RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Sweating under the hot Southeast Asian sun, a young man watches fire ants swarm across the branches of a tree. He stretches out a gaunt arm and scoops up a handful of the red insects.
He soaks the ants in water and lays them in the sun. Later he salts them and puts the dried ants in his mouth. It’s a poor excuse for a meal, but the ants are all Borey* has.
The Southeast Asian believer has given away all his money to help send sick villagers to the hospital and to buy food for those with even less to eat than he has.
“You cannot serve God being sick!” Borey’s mentor, Pumehana Funakoshi,* admonishes. Funakoshi, a Southern Baptist worker, has come to Borey’s corner of Southeast Asia to share Jesus’ love.
“You need to take care of your health,” she tells him.
Funakoshi knows how much the young man has suffered. For the sake of proclaiming Christ’s name, Borey has been beaten, ostracized and threatened by family and has even turned down lucrative job offers.
Despite all this, he has persevered for seven years — since Funakoshi first led him to Christ — in sharing the Gospel.
Borey first met Funakoshi when she was teaching Sunday School under a stilt house in the city. He traveled by bicycle from his village to attend. Borey listened as Funakoshi told Bible stories and sang songs with the children.
For a month, the shy teenager listened. Then he told Funakoshi he wanted to know more. After she shared with him, he prayed to accept Christ.
“I’ve found the true God!” Borey exclaimed. “I’ve got to tell my family now.”
Borey jumped on his bicycle and began the three-hour ride back to his village. But later that day he returned to Funakoshi’s house, crestfallen, explaining through tears his family’s spiteful reaction to his newfound faith.
“Everyone hates me,” he said, telling Funakoshi that the village despised him.
“Why are you believing in a foreign religion?” his mother had demanded. “You are not my son.”
Regardless of the rejection, Borey left the city at 3 a.m. every Sunday, riding three hours to reach his village and share the Gospel with his family. Despite her initial anger, his mother still spoke with him. What Borey didn’t know was that, little by little, the Gospel was seeping into her heart.
After only a month, Borey saw the fruits of his labor. That day he walked with several of his family members into the flooded rice fields. There he baptized 12 new believers, including his sisters — and his mother.
Against decades of family tradition, she now worshipped Jesus as Lord and Savior.
A changed village
For a while, Borey’s village was transformed. Nearly 30 people professed faith in Christ. They began to pray to Jesus and cut off the strings they wore to ward off evil spirits.
One day a village boy came to Borey, his hand swollen and red from an insect bite. Borey prayed for him, his hand resting on the boy’s arm.
When Borey opened his eyes, the hand was still infected. Borey continued to pray, watching in amazement with others as the swelling and redness began to disappear.
“Jesus healed me!” the little boy exclaimed. “Jesus healed me!”
Borey also found healing from a longstanding, emotional wound. At Funakoshi’s urging, Borey went in search of his father, who had left his mother before Borey was born. Borey’s mother had always said his father was dead.
When an aunt introduced father and son several years earlier, Borey had refused to acknowledge their relationship. Now, as a Christian, he found his father frail and dying of cancer.
Borey took his father to the hospital, where he led him to Christ. His father lived for three more months and reconciled with his wife and children.
Paying the price
But along with these miracles came intense persecution. Borey’s brothers never accepted Christ. An older brother sometimes came at midnight with other villagers to beat Borey.
The group of about 30 worshippers dwindled to only a few of his own family members as villagers forbade their children and wives to visit Borey’s house. One woman destroyed her Bible and beat her children for going to worship.
“It’s so hard to be a Christian,” Borey told Funakoshi. “But I know that this is the true God. But why do we have to be so persecuted and hurt? The neighbors call names to my mom and they curse Jesus’ name. We’re one of the poorest families.”
“No prophet is accepted in his hometown,” Funakoshi told Borey, quoting Luke 4:24. “They didn’t welcome Jesus either.”
Undeterred, Borey continued to preach the Gospel in other villages. One of Borey’s brothers stole the motorcycle he used to travel; God provided another one.
“My brother is so furious with me, more than ever,” Borey told Funakoshi. “He and my neighbors want to force me to stop telling people about Jesus Christ. They say I and my mom are an embarrassment to our neighborhood because we still believe and sing praises to Jesus and are still the poorest people in our village.
“He also said I am the foolish one because I have the brains and talent to become someone important in society, and I’m wasting my life telling people of my God and Savior,” Borey said.
His brother told him to accept a job he was offered in the government, which would pay him well above the average monthly income of a village office worker. Borey turned that job down, plus two other opportunities for sizeable salaries.
“Thank you, sir, but I already have a job,” Borey told the factory owner who wanted to hire him, knowing that a full-time job would split his attention from his ministry.
“Why don’t you think about yourself and your mom?” Borey’s brother demanded. “You and Mom have no land, no house. Who will take care of you both?”
Borey replied calmly, “My God will take care of us.”
While he hopes to one day study medicine, Borey knows this is his time to spread God’s Word.
“I don’t want to stop telling my people about Jesus Christ,” he told Funakoshi. “God is doing miracles, and I am so excited seeing people’s hearts and lives change as they believe and receive the Lord in their lives.
“People in other villages where I teach are so hungry to hear about Jesus Christ…. I know this is the place where God will ignite His fire and it will spread throughout the community.”
Spreading the Gospel
One of Borey’s brothers says that if he does not stop telling people about Christ, he’ll banish him from the village.
“Your heart is to bring your people to the true God, and so this is your time to go,” Funakoshi told him. “If your brother wants to keep you out of your home village, well, go to other villages that are hungry for the true God and welcome the Good News. Isn’t it where you are preaching now?”
His teachings unwelcome at home, Borey now travels to far villages to teach.
“People love him,” Funakoshi says. “He knows everybody.”
While his own brothers threaten him, other villagers invite Borey to sleep in their homes so they can hear more about Christ. The believers he teaches give sacrificially, paying for the gas Borey needs to reach their remote locations.
He teaches from Matthew 5, saying, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” They, too, will be persecuted for their faith, he tells them.
Seeing the courage in Borey and other believers has increased Funakoshi’s own faith, she says. These people have given up everything — wealth, family, comfort and more — because they love Christ.
“Being here, I have seen extraordinary faith, miracles and what the New Testament church was like. I am blessed and humbled by these who truly live for God,” she says.
*Names changed. Susan O’Hara formerly was a summer intern with the International Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).