By Roger Walkwitz
A bit of history… In 1958, my wife Naomi and I arrived in the Philippines to begin our Bible teaching ministry among semi-primitive tribal people in the northern mountains. We were basically church-oriented. Ten years later we made our first trip to Israel, which began to open our eyes to faulty church teachings… and we began moving toward Messianic understanding which came into the open after the 6-Day War. A visit to the only Synagogue in the Philippines, in Manila, and subsequent friendships with a Jewish Holocaust survivor couple, furthered our interest in the O.T., which we learned to call the Tanakh.
The Mission we were with was not interested in Jewish or Israeli-oriented ministry. The remedy was to put us on loan to a Messianic Jewish mission until we retired in a couple years. This was the Menorah Ministries headed by Dr. John Fischer in Clearwater, FL, who welcomed us warmly. We then began to attend Messianic Conferences and learn more, and search for more Messianic congregations to visit in order to compare and analyze what was happening.
In the late 1990s, I received a form letter from Takashi Yokoyama introducing the Japan Messianic Fellowship. I wrote back to Takashi that we pass by Japan nearly each time we go to the Philippines, and I could drop by Tokyo for a while if we could be of any help to him. He liked this idea, so the next trip to Manila included a week in Japan. I arrived alone at night, slept a bit. Next morning, he had me teaching on many topics from 8 am to 8 pm, to a group of about 100 church pastors and others that he knew, one from as far away as Osaka, 8 hours on the train back home that night. Of course he had a good translator, and the topics were basic ones that I was ready for at any time.
The rest of the week we visited several Israel-oriented ministries; one was Korean, up north at Sendai, the city hit hard by the recent tsunami and earthquake. Actual Messianic Congregations are now also in Tokyo and near Nagoya, with smaller Bible study groups in between, at which I have taught in subsequent trips. Gospel resistance is still very strong in Japan, not solved by General MacArthur’s call for missionaries, who did not have the Messianic message that fits the Bible text so well, and therefore, it was the “white man’s religion,” not the Asian Hebraic message that is the Bible text. In the Bible they meet on Saturday and so do we! Case closed.
In 2000, I learned of First Fruits of Zion publications and a Bible Conference in Denver, CO. We went and met the staff, especially Tim Hegg, which has developed into a ministry friendship. I sent the publications to the Philippines and was requested by one Elder to teach the HaYesod program the next time I came. After teaching it in Florida first, I decided it was okay. Our base has always been in the mountains with mostly tribal people. They liked HaYesod. Then, a group in Manila heard about our coming celebration of Passover, and so about a dozen of them came up the mountain and joined us. This led to their sponsoring a HaYesod 2-Day Seminar in Manila, which sparked the beginning of Messianic understanding there. As “the word” spread, interested people found each other, and Torah study groups began to meet on Shabbat. There are at least 10 Messianic Congregations in Asia Pacific Messianic Fellowship now in the Manila area, plus others not in fellowship with us. We now have an apartment in Manila to serve as a base, supplied by a Messianic family wanting more teaching in Metro Manila!
Also, I taught a 3-Day HaYesod Seminar in Singapore in 2002 that sparked interest there for a few. Most of the selected 40 participants were hesitant to “make the break” from church to Messianic because their livelihood and future would be in jeopardy. However, one group did develop, which sent a delegation of a dozen members to our 3rd Bible Conference in Baguio, Philippines in 2005. On Internet, a small group in the central Philippines found us and invited me to teach for a couple days.
All of this activity motivated me to sponsor a Messianic Bible Teaching Conference in June 2003, in Baguio City, Philippines. As a new ministry, the title Asia Pacific Messianic Fellowship seemed just right. Months ahead, we sent out by mail and email invitations to any and everyone we could. Tim Hegg could not come to teach and neither could John Fischer. So, since Ariel Berkowitz was the main writer for HaYesod, we went to Israel to find him and invite him to teach. His schedule worked out fine. Nearly 200 participants came from all over the Philippines, 5 from Japan, and 2 from Indonesia. This was a good start, such that our 9th APMF Bible Conference in Manila in April 2011 drew nearly 400 participants, from all over the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. A couple from New Zealand, leaders in their Congregation in Auckland, wanted to come, but could not because of scheduled construction work. Nearly all leaders in Messianic congregations in fellowship with APMF are self-supporting, which is a basic plank in APMF practice and teaching.
In Indonesia there are several Messianic Congregations in Jakarta, with one having a radio and TV outreach: one in Yogyakarta, and a couple on the island of Sumatra. There are more that I am not connected with. Thailand is a new development, a mixture of nationalities working there. There might be several in the country, of various kinds of Messianics. I think there are several in Singapore, but only one in contact with APMF. In all, there are at least 30 Messianic Congregations affiliated with APMF, which is an educational mission, not a denomination, scattered from Japan to New Zealand. There are also many others not affiliated with APMF because of differences in doctrine and/or practice. One size does not fit all! We are happy with that, because a Congregation needs to be a harmonious family, based on Torah as we understand and apply it. Of interest to some might be the APMF position of no clergy, no paid personnel for congregational ministry. All are volunteers and employed in secular professions or vocations, like the Rabbis were in NT times, teaching in their spare time. Paul was not unusual in this regard. Learning is by books, classes, seminars, special Internet sites, and Yeshiva programs, besides their own continual Bible reading, study, and memorization.
APMF Annual Bible Conferences are to 1) provide Fellowship for all, especially those who come from rather small or isolated areas, to encourage each other in Koinonia, and 2) to provide solid Bible teaching from Messianic Jewish scholars, if available. All are motivated by the Spirit to go home and “motivate the troops” in Torah living as examples in their towns and villages, and to communicate Bible Truth to all interested to learn. We are thankful for email, by which we keep in touch as much as possible.
Some of the younger men have been criticized by former church friends, so have wanted to get training toward a “certificate” or degree of some sort. But all in all, the LORD is establishing what He intends to do through all of His many servants, so that it is amazing to see what exists today compared to next-to-nothing 10 years ago. And it is also interesting that as far as I know, everyone is Gentile except the male leader from the Auckland, NZ congregation.
About the Author: Roger Walkwitz and his wife, Naomi, are “retired” Messianic missionaries to the Philippines. Roger is the founder of Asia Pacific Messianic Fellowship, an organization aimed at educating and connecting Messianic communities throughout the Asia Pacific region. You can find out more information about AMPF on their website, www.APMFInc.com, or about Roger Walkwitz on his personal website, www.Walkwitz.com/Roger. This article first appeared in Vol. 29, No. 4 of Petach Tikvah (Oct-Dec 2011).
This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Messiah to the Nations newsletter.
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