Men march to the beat of their own drum

By Caroline Anderson

KATHMANDU, Nepal–One, one, one, two, two, one.

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, drummers from the Limbu people group practice their dance steps in preparation to record new praise and worship songs with other Limbu singers. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, drummers from the Limbu people group practice their dance steps in preparation to record new praise and worship songs with other Limbu singers. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

Nepalese across the nation recognize the beat. It’s part of the fabric and soul of Nepal and captures the rhythm of the Limbu people group.

Limbu believers proudly explain that this rhythm from their tall, cylindrical drum echoes and carries across the Himalayas.

Their drum is called a Ke and it’s used in festivals, house dedications and weddings. The drum rhythm is always accompanied by a special dance, called the Ke Lang dance that Limbu men perform while drumming.

Deepak Nepali* says when he hears the Limbu drums he knows he’s in Nepal. Deepak is involved in music ministry in Nepal and was one of the facilitators of a music workshop that the Limbu recently attended.

The workshop encouraged the Limbu and other people groups to use their traditional instruments and their native languages to write worship songs to use in their churches and for outreach.

Believers were told to pray and sing in their heart languages. Many had never done this before and had only prayed in Nepali.

Bikram Yekten remembers the first evening of the workshop when many of the believers present prayed and sang to God in their native language for the first time.

“Tears were falling,” Yekten recalls. “God gave us a language, God said every tongue and nation should worship and praise Him.”

Yekten is a pastor from the Limbu people group. Many years ago, there were 10 Limbu kings in eastern Nepal. One of Yekten’s ancestors was a king.

Limbu drummer practicing his large traditional Ke drum before a video production recording.  These drums are famous throughout Nepal for their big booming sound. Drummers insist they must move in rhythmic steps to help keep the tempo.  These drums are equipped with a thumper stick and small bell which adds the effects of two more instruments to the Ke drum sound.

Limbu drummer practicing his large traditional Ke drum before a video production recording. These drums are famous throughout Nepal for their big booming sound. Drummers insist they must move in rhythmic steps to help keep the tempo. These drums are equipped with a thumper stick and small bell which adds the effects of two more instruments to the Ke drum sound.

“Since I am Limbu, I should praise God in my own dialect, in my own melody. There is a difference in praising in our own language and other languages,” Yekten says.

The Limbu who attended the music workshop incorporated the Ke and the Ke Lang dance into worship songs they wrote and recorded — something that has never been done before.

“We must see the drummer,” Limbu singers told one of the workshop’s facilitators during a recording session.

The drummer struggled a little, wanting to dance while playing, but he needed to stay still for recording purposes.

When Yekten put earphones on and heard the Limbu language being sung, he couldn’t keep his tears from escaping.

“Now, we have the liberty and chance to praise God now in our own language,” Yekten said.

Keeping traditions alive

Two younger Limbu men were a part of the Limbu team at the workshop. Though they are modern and cosmopolitan – sporting carefully moussed hair, blue jeans and button-down shirts, they know their people group’s traditional dance.

Deepak says younger believers like these men will help keep the Limbu traditions alive.

Music is an integral part of Limbu society. Music plays a role in romance, relaxation, religious festivities, weddings, house dedication and harvesting crops.

Just outside a make-shift recording studio, Limbu drum musicians tune their large Ke drums in preparation to record new songs of praise and worship with other Limbu musicians.

Just outside a make-shift recording studio, Limbu drum musicians tune their large Ke drums in preparation to record new songs of praise and worship with other Limbu musicians.

Ram Prasad Kadel, author of “Musical Instruments of Nepal,” writes that Limbu men are known for their musicality. He writes that it is how males express emotions and feelings.

Limbu men tease women with a mini iron flute, called a Penje. Men court women with an instrument made out of a leaf, known as a Tetlaa Phekwaa. Men take breaks from work and play a bamboo reed, known as a Kom Mikala.

The workshop emphasized the importance of keeping these instruments in use.

In addition to keeping traditions and instruments alive, a goal for the music workshop was for people groups to use the newly written songs as a ministry tool.

“I hope God puts in your heart a prayer that every language, every tribe will be able to sing and preach the praise of God,” Deepak told believers during the closing session.

“If we have the responsibility to tell people about Jesus in their heart languages, don’t we also have the responsibility to share worship music in their language?” Deepak asked.

The Limbu believers at the workshop took seriously the responsibility to share their worship music.

In the months following the workshop, Yekten reported that six Limbu became believers after listening to the worship songs.

Now, their famous drums and dance are being used to reach the Limbu with the Gospel.

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*In Nepal, individuals’ last names are often the name of their people group.

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Asia.

 

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—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

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Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

Blind songwriter sings of God’s vision

By Caroline Anderson*

KATHMANDU, Nepal–Sheshlal Rajbansi and two fellow Rajbansi** believers write songs in a room of canopied beds guarded by mosquito nets. The men sit cross-legged as the warm morning light seeps through the sheer green curtain. A picture of the Annapurna range in the Himalayas hangs on the wall.

Sheshlal works through a tune, fiddling with the drum and humming a few notes. The songwriting team starts discussing the downbeats and timing of the song on which they are working.

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, participants were encouraged to write new music in their own language. This Rajbansi blind musician (left) composes and rehearses a new song with one of his team mates.

Sheshlal Rajbansi is almost completely blind. His inability to see doesn’t hinder his worship. He sings the loudest during the group worship time during the workshop in Nepal. Since his sight is limited, he can, “sing and worship without distractions”, he says. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

Sheshlal, a former Hindu, sings a few lines, lifting his chin slightly toward the ceiling, allowing the muted light to illuminate his face. His knees rest on the drum and he marks out the beat for the newly penned song.

He’s almost completely blind.

The contextualized music workshop last fall, which Sheshlal attended, brought believers together from people groups throughout Nepal for times of instruction, worship, songwriting and recording.

