Native Missionaries Take the Gospel Deep into the Hills of Bangladesh
May 11, 2011
In order to visit the ministries on this trip, Sarla traveled 20,000 miles by plane, automobile and on foot.
Recently Christian Aid sent Sarla Mahara, director for South Asia, to Bangladesh and Nepal to evaluate the work and assess the needs of several indigenous ministries. On this trip, she visited three of the newer ministries Christian Aid began assisting in Bangladesh, and seven ministries in Nepal, which have been receiving help for several years.
During her travels throughout Bangladesh and Nepal, she was struck by the unique difficulties each country faces in establishing a witness for Christ. Nepal is experiencing relative freedom these days, but it faces challenges of a very unique nature. Sarla says, “various churches and religious sects from the West have been coming into the country bringing with them erroneous foreign beliefs. Native missionaries are not only striving to reach the unreached, they must also correct these false teachings brought in by outsiders.”
Maru houses are made of bamboo sitting atop stilts about two feet above the ground.
On the other hand, in Bangladesh where 96% of the population is Muslim, indigenous missionaries face daily opposition and work “underground” to reach one person at a time.
One of the ministries she visited
Bandarban Town is the capital of Bandarban District, one of the three Chittagong Hill Tract Districts in Bangladesh. There are 11 different tribes in this area, some of whom still have no witness for the Lord.
This looks treacherous, but Sarla said she actually felt safer than traveling by taxi. Taxis race through crowded streets and often miss hitting someone or something by inches.
The leader of one of the ministries assisted through Christian Aid Mission has workers among six of these tribes. The Maru are the largest tribe in the Hill District, but the poorest, and the least reached. They live deep in the hills with no evidence of modern life. Sarla visited a village where about 36 Maru families are living. A church was started there by the ministry where, today, 46 believers meet regularly. The only Scripture they have is the Gospel of John printed in their own language. Their church meetings are informal and the genuine fellowship of these believers led Sarla to comment, “I felt as though this was similar to what the early New Testament church could have been like.”
Sarla reports, “A closely-knit group is very comforting and necessary to these believers because they are outcast by the rest of the villagers. Their church family is a community where everyone is open to one another, and they help each other, not only in matters of spiritual growth, but in their relationships, marriages, and burdens.”
Small groups of Maru believers meet in homes.
Native missionaries are making an impact for the gospel
Nepal and Bangladesh have a combined population of over 185 million people. The combined percentage of Christians in these countries is 2.3% (or only about 4 million people). However, little by little, native missionaries are making an impact.
Sarla reflected on her visit, “I saw first-hand how these Christians are accomplishing an enormous task in such diverse and difficult areas of the world. The people and places I visited demonstrate how a little help in the right hands makes a big difference for the Kingdom.”