Lives in Arkansas and South Asia intertwine through prayer

EDITOR’S NOTES:

In 2013, Southern Baptists celebrate 125 years of annual giving to support international missionaries. Every penny you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist workers as they share the Gospel overseas. To learn more about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.

 2013 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal: $175 million

The Bedia of South Asia and IMB worker Clifton Melek*, are featured in Week of Prayer for International Missions: Dec. 1-8, 2013.

 

As a way to keep their UUPG, in front of the church, an entire wall outside the sanctuary is dedicated to photos of the Bedia. First Baptist Church Centerton in Arkansas began praying for the South Asians in 2007 and continue working with them in a long-term partnership with the IMB. Photo by C. S. Stanley

As a way to keep their UUPG, in front of the church, an entire wall outside the sanctuary is dedicated to photos of the Bedia. First Baptist Church Centerton in Arkansas began praying for the South Asians in 2007 and continue working with them in a long-term partnership with the IMB. Photo by C. S. Stanley

By Jenifer Martin Siemens

CENTERON, Ark. (BP) – They simply answered “yes” on a Sunday in 2007 and began praying with faith and expectancy. What God did next forever altered the members of a mission-focused church in Arkansas’s northwest corner.

Today, hundreds of lives in remote South Asian villages are being redeemed and baptized, demons are fleeing and bodies healed — just five years after 250 members of First Baptist Church Centerton in Ark. (FBCC) committed to pray daily for the unegaged, unreached Bedia [Baydeeuh] of South Asia.

The church thought a movement of God among the Bedia could take 20 years or more.  But His overwhelming response surprised and humbled the people of FBCC and led to the International Mission Board requesting the church to share their story as part of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) focus this year.

“We never imagined when we decided to embrace the Bedia that anyone else would ever know,” FBCC Pastor Stuart Bell said. “We just made a commitment that [the Bedia] would be one people group in the world who would be loved and prayed for by First Baptist Centerton.”

The church’s miraculous prayer journey began in 2006 after former IMB vice-president, Avery Willis, urged Bell to lead the church to embrace an Unengaged Unreached People Group (UUPG). Currently, there are 3,100 identified around the globe.

Bell traveled to South Asia in 2007 on a “vision trip.”  The team ventured over crude jungle roads to preach the Gospel in a Bedia village. The entire population of 80 crowded around to hear.

“It was overwhelming to know these Bedia people were hearing the name of Jesus for the very first time,” Bell said. “Would [FBCC] expect to witness [God’s] power to see the Bedia around the throne of Christ one day?”

A First Baptist Church Centerton prayer group meets weekly to pray for the church's adopted UUPG, the Bedia. More than 250 adults and teenagers from this Arkansas church committed to praying daily until the first Bedia church was planted. Photo by Susie Rain

A First Baptist Church Centerton prayer group meets weekly to pray for the church’s adopted UUPG, the Bedia. More than 250 adults and teenagers from this Arkansas church committed to praying daily until the first Bedia church was planted. Photo by Susie Rain

Upon his return Bell shared with the church that those who committed, would be praying for the salvation of approximately 142,400 Bedia who practice a religion mixed of Hindu, ancestor and demon worship.  Undaunted, 250 teens and adults signed commitment cards on March 4, 2007.

FBCC member Robin Gill was among those who started praying that night for the Bedia.  Gill suffers from Cerebral Palsy, yet faithfully hosts a weekly prayer time in her home for their people group.

“I knew God would answer,” Gill said. “We just needed to be obedient and pray.”

Unknown to FBCC, God had already been moving among the Bedia through people such as a teen named Sahaji Bedia* who accepted Christ in 2001 while away at boarding school.  Two South Asian men, who are not Bedia, felt God calling them to reach out beyond their own people group. Ramsden Chippada* and Gajbaahu Swamy* didn’t gain any traction in their efforts until 2007— the same year FBCC started praying.

An ill and out-of-control, demon-possessed man named Manohar Bedia* heard Swamy might pray for him.  Swamy prayed for 15 days straight and the rice farmer was completely healed. Manohar then surrendered to Christ.  Word spread about this miraculous healing and a few others came to Christ in the surrounding villages, including Sahaji’s oldest sister, Amita.*

In another area of South Asia, Bedia village leaders and doctors of black magic were not pleased with the Gospel making it to their people and persecution began in 2008. The few Bedia believers endured threats that their children could not marry and their food supply would be cut off if they professed Jesus through baptism. Some folded and stopped following Christ.

Shanti Bedia* prays in a crowded room. She asked God for years that this room would be filled with other believers praying and worshipping alongside her. It took years of persevering persecution and isolation but God is answering.

Shanti Bedia* prays in a crowded room. She asked God for years that this room would be filled with other believers praying and worshipping alongside her. It took years of persevering persecution and isolation but God is answering.

