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Greedy for Jesus

By Tom,* RMM Asia regional director

My first trip to one of the most densely populated countries in Southeast Asia was even more intense than I had expected. I’ve never been anywhere so crowded, noisy, or generally overwhelming! My introduction to the city was an auto-rickshaw ride that covered 15 kilometers and took nearly two hours in the blazing afternoon sun. At the time, I was sure that I’d never been so hot in my life. Later I discovered that the traffic never really gets any better and that the heat, noise, and smells are a normal part of life in that amazing city.

I only spent one week in the country—not nearly enough time to begin understanding life there. But I was able to spend a lot of that time with our team of national workers, Hiralel* and his wife Bindu* and Protap* learning more about their ministries. I saw some of the many challenges they face, but also some exciting glimpses of what God is doing through them.

On a Friday evening, we went to the “student mess” (a communal living space for university students) that RMM helped start in the capital city. Students from all over the country come here to study, and this weekend there were even more than normal because of the university entrance exams taking place. After a long auto-rickshaw ride through the traffic jam, we walked down a dirty back alley in the old part of the city. I’d expected the “mess” to look something like a dormitory, but it was more basic than that. Six young men who have come from other parts of the country share two small rooms. We met in one of them, sitting on the beds and the floor. A couple of desks were covered with stacks of textbooks and newspapers and their clothes hung on lines that cut across the corners of the room. All of these young men come from Hindu families—and a couple of them still identify with that religion. But all of them gather every evening for a time of Bible study and prayer. Those who have decided to follow Jesus shared their stories. In every case they were discipled by a cousin or friend who had come to faith while living in this hostel. They took their new faith back home with them and shared it with others. None of their parents are believers, but these young men shared that as they came to faith, and as their lives began to change, their parents did not stand in their way. They recognized that something good was happening to their sons, and while they are still not ready to join them in following Jesus, they aren’t hindering them. In some cases they are even defending their sons to other relatives or local religious leaders.

As we sat on the floor and ate fruit and a spicy snack mix (and shooed away a huge cockroach) they continued sharing. Another common theme in their stories was the criticism that they do face from friends and others at home. Christians have gained a bad reputation in this country for enticing people to switch religions in exchange for material gain. So these new believers are accused of being greedy because people assume that they left Hinduism in pursuit of money. Mithun, one of the leaders at the mess, told me that night that he doesn’t let these accusations bother him. He said, “I am greedy. Greedy for Jesus!”

On another evening I met with a group of about one dozen believers and seekers from a low-caste Hindu group. For years this people group has been “kept in their place” by society and governments. They’ve been assigned the unwanted job of “sweeping,” which includes cleaning the latrines and sewers of government buildings. A few years ago two young men heard about Jesus and saw in him a hope for their future. They’ve been telling others and now this group meets regularly. We met in one of their homes where he lives with his wife, daughter, and parents. Their community is a strip of very small, tin-roofed houses tucked behind a Hindu temple. His parents are still Hindu and keep an altar to one of the gods where they offer flowers and food.

We met in a bedroom for a time of singing, sharing, and prayer. The believers talked about the opposition they are facing from their tight-knit community. Living in such close proximity naturally exposes their faith, and it also gives them plenty of opportunity for sharing God’s love and the hope they now have with their friends and neighbors. As I heard them talk, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable about the yeast and the dough. Their situation demonstrates that clearly. They, as the yeast, are few in number and could easily seem overwhelmed by the “dough” around them. Yet God promises that even a small measure of his kingdom will, in time, bring tremendous change. Let’s pray for this to become a reality in that community!

Dinonat is the first older adult to be baptized in his region. He first heard about Jesus as a schoolboy when an Italian missionary shared at his school. Years later when his adult son heard about the gospel from a friend, Dinonat was eager to learn more. After this young man shared with him what he’d experienced, Dinonat also believed. He can’t read very well and has a limited education, but he immediately began sharing everything that he learned with his wife and other members of his household. When we met with him earlier this month he told us that every day at noon he gathers his household together for a time of teaching. He asked Dan, Hiralel, and Protap to teach him more about how to pray and what kinds of things he should pray for. Even though he is a very new believer himself, and although he doesn’t have much knowledge about the Bible, he is hungry to learn more and ready to teach what he does know.

Throughout my trip I was continually reminded of both the tremendous needs and potential in this country. Our team there is small, and they are doing very difficult work, attempting to disciple a people group with whom no one else is working. I’m so glad that we, as an agency, can partner with them to do this work. We probably won’t send foreign workers to this area. The limitations on their work and the stress of living there would be great. We can, however, continue to support and encourage the work of Protap, Hiralel and Bindu. God is changing lives among these people groups and it is bringing gradual transformation to entire families and communites.

Your prayers and financial support of RMM are making this work possible. Since I returned, Dinonat’s wife has been baptized, and he is continuing to share with his extended family and community. Pray for him as he becomes a spiritual leader, and pray for many others like him.

*Last name omitted and names changed for security reasons.