His inability to see doesn’t hinder his worship. He sings the loudest during the group worship time during the workshop in Nepal. Since his sight is limited, he can sing and worship without distractions, he says.

This was the second workshop Sheshlal and the Rajbansi believers attended. Music is a very important part of Rajbansi culture, according to Sheshlal.

Ethan Leyton,* a International Mission Board ethnomusicologist in South Asia, led one of the sessions and helped the groups record their songs.

“Music is a part of their culture,” Leyton says. “This workshop isn’t introducing worship for the first time, but giving it a deeper meaning, a place.”

Leyton explains that the worship songs have a deeper meaning because they’re composed in the native language of the people groups and not Nepali, the national language. Most of the Christian songs are in Nepali.

Sheshlal is excited to be writing music in his own language.

“Yes, we have Nepali songs and we’ve translated Nepali songs into our mother tongue and that has great benefit,” Sheshlal says. “But written songs written in Rajbansi song style, music style, and mother tongue, really has a great benefit to the believers and to our neighbors who are not yet believers.”

Sheshlal wrote the majority of the songs they’ve produced.

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, participants were encouraged to write new music in their own language. This Rajbansi blind musician (center) composes and rehearses a new song with his team.

Believers from the Rajbansi people group write down the lyrics to a song the group just composed at a recent music workshop in Nepal. At all hours of the day and night during the workshop, Sheshlal Rajbansi, center, says the Lord gifted him with song lyrics. This time the lyrics came in the afternoon. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

At all hours of the day and night during the workshop, Sheshlal says the Lord gifted him with song lyrics.

This time the lyrics came in the afternoon.

Wholehearted worship

“It’s in my mind already, it’s coming,” Sheshlal says, describing the songwriting process. “It’s in my mouth, I’m going to sing it and they are going to write it down.”

An older Rajbansi man with glasses scrambles to write down the lyrics bursting forth from Sheshlal.

In between stanzas, Sheshlal cracks his back. “I was not sick and disabled [always],” he explains.

Several years ago, Sheshlal went to bathe in the river — customary for many in South Asia. He says poison or chemicals must have contaminated the water because his right eye began hurting and he lost sight in that eye. He soon also lost vision in his left eye.

Sheshlal’s parents took him to witchdoctors but that didn’t help. He visited doctors in Delhi and they weren’t able to help him. He had surgery on one eye but that didn’t help either.

“I was desolate. I took poison to end my life,” Sheshlal admits. A Christian heard about Sheshlal’s sight problems and traveled to his village to talk to him.

“God wants to do a work in your life, and He can heal your eyes, but I don’t know exactly what He wants to do, but He wants to do an inner work in you and give you peace inside,” the Christian told him.

“What good is that? How can that be? I had so many questions,” Sheshlal says. But after some time, he committed his life to Christ and agreed to attend discipleship training.

“Even though I couldn’t read, the Lord enabled me to get a very high grade, even past what some of the others had.” Sheshlal says.

A brother in Christ who had been studying for four years asked him how he was able to do so well.

“It is just lodged in my memory,” he says. “So in this training time, I also learned what it meant to live as a believer.” Sheshlal said he learned how his blindness could be a witness.

“God gives purpose in life, even to those who have lost major abilities in their body,” Sheshlal says. “I have been able to share hope and Good News to people all around, not only in my immediate village area but in numbers of districts going [on] for five, six years,” Sheshlal says.

Sheshlal Rajbansi doesn’t use his limited vision a s a crutch or excuse to stay home. He recently attended a music-writing workshop in Nepal where he composed the majority of his group’s songs. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

Sheshlal Rajbansi doesn’t use his limited vision as a crutch or excuse to stay home. He recently attended a music-writing workshop in Nepal where he composed the majority of his group’s songs. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

Sheshlal said God spoke to him and told him, “Son, never do I want you to allow people to feel sorry for you because of your disability. I want them to look on your life and know Me, what I’ve done in you and what I want to do in other people’s lives.”

Now, Sheshlal doesn’t use his disability as a crutch or an excuse to stay home.

He uses it to encourage others who may be in the same desolate place he was, intending to end their life rather than to live a life disabled.

“God gives us purpose in life,” he told a man whose arm was cut off at the shoulder.

Sheshlal believes music brings such encouragement and enables people to have a way to express their feelings to God.

Sheshlal often travels on the back of friend’s motorcycle 20 days a month to share his testimony and the songs he and other Rajbansi believers wrote at their first workshop.

Rajbansi believers held two outreach programs in their village after fall’s workshop. Sheshlal continues to sing of God’s vision for people to know and serve.

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*Caroline Anderson is an IMB writer who serves in Asia.

*Name changed

**In Nepal, individuals’ last names are often the name of their people group.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

Dancing, singing used in Santali worship

By Caroline Anderson

KATHMANDU, NEPAL–If there is one thing the Santali people love, it’s music.

It’s not uncommon for Santali Christians to spend two hours singing and dancing in church.

Until a recent contextualized music workshop, there were no songs in the Santali language. Before, believers used songs that were either in Nepali or translated from English to Santali.

Binod Santali sees music as a way to reach his peop le with the Good News. He explains how his church used newly written worship songs in outreaches in their community. Santali believers paired native dances w ith the worship songs to create a drama that presented Jesus’ ability to heal and s ave.

Binod Santali sees music as a way to reach his people with the Good News. He explains how his church used newly written worship songs in outreaches in their community. Santali believers paired native dances with the worship songs to create a drama that presented Jesus’ ability to heal and save.

The goal and vision of the workshop was to enable believers to write worship songs in their native languages and use their indigenous song styles.

The Santali produced 35 songs in the first workshop.

International Mission Board ethnomusicologist worker Ethan Leyton* has been conducting music workshops for eight years in South Asia. He’s helped countless people groups write and record worship songs.

“I have never seen a group work as hard as the Santali group,” Leyton says. “I have never seen God give as many songs as he’s given to the Santali.”

