News Articles

Relief work opens doors for the gospel in South Asia

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–People in a remote village in South Asia have heard the good news of God’s love — and seen it in action — because Southern Baptists responded generously when natural disaster struck the area a year ago, leaving thousands dead and 1 million homeless.

Southern Baptist workers in the region gained access to a village that had lost 99 percent of its houses and seven of its 2,500 residents. They partnered with villagers and short-term Southern Baptist volunteer teams in a food-for-work program, allowing needy locals to help with home construction in exchange for meals.

Villagers who worked side by side with the Southern Baptists understood the Christians were motivated by faith. As personal relationships developed, people heard the gospel.

Though none of the villagers has made public decisions for Jesus, the workers did see significant change in the spiritual climate of the village, a Christian worker said. One young man is close to committing to Christ.

“They began to listen carefully to the things we were saying,” said the worker, whose identity was withheld for security reasons.

The worker credited much of their success to the prayers of Southern Baptists.

“We saw the Lord take the prayers of people who were interested in what was going on in that village and make a way for us through the wilderness,” he said.

While most non-governmental organizations were struggling to gain access to the country, Southern Baptist workers were granted permission to contact villages.

Other groups that gained village access found residents with lists of demands, insisting that workers build temples.

In the village where Southern Baptists worked, though, one man said to the village leader, “Don’t we want to ask them to build us a temple?”

“We do not want to ask them to build us a temple. Religion should be our own personal business,” the leader responded.

“They understood we were motivated by our faith in God and Jesus Christ, and we responded in love to their need,” the worker said. “We feel like even the attitude they had from the outset is going to make it possible for people who are doing follow-up to share the gospel with them.”

A Christian South Asian pastor served as translator for the Southern Baptists and also found opportunities to share his faith with fellow South Asians.

“We shared our faith, but he did more openly,” the worker said. “He knew how far he could go in certain directions in opening a door in sharing the gospel with those people.”

The South Asian pastor has stayed in the village, serving with two other South Asian men, as a church planter.

In June, many village food-for-work participants left the construction site to tend the fields. To allow the work to continue, villagers volunteered funds from a government grant to help Southern Baptists hire workers from outside the village.

“That kind of a thing just does not happen in third world countries,” the worker said.

“They understood that we used money as wisely as we could and that we were willing to be involved ourselves. They understood that we were Christians, and they saw the sincerity behind that. They knew that they could trust us. All of that together caused them to believe they needed to be and wanted to be a part of paying for it themselves.”

Workers continued to see villagers become more open to the good news of Jesus Christ. Near the end of the workers’ time, one side of the village was raising funds for a religious festival. The South Asian man leading construction work told him, “We will not be doing anything like that.”

Other people wanted to erect an idol, but the majority refused. One woman cross-stitched crosses for all the Southern Baptist workers.

“It’s just one of the little things that indicates the gospel will be preached effectively in that village. They are aware of it,” the worker said.

When 15 Christian day laborers arrived, local villagers encouraged them to hold Christian worship services, and many villagers attended. Workers prayed for villagers openly in their homes, and villagers with sick family members asked for prayer.

“God was behind this project,” the worker said. “He had a message that is being given to those folks. I think they are now open to at least considering.”

A total of $326,000 from both World Hunger and General Relief funds made it possible for Southern Baptists to take the gospel to South Asia and build 200 houses there.

“Having financial resources available helped us respond immediately to many of the needs in South Asia,” said Jim Brown, the human needs consultant for the International Mission Board.

Contributions toward the efforts can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief Fund – South Asia, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
— Meeting human needs through the IMB: http://www.imb.org/GlobalVision/AnnualReport/human_needs.htm.
— With healing love, medical missionary Lee Baggett chips through walls of resistance in Guadalajara, Mexico: http://www.tconline.org/Stories/nov01/bagget.html.
— Other news about Southern Baptist missionaries: http://www.imb.org/learn/news/HeadLines.asp.

    About the Author

  • Manda Roten