Five Years of Tears, Joy, and Lessons
I've grown up with the men and women Harvest Bridge comes alongside in South Asia. Much like the story of Harvest Bridge's formation, my story of joining the mission is one that was supernaturally led by God.
The summer before enrolling at Grove City College, God gave me clear instruction and a vision to work with the existing South Asian and Middle Eastern Church - specifically to join them in reaching their own people for Christ. Sound familiar?
Almost exactly a month later, in my first days at college, I met Dr. Tim Mech and heard the vision of Harvest Bridge. After two and a half years of volunteering and spending parts of two summers in South Asia, I came on board full-time with Harvest Bridge when I graduated in 2014.
Since then, I have had the privilege of learning from and joining hands with our brothers and sisters in the South Asian church. So many tears, moments of joy, and lessons in the last five years!
Tears have come while holding hands in prayer with a young pastor who was recently released from prison, having been arrested for his faith in Myanmar (Burma).
Tears came while washing the feet of two of our missionaries in Bangladesh, Mamun* and Tabitha*, whose daughter had been brutally attacked because of their ministry.
Tears came upon seeing the physical wounds left on so many of our missionaries due to attacks from persecutors.
And when sitting with Maloti*, the elderly widow of one of our missionaries in India, who has continued in her husband's work despite her grief and many obstacles.
Joy has come while taking part in an assembly at a school in India run by several of our missionaries, where Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist students and teachers are welcomed, but are learning about the true Gospel together.
There has been joy in joining countless prayer and praise meetings with South Asian women, where we worshipped together as sisters in Christ.
Joy in witnessing the baptism and first communion of dozens of new believers in Bangladesh, and handing them their first Bible.
And joy in reading through thousands of testimonies of former Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists experiencing new life in Jesus.
And one of the many lessons is that God is using these men and women we support to reach South Asia in ways He has specifically equipped them for. There are the obvious reasons for this - as locals in the countries they serve, they they intimately understand the language and the culture, they live on a similar income level as the people around them, and their physical appearance does not draw unnecessary attention or distract from the Gospel.
An even greater reason, and what I've seen as a foreigner in South Asia, is that the Gospel makes a deeper impact when it comes from the mouth of someone who has something to lose – especially in the countries we work, where persecution is common.
Imagine you are a Bangladeshi Muslim woman.
You hear the Gospel and are interested, but you don't give it much thought because you know the consequences of following Jesus. Your family is likely to reject you. You may be verbally and physically abused. You could have a difficult time holding a job due to discrimination.
Essentially, everything that makes life worth living would be pulled out from under you.
How much more likely are you to be convinced that Jesus is worth it, that He is the truth, if you hear it from another Bangladeshi, formerly Muslim woman? Someone who gave up all those things and is now joyfully risking her own safety to tell you about Jesus. Someone who has counted the cost and is prepared to help you do the same.
As I reflect on five years with Harvest Bridge and look towards the future, I am deeply thankful God gave me that vision eight years ago for working with the local church in South Asia. Local Christians are the ones who are uniquely able to reach their own people for Christ, and it is our role and privilege to come alongside that work. Praise God!
Kate Therese, Director of Mobilization
*Names changed for safety