Mango Groves Open Doors to Unreached People Groups in Bangladesh
February 1, 2011
Mango garden, beginning to bear fruit
For centuries, the impoverished tribals of the Bandarban Hills have been without the spiritual and physical help they need to survive and develop. Totally animistic until recently, most of these tribals lived in terror of the tree spirits, ghosts and demons that they believe inhabit their streams and hills.
Utterly destitute, they relied on witchcraft and a form of Buddhism for protection until native leaders from the Bawm Tribal Missions of Bangladesh (BTMB) began to establish small Christian churches and schools here. With the spread of the gospel, the missionaries brought something else –mango groves that could revolutionize living standards in the area.
“This is a prime example of how a little help in the right hands can make a big difference for the gospel,” says Sarla Mahara, South Asia Director for Christian Aid, who recently visited here to evaluate indigenous missions in Bangladesh.
At first, follow-up of new believers was very difficult due to a lack of support for the missionaries working in the Bandarban Hill District in southeastern Bangladesh. Christian Aid Mission, which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought this need to the attention of friends in the USA who are concerned about the needs of tribal peoples in Bangladesh. They responded immediately, providing the needed monthly support for BTMB workers.
Christian Aid became involved with the ministry in 2006 through its leader, Pastor Bawm. Mahara learned that Pastor Bawm was planting churches in the area and she wanted to provide more help. Bawm asked instead for mango saplings!
Tribal house in Bandarban Hills
His vision was to live among the Maru, Chakma, and other tribals and plant mango orchards. This threefold strategy would allow BTMB workers to establish relationships among the tribals, generate income for their ministry, and provide a livelihood for the many workers from the villages needed to help work the plantations.
Nearly four years later, 2000 mango trees are in place in two separate areas -- and some of the trees have already begun to bear fruit. More importantly, the ministry is bearing fruit. Today there are 15 missionaries working among 6 of the 11 tribes living in the Bandarban Hill District.
“When 12 new believers are baptized in one village, we plant a new church,” explains Pastor Bawm. “They now have more than 45 house fellowships among these different tribes.”
Pastor Bawm, founder of BTMB, is unique in that he has received a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from ACTS, South Korea. BTMB is one among the very few ministries in the Hill Tracts District run by an indigenous leader reaching his own people. His education has enabled him to train village pastors on the subject of Pastoral Ministry as well as effectively training many of God’s workers for the field.
Mahara is praying that Christian Aid will be able to support more missionary workers and projects that will help the local believers to become self-sufficient “both spiritually and physically.”
ABOUT CHRISTIAN AID MISSION: Founded by Bob Finley in 1953, Christian Aid is your link to indigenous missions. Today, it sends help to 796 indigenous ministries that deploy over 80,000 missionary workers serving the Lord among 3000 tribes and nations. Prayerline, a monthly prayer guide, lists a daily prayer request form indigenous ministries spreading the gospel. It is sent free to all who contribute to Christian Aid.
See below to donate online for the support of work among the Chakma tribal people in Bangladesh or mail your offering to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906.
You may call 1-800-977-5650 to donate by phone. Please use gift code: 710BTMB.
Contact Sarla by phone: 434-977-5650
Other Stories about Indigenous Missions in Bangladesh