Binod Santali, pastor of a Santali congregation, said the songwriting experience was new for him.

Binod says he was skeptical at first. When he heard his team of believers would be composing songs, he thought it would be really hard work — and it was hard work, he adds, laughing.

Santali believers wrote revival songs, marriage songs, songs about personal testimony and songs to use during the Lord’s Supper.

“These are not songs in the hymnal, these are songs we’ve composed,” Binod said.

The songs they wrote in their native language are more meaningful and more heartfelt now, the pastor says.

“After composing, we started singing [the new songs] in church. There was so much excitement in church,” Binod says. “We are dancing and singing late into the night.”

Women from the Santali people group perform a welco me dance in a Sunday morning service. The dance originally welcomed visi tors to village and now Santali believers use it to welcome visitors to church.

Women from the Santali people group perform a welcome dance in a Sunday morning service. The dance originally welcomed visitors to village and now Santali believers use it to welcome visitors to church.

The Santali have not only incorporated their newly written songs into their worship services, they have also integrated their native dances into their services.

Santali people perform a cultural song and dance to welcome guests. Women line up in two lines and slow dance their way up the aisle to the beat of the drum. The women then present garlands to the guests.

Binod says his church is using this long-standing custom to welcome visitors to the church.

“We have such a beautiful culture, we need to use what God has given us for the glory of God,” Binod says.

Binod revealed several indicators in Santali culture that point to a Creator.

The Santali believe in paradise and hell. There is a story about a serpent who lied and took people away from the one true God and led them to worship multiple gods.

Santali wash the feet of guests who visit the village—a custom that existed long before Christianity was introduced to the people group. It’s a symbol of humility to wash guest’s dusty feet after a long journey.

Binod tells new believers that a story of foot washing is also in the Bible.

Since the Santali people love music, Binod says music is a way to reach people with the Gospel.

“This is the main, important tool for reaching the Santali people,” Binod insists. “Because of music, Santali people will be attracted to the Gospel.”

The Santali believers immediately put into practice what they learned at the music workshop, and they’re using it as a ministry tool. They recognize the power of music and want to reach their people with the Gospel, Binod says.

His church held a music and drama outreach in their community and explained the Gospel to the village.

Taking the Gospel to the streets

Believers from the Santali people group perform a s kit about a man trying to find his way to heaven. He asks a blind woman, a crazy woman and a drunkard, and none of them can tell him. A Santali believer plays the rol e of Jesus and shares how the man can get to heaven.

Believers from the Santali people group perform a skit about a man trying to find his way to heaven. He asks a blind woman, a crazy woman and a drunkard, and none of them can tell him. A Santali believer plays the role of Jesus and shares how the man can get to heaven.

Believers gather in the road, and as villagers assemble, the women hold hands in a semicircle and begin dancing. Men come into the circle with drums. The women step forward and back, singing the songs they’ve just written in the workshops.

“In heaven there are holy people, singing holy songs,” the Santali sing. “We are sinners, we don’t go to heaven, to go to heaven we must change our hearts. Let us hear the voice from heaven and word of God and it will change our hearts.”

The believers perform a skit about a man trying to find his way to heaven. The man asks a blind woman, a crazy woman and a drunkard how to get to heaven. None of them can tell him. In the last scene of the skit, Jesus comes and explains how they can get to heaven.

Leyton visited Binod’s church and took part in the festivities.

“God’s doing something, I encourage you to keep going with this,” Leyton told Binod and the Santali believers. He told the believers that God created the Santali to be lights for Him in their community.

Leyton says he often prays, “May there be many believers who sing the prayers of Jesus in their own language and their beloved style so that the name of Jesus may be proclaimed.”

“God answered my prayer for the Santali,” Leyton says.

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*Name changed

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Asia.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

Workshop helps believers preserve culture, language

Deepak Nepali, a facilitator at a recent contextualized music workshop dances with believers from several people groups during a neighborhood outreach.

By Caroline Anderson

KATHMANDU, Nepal— Cultures and languages of Nepal’s 120 people groups are vanishing into the Himalayas with the morning mist.

This past fall, national believers and International Mission Board ethnomusicologist Ethan Leyton* helped coordinate a contextualized music workshop in eastern Nepal to help followers of Jesus Christ realize the importance of keeping culture and language alive—and using it to worship God.

Many middle aged and elderly Nepalese realize how their culture is disappearing, while the younger generation is only beginning to grasp the situation.

As younger generations of Nepalese lean more toward Western culture, tribal cultures and languages are slowly slipping away, Deepak Nepali**, the main facilitator at the music workshop, says.

The workshop allowed believers to preserve their language, culture and music and provided the believers with ministry tools to reach their people groups.

Younger believers attending the music workshops recognized the tangible value of what they’re losing as their hands tapped the Madal drum, when they wore their national dress for the first time and as their fingers popped up and down over the holes of bamboo flutes.

During the music workshop morning sessions, Deepak Nepali, the conference leader, entertains, inspires and trains believers to write new songs of praise in their own dialects and cultural styles.

During the music workshop morning sessions, Deepak Nepali, the conference leader, entertains, inspires and trains believers to write new songs of praise in their own dialects and cultural styles.

Sam Douglas,* a Christian worker in South Asia, said that TV, Internet and radio are the biggest contributors to the loss of culture, music and instruments in Nepal — both in secular and religious arenas.

Jason Rai, a believer from the Lorung Rai people group, said Christians are losing their people group’s culture for two reasons.

“The Christian church has generally said, ‘leave behind your own culture,’” Jason explains. His father was a pioneer pastor in eastern Nepal and the second pastor to ever serve in the region.

Jason is a well-known songwriter and he’s written 200 songs in Nepali but none in his own language. After the recent workshop, Jason wrote several in the Lorung Rai language.