During this time, FBCC heard nothing from the field. They decided it was time to visit South Asia once again in 2009 and reconnect. Bell and Isaac Mims,* youth pastor, found hardened hearts and a true cloud of oppression in the Bedia villages they visited.

By the next year, Bell said persecution increased to the point that national Christians working in Bedia villages left, a FBCC youth mission trip was canceled and all communication with the Bedia ceased. For two years, the church heard nothing, and discouragement set in.

But FBCC members like Ray and Judy Cothern and Robin Gill refused to quit.

“I knew in my heart that it would take a miracle to reach [the Bedia] because of their dark practices,” Judy said. “But we vowed to the Lord that no matter our personal doubts, if our leadership and Brother Stuart said to keep praying, we would keep praying.”

Meanwhile, a young Bedia mother, Shanti Bedia,* had come to faith through seeing her sister-in-law’s life change when she followed Jesus. Shanti was the only believer in her village. She prayed in secret because the persecution by the other women was unbearable. Day after day, she cried out to God in her private prayer room built for her safety by her unbelieving husband, Ashish.*

“Lord, how long will I have to pray alone?” she cried.

Unknown to Shanti, she was not praying alone. FBCC prayed for there to be at least one Bedia believer that could ignite a fire and be the starting point for a church.

Shanti got bolder in her witness in 2010. She talked more to her husband, Ashish,* about God. He heard about God from his youngest brother, Sahaji, and his sister. Soon, Ashish accepted Christ and they turned the prayer room into a meeting place for Bedia believers from five different villages.

All of this was still unknown to FBCC. They continued praying blindly believing God would prevail.

First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. stand off to the side as their adopted people, the Bedia of India, gather at the waters edge for a baptismal service. It was the first time anyone from the American church watched a Bedia baptism. Five years before, there were no known believers among this people. Photo by Ed Cooley

First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. stand off to the side as their adopted people, the Bedia of India, gather at the waters edge for a baptismal service. It was the first time anyone from the American church watched a Bedia baptism. Five years before, there were no known believers among this people. Photo by Ed Cooley

Finally, the silence was broken when Bell contacted the IMB in 2011 seeking any news of the Bedia. He discovered new IMB personnel, Clifton Melek,* served near the Bedia. When Melek shared the story of a church in the USA who prayed for five years for the Bedia, students started calling out, “He’s Bedia! He’s Bedia! He’s Bedia!” Melek reported to FBCC that five baptized Bedia were attending his discipleship training class.

As soon as FBCC heard this, they celebrated and decided to send a team to witness it with their own eyes and bring back first-hand accounts to the entire church. The mission team worshipped and cried with the Bedia, witnessed eight baptisms and went to the first Bedia church. The date of this victory was March 4, 2012 — exactly five years after 250 FBCC members committed to pray.

“It was like we were living out the book of Acts,” Bell said, describing the baptisms and joy of worshiping with an unreached people group.

When they returned, videos and pictures for the first time documented names and faces of the Bedia believers for FBCC.  The “silent years,” when they prayed blindly, were finally filled in with stories and testimonies of God revealing Himself. The passion for THEIR Bedia reignited.

Poster-sized photos of the Bedia now hang throughout church buildings as testimony to what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will continue to do as other Southern Baptist churches simply answer the call to pray for those who’ve never heard.

To date, IMB personnel report more than 750 Bedia baptisms with more taking place each month.  A centrally-located community center has been constructed where Bedia pastors will receive training.  To honor FBCC for their committed prayer support, Bedia leaders asked Bell to name the first Bedia church – Bedia Victory Baptist Church. 

Pray for Southern Baptist workers, Centerton’s members, and Bedia believers as they partner to take the Gospel to all Bedia.

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Jenifer Martin Siemens is a member of First Baptist Church Centerton in Arkansas. She witnessed this UUPG prayer journey first-hand.

*Name Changed

Want to hear more about what God is doing among the Bedia? Check out the videos at http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/video.

Learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO).

Learn more about how your church funds Southern Baptist missions.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Arkansas Church sees fruit of partnering with IMB, embracing UUPG

EDITOR’S NOTES:

In 2013, Southern Baptists celebrate 125 years of annual giving to support international missionaries. Every penny you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist workers as they share the Gospel overseas. To learn more about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.

 2013 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal: $175 million

The Bedia of South Asia and IMB worker Clifton Melek*, are featured in Week of Prayer for International Missions: Dec. 1-8, 2013.

 

Some Indian partners point just over the ridge to show where they will hike to Bedia villages. In 2007, First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. made a vision trip to South Asia where they were challenged to adopt an unengaged, unreached people group that had never heard the Gospel. Photo by C. S. Stanley.

Some Indian partners point just over the ridge to show where they will hike to Bedia villages. In 2007, First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. made a vision trip to South Asia where they were challenged to adopt an unengaged, unreached people group that had never heard the Gospel. Photo by C. S. Stanley.

