Better together: why working with locals works

By Soonbeom Hong  |  Wycliffe Today Autumn 2023

Soonbeom is a church relations coordinator from South Korea working with local translators on the Papuan Malay (PM) ministry team to engage with local churches, government and community groups. Soonbeom shares what he has learned about team collaboration and trust during this time.

I had always been taught that the role of a cross-cultural worker was to help the local people and equip them for ministry. I wholeheartedly agreed with that theory. In practice, though, it is much easier said than done. 

For a long time, I worked largely by myself. I felt justified in this approach because, in 2019, when our team decided to start visiting local churches, we had barely managed to visit a handful in a year and struggled to make connections with them. I decided I needed to do something. But the more churches I tried to visit, the more alone I felt.

I was keenly aware that I had been doing ministry on my own. Ashamed and disappointed, I asked myself, ‘Why can’t I work together with the local people?’ That day, I prayed and determined not to work alone anymore. 

The following week, I called a meeting with three local colleagues. I shared my heart with them and told them I had no idea about how to grow our ministry. They were shocked at my admission because they had assumed everything had been going well. I think we all knew that had not been the case though. 

I asked them if they had any ideas about ways to improve. One of them suggested, ‘Why don’t we make a schedule for visiting churches over the next three months?’ We prayed and committed the idea to God. Then an amazing thing happened. We ended up visiting a church almost every Sunday for those three months! The churches received us and our materials with such enthusiasm. As time went by, more and more churches had the chance to hear about our ministry. We heard many beautiful testimonies which encouraged us to keep going.

On some Sundays we were able to visit two, even three, churches. After one and a half years, amazingly, we only have one church left to visit out of the 50 churches in the major Christian denomination in our city: the Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) or the Indonesian Evangelical Church. Praise the Lord! 

Our ministry of visiting churches continues. In July, we received a generous invitation from the GKI church to join in their island-wide denominational conference. Three of our team members were able to represent the PM team among church leaders from all over Papua. Our Lord fulfils his purposes when we work together!

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)


  • for Soonbeom and his family to continue growing in their faith as they serve in Papua 
  • that the Papuan Malay team will be encouraged as they continue to share God’s Word with their community.

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