Last month, I was worshipping with pastors and missionaries in Sri Lanka in an area that had been devastated by the country’s 30-year civil war, a war in which conservative estimates report at least 150,000 people died, the majority being civilians.
The bullets stopped in 2010, but the scars are deep.
Our missionaries in Sri Lanka prioritize ministry to the many women and children who were widowed and orphaned by the war. In one church alone, one of our female missionaries runs a widows’ ministry with about 75 women. Nearly all our Sri Lankan missionaries incorporate some kind of orphan care into their ministry.
In addition to emotional and psychological scars, many of our missionaries have physical scars from the conflict.
One of our partners, a 27-year old pastor, miraculously survived stepping on a landmine when he was 15 years old. It was while he was healing from his extensive injuries, and mourning the loss of his parents and most of his siblings soon afterward, that he cried out to Jesus and gave his life to God.
The amount of death and pain these missionaries and the people to whom they minister have seen is overwhelming. It’s a reminder of how important it is to support local believers in serving their communities. Sometimes the only people who can comfort you and pull you out of the darkest of times are people who have gone through the same pain, and can say, “There’s hope”.
While traveling in India on the same trip, I visited five of our supported pastors in the state of Odisha, formerly called Orissa. One of the churches I visited had been burnt to the ground by Hindu radicals 10 years ago. Riots in this area led to many churches being burned, several Christians being killed, and dozens of pastors left severely injured.
Several of those pastors are now supported by us.
The church has been rebuilt completely by believers in that village, who used their own extremely limited resources. Amazingly, some of the men who burned the church down are now attending another nearby church, also planted by one of our pastors!
The men came to follow Jesus after long years of these pastors and other Christians sharing the Gospel, showing them love, and offering forgiveness when they finally asked for it.
This love and forgiveness would not have carried the same weight in these men’s lives if it had not been offered by local Christians, the ones who had been hurt by their terrorism. Another reminder of the importance of building up the local church to reach their own people for Christ.
They were able to speak truth and love in a way that no one else could.
Also on this trip, I spent time in Bangladesh visiting rural villages where early childhood education programs are being started. These are communities where parents are doing comparatively well if, between the two of them, they earn $4 a day from working in rice paddies or farming shrimp. For various reasons, it is rare for any child to be educated in these communities, and it’s nearly unheard of for a girl to go to school.
These communities are steeped in a tradition of superstition and prejudice, making change seem impossible. However, many of the pastors we support grew up in these communities. Coming from that same background of poverty and superstition, they, more than anyone, can prove there is another way. That the cycle can be broken, and that families can not only benefit from education, but find freedom in Christ.
In short, our indigenous ministry partners have the credibility to affect meaningful change in these villages.
When you support Harvest Bridge, you are supporting men and women who are uniquely able to reach their communities and countries for Christ. Our focus will always be to equip the local church to reach their own people for Christ as effectively as possible.
Thank you for joining us in this!
Kate Therese, Director of Mobilization