By Stuart Bell

CENTERTON, Ark. (BP) – He was so small, so quiet and so humble. He didn’t even come up to my shoulder. And yet to me, Sahaji Bedia* was larger than life.

“Here he is!” IMB representative Clifton Melek* exclaimed, patting Sahaji on the back. “Here is the first baptized believer since you began praying for the Bedia five years ago.”

Tears flowed down the faces of our mission team from First Baptist Church Centerton in Arkansas. This young 20-something Indian man from an unengaged, unreached people group represented so much to us … God prevailed and the Spirit broke through the Bedia’s resistance to the Gospel in South Asia.

Sahaji was now one of us! When our church adopted the Bedia, in 2007, there were no known believers. Now, I stand watching eight baptized from our UUPG. Amazing!

The road to get here has been long but when Avery Willis, former vice-president of the IMB, told our church in 2006 that 639 people groups with a population of at least 100,000 are considered “unreached,” or less than two percent Christian, and “unengaged,” no effort to reach them with the Gospel — I knew where we were heading. I had no idea what adopting or embracing UUPGs entailed at the time, but I knew our church would never be the same …

The Beginning Years (2006-2007)

Picking a geographic area of the world to engage was easy for us. A family from our congregation served in South Asia. Adopting a people group, though, was much harder. How do you choose when so many need to hear?

Willis recommended the Bedia and I immediately dove into the discovery process about this people group numbering over 100,000. I learned that the Bedia people kept small farms.  I knew our church would relate to this but from there, the similarities ended. The Bedia practice a form of religion that mixes Hindu practices with ancestor and demon worship.  I learned there were no known baptized believers, no church, no Bible in their language and no one trying to win them to Christ.

Then, we prayed as a church for the Bedia. I felt God at work. He knit our hearts to these people before we ever met them!

Stuart Bell with Bedia man - 2007. First Bedia I ever met. I knew we were going to reach the Bedia. First contact with peopel group. We didn't even know how to say their name correctly - no one knew enough information to correct us. Photo by C. S. Stanley.

Stuart Bell with Bedia man – 2007. First Bedia I ever met. I knew we were going to reach the Bedia. First contact with peopel group. We didn’t even know how to say their name correctly – no one knew enough information to correct us. Photo by C. S. Stanley.

In 2007, I went to India on a “vision trip.” I met up with an Indian pastor who also wanted to reach the Bedia. I discovered that he met his first Bedia within weeks of when our church started praying for them.

The Indian pastor mapped out 70 Bedia villages in the surrounding jungles. We went to meet some of his workers living among this people. The travel to get there was grueling – bumpy roads and then hiking jungle paths.

It was on one of these paths that I met my first Bedia. I was so excited that I took his picture (and he became the “face” of the Bedia for our church).

I’ll never forget that first night sharing the Gospel. The entire village of 80 came to hear the Good News. It was overwhelming to stand there and know that they were hearing the name of Jesus for the very first time.

We left that village and hiked back out to our car. And there, stretched out across the road, was a large, black snake. Our driver was terrified. The dead snake was a warning — some did not appreciate our presence.

It was a real reminder that the Bedia are among the last people groups on earth to hear the Gospel for a reason.

When I returned to our church, I recounted the joy of sharing Christ and explained that we were up against demonic oppression and persecution. On March 4, 2007, 250 people committed to pray daily for the Bedia until the first baptism and first church was planted.

We had no idea how long it would take, 20 or 25 years. All we knew was that no other group in the world would focus on the Bedia of South Asia. It was our responsibility to do “whatever it takes.”

So, FBC Centerton began praying for a people group on the other side of the world.

The lean years (2008-2011)

Correspondence with our partner, the Indian pastor, proved to be frustrating at times. There were long periods of no communication. There was little encouragement as to the advancement of the Gospel, yet our church continued to pray. It’s all we could do.

First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. advises other churches that are embracing unengaged, unreached people groups to put a "face" on their people. This portrait of a Bedia woman was blown up to poster-size and put on the church wall so the congregation would know who they prayed for each week. Photo by Ed Cooley

First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. advises other churches that are embracing unengaged, unreached people groups to put a “face” on their people. This portrait of a Bedia woman was blown up to poster-size and put on the church wall so the congregation would know who they prayed for each week. Photo by Ed Cooley

One time, we learned of two Bedia families contemplating baptism. We prayed but it never happened. The village elders exerted pressure, saying that if these couples converted to Christianity, they would not be allowed to marry off their children or benefit from the community rice fields. One couple completely backed out. The husband of the second insisted that he would follow Christ in baptism until his wife scooped up their children and threatened to jump into the community well.

It was a discouraging time. We prayed but did not really know what was happening, so I decided it was important to go back. Our church needed first-hand accounts to spur their prayer efforts. We needed to re-connect.

There was an ever-present sense of spiritual bondage during this 2009 visit. We heard story after story about “demons” and no one seemed open to the Gospel. Two years after we adopted the Bedia, there were still no professions of faith, no baptisms and no churches.

