ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–In a nation portrayed in the media as Osama bin Laden’s reputed hideout, a terrorist hot potato and a land in danger of the influences of Islamic fundamentalism, God has never been working more, according to the Southern Baptists who labor inside its borders.
God, through the prayers and obedience of His people, is impacting Pakistan. The tragic earthquake that hit northern Pakistan in 2005 opened up doors in previously closed areas, and the Gospel is spreading in many ways.
“A long time ago, I read a book on folks who lived here in the 1940s,” one Southern Baptist representative said. “It took a long time to get places and they buried children here and there were harsh winters. Their heroism challenged others who went years later to establish clinics and learn the language. They were the faithful ones who prayed and involved their churches to pray for their areas.”
These prayers — and those of churches and volunteer teams in more recent years — are why believers are popping up all over Pakistan, his wife said.
“People have been coming for 10 to 20 years and praying over the nation,” she said. “We’re now seeing the results of that. The time for Pakistan is now. I really believe the Holy Spirit is working as He has never done before from the south to the north.”
In one large city, a house church successfully reproduced itself. In another location, people groups that were previously completely unreached now have groups of believers meeting. One group has multiple churches within it.
A people group is a group of individuals, frequently speaking the same language, with a shared self-identity and worldview. Strategically, a people group is the largest group through which the Gospel can flow without encountering a significant barrier.
“It was frustrating the first two years,” said a representative in the group with new multiple churches. “For the past year and a half, it’s like a different place. The Lord has been working. There are 75 to 100 believers now. The goal is 1,000 in the next few years, and the believers here say it’s going to happen.”
In another city, literature distribution to refugees from a nearby war-torn land has spread like wildfire since God provided one national believer from among this people group.
“We gave him a Bible story and a notepad and told him to ride buses and tell the story and record the names of those he told and their responses,” one Southern Baptist representative said. “He came back with hundreds of names and another list of 180 people in his home village whom he’d shown the ‘JESUS’ film to.”
This evangelist and other partners then distributed 2,000 pieces of literature during Christmastime to house guards and truck drivers, many of whom are from his people group. The local representative reported 230 phone calls because of the literature, with 80 expressing deep interest in the Gospel.
“Since Christmas, six new believers from this people group are in our city,” the local evangelist said. “We’re just ecstatic about that.”
Thirteen believers of this group are in another city, and others are peppered throughout the nation. In July, the number reached nearly 50.
Within less than a year, the earthquake that devastated Pakistan’s northern region last October has also brought positive results as people are more open to the Gospel.
“It provided a way for believers who were completely ostracized from their families to go help and say other followers of Jesus want to help,” one Southern Baptist said. “These areas weren’t open to outsiders. The doors are closing soon, but in the places we’ve been in, because of our presence and cultural sensitivity, we’ll be able to stay there.”
Despite the trials of living in an Islamic Third World country, many Southern Baptists can testify of the hospitality of the Pakistanis and their willingness to hear people’s stories of how they came to Christ and to dialogue about Jesus’ message. The South Asia region of the International Mission Board has established an initiative called “mPak Pakistan” through which churches in the United States can adopt various districts in Pakistan for prayer and outreach.
“If we don’t get out there and get nationals to rise to the occasion, we’re not going to have a part in what God is doing,” one Southern Baptist representative said. “We’ll miss it if we don’t jump on the wave that’s coming.”
*Name changed for security reasons. Ethan Leyton is a Southern Baptist serving in the South Asia region. For more information, visit www.go2SouthAsia.org.