“When we share how to make a kitchen garden, we tell the story of Creation, how God created the heavens and the Earth,” explained Salman from South Asia. “Then we say, ‘Okay, now you go to the next house and help make a garden and have your family tell the story to them…so through that, the people learn the stories and share them in other villages as well.”
Through community development, self-sustainability projects and Bible storytelling, people from Hindu backgrounds of the lowest caste are responding to the love of Christ in Southern Asia.
“I will use you among the lost.” That was the message Salman*, an OM leader working in his home country in Southern Asia, heard from the Lord before he even surrendered his life to Christ. Though born into a Christian family, and raised attending Sunday School, Salman had unresolved questions and doubts as a youth. During this confusing time, a pastor encouraged him from Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (ESV). Salman took the verse to heart and started asking God his hard questions. One night he had a prominent dream that he was sitting and talking among a group of Muslims. Later when he shared the dream with an elder at his church, the elder told him: “God is going to use you among the Gentiles.” Salman continued to seek God and eventually gave his life to Jesus in 2003 at the age of 15.
After attending university, Salman connected with OM in 2008 and began working as a bookkeeper in the finance department. He spent five years in the position, but he longed to get out of the office and reach people directly. After helping find a replacement bookkeeper, his leadership team sent him to the southern region of his country, where the people are primarily Hindu.
It wasn’t easy. Salman had never interacted with Hindu followers before. There were cultural and language hurdles, and most had never been exposed to the gospel. But as Salman started going from village to village sharing the gospel, God ignited a passion and vision for the region in his heart. Salman said: “I wanted to see a church in every village so people would not have to travel for a Sunday service or fellowship.” He began to fervently pray and seek God to that end.
Christ’s love expressed through community development
Because the people Salman visited were the lower caste and considered untouchables, a position inherited from birth, they were usually shunned, and their communities were under-resourced. So, after three years of initial engagement with several villages, Salman participated in training such as Transformational Community Development, which teaches communities how to develop through local resources, and Farming God’s Way, which introduces low-cost means of farming and self-sustainability. Then he, along with an OM team, began helping villages with projects to train and transform the communities.
Now, through the projects, the OM team helps provide villages with such things as clean drinking water, kitchen gardens, health training, and goat loans. As most of the people in the villages cannot read or write, they have started educational academies. The love of Jesus Christ shown through practical aid and ongoing relationships has opened the door to the gospel. As Salman and the team, including his wife whom he married in 2019, meet physical needs they also share the message of Jesus through storytelling and the Jesus Film, and people are coming to Christ.
The work has grown to reach 31 villages and 21 of these are now completely made up of Jesus Followers. Salman said in eight years over 3,000 people have come to Christ in the area. He shared how the gospel is continuing to expand as the local believers now take the message from one village to another. “When we are sharing how to make a kitchen garden, we tell the story of Creation, how God created the heavens and the Earth,” explained Salman. “Then we say, ‘Okay, now you go to the next house and help make a garden and have your family tell the story to them…so through that, the people learn the stories and share them in other villages as well.”
“I want to become like you and follow Jesus.”
The team also looks for “men of peace,” people who may or may not follow Jesus but are open to conversations about the gospel and are willing to be the point of contact for the village. They found one in a young man named Kabir* who began attending a Bible study with a friend in the city where he attended school. The study was led by the OM team, and though Kabir wasn’t a Jesus follower, he invited Salman to his village. Salman met Kabir’s father who told him he had once been a Christian but later returned to Hinduism. As the relationship continued, Kabir often attended Bible study even though he insisted he would remain a Hindu.
Over time Salman shared many Bible stories and Scripture verses such as John 3:16 with Kabir. One day Kabir phoned him and said: “I want to know more about Jesus…I want to see what He looks like.” Salman replied: “Brother, even I don’t know this. But I can come tomorrow, and we can watch a film that is like a sketch showing the miracles and life of Jesus.” After watching the movie with Salman and the team, Kabir said: “I want to become like you and follow Jesus.” After Kabir accepted Christ and read Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus commanded His followers to baptise His disciples, Kabir called Salman again and told him that he and his family wanted to be baptised. Kabir started a Bible study in his village and eventually, the entire village of 20 families came to Christ.
While God has done great things throughout the region, there are obstacles. Even though Salman and his team are near-culture workers, many people do not like their presence in the area; they do not want the Bible. They believe their gods are magical and more powerful than what the team offers.
Despite these issues, when asked why Salman does the work, he responded: “This is my passion and my love. I feel that God has called me and my family to serve this underprivileged people who have less chance to hear the gospel. I can speak their language. I have adopted their culture. I feel this is my calling because I have peace in my heart.” Just as He foretold, God is using Salman among the lost to help spread the gospel to many.
Please pray for the safety and financial support of Salman, his wife and daughter and the entire team. Pray that they will have courage and boldness in sharing the gospel and that hearts will be open. Pray for funds for the many development needs.