Young women living in a slum in Bangladesh have the opportunity to learn a technical skill like sewing, enabling them to earn a living.  Photo by Garrett N

Reaching out to women

Working both in the city and in rural areas, OM's women's ministry team serves the women of Bangladesh by offering lessons such as computer literacy, tailoring and literacy.

Nishi's* work with OM started in 2010 when her husband, who served with OM in northern Bangladesh, noticed that only men gathered at the home churches. He invited Nishi to attend so that other women would also begin going, as culturally, it is disrespectful for a man to talk to an unknown woman. Together, they invited people to church.

Nishi's parents adhered to Islam before becoming Jesus followers and working with OM. As a child, Nishi saw what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ and how her parents and other believers shared the gospel with others. After she got married in 2010, Nishi officially joined OM with her husband. Currently, she is a full-time mother of two and serves with the women’s ministry in Bangladesh.

Serving the women of Bangladesh

"In our country, in general, it's difficult for women to work outside or get more opportunities outside of the home, so our ministry equips them through discipleship programmes and spiritually," says Nishi. A team of 20 OMers serve women over the age of 18, in addition to a separate ministry for teenage girls. Every year, four of five women accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

In Bangladesh, the Christian community makes up around only 0.4 per cent** of the population, while 90.5 per cent of the population is Muslim and 8.4 per cent is Hindu; Nishi's family is the only Christian family in her neighbourhood. "Generally, women are considered property of their husband or their parents [if single]. They cannot make decisions without their husband or parents, any general decision either in the family or outside or in their own life. And it's an ownership culture, so if you think: 'I'll do it, it's my life,’ that doesn't work in our culture," explains Nishi regarding the general treatment of women in her country. Views regarding women are a bit more relaxed in the city, where some women, especially university students, are granted more freedom.

Working both in the city and rural areas, OM serves the women of Bangladesh through a variety of outreach programmes such as door-to-door visits and selling Bibles and Christian literature in the park. Through hiring a centre and instructors for short periods of time, the team also offers women lessons in computer literacy, tailoring, sewing, adult literacy and pre-primary school for their children. Teenage girls with fewer financial opportunities are invited to learn how to make creative crafts to sell for pocket money. The team does not directly preach the gospel but instead focuses on building relationships with every woman and girl they meet. For those who are believers or interested in the Bible, a three-month discipleship programme is available to help participants know the Lord, grow in their faith and share the love of Christ with their neighbours.

Breaking barriers

"In Christian communities, it [how women are regarded and treated] is different. Women have more power to talk or express themselves or make decisions for themselves. For example, in my family, me or my mom or my sisters can actually make decisions. My family honours the decisions I make," says Nishi.

Nishi has seen that when women realise that God loves them individually and that they need to personally receive Christ for their salvation, it is difficult for them to make the decision and be the only Christian in their family. It is often easier for women to commit to Christ if their husband or father is already a believer or if the woman is independent and earns her own money. In other instances, "maybe in their heart they receive Christ, but they have fear to express their faith. Many of the women feel this way — of course not all — but many of them," Nishi recalls.

Seeking and believing 

After Syeda* became a Christian through the discipleship training, her family stopped funding her education and accommodation. Thankfully, a Christian family who understood the challenges of deciding to follow Jesus helped her find a place to stay and continue her studies. Despite the small number of Jesus followers in Bangladesh, they are quick to help one another and have created a strong support system.

Every year, a women's conference of around 60-80 women — both seekers and believers — from different parts of the country gather for fellowship. "Bangladeshi women are not really used to asking questions, and culturally, they cannot ask questions in front of men," says Nishi. "But in our women's conference, we gave them a demonstration of a Q&A panel, so then they realised that they had so many questions in their hearts, and they could ask after we told them that this environment is friendly."

In July 2023, four women from Muslim backgrounds were baptised. One of the women, Yasmin,* learnt about Christ from her friend who shared her faith. Yasmin had many questions about the gospel, especially regarding Jesus as the Son of God. Her friend, a new believer, invited her to the women’s conference to ask her questions. After participating in Q&A sessions, she was baptised on the last day of the conference. Since her recent marriage, Yasmin has slowly started sharing the gospel with her mom and sisters with the support of her husband’s family who are believers.

"The process [of receiving Christ] takes a long time because women are not used to making decisions on their own, and their mentality and worldview needs to be changed," says Nishi. "Pray for OM's team; before, they were shy, but now they are more active because, in the last three years, there’s been more training programmes, so they understand how to reach the unreached."

Please pray for Nishi and her team, as well as their families. Pray for strength, boldness and wisdom as they reach out to other women as well as for financial support and good health. Pray for the four women who were baptised this year; that they remain involved in their house churches and continue sharing the gospel with their families. Please pray for more opportunities and open doors, both in the ministry and financially.

*name changed


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