Hacking through Bangladesh’s Religious Wilderness

Hacking through Bangladesh’s
Religious Wilderness

Deep in southeastern Bangladesh’s Chittagong Division, the slopes and snags of the hilly wilderness not only symbolized the cultural barriers facing a native missionary, they were the cultural barriers.

The very trees, bamboo, vines and even holes in the ground were the objects of the Chakma tribal villagers’ devotion. Buddhism calls for looking within to achieve perfection rather than anything outside of man, such as God, and though they called themselves Buddhists, they still strove to appease the various nature gods as their animist ancestors had for centuries.

Sumon*, the native missionary hoping to bring the invisible God to the village, had to bushwhack through a morass of visible gods. As an indigenous missionary he knew just the right kinds of food and other gifts to bring to the village head so he could ask him for permission to hold a meeting to tell the villagers about his God. The village chief, Jumman*, said Buddhists believe all religions are one with different faces and granted permission.

Sumon put the concepts of sin and eternal life in practical terms that resonated with the Chakma people, using Scripture to cut through the cultural barriers: Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and Acts 4:12, “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” among others.

“The village chief said Buddhists believe all religions are one with different faces and granted permission to hold an evangelistic meeting.”

Jumman was the first to put his faith in Christ. After hearing Sumon and other native missionaries in the following weeks, he told the director of their ministry group that he had been thinking deeply about their teaching.

“I have come to know from Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 4:12 that only Jesus Christ has the power to save me from my sin, and only Jesus Christ can give eternal life,” Jumman said. “My parents and family are Buddhists but worshiping trees, bamboos, holes, idols, gods and goddesses, and sacrificing pigs and hens to evil spirits to appease them. I do not like the beliefs and sacrifices of Chakma people.”

Native missionaries have planted more than 20 churches in the Chittagong area, bringing the gospel to otherwise unreached villages.

Like those in Chittagong, indigenous missionaries throughout South Asia are braving harsh environments and opposition as they rely on God for their livelihood. In Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, missionaries with intimate knowledge of their respective cultures work with joy and gentleness to bring Christ to people in darkness, subsisting on meager incomes that periodically dry up. Please consider a gift today to help them follow God’s call.

*Names changed for security reasons

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