The second reason Christians are losing their culture, Jason says, is that many churches wanted to distance themselves from traditional music because songs and traditional instruments were usually used to worship other gods.

“Is the instrument the evil thing, or the heart and worship behind it?” Jason asked.

Jason encouraged the believers to evaluate what needs to be thrown away and what needs to be observed.

“Our own music styles and songs can be used in worship,” Jason said.

In the Nepali Bible, Psalm 150 lists Nepali instruments instead of the trumpet, lyre and cymbals.

A believer from the Newari people group of Nepal plays a newly written song on the  Bansuri, an instrument similar to a flute.

A believer from the Newari people group of Nepal plays a newly written song on the
Bansuri, an instrument similar to a flute.

Ron Krueger, a Christian worker with a long history of ministry in Nepal, said the Nepalese faith system is not segmented; instruments and song styles all have religious connotations.

Krueger said the Madal drum has been disassociated from local religions, but that is the only instrument he knows that isn’t connected to religion.

Krueger said many Nepalese believers feel they need to separate themselves after becoming Christians. He said it’s hard for Westerners, as outsiders, to make the call on what is redeemable in a culture because national believers must make those decisions.

“We empower them to analyze their culture through a biblical and redemptive perspective,” Krueger says.

Douglas said if a traditional instrument is used in temples the instrument has a bad image for first generation believers. He cautions believers to tread carefully when making decisions about what aspects of their culture to keep.

During one of the workshop’s sessions, Nepalese believers referenced Paul’s vision of clean and unclean food in Acts 10.

“We must listen to leaders, helping them to see the redemption of instruments for God’s glory,” Douglas says. “The need for prayer is very clear as we explore these issues.”

Douglas asked churches in the U.S. to pray for the Nepalese believers. “We had 20 churches praying for the participants to have godly wisdom as they work through these minefields,” he adds.

The Damphu is a cross between a tambourine and a drum. The Tamang people of  Nepal use the Damphu in cultural ceremonies. There is a special dance performed  while playing.

The Damphu is a cross between a tambourine and a drum. The Tamang people of
Nepal use the Damphu in cultural ceremonies. There is a special dance performed
while playing.

National believers are already making decisions and taking responsibility for the church’s stance on music and instruments. 

Believers were told to bring their traditional instruments to the workshop, but not many groups did. Others couldn’t find their instruments.

Believers from the Tamang people group were able to locate one of their instruments, a tambourine-like drum. The instrument is used in house dedications and other rituals. Before this workshop, the Tamang believers would have never used this in worship.

The tambourine had religious markings on it, but after listening to the sessions at the workshop believers said they’re redeeming it and using it in worship songs they’ve written.

Deepak loves seeing Christians restore and redeem their cultures for God’s glory.

During one of the sessions of the workshop, Deepak sang a song about two national instruments that were lost. He cried a little while singing.

He says the sound of the Madal, the most well-known drum in Nepal, is slowly losing its prominence in society.  Nepal’s beloved flute, the Basuri, is disappearing.

“In your church, do you hear the Sarangi? Do you hear the Madal?” Deepak asks the men and women. “Churches today have forgotten these.”

Churches in Nepal tend to use guitars and more Western-style worship, says Ramesh Rai, who is from the Nachhiring Rai people group.

“I’ve been in far, remote villages, where roads don’t even reach, and found Western drums sets,” Ramesh said. “It’s taken foreigners to come and encourage us to go back to our culture.”

Believers from the Newar people group head out to an open field to perform their  newly written songs. This was the first time most of them had worn their native  dress.

Believers from the Newar people group head out to an open field to perform their
newly written songs. This was the first time most of them had worn their native
dress.

Just as Nepal has lost instruments, it has lost languages as well. Deepak’s native language no longer exists.

“That’s why I encourage groups, ‘don’t lose your language,’” Deepak tells the group.

The workshop was the first time many of the younger believers wore their native dress. It won’t be the last time, one of the 20-somethings said. 

Believers at the workshop expressed the hope that redeeming their culture can start in the church and extend throughout Nepal.

“As we present our songs to our people, I believe there is going to be a great acceptance,” one believer said.

‘This has been each of us redeeming our traditions,” the believer continued. “This redemption of the culture is what the church should and is doing.”

*Name changed

**In Nepal, individuals’ last names are often the name of their people group.

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CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career— Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

All in the Name of Jesus

Why the Gospel Still Works

This article appeared in the February, 2014, issue of Missions Mosaic. Used with permission.

By Jean M. McLean

Of the 80 pastors assembled, more than 60 had been severely beaten and jailed for preaching the gospel. Still, the men worshipped—praying, singing, and weeping to Jesus. The pastors’ conferences Donald McKinney* leads in this Hindu-dominated land are different from those he attended in Mississippi and Florida. Many of these men don’t read. Most are poorer than any American homeless person. All are risking their lives by sharing the gospel.

These shoes represent the Indian workers and pastors who came to be trained with McKinney.

These shoes represent the Indian workers and pastors who came to be trained with McKinney.

And yet, as in the days of the early church, the numbers of these believers are growing. “The gospel still works,” McKinney says. Consider this:

• A poor woman invited a 28-year-old Hindu priest from a large temple to a tiny church. Although he had never heard of Jesus, the priest accepted her invitation. Upon hearing the message, he confessed, “Jesus is the only God!” He was immediately expelled from his job and disowned by his family.

• Another former Hindu priest had been traveling weekly to share the gospel. He and his pastor were preaching Christ almost 200 miles from home when a demon-possessed woman fell at his feet, covered her ears, and said, “Do not sing in Jesus’ name!” The demon was expelled that day. She was saved.

• After a man and his son spent a week in jail for preaching Christ in their village, they traveled 18 hours through excruciating conditions to a Christian conference to learn to do more.

