Are you sitting comfortably?

Are you sitting comfortably?

The journey of a believer in
four simple steps.

Benjamin Francis challenges believers to think about where we stand (or sit) on sharing our faith. Are we moving forwards in our journey of faith? Or are we sitting comfortably?

Benjamin Francis sits down in the last of a line of four chairs. “But even this is not the destination,” he says. “This is a journey”.

Ben is a BMS World Mission Team Leader, working in India at the forefront of disciple-making movements whose highest purpose is seeing people come to know and love Jesus. He’s using the chairs as a metaphor, each one a place where a person might stop and sit on their journey of faith. It’s a compelling picture that asks Christians to consider where they’re at on their walk with God.

The four chairs stand for ‘seeker’, ‘believer’, ‘disciple’ and ‘disciple maker’. The chairs aren’t destinations, Ben emphasises, but stops on a journey that the people in your local church congregation are all on.

Ben is passionate about disciple-making, and he holds the Great Commission close in his heart – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28: 19). Ben believes this command of Jesus worked out in our lives will mean everyone developing in Christlikeness as they move along their Christian journey, from ‘seeker’ to ‘believer’, to ‘disciple’ and ‘disciple maker’.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations

Four metal chairs stand against a white wall, with captions above them in a black font saying 'seeker', 'believer', 'disciple', 'disciple maker'.
The four chairs stand for ‘seeker’, ‘believer’, ‘disciple’ and ‘disciple maker’. Which chair are you sitting in?

To many across the world, this is the destination of a Christian.

But that is so wrong.

It’s challenging to see Ben sitting in the final chair, saying that even this isn’t the end of the journey. Even more so, when he explains that many Christians are sitting in the second chair, the ‘believer’ chair. “To many across the world, this is the destination of a Christian,” Ben laments. “But that is so wrong”.

Ben’s vision for the Church is one of constant movement, growth and development. He wants to challenge us not to carry on just sitting comfortably in the chairs we’re in.

Which chair are you sitting in? And where do your friends and neighbours in church sit? Watch Ben’s explanation of the journey of a believer in four simple steps, then share it with Christians around you. Get them excited about sharing the good news of Jesus, discipleship-making and growing in Christlikeness.

And be encouraged! As a BMS supporter, you are enabling this message to go out into all the world, where disciples are being made right now thanks to your giving and prayer. Ben and his team are making disciples who are making disciples, in the power of the Holy Spirit and the light of the gospel. It’s so exciting that we can be a part of it.

Thank you for your generosity and commitment to God’s work in the world. Thank you for supporting BMS.

Words by Hannah Watson, Editor of Engage. Video by Laura Durrant.

Sleeping on the pavements, studying on the streets

Sleeping on the pavements, studying on the streets:

helping children in India to thrive

Begging, selling alcohol and stealing – this is how street children in India survive and provide for their families. But thanks to BMS World Mission, a school on the street in Kolkata is providing these children with an education, teaching them life skills to help them succeed.

Tens of thousands of children live day and night on the streets of Kolkata. With no access to education or healthcare, begging or selling alcohol and drugs are often the only ways they can survive. Countless families live in absolute poverty, and it can often feel like there is no way out.

A girl walking on the side of a busy road next to the bridge where the street school takes place.
This is where the street school takes place, underneath a bridge.

But lasting change sometimes starts with something small. Underneath a bridge in the bustling city of Kolkata, next to a traffic-filled road, 50 children who call the streets their home are getting to go to school. Because BMS worker Ben Francis and his team have brought school to them. Calling themselves Street Servants, our team teaches the children reading, writing and arithmetic – important lessons from the government kindergarten syllabus. And once they’re ready, the team help get the children into a government school to earn essential certificates. They’re also learning about Jesus. Every day, the children sing songs about God. They learn to read through parables and Bible stories, and they pray.

These children, who have only ever known life on the streets, are gaining new opportunities to learn, and new skills that will set them up for life. And it’s all because of your support for BMS.

Nawab was begging outside a horse racing track when the BMS-supported Street Servants met him. After meeting with his parents, the team invited Nawab to come to the street school, along with his two sisters. He excelled. Thanks to the school, Nawab’s life has changed dramatically. Along with seven other children who were taught by BMS-supported teachers in Kolkata, he’s now in a government school. Sat in a busy classroom of children in school uniform, after a life without much structure, the adjustment has not been easy. But now, Nawab has the opportunity of a full education. A way off the streets.

