asian country to another.
Another advantage is the evangelistic zeal typical of the majority-world church, a zeal that has been fundamental to majority-world missionary growth. In 1973, CT reported there were at least 3,411 non-Western, crosscultural missionaries in the world. That number has now exploded to 103,000, according to reliable estimates, though figures are difficult to determine in the majority world.
That total nearly equals the number of U.S. and Canadian Protestant mission personnel, which stands at about 112,000.
As the Western mission movement matures and slows down, majority-world missions are expanding. South Korea sends more than 1,100 new missionaries annually. That means Korea alone sends out as many new missionaries each year as all of the countries of the West combined.
This rocketing rate of growth is historic. When Kang returned to his home in 1991, South Korea had sent more than 1,200 missionaries, up from 80 just 11 years before. Today, almost 13,000 South Koreans are serving as longterm missionaries in countries around the world.
"For many years," Kang says, "God said at night, 'You are like Jonah. You are like Jonah.' " Eventually, Kang relented, and he told his wife about God's call to evangelize Muslims in Africa. But Sarah worried about safety, education, and her own lack of a divine call.
Kang remained patient. Ten years after his initial conversation with his wife, he gave Sarah a biography of a missionary to Muslims. After reading the book, Sarah asked him to pray for her as she went to church every evening.
For nine weeks, Sarah sought God's direction in all-night prayer vigils. At dawn one day, Kang saw his wife coming home with tears streaming down her face. "God finally called me as a missionary," she exclaimed. "I do not follow you. I go with you."
Outreach in the Red Zone
On May 30, 2004, terrorists in Iraq linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi kidnapped Kim Sun Il, a Korean interpreter. The South Korean native had been working for a year with a South Korean firm that supplied goods to the U.S. Army, an opportunity Kim used as a means of gaining entrance into the country.
Like many Korean missionaries, he was highly educated, holding undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, theology, and Arabic. He was also willing to undertake the dangerous task of working in a war zone.
Kim had a passion for mission work among unreached peoples. Mission experts estimate that 1.8 billion individuals in thousands of ethnic groups remain unexposed to the gospel. South Korean missionaries, in particular, are pioneering projects and methods to spread the gospel in these areas. Korea sends 34 percent of its missionaries to unreached peoples; the international average is around 10 percent.