For believers in South Asia, persecution comes in many forms. Often, professing faith in Christ can affect their standing within their communities and their ability to secure a means of providing for their families.
Mark* found faith in Christ about five years ago, reports IMB missionary Owen Stoddard*. Mark comes from a South Asian, Muslim background and works as a painter in his local community to provide for his wife and young daughter.
After Mark became a Christian, he obediently participated in believer’s baptism and began to boldly share the saving power of Christ with his fellow villagers. Mark’s obedience cost him his good reputation within the community and has affected his ability to find people who will hire him.
“Deciding to trust Christ and be baptized has blessed Mark with joy in Christ and fellowship with God’s people,” said Stoddard. “However, his faithfulness to share how Christ can also save other villagers causes locals who disapprove of his bold witness to speak out against him. As a result, it has become difficult for Mark to find work. Nevertheless, he has remained faithful to Christ.”
When Mark’s South Asian country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns left many families without jobs and a way to find food. This country in South Asia is small geographically, but very densely populated. Its residents make less in a day than many entry-levels positions in the U.S. pay per hour. Most of these South Asians are day laborers, working the rice and vegetable fields to feed their families.
IMB missionaries saw the desperate need for food among these South Asian people and put in a request to do a small relief project for some of the needy communities. Stoddard said thanks to Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and World Hunger Fund, the relief project was funded, and families were able to be fed.
“We calculated how much it would take to feed a family of four to five members basic food for about a week,” said Stoddard. “Next, we selected 65 faithful believers. We told the 65 that they would receive assistance to feed their family.”
“Finally, we asked them to prayerfully list three other families to receive assistance. Our encouragement to them was that at least two of the three families they select be people that they have or are planning to share the gospel with soon.”
According to Stoddard, when the believers gave the Muslim villagers the food many of them would say it was “given in the name of Jesus.”
Stoddard and other South Asian IMB missionaries in the area were especially encouraged by Mark’s generosity. Mark sought out the man who was the most responsible for publicizing his conversion and encouraging his persecution and gave his own family’s food to this man – his enemy.
“Since Mark received the gospel, he has learned to love and forgive, because God in Christ has loved and forgiven Mark,” Stoddard said.
“We praise God for Mark’s gift of faith and trust the Spirit and Word to bring forth fruit from his gift.”
*Names changed for security