A man lights incense at a Buddhist temple. Photo by RJ Rempel.

'We will not give up'

In an area where the population is mostly Buddhist, OM workers are seeing people turn to Christ after seeing the difference He makes.

The OM team in South East Asia is helping build communities of devoted Jesus followers in an area where Christians make up less than 10 per cent of society.

Faith and religion are seen as a central part of many countries. Because of this, it can be hard to introduce a new faith with the majority religion so ingrained in the culture, traditions and sense of self. An OM leader in the area, Alex*, said that many people in his home country label themselves as Buddhists based on the fact that their ancestors and the people around them consider themselves Buddhist. According to Alex, 85 per cent of the population in his region claims Buddhism as their faith, while Christianity makes up only eight per cent. Despite this data, he said he and the team serving the area are seeing more people turn to Christ after seeing the difference He makes.

“Every month, three to five people accept Jesus Christ, and they are committed to following Jesus Christ,” Alex shared.

Discipled to make disciples

Aki*, is a young man from South East Asia. Growing up, he lived at a Buddhist temple, taking part in meditation and contemplating eternal life and how to obtain it. One day, Aki met a Jesus follower who shared the gospel with him, and he asked the man how to obtain eternal life. In response, the man invited Aki to a series of teachings on the Bible, and on the last day, they spoke about eternal life in Christ. The message touched the young man, and Aki gave his life to the Lord right then and there.

It was not without cost. After coming to Christ, Aki was no longer welcome in his family’s home. For the next few years, he trained with OM on how to share the good news of the Bible with others and disciple those interested in a personal relationship with Jesus. Over time, Aki’s brother noticed the change in him and has since decided to follow Jesus.

As the number of people who accept Christ and make it their life’s mission to spread His Word and love grows, so does OM’s outreach to the least reached. Alex explained that new volunteers who join the team go through a two-to-three-year training, then move to villages around the country to offer free schooling for children and live out the love of Christ in their daily lives.

Challenges and trials

Though the mission to share the gospel with those who have never heard of Jesus is bearing much fruit, Alex noted that it is not easy.

“Those who are [going to] the least reached, they are facing a lot of difficulties,” he said. “They are facing a lot of hindrances and struggles, but they are very faithful, and they never give up for the Kingdom of God.”

In addition to sharing the gospel, Alex and his team offer free education. Because of the schooling, people are happy to have the OM teams visit and be a part of the community, all the while knowing that the workers are Christians. The problem arises when someone in the community decides to follow Jesus. Alex explained that after a person decides to accept Christ as their Saviour, they often want to be baptised, but if they are baptised, they will be kicked out of their community.

To overcome this issue, Alex said that he tells those who fear community backlash for a public declaration, such as baptism, that they do not necessarily need to be physically baptised. Rather, it is more important for them to believe and receive Jesus Christ in their hearts and share His love with others.

Never going back

In addition to the hardships that come with teaching the gospel, members of Alex’s team face other hardships as well. COVID-19 and periods of government instability have impacted the country, but through it all, the vision remains the same and team members continue to share the love of God through word and deed.

Alex told the story of a couple who moved to a new area with their children to share God’s Word. Very suddenly and unexpectedly, a daughter and a son from the family died on separate occasions. Despite their pain and heartache — and after taking some time off to take care of themselves — the family returned to the mission field to continue to teach and disciple others.

“They said: ‘We gave our lives to the Lord; we will not give up,’” Alex recalled.

There are many moments that remind the couple why they do what they do.“Last year, during the Christmas programme, more than 500 people gathered together, and they just shared the gospel,” Alex said. “So, at least that night, more than 500 people heard about Jesus.”

Though the work of spreading the gospel to the least reached communities in South East Asia may be difficult, daunting or even scary at times, Alex and his team are emboldened by the gospel.

“We are not afraid for the Kingdom of God,” he stated.

*Name changed

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