It’s not just Christian leaders who face persecution from nationalist Hindus, says McKinney, who serves in a South Asian state of 60 million persons, including a city of 10 million. Those who confess Christ may be denied access to village water. Non-Hindus can’t be buried in their local cemeteries. Christians are prohibited from marrying neighbors. A declaration for Christ can be grounds for losing a job. Officials commonly kick down doors during home prayer meetings, beating participants mercilessly before throwing them into jail. For these believers, professing faith is truly an all-or-nothing commitment.

 Cost of Commitment

“But the gospel still works,” reports McKinney. “People will bear these things for the sake of Christ. Jesus is real. He does speak to these hearts, and they do believe in Him.” He cites the Romans 1 truth that the gospel is the power of Christ for salvation. “And these people know what that means.”

The irony, says this man whose voice cracks with emotion as he speaks of his faithful brothers and sisters, is that these Christians have very little Bible teaching. Unlike Americans with easy access to Christian education, these believers often hold doctrinal beliefs that McKinney considers unsound. Part of McKinney’s job is to teach sound doctrine. These believers quickly accept those truths. “But proper doctrine doesn’t ensure that you bear up under persecution,” he says. “These people will suffer hell on earth for the name of Jesus.” He marvels at the resilience of those with no material assets who are fully dependent on the Holy Spirit’s presence and their firm belief that Jesus is Lord.

Consider These Examples:

Life in the village varies from one place to another.

Life in the village varies from one place to another.

M* is the seventh pastor in a river town. Six before him were forced out by beatings, arrests, and constant persecution. M labored on, witnessing 20 families saved and baptized. The new believers publicly burned their idols, throwing the remains in the river. Many of the demon-possessed were delivered, saved, and baptized. That occurrence drove the police to close the 120-member church. At last count, the resulting home churches tallied 150 worshippers.

E* is an evangelist who is poorer than any United States street beggar. To preach Christ, he walks from village to village in homemade shoes held together with nails. His ever-present smile and servant’s heart make him a “light shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19).

Grandmother* told the demon idol she would pay for silver shoes for the idol if the god healed her sick granddaughter. As McKinney stood with her at the sick granddaughter’s bed, he explained that the idol couldn’t hear her and didn’t need silver shoes. When Grandmother heard about the true God, she began worshipping Jesus. God has since blessed the family with surgery the child needed.

Dire Need for Leaders

Not everyone who professes Christ in this region can bear the hardships. Some fall away. The most difficult to reach are those who have the most to lose. It’s the poor—those already living in desperate conditions—who tend to remain as first-generation Christians. They also tend to be the best leaders.

“We need people to pray that God would raise up young, untrained leaders. We want God to call 10,000 to 50,000, because there are 37,000 villages in this state. If they’re seminary trained, they’re not much good. They’ll want a salary, a house, a building, a secretary, and benefits. We need leaders who will live among farmers, with no electricity, with the smell of cow dung, with no income, and with scarce food.”

Some pastors have started raising pigs to support their ministries.

Some pastors are farmers, laboring in difficult jobs including pig husbandry.

Many leaders with those credentials will be illiterate. That’s fine, says McKinney, since he can train them in Bible storying. Ironically, this Christian worker with his PhD uses the same techniques—flannelgraph stories—he heard as a child, when his mother corresponded with a friend working with children in this same country. Now this former Christian college professor uses those storying techniques to train pastors.

For rural peoples, the Bible’s stories about farming, wells, animals, marriages, children, and fishing ring true. “When you read about Ruth going to a far country, or the woman at the well, those Bible stories sound just like yesterday’s gossip to these people,” McKinney says. But those stories contain something much more powerful than compelling characters and solid plot lines.

“Two Easters back, I sat with a man who shines shoes,” McKinney remembers. “I told him the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He asked, ‘Is this true?’ He shook his head, not because he doubted it, but because he had never heard it. There is a compelling force in these stories, a built-in truth element that just slaps the heart of a man and says, ‘This is true.’ ”

McKinney oversees a small group of young Christian workers, some of whom are struggling to reach the area’s significant Muslim population. The organization’s operating budget to reach 60 million people is $3,500 a year. “That’s the reality of needs versus resources.” And although McKinney would greatly appreciate more resources, he knows the ultimate power is in prayer.

“If you send your money and don’t pray, that’s of limited assistance. Money can do what money can do, but prayer can do what God can do.”

Ministry Across All Boundaries

While Donald McKinney works to equip leaders, his wife, Helen*, continues the Hindu women’s ministry she first started when she served with her husband in New York, while he was a professor. At that time, she taught Bible stories and cooking classes, serving as a substitute mother for young women whose husbands were corporate researchers. Now she does much of the same type of ministry for beggar women and children who seek the McKinneys’ prayers and free water. An average day brings 20 to 40 people through their home. The McKinneys are also friends with people of means. Those people “think we are really weird because we affiliate with construction workers and beggars,” McKinney says.

While Donald McKinney works to equip leaders, his wife, Helen*, works with women and children, sitting on concrete floors and giving free water to anyone in need.

While Donald McKinney works to equip leaders, his wife, Helen*, works with women and children, sitting on concrete floors and giving free water to anyone in need.

Like her husband, Helen loves her Muslim and Hindu friends equally. She has sat on the floor of a small concrete house with other women, mourning the death of a Muslim mother, while the body, wrapped in white, lay on the floor with them. She has hosted Christmas parties for Hindu friends, and suffered from head lice caught from the poor children frequenting her home. She has responded with compassion to a begging transvestite stranger, providing him with desperately sought food. Still, the McKinneys weep when they see the depth of the surrounding darkness.

