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Gospel arrived right on time for woman in Himalayas

Shanti, a South Asian believer, is baptized. Shanti was "the first person in this people group to finish the race,” an IMB missionary says. Shortly after she was baptized last year, she found out she had cancer. In February, Shanti died and now lives eternally with Jesus. IMB Photo

SOUTH ASIA (BP) – The Gospel got to Shanti right on time, thanks to prayers, gifts and the faithfulness of national believers Lalita and Sandeep.

Last year, Southern Baptists learned about Lalita and Sandeep. In partnership with International Mission Board missionaries Mike and Beth McKenzie, Sandeep located an unreached people group on a trip that Mike commissioned among his national partners. The national partners were tasked to go into hard-to-reach areas and research remote peoples with no Gospel access. During that time the team of nationals located and built relationships with 13 of these groups. Shanti’s people were one of the groups.

Her people are Hindu, with a population of around 6,000. Because other people groups speak the language they commonly use, there’s a translation of the Bible and some audio recordings available to them. Still, it took perseverance for Sandeep and Lalita to reach them with the Gospel.

Last year, there were 25 believers baptized and a growing church. Shanti was one of them. Her family was among the first to come to faith, as the first believing family brought the Gospel to them, and they believed. Now, there are more than 30 believers who followed in believer’s baptism. In seven of her people’s villages, there are churches.

And while every profession of faith should be celebrated, Shanti’s is special. As Mike puts it “She is the first person in this people group to finish the race.” Shanti was part of the second family in the village to come to faith. Shortly after she was baptized last year, she found out she had cancer. In February, Shanti died.

“We grieve,” Mike shared, “but at the same time, we’re thankful that the Gospel made it to her.”

By all accounts, Mike said, she was faithful till the end. His gratefulness for this is amplified, because as church planters in remote unreached places, it’s not uncommon for the missionaries to see new believers face persecution or other hardships and fall away from Jesus, he said.

“We rejoice that the Gospel was able to get there and, that the Lord worked and now she’s with Christ,” he said.

The McKenzies, their fellow IMB missionaries and their national partners are grateful for Shanti’s life and the promise from Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” But they know there are many others like Shanti who haven’t heard the Gospel. There is no missionary presence among them.

Part of McKenzie’s role in his area is to lead IMB’s new Project 3000 pioneering initiative to reach 3,000 unengaged, unreached people groups. In South Asia alone, where Shanti lived, there are around 1,000 unengaged people groups.

For McKenzie, Shanti helped personalize this mission even more. “From Shanti’s life, we see even more clearly the need for Project 3000 so that we can quicken the process of getting the Gospel to these unengaged groups,” McKenzie said.