Southeast Asia (MNN) — When Paul Richardson asks the people of Southeast Asia about their greatest need, the answer can always be summed up in one word: education.
"There's this awareness in the developing world and this anxiety because there's a feeling that the rest of the world is racing forward into the 21st century, and there are opportunities out there, and yet the poor are being left behind."
Richardson began working with Mustard Seed International, a partner of Pioneers USA, after receiving a clear understanding that God wanted him to develop education in Southeast Asia. Since then he has seen the effect of Christian schools on students and even entire villages.
"When people come onto our campuses, they immediately sense that there's something new and fresh and different, and they want to know what that is," explains Richardson. The difference certainly lies in creative and different ways of teaching, but mainly rests in Christ.
In one specific instance, Mustard Seed International went into a community with only three Christian families and one school. The ministry asked the community if they could begin a junior high and eventual high school, were given permission, and began their work. Now, the community has 50 Christian families and a vibrant church.
Working in a mostly Muslim region, though, could stir up difficulty with the introduction of Christian education. However, Richardson says that as they go into villages without schools, they meet with the elders of the village and make it clear to them that the schools are sponsored and led by Christians and rest on Christian foundations. Richardson says usually the villages are so eager to bring education to their children that they welcome the school with open arms.
Richardson says they have seen entire villages transformed by these schools, but their ultimate goal is for the students, who have the ability to bring permanent change to their villages and countries in the future.
"Our dream is that the graduates of our Christian schools, equipped and empowered by the Gospel and prepared to be leaders and men and women of influence, would rise up in their own cultures, their own societies, and bring about change and become voices of hope among their own people."
Prayer is needed first and foremost in order to accomplish their goals to bring transform communities through the power of Christ in education. Richardson asks for prayers centered around the real belief that God can and will change hearts, even in a traditionally non-Christian region of the world.
To learn more about Mustard Seed International or to help them in their ministry, visit mustardseed.org.