Although months have passed, Donald still grieves his neighbor’s death and the hope-deprived Hindu funeral. “His body was kept at the front of the house, by the road, in a refrigerated Plexiglass box. The weeping, incense, rituals, smoke, and pagan things done over his dead body were heartbreaking. We visited, prayed in Jesus’ name, and I went to the cremation ceremony. I felt such darkness and saw utter hopelessness in my Hindu friends. The family repeatedly said, ‘He is no more. He is gone.’ As his daughter wept over the dead body, she told me, ‘Daddy read all of that book you gave him [the Gospel of Luke] and told me all about Jesus’ crucifixion. He made me watch the film [Jesus film] you gave him.’ ”

The McKinneys believe in all-or-nothing commitment. They can see how all that they’ve experienced—from Donald’s son-of-a-pastor heritage and mother’s feltboard-teaching friend to Helen’s skills as a mother of four biological children and decade mentorship of young Hindu New Yorkers—led to this point. They are also encouraged by the all-or-nothing commitment of the young Christian workers they lead.

But what they most want to communicate are the injuries and hardships of local believers. Their task seems overwhelming. How can a few hundred reach millions for Christ in this Hindu state, much less reach its Muslim population? It’s a God-sized problem. And the irony is that God is using the same sort of people He used in Bible times—the uneducated, passionate believers—to reach this region.

Will you join the effort? Will you pray? Will you share this story with others who will also pray, give, and go?

*Names changed.

Jean M. McLean is a freelance journalist in Montevallo, Alabama.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

 

Rhine visits a friend during Holi

By Zach Rhine*

Editor’s note: Zach Rhine* is a 17-year-old TCK (third-culture kid) who serves with his family in South Asia. In fulfillment of a writing assignment during a recent conference for Christian workers, Rhine wrote a personal essay about his experience of visiting a friend in South Asia during the Holi festival season.

The next day was the Indian holiday of Holi, a time when people celebrate the end of the cold season by throwing water, powder, colored spray and anything that is sure to stain clothes.

Holi is a time when people celebrate the end of the cold season by throwing and rubbing colored powders on each other. Often, water balloons and water guns are included in the festivities.

Spring break, I visited my old home city, where I saw many of my friends and caught up from being gone so long. The next day was the Indian holiday of Holi, a time when people celebrate the end of the cold season by throwing water, powder, colored spray and anything that is sure to stain clothes. I decided to visit my best Indian friend, who lived next to my old home. My dad and I had been sharing with him, and he has been very interested in the Word.

When I arrived, his father met me, but my friend wasn’t there. After a series of phone calls, he turned out to be at his village to celebrate Holi and wanted me to spend the night there. I went with his younger brother to the village. During this time, night fell and the city was different from what I knew. I was holding bags for Indian women trying to get a rickshaw, and my friend and I were put into an 8-foot long car with 20 people squeezed inside.

During all this time, the only one who could understand me was my friend’s 12-year-old brother. As we went along, I started to notice that I had no idea where I was. When we arrived at the village, people were flooding the streets. I felt like I was playing find-the-needle-in-the-hay-stack but with people. When I found my friend, he took me to his home through the maze of trash, buildings, animals and alley-ways. His home had the majority of his family, and there were roughly 10 people. He took me into his 7-by-5 foot room, where I was able to share the Word in more detail to him and his brother.

Young and old alike splash colored powders and water on each other to celebrate the festival of Holi.

Young and old alike splash colored powders and water on each other to celebrate the festival of Holi.

He then took me to the roof of his home, where the reality of the lostness settled in. Rooftops stretched as far as I could see. I could have walked a half mile or more before having to touch the ground. I spoke with him how Jesus is the only way, and I believe he does believe He is real and His miracles are also, but he wants to please all religions and has not accepted Him into his life. My prayer is for his eyes to be opened to the truth of the Word.

After talking a while, my friend, his three relatives and I packed into his room. The majority of his family slept on the floor, but they wanted me to sleep on the small bed with my friend. It was a humbling moment that could punch one hard in the stomach. In the morning, I played Holi with him and his village neighbors, going from roof to roof throwing water balloons and colored water that made everyone turn purple. Soaked and powdered, they took me home. I have recently had contact with him and was able to get him a Bible in his native language.

My prayer is for the Living Word of God to shine in his eyes so he can see and for me to have courage in sharing my faith with others.

To learn more about life in Asia, visit caravanfriends.org, where you can read other personal stories from TCKs and learn about South Asian culture and religion. 

And, please visit caravanfriends.org/holi for a fun story and activities to teach children about Holi and how to pray for Hindus during this festival.  

 

–30–

 

Holi Ayee Re! (The Festival of Colors Has Come!)

By Hope Livingston*

“ho holi aayi holi aayi, dekho aayi holi re

hey, here comes holi, look here comes holi

milo khelo rang hai

c’mon! let’s join in and play, it’s the festival of colours”

 The lyrics of this song, “Holi Ayee Re,” describe the Hindu festival of Holi, which is growing in popularity throughout Europe and North America.

Each year, the markets of India fill with mounds of colored powder weeks before the festival arrives. Towering cones of reds, pinks, greens and blues bring excitement to the season as children encourage their parents to buy many different colors for them to apply to Mama, Papa, siblings and friends in the neighborhood—not wanting to miss anyone.

The next day was the Indian holiday of Holi, a time when people celebrate the end of the cold season by throwing water, powder, colored spray and anything that is sure to stain your clothes.

On the morning of Holi, frolicking begins with everyone chasing and coloring each other with dry powder and colored water.

On the eve of Holi, called “Holika Dahan,” Hindus perform a ritual of lighting bonfires to celebrate the victory of good over evil. The mythological story behind the ritual unfolds with a demon king named Hiranyakasipu wanting to kill his son, Prahlad, for worshiping his rival Lord Vishnu rather than him. Hiranyakasipu arranges for Prahlad’s sister Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Her powers make her immune to fire, but when Holika takes Prahlad into the fire, he comes through the fire safely because of his devotion while Holika burns because her power only works if she enters fire alone. For this reason, Hindus sing and dance around a big bonfire the night before Holi, but the actual day of Holi is reserved for playing.

In the morning, the frolicking begins with everyone chasing and coloring each other with dry powder and colored water. Some carry water guns or balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is equal on this day—friends and strangers, rich and poor, men and women, children and elders.