All 50 children at the street school are learning the skills they need to get into government schools. As well as learning the right curriculum, they’re also being taught wider life skills. “We’re giving them the habit of discipline,” says BMS worker Ben Francis, who helps oversee the project in Kolkata. Street school is preparing these children to sit in a classroom, to listen, and to learn to change their own futures.

Nawab, a serious boy looking straight into the camera. Wearing a cream buttoned shirt.
This serious boy is Nawab. Thanks to your support, he's now in a government school along with seven other children from the street school.

And we aren’t just stopping with 50 children. We want more children like Nawab to receive a quality education, and our team is working hard to set up a second school. “We want to see more children get into government schools,” says Ben. “We want more communities changed, and more families leaving the streets.”

BMS worker Ben Francis smiling into the camera. A man dressed in a long white shaul.
BMS worker Ben Francis, who helps oversee the Street Servants project in Kolkata.

And it really is all about families. The Street Servants team go and meet parents, offering counselling and advice. For many, having their child in school means a loss of income, as they often beg to help support the families. “It’s about changing the mindset of the parents,” says Ben. “We tell them, ‘today you want 40 pence from your child. But if you let them study, some day they will bring back four thousand pounds.’” By getting the parents on board, the children can go to school and become more equipped to support their families in the future.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone in the UK,” says Ben. “You’re enabling underprivileged children to touch love, and helping us show Jesus’ love in the most tangible way that people will understand.”

It’s not just about supporting one child. It’s about changing generations.

Please pray for the street school, for Nawab, and his seven classmates as they continue to thrive in the government school, getting an education that any of us would want for our own children. And you can do something to help them – and people like them – right now. By clicking our donate button and giving, you will give help and hope to people who the rest of the world wants to forget. Do something small today to let them know they’re not forgotten. Click the big red button and give right now. You really can make a difference. As Ben Francis says, “it’s not just about supporting one child. It’s about changing generations.”

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Street Servants PowerPoint

From witch doctor to church planter

From witch doctor to church planter

The gospel is bearing fruit in India. BMS World Mission church planting projects are seeing men and women from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and places coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Including witch doctors.

There aren’t words strong enough to describe the impact the gospel is having in India. Its reach, depth and power is incredible. It’s even more impressive in the face of the real, dangerous and sometimes violent persecution and opposition Christians there are facing.

296 - Sundarbans

Selim* had wanted to be a witch doctor since childhood. He was fascinated. He was committed. He studied under a master and honed his witchcraft. He practised where he lives in West Bengal, making his livelihood selling potions and charms to heal the sick.

Selim’s sister Maya* is a BMS-supported church planter. She always tried to convince her brother to come along to church with her. They would fight, and He would refuse. He had always been resistant to hearing the gospel.

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BMS’ involvement in church planting and leadership ministries in India goes back a long way. Indeed, back to some of our founding mission work. We want to see the local Church continue to be empowered today.

BMS Associate Team Leader for India Ben Francis and his team of BMS church planters travel across the country, sharing the good news of Jesus with men and women, young and old, in cities, towns and villages. They are able to share the gospel with some of the least evangelised people on the planet. And the Spirit is using their work in powerful ways.

Watch this video to hear an update from Ben on what’s happening in India.

Here is the story of how Selim and Maya’s lives have been transformed by Christ. Here’s what knowing Jesus has meant for them, for their relationship and for their communities. Here is their story, in their own words:

My life has been completely changed.

“My sister, the church planter. The local fellowship she leads meet faithfully. I can hear people singing and praising God.

“One member had been severely ill for a long time. He was dying. His family members had bought him to me many times for healing, but I had not been able to help him.

“Unable to walk, the people of the village carried him to the fellowship one day and the members of the church started to pray for him. They prayed without ceasing. After three days of prayer he was completely healed and started walking and eating and doing everything that he had before.

“I thought I was healing people by myself, with black magic and witchcraft, but I knew I had witnessed something amazing; this was a miracle. I understood my sister’s faith in this Jesus. My eyes were opened to the truth and I started to ask questions of my own.

“With Maya’s encouragement, I started going to church. I heard the word of God, and wanted to know more. My sister gave me a Bible to read. The words transformed my heart, and I understood that there is no power greater than the power of the Lord Jesus.

“I decided to abandon the wicked ways I knew and give my heart over to the one and only true God. I was baptised. I even changed my name.

“My life has been completely changed. I am now running my own fellowships, as well as supporting my sister, sharing the gospel. We are part of a wider team, proclaiming the good news and worshipping our Lord together.

