DHAKA, Bangladesh (BP)–Ten-year-old Mya* did not wish to embarrass her parents at a funeral, but she would not bow to the idols. She felt she could not. Even when her mother beat her with a cane to force her to bow, Mya stood firm.
“Why? Why would she not bow down? Mya obeys me in everything, except this one thing,” Mya’s mother, Yon*, lamented weeks later during a luncheon visit with her friend Susan Galvin*.
Susan, an International Mission Board missionary, knew why Mya would not bow. Mya and Susan’s son, David*, attend school together. Young David accepted Jesus as his Savior on Good Friday four years ago, and he immediately began sharing the gospel with Mya and other friends.
“I was dumbstruck as to what to say. If I told Yon about Mya’s decision and change of heart, then I would be bringing great risk to a tender 10-year-old girl,” Susan said. “But if I said nothing, I would lose a great opportunity to witness. So I kept quiet and let Yon go on and on about her daughter’s stubbornness and refusal to submit to their Buddhist ways.”
Bangladesh, a country slightly smaller than Iowa in land mass, rests between India and Myanmar and borders the Bay of Bengal. About 86 percent of its 146 million population is Muslim.
About 700,000 Buddhists call Bangladesh home. Many are tribal people. Some are immigrants from nearby countries. Nearly all practice a mix of Buddhism and animism or ancestral worship. Buddhism and Christianity together make up less than 1 percent of the country’s population, according to government census data.
Numbers mean little to David Galvin, but friends he values.
The day after David prayed in 2002 to receive Jesus as Savior, he helped his parents host an Easter party for his friends, including Mya and her brother. Six months later, David remained enthusiastic about making sure every one of his friends had an opportunity to hear about Jesus.
“He said he had been thinking about telling his friends about God since he was in preschool,” Susan said. “Now that he was in first grade, he decided it was time to tell them. I said I would commit to pray for him in my morning devotions, that God would give him the right words at the right time for his friends. I began asking family and friends to pray with us about this.
“David shared with his Muslim and Buddhist friends their need to be Christians, so they could go to heaven. He said he now knew why God had brought him to Bangladesh -– to tell his friends about God.”
The IMB has about 360 adults serving in the seven countries that make up South Asia, but its missionary force is much larger when including their missionary kids (MKs) –- about 80 in elementary grades and 50 youths.
“That’s what we want to see -– MKs sharing what they believe with others around them, missionary kids becoming kid missionaries. How exciting!” said Gillian Laswell*, MK education consultant for the IMB’s South Asia region.
The first year David made his commitment to share about Jesus with his friends, as a result of his influence and others, Mya asked Jesus into her heart.
“She was a bit secretive with it, however, since her parents are Buddhists,” Susan said. “There were times her brother, Min*, would laugh at her for reading her Bible, but this didn’t seem to deter the shy, quiet Mya. The mother allowed Mya to go with us to church and AWANA. Since there are few other activities for children, Yon didn’t mind her children doing some of the Christian activities and coming to our Christian holiday parties. Mya was always happy to go.”
Four years later, Mya’s faith in God has been tested and proved true.
As Yon continued expressing her concerns during her luncheon visit with Susan, she said: “My husband blames me because I have allowed Mya and Min to go to church and to AWANA, but they are too young to understand. They are too young to make a decision to become a Christian. Min is no problem; he has not been affected. But Mya is different. She is even acting like a Christian! What do you think?”
Now, because of her son’s witness to Mya, Susan has had even greater opportunity to share about Jesus with Mya’s mother.
“I began talking about the Gospel, rather than Mya,” Susan said. “I told her: ‘There is one creator God who made all of us, who loves us and wants a relationship with us; but we are sinful and cannot even come near to Him, because He is holy. Still, He loves us, so He made a way for us to come to Him. That way is through Jesus Christ. By His death and sacrifice, we have been given forgiveness. We can receive this forgiveness through our belief in Jesus. This is not difficult to understand. Even children can understand it.’
“At this point Yon became very quiet and thoughtful,” Susan said. “It seemed that Yon had finally come to believe that Mya had made a change in her heart.”
Yon has not yet made a decision to follow Jesus as Savior, but her friendship with Susan continues.
“Yon even calls to make sure we take the children to church with us, and we are carpooling for AWANA, too,” Susan said. “I’m grateful they haven’t forbidden Mya to go but even seem to encourage it.
“I told David what Mya endured and how her faith remained steadfast. Mya has made quite an impact in our lives by her strong faith and humble character,” she said. “I pray that Mya would continue to stand firm in her beliefs and that God would protect her so that His great plan for her life would be realized. I also pray for Yon, her husband, and their son, Min, that they, too, would come to believe in the one true God and find salvation in Jesus.”
Meanwhile, David continues to live as a missionary kid whose life emphasizes “missionary” more than kid. This month he and his family hosted another Easter party for David’s friends. Thirteen children came -– Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians -– to hunt for 220 plastic eggs, hear the story of Easter, and eat the “Empty Tomb” cake Susan had made.
“Some of the older boys -– ages 11 and 12 –- had never heard details about the crucifixion,” Susan said. “As we went through the various symbols of Easter, the kids were drawn to the crown of thorns and large nail and took it upon themselves to pass it around for all to feel. The price Jesus paid for our sins suddenly became real to many of them. It wasn’t just a story I was telling. It was real.
“When the last egg was opened and found empty -– symbolizing the empty tomb and Jesus’ victory over sin and death –- there seemed to be a sigh of relief over all the children,” she said. “One girl from a Buddhist background rolled back the ‘stone’ on the cake and pulled out the ribbon that read ‘He is not here. He has risen!’ There was great reason to rejoice on Easter.
“The boys who had never heard the crucifixion story were visibly moved. One boy is Hindu and the other Muslim. Like Mya, both are longtime friends and classmates of David,” Susan said. “Pray that the seeds sown in these children’s hearts will grow and bear eternal fruit.
“And pray that our MKs will continue to be living witnesses to the lost around them,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe the reason my husband, Burt*, and I are here is so David can tell his friends about God!”
*Names changed for security reasons. Goldie Frances is a missionary writer serving in the South Asia region.
Prayer Points for Buddhists in Bangladesh:
— Despite the growing number of Christian believers and churches in Bangladesh, Hinduism and Buddhism are the main religions among tribal people. Ask God to send forth His Word of truth to Bangladesh’s tribal people.
— Easter is the most important holiday for Christians in Bangladesh, yet the national government does not recognize this day. Ask God to make His salvation known to all corners of the country.
— On April 22, Buddhists in Bangladesh celebrated Buddha Purnima, the biggest Buddhist festival of the year. Buddhists say that three important events occurred in Buddha’s life on this day: his birth, his enlightenment and his death. Please pray for true enlightenment to come to Buddhists who live in darkness.
— Last November, a Christian believer was hospitalized after suffering a severe beating by Buddhists in a village that is desperately trying to keep others from accepting Jesus. Please pray for God’s protection over new believers’ health and faith.
South Asia includes the seven countries of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan. If you would like more information on how you can pray for the peoples of South Asia, please write to [email protected] You also may send letters of encouragement to David or other South Asia MKs to this same address.
Stories and prayer requests written and distributed by South Asia News are provided free of cost for publication and circulation. Please send questions, comments or requests for photographs to [email protected]
For information about serving long-term in South Asia, please visit www.imb.org and click on “Your Going.” For more information about volunteer needs in South Asia, e-mail [email protected]
For more information about South Asia, please write to [email protected] or visit www.go2southasia.org.