Planting gospel seeds one conversation at a time
Posted on: 2nd July 2021
CMS worker E lives in a Muslim-majority country in South Asia. The established church is very small where she lives and being a Christian is hard, especially for local people. She shares some of the gospel connections she has made as she continues to learn language and culture.
I’ve been in my country a little over two years, learning language as a student at a university. This has meant I’ve been able to meet people there and it has given me flexibility in how I spend my time.
The value of discipleship
I met Khadija* early on at university. She spoke English well and had spent some of her childhood overseas, so we quickly bonded over being TCKs (Third Culture Kids), never knowing where home is, feeling like we don’t belong.
That summer she went to Dubai for a few months to explore the possibility of working there in the future. In Dubai she met some other expat believers, and she visited a church with them. The experience had a profound impact on her.
She told me, “The way my friend sang so emotionally really surprised me, but I felt really happy there too.”
One evening she shared with my housemate and me the deep anxiety she’d been feeling during the past few days. She described the hypocrisy she saw from some religious teachers, which gave her doubts about everything she’d grown up with.
She said, “You two, and the Christians I met in Dubai seem so settled and confident in your faith. How can you know it’s real?”
We each shared ways we had experienced God in our lives and how those experiences also rang true with what we read in the Bible.
“That’s what I’d suggest for you,” I said, “Look at the Injeel (gospels) and see what you think. Ask God to help you know the truth and he’ll show you.”
She replied, “I’m scared to ask questions like that, in case the truth is different to what I’ve learnt.”
Another friend, Zeinab*, was completing her university studies online when she came to stay in our spare flat on the roof. She told us at the beginning of her stay that she didn’t really believe in God anymore. She had been going through a very difficult time and felt like God didn’t care for her. But when we offered to pray for her, she willingly accepted.
Over the few short weeks she was with us, those prayers were a balm, slowly softening her heart to God’s love. She started asking other questions, we watched a few episodes of The Chosen series with her and began reading Luke together. But just as we felt like we’d started something, she had to move away.
The challenge of community
With both these friends I’ve seen promising beginnings, some seeds planted. But there are so many questions about what it looks like to water these. Obstacles like parents, distance, home responsibilities and community expectations often leave me wondering what it would look like for them to even start to explore following Jesus, let alone be part of a group with others.
After the bold invitation we gave Khadija to read the Injeel we prayed that there would be others in her community she could read with. Would her parents ever be interested? I find it hard to imagine, but I keep asking for God to surprise me.
Zeinab moved back to her city, which is four hours away. Even though we’ve visited twice, they were brief interactions, leaving me disappointed that we can’t have the long heart-to-hearts we used to. There are other workers she knows in her city, but they haven’t met often.
When I asked if she’d read any more of the copy of Luke we gave her, she replied, “It made me feel sad to read it without you, and you were good at helping me understand it.” We are thankful her new husband knows she has it and keep praying they will read it together one day.
The challenge of culture
One of the biggest challenges in seeing churches planted here is the huge cultural gap between the Christian minority and Muslim majority. They live parallel but separate lives. Their religious vocabulary is different, for example using different names for both God and Jesus. There are clothing markers that signal a person’s community and generally people just don’t associate with those from other faiths. So how can believers reach the majority?
This is a question I’d love to help Christians here explore. Many still do not see the need to reach their neighbours, but even for those who do, there is a deep lack of understanding of how to connect and build bridges.
The few who have come to faith in Jesus either join a traditional church and live separately from their birth family and community or keep their new faith secret and try to live as a believer without fellowship. We are praying for new ways of working that can enable new believers to be supported and growing in Christian community, without abandoning their family and networks.
Pray for the Church in South Asia to grow as believers courageously reach out to their neighbours. Ask God to open hearts to Jesus in South Asia, that many will come to faith in him.
* Names have been changed for privacy reasons.