We returned home, not sure what to do. It did not appear we were moving forward. There was a lot of persecution in 2010 and our partners had to leave the Bedia villages. The church continued praying. We committed to this and we trusted God, even if we didn’t know where to go from here.

I consulted with an IMB administrator from South Asia about our stalemate. He said a new missionary family now serves in the same geographic area where we worked. What a blessing and an answer to our prayers. We could partner with some of our own missionaries supported by our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Celebration Years (2011-2012)

There was very little Bedia news from January 2010 until September 2011. And then God moved in mighty ways — or at least, that’s when our church saw God moving.

When I connected with Clifton Melek,* we heard a side of this story we didn’t know. The IMB representative told his discipleship training students about our church praying for the Bedia for five years. Immediately, everyone pointed and said, “He’s Bedia! He’s Bedia! He’s Bedia!”

We found out that not only were there five baptized Bedia believers in Malek’s class but they were training to become pastors and missionaries.

We were stunned! God had been working this entire time. We prayed for years that the Gospel would reach our people and it did.

Shanti Bedia* washes the feet of Stuart Bell, pastor of First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. The Bedia show honor and respect by washing someone's feet. Shanti was thanking the Americans for their years of praying for her people. Photo by Ed Cooley

Shanti Bedia* washes the feet of Stuart Bell, pastor of First Baptist Church Centerton, Ark. The Bedia show honor and respect by washing someone’s feet. Shanti was thanking the Americans for their years of praying for her people. Photo by Ed Cooley

We had to go back to India and see this for ourselves. That’s when we met Sahaji and a host of other Bedia believers. Sahaji took us to his village for church. Around 100 people crowded into a small 10’ x 20’ room, while more spilled out the door and peeked in the window.

We worshipped with OUR people for the first time.  As we heard the first Bedia praise and worship song performed, we cried. I preached and then Clifton offered an invitation and eight professed a new faith in Jesus. I was given the honor of naming the very first Bedia church, “Bedia Victory Baptist Church.”

This service was on March 4, 2012 — exactly five years from our church’s commitment to pray for the Bedia.

While we see the unmistakable hand of the Lord in this celebration, we know there’s still a lot of work to be done. There is no Bible or even scripture in their language. Only a handful of the Bedia population, just over 750 or less than 1 percent, has come to Christ. They are still considered unreached and live in one of the top 40 persecuted countries in the world.

The road for “embracing” an UUPG is a long and rocky one, but one that is worth taking. FBC Centerton must diligently continue our prayers and minister alongside the Bedia believers so that 100 percent of our people come to know Him.

Our journey continues … will your church join us by embracing a different UUPG? There are 3,100 people groups still waiting to hear His name.

* Name Changed

Stuart Bell is pastor of First Baptist Church Centerton in Arkansas. Join in this journey as his church shares their first-hand accounts of embracing an UUPG since 2006. For more stories by the church, go to www.commissionstories.com/asia

 

Want to hear more about what God is doing among the Bedia? Check out the videos at http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/video.

Learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO).

Learn more about how your church funds Southern Baptist missions.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Your Southern Baptist missionaries say “Thank you!” from the other side of the world in South Asia

Thankyou-LMCODear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Your persistent praying breaks down strongholds, and your faithful giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering enables millions of Unengaged Unreached People Groups to hear the Gospel, hundreds of thousands to be baptized each year and tens of thousands of churches to be planted. Your prayers and gifts are a vital part of reaching the world with the Gospel…. Thank you!

Serving together for His glory,
Your Brothers and Sisters,
serving among the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

We want to say “thank you” for your generous giving to LMCO and for your faithful prayers. We have always known that things happen when God’s people pray—but we have never felt the power of those prayers more than these past few months.

Gujer PeopleWe live in an Islamic area that is full of spiritual strongholds and persecution. The conservative religious leaders desire to keep the people of this valley living in ignorance of the hope that Jesus Christ offers—at all costs. In April, after being beaten for standing up for a fellow believer, we have seen the Lord at work more than ever before. Persecution seems to always precede a move of the Lord in an area! God is doing a mighty work here and we see the Holy Spirit drawing these beautiful people to Himself.

Praise God, because of your generous support, we are able to be in this place for such a time as this! Thanks to each of you for partnering with us to reach the “K” People for Christ.

Serving together for His glory,
Garth and Kay Hardwick*, serving the people of India

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

We praise our Lord for His faithfulness to you and for your response of obedience to Him!  Thank you for obeying the prompting of the Spirit in praying for the nations and for giving sacrificially to spread His name among all peoples. We are overjoyed to hear of the tremendous outpouring of your love through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Slum (2)

Both of us grew up overseas in families who served, and now we’ve raised our three children overseas and served the Lord together. So we’ve experienced first-hand God’s provision through you: taking care of our medical needs; providing homeschooling materials for our children; purchasing a generator for our use in the mountain town where we lived; moving us to a city and opening doors in slums there; buying a vehicle for use to carry national partners and to distribute food rations; paying for lodging for a much-needed team prayer retreat; helping with scholarships for our sons’ college education; and providing a modest-but-steady retirement income for our missionary parents.