“I am thankful to the Lord for leading me to my new work as a church planter.”

Selim and Maya’s story is just one of many of God’s power changing hearts and minds in India.

BMS is excited to be a part of God’s plan for this great nation. Lives are being transformed thanks to church planting ministries your giving to BMS is supporting. We are seeing incredible things happening.

Keep praising God for these wonderful works. Keep praying for safety. Keep praying for growth. Keep supporting this ministry.

India: church grows despite persecution

India:

Church grows despite persecution

Acid attacks, beatings and arrests can’t stop the love of God reaching Indians.

A man blinded in a fight hears about Jesus and is now leading others to Christ. A woman becomes a Christian soon after seeing the Jesus film and is healed of Hepatitis B. The stories of lives transformed by the gospel in India are inspiring. And BMS World Mission is helping these stories happen.

The sheer number of those becoming Christians is amazing too. In 2016, 80,000 non-believers were introduced to the gospel and 4,000 home groups were founded by BMS worker Ben Francis and his team. The church planters have learned that connecting with people, rather than throwing Bible knowledge at them, is key to changing hearts. “It’s a lot about building relationships,” says Ben. “People on the streets of India don’t care how much people know, they want to know how much you care.” Thanks to this approach, God’s love is spreading like wildfire throughout India.

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Seeta is part of the church planting team. In this short video, she explains how she started planting churches and what God is doing through her ministry, which is supported by BMS.

No matter what they are doing, we are reacting with love

What makes the impact of BMS church planting in India especially impressive is the backdrop of persecution that challenges it.

Attacks on Christians in the country are on the rise. A report published by the Evangelical Fellowship of India stated that between January and June 2016 there were 134 incidents of Christians being targeted across the country: from burning churches to assaults against believers. A leader of the Hindu extremist organisation Dharm Jagran Samiti in Utter Pradesh said in 2014: “Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra [realm/country] by 2021. The Muslims and Christians don’t have any right to stay here” (Daily Mail).

As Ben and his team of evangelists are planting churches in unreached areas, they often face hostility. “When you go to a new place, there is always persecution,” Ben says. “So we are used to all of this. If you say to my guys, ‘have you ever been beaten up?’, they can’t count how many times.”

Unlike in the Middle East, where many Christians are leaving their region to escape persecution, for Christians in India it is often impossible to go elsewhere.

“In India, Christian communities are poor,” says Ben. Many Christians are from traditionally lower caste backgrounds. “Where would they go? They have nowhere to go. So they stay, which is a very good thing. If they leave, then they have lost the battle.”

One of the most shocking cases Ben has seen is a woman who had acid thrown in her face by extremists in her village for becoming a Christian. Ben and his team are supporting her and are trying to arrange some plastic surgery for her. Despite the attack, she is staying in her village.

“Her husband has left her. She’s lost everything,” says Ben. “She is surrounded by non-believers who are saying, ‘Give up Jesus or we will kill you.’ But she’s still strong. She’s not going to leave Jesus.”

A Christian couple Ben works with were arrested and the husband was held in prison for several days. This is becoming a common occurrence.  “Now to put a Christian into prison, you don’t need a reason,” Ben says. “All you have to say is: ‘They are forcibly converting us.’ These Christians have never forcibly done anything in their lives.”

Despite increasing persecution of Christians, many seek to hear the gospel in India.

But there are signs that the peaceful stand Christians are making for their faith is beginning to have an impact.

“A lot of people who were persecuting Christians are realising that we are not resisting. No matter what they are doing, we are reacting with love,” says Ben.

Contrary to extremists’ plans, Ben and his team are finding that persecution can often lead to a greater response to the gospel. When church planters from Ben’s team were briefly arrested in a village for showing the Jesus film, they returned 48 hours after their release to show the film again. Many more people came to see it than when they showed it the first time.

Every time they show the Jesus film, Ben or other leaders like to ask a simple question: ‘how many of you want to be a friend of the Jesus that you just saw?’ “Hundreds of people usually lift up their hands,” says Ben. “It’s wonderful.”

How, then, can we pray then for these incredibly brave men and women who, supported by BMS, are growing the Church in India and transforming lives, risking their own lives to save others?

“We want to speak the love of God throughout India,” says Ben. “Pray for justice, for peace, for strength and for determination. Pray that Christians experiencing persecution will look to the Lord for help.”

Pray for open hearts and open doors in India as BMS continues to share Jesus with people in the country.