Building bridges through literature

written by Ellyn Schellenberg

Sharing Christ’s love in rural mountainous regions can be an almost impossible task. Houses dot the ridge lines, and only small clusters of homes sit in the valleys, isolated from others by a lack of roads. For many churches in South Asia, the physical and spiritual challenges of sharing the good news prevent Jesus followers from sharing their faith with people from their wider communities.

In one South Asia country, OM strives to see every household in the district with the lowest number of Jesus followers reached with the gospel. The initial strategy includes distributing individually-packed Christian literature to each house and sending follow-up teams, who are regionally based, to have conversations with people who are interested in knowing more about Jesus. One OM leader in a mountainous area, Saajan*, is passionate about God and speaking about Him with others in his home country.

Saajan grew up in a Christian family and joined OM when he was 17-years-old, going through two intense discipleship training programmes before stepping into a leadership role. He served in various ministry contexts with OM, learning how to share his faith in a Hindu context, use biblical storytelling to disciple others, church plant in rural settings and equip and mobilise the local church to engage in God’s mission to make disciples of all nations. While utilising these tools, Saajan continues to rely on his relational skills, as well as build trust and invite others to partner together in accomplishing big things.

The district where Saajan serves is home to around 144,000 people. Over 77 per cent of the district’s terrain is above 2,000 metres (6,400 feet), isolating the population by making it hard to reach. The rugged mountains mean pastors often walk one or two days to get to church members’ homes to check on them and that Christians may only sporadically attend church services because of the far distances. Discipleship and deep community building within this context are incredibly hard. Saajan is familiar with the challenges local churches face and believes the solution is equipping every Jesus follower to get involved.

“There was a group of pastors meeting together, and when the pastor who was organising this fellowship left for another city, he handed the leadership of the group over to Saajan,” explained Saajan’s leader, Won*. “Saajan began sharing about OM’s vision to reach those who did not have access to hearing about God’s love.” Over time, Saajan established deeper relationships and trust with this group of pastors. They prayed for each other, shared their struggles and began encouraging one another to involve their small churches in the enormous effort of taking God’s Word to every household within their district. Each pastor took responsibility for a part of the district, and together the group developed a plan to share the message of hope.

Working together

Over the course of about four years, Saajan’s team partnered with local Jesus followers to distribute Christian literature to every household in the district. As they travelled and served together, opportunities arose for discipleship and further training. “Through this wide literature distribution, Saajan’s teams formed about six or seven small fellowships of people interested in knowing more about Jesus,” Won shared. “Then, after a few months, we look for someone within that fellowship that we can raise up as a leader and invest in training more.”

Though not all the fellowships continue to meet together, the seed sowing efforts done through partnerships have left a trail of seeds to harvest at later times. Pastors were strengthened in their missional vision, local Jesus followers were discipled in their faith, and people who had never heard of Jesus received literature and follow-up conversations. “We cannot guarantee the timeline,” Won said, “but we know that this is God’s vision for all people to hear about Him.”

“Without cooperation with local churches, OM cannot achieve the vision to see every household reached. Local churches are the key,” said Won. “OM also supports these churches with training and resources, and we listen to them and their vision and look for ways to partner with them. This approach takes time to build trust.”

The result is a beautiful collaborative effort to carry God’s Word into hard-to-reach places and to people who may otherwise never have the opportunity to know God created and loves them.

*name changed

An OMer leads a small fellowship of new believers in a rural village in South Asia in a time of prayer together.

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