We could go on in naming tangible things for which we are grateful. But the bottom line is that you place people like us on the field. Because you have sent us and those like us, countless souls will be eternally grateful to you. They have heard the Truth, and they have been set free! From ALL of us, thank you!

Serving together for His glory,
Isaiah and Josey Gabdon*, serving the people of South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

A couple of weeks ago, we carefully went through the Gospel again with a Hindu man. At the end, he said: “I am ready to follow Jesus.” This Hindu man, married with two children, had been attending an English Conversation class and staying after class for the optional inductive Bible studydiscussion. For four months, he’s heard the Gospel in one form or another every week. He’s read the Bible and asked questions, and visitors from the USA have shared with him in conversational English practice. It’s been a slow and exciting process to see God calling him.

Hindu man

Your giving made this possible. You gave the $10 required each week to put fuel in the tank of the car to drive across this sprawling city to that English class. We have the honor to represent you, as your giving makes what we do possible. Thank you.

Your praying made this possible. We live in a place of strong darkness, and your spiritual ministry through prayer empowers us as surely as your financial gifts enable us.

Thanks for making this happen. Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for your faithful giving to your local church and through them to LMCO.

You are a vital part of God’s work reaching the world.

Serving together for His glory,
Liam and Joelle Metsker*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Your faithfulness in giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is reaping great results in South Asia. We are part of a team which uses a four-year curriculum that includes Bible study books, theology and practical subjects that help better equip pastors and church leaders.

Holy Bible

Six times a year, we personally meet with several small groups of 15-25 participants. What a joy as, over time, we watch their hunger increase and see growth in their understanding of how to shepherd the church. We witness God working in their lives and the lives of their church members. As a result of their personal growth and their greater understanding of how to lead a local church, they are seeing many come to faith in Christ; many new churches are being planted, and in some instances already established churches are outgrowing their buildings.

The participants in this program thank you for making these regular trainings available for them. Your financial gifts and your prayers are touching many lives as these pastors and church leaders carry out the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle of teaching faithful men and women to carry on the Great Commission. Thank you for partnering with us in what God is doing in and through this program’s participants.

Serving together for His glory,
Fred and Virginia Graham*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Henna woman

My wife and I want to thank you so much for your generous support and many prayers for the work of God’s Kingdom being done in the United Kingdom. Many South Asians have immigrated here,seeking a better life and new opportunities. Your giving has allowed us to share the Good News with many who desperately need a Savior. It is only a trickle now, but our prayers are for us to see a pouring out of believers who are going into all parts of the world.

We are also working through churches made up of South Asians, as well as English, and we are beginning to train them and encourage them to reach the many Muslims who live here. The women are sharing their faith through Bible storying and the use of Henna art. Your support has also provided us with tools to train believers in closed countries so they can disciple others. Blessings to you all!

Serving together for His glory,
Neil and Elise Gann*, serving among the South Asian Diaspora

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

The sacrificial giving that comes to support us through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is making a huge impact on the lives of people living in the Himalayan mountains of South Asia. This happens mostly through our discipleship trainings, which equip every believer to share the Gospel and make disciples of their friends, family and other Houses of Peace in their neighboring villages. As we follow-up with these believers, we often get reports of new people coming to believe and follow Jesus, often receiving their early discipleship in their own homes. Please pray as we continually equip these believers to form healthy and reproducing churches that will carry the light of the Gospel to the least reached peoples of the Himalayas.

Serving together for His glory,
Drew and Marcia Neely*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We want to thank you for giving to the LMCO this past year. Because of your giving, this year our team was able to put on a sharing and discipleship training for leaders in an area of our state with little to no churches. This area is home to several different UPGs (Unreached People Groups) and UUPGs (Unengaged Unreached People Groups). During the course of the training, as the leaders were sharing in the community, 49 people believed in Jesus for their salvation, and 18 of those have already been obedient in baptism. Since the training, nine new churches have been started in this area. So, thank you again for your passion in seeing the lost come to know Christ and your giving to LMCO.

Serving together for His glory,
Dylan and Jessica Vilmek*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Muslim woman

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you so much for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. This year we have seen God work in amazing ways among the Muslim community in our city. Several Muslim men had come to the Lord, but none of their wives had been saved. We had been praying fervently for their wives and sharing with them every chance we got. A couple months ago, the FIRST Muslim woman in the history of our city was saved! It is an amazing act of God, and we are expecting God to do more amazing things through this woman and her husband.

We are so thankful to be serving in an organization that takes such good care of us, and we consider our work a complete privilege and dream! Thank you for allowing us to do what God has called us to do!

