Celebrating Redemption among the World’s Highest Concentration of Unreached Peoples: South Asia

The countries of South Asia make up the world’s greatest concentration of people with no access to the gospel. Muslims and Hindus comprise the overwhelming religious majority in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, where mosques and temples clamor daily for the souls of 1.6 billion people. Every week 225,000 [1] people die in South Asia, many without Christ. The number is staggering.

And yet, there are glimmers of gospel hope. God is working through local Christians and foreign workers who labor to bring good news to South Asians. People are coming to faith in Jesus, the church is growing, and stories of God’s redeeming power are emerging from the field. Here are six of those stories, as told by workers in South Asia.

Celebrating Providence

For years, a missionary couple tried to make inroads with the dozens of Muslim salesmen at a local night market, but they encountered roadblocks at every turn. You can imagine the wife’s surprise, then, when a salesman from whom she had just bought a pair of sunglasses, thanked her with, “Jesus bless you.” She stopped in surprise. A phrase like that isn’t common in a country that is predominantly Muslim.

Astonished, she asked if he was Muslim, to which the salesman replied in a whispered voice that he loves Jesus and he reads the Bible. He told her that a Russian woman shared the gospel with him and gave him a Bible. He later became a Christian and was rejected by his family.

That evening God intersected this couple’s path with a new believer in Jesus, a man who now calls himself Mark. Mark shared that he didn’t know other Jesus followers, so the couple told him about another a Muslim-background believer from his home country who lived nearby and was searching for Christian friends. Later, when Mark was introduced to him, he ran and embraced him, overjoyed to finally meet a fellow believer. The following week Mark was baptized, and the two men began partnering in ministry to gather seekers and Christians into small groups to learn about God.

Celebrating Prayer

A Christian couple, formerly Muslim, was forced to leave their home after they received serious threats from a radical religious group. They reluctantly moved to a different city, leaving behind their parents, siblings, and other family members. However, after a few months, the couple felt that God was calling them to share the gospel with their relatives. Even though it was dangerous to return, the couple decided to go back to the city where they had lived. They moved to the outskirts of town and started sneaking into their old neighborhood to share the gospel with their relatives.

They began serving members of their family one by one by praying for them, carrying out intentional acts of service, and sharing truths from the Bible with them. The wife, a gifted and bold evangelist, led many women in her family to trust in Christ, including her sisters, her sisters-in-law, her mother-in-law, and her cousin. The women in her family are so hungry to learn the Word and pray together that they meet daily for Bible study and prayer—right in the middle of the most concentrated Muslim population in the city.

Celebrating New Life

A local Christian was sharing the gospel in the slum area of a village when he heard screams coming from one of the homes. He rushed to the house to see if he could help and found a young man attempting to hang himself. He grabbed the young man, pulled him down, and saved his life. He learned the man’s name was Subash* and that he was a rickshaw driver. Subash had owned a rickshaw, but when he became sick he was forced to sell it to pay for medical expenses. With his only means of providing for his family gone, Subash felt hopeless.

The Christian told him about the hope that is found only in Christ. He left Subash with some gospel resources and prayed Subash would find peace. He went back regularly to check on him and his family, and continued to share the gospel with them. Soon Subash and his wife became Christians and were baptized. Although his financial situation has not changed, he says he has peace in his heart, mind, and in his home.

Peace

Celebrating Technology

Vinod* is an illiterate farm laborer. When he became a Christian, he could not read the Bible for himself or use it to share the gospel with the people in his village. Three years later, Christian workers came to Vinod’s village and taught him oral chronological Bible lessons. They also trained him to use those stories to share the good news with others.

For the next couple of years, Vinod used the oral stories to share the gospel from house to house in his village. When his young daughter wasn’t in school, he brought her along with him to read from the Bible. People in the village began to believe in Jesus and be baptized, and now there’s a network of more than three hundred house churches.

Vinod’s ministry expanded all the more after he received a microSD card with audio files of the entire Bible and materials for discipleship. Using this tool, he can share the gospel anywhere at any time through his mobile phone. He no longer needs to arrange ministry opportunities around his daughter’s school schedule. He also travels with ministry partners into two of the most remote and difficult districts in his state to share the gospel through the SD card, to make disciples, and to plant churches.

Young men learn to share the gospel using microSD cards with Bible audio files.

Celebrating Freedom

Before they became followers of Jesus, Lakshmi’s* household was full of strife, turmoil, and brokenness. Her widowed mother was an alcoholic and beat Lakshmi when she was drunk. Lakshmi’s husband also abused her.

One day a man shared the gospel with them, and Lakshmi, her mother, and her husband became followers of Jesus. When Lakshmi wanted to meet with other believers, people discouraged her by saying something bad was going to happen to her if she followed a foreign religion.

She told them it wasn’t foreign, it was her own faith, and even if she was to die, she would still go meet with them.

The gospel, in fact, did change Lakshmi’s family. Her mother renounced alcohol, proclaiming she was fully satisfied in Christ. Her husband became a church planter. Together he and Lakshmi disciple and baptize new Christians in the slum where they live. He and the man who shared with them also go outside their city together—crossing linguistic, cultural, and geographic borders—to bring the gospel of Christ to other people groups. As a result, they have ongoing Bible studies in four districts of their state.

Celebrating Women

Five women living in a remote village are forced to raise their children alone. Their husbands, who earn their livings as rickshaw drivers in different cities, are only able to come home a few times a year. A Christian couple began meeting with the women in their homes and sharing chronological Bible lessons with them. The couple also gave the ladies a microSD card with Bible audio files so the women could listen to Bible stories on their own.

From time to time, the couple went back to the village to share lessons from the Bible. They learned the women were not only listening to the lessons but also discussing the stories together. The ladies were even sharing the Bible lessons with other women in their community. Soon, the five women became Christians and were baptized. When their husbands returned to the village for a visit, the ladies shared the Bible stories with them. Eventually all the husbands believed the gospel and were baptized. To date there are five baptized women, nine baptized men, and twenty-one ongoing Bible studies in this village.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37 NIV).

These are days of joyful harvest in South Asia. Workers are moving throughout cities and villages to teach the gospel, to train believers to share Jesus’s story, and to proclaim God’s name. Yet for every profession of faith or church planted, there are millions of people who have never heard there is eternal hope in Christ. They are like the crowds that caused our Lord’s heart to swell with compassion “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:35 NIV). What Jesus told his disciples then is true today: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37 NIV).

A billion South Asian people have yet to put their faith in Christ, so we are praying earnestly for more laborers. You can pray with us using this prayer guide for South Asian peoples. If you feel called to join God’s work in South Asia, consider serving in any of the short- or long-term roles featured on the Opportunities page.


Polly Maclean is a writer for IMB. She serves with her family in Southeast Asia.


[1] Compiled from research published by The World Factbook.