Open streets and parks and temple areas become playgrounds of color and water. Some groups carry drums and musical instruments, traveling from place to place with singing and dancing. People visit family, friends and foes to play with colors, laugh and eat together. This time of coming together often restores relationships as enemies forgive and forget in the merriment of welcoming the spring with a splash of color.

In some Indian states, Maharashtra and Gujarat in particular, one of the most recognizable traditions of Holi is the breaking of the pot. A pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets, and men form a huge human pyramid until the one at the top breaks the pot with his head. This tradition is rooted in the mischievous nature of Krishna, a Hindu god who was so fond of buttermilk that he used to steal it from every accessible house in the village. To hide the buttermilk from young Krishna, womenfolk used to hang it high. As the men pile high to reach the pot, the women sing Holi folk songs and throw buckets of water.

The song, “Holi Ayee Re,” concludes:

“dilon ko paas bohat le aayi,
it has brought the hearts so close

dekho holi aayi re
look here comes Holi

Pray for this year’s Holi festival to draw the hearts of Hindus close to the Maker of heaven and earth, who alone conquered evil and redeemed mankind.

This year, Holi will be celebrated Monday, March 17, 2014.

—30—

Hope Livingston is a writer serving among the peoples of South Asia.

Do you work with children or have children of your own? Be sure to check out caravanfriends.org/holi for a fun story and activities to teach children about Holi and how to pray for Hindus during this festival. 

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

Trentons join the Gospel work with Indian businesses

By Hope Livingston*

INDIA — Robert Trenton*, leader of an international company, resigned his job.

Charlie Noffsinger had gotten involved with the business sector of India and asked the Trentons to consider joining them in the work because of Robert’s business experience. Photo by Hope Livingston*

Charlie Noffsinger became involved with the business sector of India to strengthen companies through successful principles based on the teachings in the Bible. Photo by Hope Livingston*

Robert and his wife Stephanie* rented out their home, stepped down from responsibilities at their church and arrived in India last year. The Trentons committed to stay in India for 17 months with a plan to reevaluate at the end of that time.

Their decision came after years of experience in business and continued communication with their longtime friends, Christian workers Charlie and Abbey Noffsinger*, who serve in India.

“Truly, not enough can be said about how much we respect the Noffsingers. We see their passion for the lost, their tremendous work ethic, their integrity, humility, persistence, sacrifice, commitment,” Stephanie Trenton said.

Charlie Noffsinger had gotten involved with the business sector of India and asked the Trentons to consider joining them in the work because of Robert’s business experience.

Early Work

Robert Trenton taught high school mathematics and coached high school basketball for 16 years until his two older brothers asked him to join them in business. His brothers founded a start-up insurance software company.

Keeping in touch with the Noffsingers, Stephanie Trenton said, “It was even in the back of our minds that it would be neat if God would have us work alongside them in some way in the future.”

Yet, in June of 2000, Robert Trenton became an employee of his family’s business and spent the next 11 years working for the company. By 2011, the business had developed into an industry leader with more than 400 employees spread across offices in three states and the United Kingdom.

In August of 2011, the family business was sold to a large global consulting company. Around the same time, the Trentons received training through their state Baptist Convention and began a church in their home. Charlie Noffsinger also started talking about an opportunity for Robert Trenton to use his business skills in India.

“He wasn’t shy about saying that some of the skills that Robert has could definitely be used in this endeavor,” Stephanie Trenton said. “As he shared about it, both Robert and I began to sense that God was drawing us to be a part of it.”

“We just felt led to ask them to pray about coming to India and they responded,” said Charlie Noffsinger.

Friends Partner

At the time, the Trentons and the Noffsingers thought multiple visits during the year for two to three weeks at a time would be sufficient. But, after the Trentons made their first trip, “we all agreed that it didn’t really make sense to make several trips a year, but to stay for a longer period of time. It’s about relationships,” Stephanie Trenton said.

“Robert left a very well-paying job to be a part of this work, and I can’t say enough about how excited we are to have this family join our team,” Noffsinger said.

Upon their arrival in India, the Trentons spent a significant portion of their initial time learning the language alongside a couple of other families. Stephanie Trenton began building relationships with neighbors while Robert Trenton prepared and taught a college course on servant leadership, based on Biblical principles.

Interested students from the class were invited to the coffeehouse fellowship, which provided an informal atmosphere for further discussion of things pertaining to leadership and gave Trenton an opportunity to further develop and strengthen relationships with the goal of opening up doors to share the Good News. Photo by Hope Livingston*

Students who attended the leadership class received invitations to a coffeehouse fellowship where deeper conversations could be held in the informal environment. Photo by Hope Livingston*

Relationships Deepen

The leadership course opened doors to begin a coffeehouse fellowship the last few weeks of the semester.

“As we are gaining the trust and respect of the students,” Robert Trenton said, “they are opening up more and asking many questions about the servant leadership model we are teaching and our relationship with them is being strengthened.”

Interested students from the class were invited to the coffeehouse fellowship, which provided an informal atmosphere for further discussion of things pertaining to leadership and gave Trenton an opportunity to further develop and strengthen relationships with the goal of opening up doors to share the Good News.

—30—

*Names changed.

Hope Livingston is a writer serving among the peoples of South Asia.

Be part of a global community of marketplace believers who are seeking to integrate their vocation with the fulfillment of the Great Commission by visiting http://marketplaceadvance.com/. If you have specific questions regarding IMB, South Asian Peoples, please email us at southasianpeoples@imb.org.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

 

 

FIRST PERSON: Richard Hayes* shares his heart for missions. “Once I caught the bug, it was hard to stay home!”

Member of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., Richard Hayes* works in real estate and owns rental properties, which gives him flexibility with his time. He recently joined 44 other members from First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., who hosted a retreat for Christian workers in South Asia providing quality childcare, heartfelt worship and sound Biblical teaching.