Serving together for His glory,
Joe and Millie Seymour*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Our work in this harvest field has been has been made easier because of you. Yes, the laborers are few, but those of you back home who are lifting us up, both with your prayers and finances, keep the work going forward.

Child (2)My work is among the Dalit children. These are the poorest people who live in India. Some of these are beggars, some are construction workers, some are just street children. Most all of these children live in tents. They have nothing, not even the promise of a meal. Many of them (30-50) come to my house daily. They are always hungry for both food and love. I am happy to give both! I have talked with parents who have now put some of the children in school. We pay basic school fees, buy uniforms and school supplies. When one of them is sick, they come to our house and I get them the medicine they need. Sometimes, it means a trip to the doctor or hospital, sometimes maybe just a Band-Aid and a prayer. We have had hygiene classes and given things like toothbrushes and soap to them. Many have come to know HIM as a result of seeing HIS love. God has a plan for these little ones. I am happy to be a small part of their lives!

Because of LMCO, we are able to be here and share the love of our Lord with those around us.

Thank you so very much for caring for these you do not even know… our Father will certainly bless you!

Serving together for His glory,
Helen and Donald McKinney*, serving the people of South Asia

 

????????????????Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

We would like to say THANK YOU to a very special church—our home church, RFBC! As a result of their generous giving, we have been able to conduct three different VBSs this summer! Many children have heard that “God is Real,” “Jesus is God’s One and Only Son,” “Jesus is the Only Way,” “The Bible is God’s Word,” and “Our Actions show what we Believe.” Not only did the children learn these new truths, but young adult national believers were trained in how to conduct a VBS, and many unbelieving families of these children watched them perform these truths in the final VBS programs! We would also like to thank MSBC for faithfully giving to LMCO! We were able to give a retreat for refreshment and spiritual growth to our key partners and their families and a VBS for the children!

Serving together for His glory,
Bob and Tracy Nagle*, serving the people of South Asia

 

Dear Southern Baptist Brothers and Sisters,

Light in darknessThank you for your faithful commitment in giving to the LMCO and the work throughout South Asia and the globe, carrying the Glory of Christ to the nations. Nehemiah 4:19-20 states, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” God continues to push back the darkness across South Asia as we unite together to fulfill the great task set before us. We are ever indebted to you, the Church, as you sacrificially rally to us by your support and prayers.

Serving together for His glory,
Daniel, Daisy and Lily Finley*, serving the people of South Asia

 

To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) and how you and your church can be involved, go to  www.imb.org/main/lottie-moon.

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*Name changed

 

CONNECT

Pray.

-Explore more ways to pray specifically 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.

-Praise God for the work that has been done and the lives that have been changed thru giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

-Pray for funding needed to continue the work in South Asia and around the world.

-Pray for missionaries in South Asia as they spend the holidays away from family in the U.S.A.

Give.

-Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give portion of the IMB website.

Go.

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

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

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

-Volunteers to career—visit going.imb.org.

 

 

Ten ways South Asia missionaries are reaching out this holiday season

By Staff

1. Baking egg-less Christmas sweets for vegetarian friends.
2. Providing showers, clothes, toiletries and food at Thanksgiving for beggars who are disabled.
3. Giving homemade Christmas cards with a Bible verse.
4. Hanging lights on their houses to show the Light has come into the darkness.
5. Attending local churches to encourage national believers during their celebrations of Christmas.
6. Giving traditional Christmas gifts like a CD of worship music.
7. Baking cookies in the shape of Christmas symbols and attaching a note to the bag to give to tuk-tuk drivers.
8. Inviting people into their home to help decorate their Christmas tree and explaining the meanings behind the decorations.
9. Using a children’s nativity to tell the story of Jesus’ birth.
10. Sharing Christmas cards from friends and family in the US.

Why reach out at the holidays? Why not? People are lost and need Jesus. What better time to introduce them to our Savoir than on a holiday that celebrates Him?

For more ideas of ways you can reach out this holiday season, go to A Season of Thankfulness and Giving.

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Compiled by Torie Speicher.* Monica Eardley,* Sidney Cargill,* Mickey Hennerman,* Margot Gladding* and Syd Malone* contributed to this article.

Thank you from Southern Baptist missionaries

Dear Southern Baptists:
Thank you for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It’s making a difference.

From: Southern Baptist missionaries all over South Asia

Dear Southern Baptists,
Because of your giving to Lottie Moon, I can recklessly pursue my calling of taking the Gospel to the nations, yet I do it with a constant security blanket because I never have to worry about where I’m going to lay my head at night, what would happen if I got sick or injured, or how I’m going to get from one place to another. All of it is taken care of, giving me the freedom to run hard and go to places where people have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to give when you can’t see the end result, but I’m thankful for Southern Baptists who faithfully give to Lottie Moon. Because of their generosity, I have been blessed with the amazing experience of being present at that moment when someone hears the name of Jesus for the very first time.

Sincerely,
Stefani Varner,* serving the people of Mumbai, India

 

Dear Southern Baptists,
Philippians 1:3,5 says I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Thank you for seeing the need in this world and responding. You have maintained 6 missionaries in a state of 60 million people where less than 1/10 of 1 percent are believers. You have enabled us to hold 25 lay evangelism trainings in the past year for 1025 people. You have provided 100,000 tracts to be handed out in a land where God’s word is not readily available. You provided a retreat, allowing a group of missionaries to meet, pray together, worship together, and just generally refill our cups. We are so thankful for your giving.

Sincerely,
Roberta Kinder,* serving the people of India

 

Dear Southern Baptists,
We are so thankful for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering because it enables us to take the Gospel to places where it has never been. We are supported and kept on the field by the generous donations of believers in our local churches. If it were not for the LMCO many lost people would never hear about Jesus. In our country there are less than one percent believers in Jesus Christ. The rest of the 20 million people are lost. They worship a false idol that will never give them eternal life. How can they believe if they haven’t heard? How can they hear unless someone tells them? The LMCO gives us the honor of doing just that. To tell a lost and dying world of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ, so they will have the opportunity to put their faith and hope in Him.

Sincerely,
Vincent Chevalier,* serving the people of Sri Lanka

Dear Southern Baptists,
Thank you for your giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Because of your giving, we have been able to train people like M. She is faithfully taking the Gospel to an unreached and unengaged people group called the Pod. She has a group of 50, four of whom are baptized believers, with the rest being seekers. Her husband is not yet a believer. Then there is A, who is participating in a church planting training and has started a new group among another UUPG called the Sadgop. But there are many others involved in the training as well, who are working with other unreached people groups.

Sincerely,
Lonnie and Danette Tepper,* serving the people of Kolkata, India

 

Dear Southern Baptists,
Thank you for giving sacrificially. We are so grateful to God and to you for how generously you have given. Because of your gifts we are able live and share His love in a mega-city packed with millions of people who have never heard the gospel. We are also able to train and equip local believers and churches how to multiply the gospel. Thank you for your partnership in fulfilling the great commission.

Sincerely,
Keelie Rocks,* serving the people of Delhi, India
Dear Southern Baptists,
As you know, over the last few years the American economy has been struggling. You, however, have continued to give, and we thank you! Using funds provided by you, we have continued to train believers in Bihar, India to reach their own people and to plant healthy churches. As a result of the Lord moving in Bihar and your generous giving, we have seen 1604 professions of faith, 1053 baptisms, and 236 church starts in the last 3 years. Long considered one of the most difficult places to reach with the Gospel, this movement of God represents a 411% increase over the previous three years. Clearly, God is moving like never before in Bihar. Thank you so much for your generous support, without which we would not have been able to equip these local believers and church planters. We praise God and thank Him for the generosity of Southern Baptists, just like you, who have responded in obedience to help reach the ends of the earth.

Sincerely,
Elvin Trueb,* serving the people of India

 

Dear Southern Baptists,
Because of your gifts, I was able to teach 22 recent high caste Brahmin Hindu background believers who came for a day of scripture training and encouragement. We gave them Kannada books of doctrine, tracts in Kannada, and DVDs of the Jesus film in Kannada. Your steady gifts helped us provide those things for them and to fund this training. They will evangelize and influence the highest castes of Hindus. Those dear Brahmin friends were not pastors or church workers. They were mostly new believers who wanted to know the Bible and to know how to explain their faith to their high caste families and associates. Because you give through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, God is at work in South Asia.

Sincerely,
Donald McKinney,* serving the people of India
Dear Southern Baptists,
During this Thanksgiving season, there is so much for which we are thankful as we live in South Asia amidst material and spiritual poverty. Being part of IMB’s Master’s Program, we are thankful that our retirement years are being spent in active service for the Lord. Because Southern Baptists give so generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we have been privileged to serve for almost 3 years. As support personnel (logistics coordinators and company guesthouse managers), we are helping shine the Light, piercing the darkness that overshadows the greatest concentration of lostness in the world! We thank God for prayerful financial support from America which makes our ministry possible!

Sincerely,
Grady & Josette Lindem,* serving the people of Bangladesh

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*Name changed.

Cinnamon peeler brings his persecutor to Christ

By Sidney Cargill*

Along with the smell of evergreen trees and peppermint, cinnamon would have to be one of the most common scents of Christmas. BBC News Online notes, “While Sri Lanka’s most famous export is tea, historically the most important has been cinnamon. In fact, so strong is the link between cinnamon and Sri Lanka that the botanical name of the spice – Cinnamomum zeylanicum – is derived from the island’s former name, Ceylon. Every morning cinnamon peelers go to the fields to collect branches to be stripped for bark. The plant grows as a bush. It’s hot, hard work.