By Richard Hayes*

In India, Hayes stopped to see the Taj Mahal. (Stock photo)

In India, Hayes stopped to see the Taj Mahal. (Stock photo)

My first mission trip was to Brazil in 2007 with First Baptist Church Orlando, the year after David Uth came to our church. It was so amazing to see how God used me on that trip, and it was such a blessing to be able to make a difference in people’s lives for eternity.

Ever since then it has been hard to compare those life-changing moments to “just another real estate deal.” Pastor David has such an incredible heart for people and told me how much I would love the Brazil trip. I went on two more trips that year to China and Sri Lanka. Then, the next year in 2008, I went to China, Brazil, Thailand, Canada and Burundi, Africa!

I have now been on more than 25 international mission trips! I have been to Africa six times, Brazil five times, China three times, as well as to many other countries. I learned that the biggest expense on these overseas mission trips is the airfare, so I often stay after everyone else goes home, so I can spend a little more time with those we went to serve.

I wanted to go to India to minister to Christian workers because I had gone in 2008 when we led a similar retreat in Thailand, and it was so great getting to meet the guys who are on the front line day in and day out for years at a time. I had been to Sri Lanka before, but not to India.

During the retreat I worked with the youth. It was great spending time and encouraging the older children of Christian workers, as well as being encouraged myself by how mature these kids are and how much they love being overseas and the love they have for the people they are serving.

Through working with the youth, I had gotten to know some of their parents as well.

Through those connections, McLean ended up going to north India, where he saw the Taj Mahal, and Nepal, where he shared the Gospel.

During one of his recent trips, Hayes visited Nepal. Buddhist stupas, seen here, are a common site on the Nepali landscape. (Stock photo)

During one of his recent trips, Hayes visited Nepal. Buddhist stupas, seen here, are a common site on the Nepali landscape. (Stock photo)

My first night in Nepal, I walked over to a hotel for dinner, and I met this great waiter named Chandra.* He was very receptive to the Gospel and told me he liked hearing about Jesus’ forgiveness, as he had also heard about that from a friend at his gym who’s a Christian. I went over to visit with Chandra several times while I was there.

He is totally open to learning more, but knows this is an important decision and one that he would need to share with his parents before making a decision. I told him I had a Nepali friend who would come by to meet him sometime and who would be able to explain things better than I could. He said he appreciated that because my friend would understand more what it means to go against what your family thinks.

Samuel* is going to meet Chandra when he gets back in town. Before I left, I also took two young Christian workers to the hotel for a buffet dinner so they could get to know him as well!

All these amazing circumstances and connections that God orchestrated to invite me to Delhi and Kathmandu were such a blessing, and it left me so thankful that God would bless me this way and allow me to play a small part in His plans! I have so many similarly incredible stories from other trips over the years as well, which just fires me up to do more!

Words cannot express how much all the love shown and arrangements made meant to me and how special the memories of our time there were because of it. It was really inspiring to see how these Christian workers were open to His leading to follow Him and are using their talents and abilities for Him and to make His name known.

–30–

*Names changed.

 

Has Richard’s story inspired you to consider connecting with Christian workers in South Asia? Are you and/or your church exploring partnering in ministry in South Asia? Go to http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/connect/contact-us-partnership/ to learn about some of the different ways you can become Partners in the Task. Or, contact us at southasianpeoples@imb.org.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to 10 weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Embrace — a program that mobilizes churches to serve overseas by being responsible to reach a specific unengaged unreached people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

200,000 Hindi Bibles donated for Asia

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 | by Aaron Earls

http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?id=42030

IMG20142183124HI (2)NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Stores set a goal last fall of donating 100,000 Hindi language Bibles across South Asia, but customers gave enough for twice that many.

“LifeWay has proven once again it is an organization with a heart for the world,” Tom Eliff, president of the International Mission Board, said. “Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine The Thomas Project would be such an overwhelming success.”

Named for the disciple believed to have been the first Christian missionary to the region, The Thomas Project invited customers at LifeWay’s 186 stores to purchase a Bible for $5 to send to South Asia.

Considering similar initiatives in the past garnered considerably less, the original goal was a significant one for The Thomas Project, a joint venture with LifeWay Christian Stores, B&H Publishing and the IMB.

This time, however, customers resonated with the project, giving enough for 200,000 Bibles. Churches continued to donate even after the initiative ended in November, with one church donating enough to print 1,200 Bibles in January.

“We are indeed grateful for the opportunity to partner in ministry with our customers and the IMB through The Thomas Project,” Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said. “The response has been amazing, thanks to the Lord’s blessings and the tremendous generosity of our customers who truly have a compassion for the lost and confidence in the Word of God.”

Not only did LifeWay stores sell the Bibles, retail employees will help deliver them.

A LifeWay employee mission team will go to South Asia this spring to help IMB workers distribute the Bibles.

“It is especially gratifying that some of our own LifeWay employees will be joining workers in the field to help distribute the Bibles that are so desperately needed,” Tim Vineyard, vice president of LifeWay Christian Stores, said. ”Our prayer will be that each Bible donated will have a life changing impact on the individuals who receive them.”

The mission team will visit locations strategically selected by the IMB and work through local church leaders and believers to distribute the Bibles. Additionally, they will be involved in direct evangelism and training.

Eliff expects the results of The Thomas Project in South Asia to continue defying expectations.

“God has honored the heart desire of both LifeWay and IMB to see the Gospel penetrate the unengaged unreached people groups (UUPG) in South Asia,” Elliff said.

According to the IMB president, there were 413 UUPGs in South Asia last year and 20 of those groups had a population over 1 million.

“Today, the UUPGs with a population of more than 1 million has dropped to nine,” Elliff said. “We can only dream what will happen as these Hindi Bibles are distributed to the new believers and the lost as well.”
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Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).