Today, experts say that Sri Lanka is one of the world’s leading exporters of cinnamon, producing about four-fifths of international output as well as most of the choicest grades from the sweetly scented inner bark of the cinnamon tree.”

Some time ago, we wrote about Vikash*, a cinnamon peeler from Sri Lanka. Vikash hosted a small group in his home. A pastor came weekly to preach a message. 

Vikash, a dirt-poor, tea-estate worker, went to training and became passionate about sharing his faith with others! One of those was his brother-in-law who cut Vikash’s throat in an argument. Instead of having him arrested, Vikash publicly forgave him!  God used this to soften hearts! 

Vikash called his group to 3 days of praying and fasting.  His Buddhist father-in-law made a drum to use in worship.  This unbeliever cut down a tree, hollowed out the wood, and bought leather for the top. 

As Greg*, my husband, hiked up the mountain to join them, he could hear the sound of a drum beating and the voices of passionate worshipers singing.  Sitting on the floor playing his homemade drum was Vikash’s father-in-law, now a brother in the Lord!

As you savor the aroma of cinnamon this month, please remember to pray for the millions of lost Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Catholics that call this island home.

Pray for the cinnamon peeler, Vikash and other believers to live lives worthy of the calling that they might be the aroma of Christ to those around them.

Pray also for believers to seize the opportunity of this holiday month to reach out to lost family members and friends to share the greatest news ever—that the King of kings left the glory of heaven to come to earth to die for man’s sin that we might be in relationship with Him! Praise His Name!!

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Name changed*

Sidney Cargill is a cross-cultural worker among South Asian peoples.

Blankets provide warmth and truth during holidays

By: Maggie Hardison*

Last Christmas my husband and the husband from a family in our city, along with two national partners purchased inexpensive blankets, put them in their backpacks and rode around the city on their scooters at night.

Their main goal was to talk to people and tell them about the meaning of Christmas. Then, if they noticed that the people needed a blanket they would present them with a new warm blanket saying it was a free gift and wished them a Merry Christmas. They did this in secret and at different spots around the city because they didn’t want to be mobbed by people just wanting a free blanket.

Blanket drops have been done before in our city but this was the first time it was done “on a smaller, more private scale,” where one-on-one conversations could actually take place this way it was more personal because people really listened to what they had to say. For one thing, they did not expect to receive any thing, just talking to the foreigner and his translator.

It’s important for Christians to reach out during the holidays because a lot of people know about baby Jesus or the Jesus that hangs on the cross but they don’t know about Jesus. They don’t see Christians being Christ like. By reaching out – especially in a small private way that doesn’t draw attention, people see more of the true love of Christ and are willing to listen to why the baby in the manager and the man on the cross are so important, especially to them.

Pray that the warmth of the blankets will open their hearts and minds to receiving the warm of Christ’s love.

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*Name changed.

Maggie Hardison is a cross-cultural worker among South Asian peoples

Christmas with South Asian flare opens door with locals

By Margot Gladding*

Candles, lights, wreaths of flowers, soft music playing, and treats filled with cinnamon and cloves. Yes, it was definitely Christmas—but with a twist.

This Christmas, we were all sitting on the floor on mats. Some of the soft music playing in the background was in South Asian languages, played with instruments never heard on traditional American Christmas albums. The wonderful Christmas sweets were egg-less for our vegetarian friends. This Christmas, we didn’t just light one candle on the advent wreath each week and read one verse from the Bible. We did it all at once, with our neighbors joining us to make it special.

As we lit each candle, my husband told a part of the Christmas story, beginning many years before when God’s people realized that they needed a savior, and they began waiting and hoping for him to come. Then, he told of the Savior’s first coming—the traditional story of angels and prophets rejoicing in his arrival. Then he continued…because we’re all still waiting…for him to come again. He told of the second coming when our Savior will come as a victorious warrior to wipe away every tear and tear down every evil stronghold.

They got it. Lights in the form of oil lamps, wreaths of flowers, soft music, sweets, and sitting on floors to worship and tell stories all make sense to our South Asian friends. That’s how they worship, and that’s how they celebrate important occasions. And they hope too. They are hoping for their god to come back as a victorious warrior to save them from the evil of the world. And deep down, they are hoping that someone would save them now—from their every day fears and hurts and pain.

As they left, each friend thanked us in turn for sharing our celebration with them. Some said that they had never understood the meaning of Christmas before that night—they had thought it was just about our God’s birth. No one surrendered their lives to Jesus that night, but we became part of the community—sharing our festivals with our neighbors—and sharing in a way that made sense and appealed to them. And now, we still do things together, sharing life with each other. As we share life, we have gained access to be able to share the Source of all life with them.

The best way to pray for us during the holidays is that this would be an open door into the community and into finding people who are interested in hearing more.

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*Name changed.

Margot Gladding is a cross-cultural worker among South Asian peoples.