The power of your own story…

The power of your own story…

Helping people in India come to faith means sharing what God has done at every opportunity.

BMS worker Ben sits on a boat.
BMS worker Ben is helping people share the gospel in India, with your support.

Travel to India and it’s unlikely you’ll meet a Christian on the street. At least, that’s what the statistics tell you. In the world’s second most populous country, just over two per cent of the population openly identifies as Christian. But that’s still around 28 million people, a good foundation for those working hard to share the gospel in a nation that’s 80 per cent Hindu.

The challenge of telling people about Jesus remains daunting, however. It requires boldness, stamina and, critically, an approach that gets results. Thankfully, the church planters you support in India have it all. They’re led by BMS World Mission worker Ben Francis, a man who is never found silent when given the chance to express his passion for Jesus. Ben is at the forefront of an exciting disciple-making movement in his country, and has an inspiring hunger to see people come to faith.

A man raises his hand in worship in front of a lectern.
Thousands of people across India are committed to sharing how Christ has transformed their lives.

Around 45,000 people became Christians last year through the work Ben leads in India. It’s a number that’s easier to understand when you learn that over 8,000 people, who his church planters led to faith, attended training sessions on how to spread the gospel. And at the heart of the training is a simple lesson – never miss a chance to share how the love of Christ has transformed your life.

You can help Ben

Sign up to support Ben Francis as a 24:7 Partner today! Hit the button below to find out more.

“People need to share their story whenever they can,” says Ben. “They need to be in the habit of talking about what the Lord has done at every opportunity. To friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances, or even people they’re buying things from.

“The conventional method was to go out and bring people back to church. Now, we go out, start a group and tell people to go and start one somewhere else. Multiplication can take place much faster this way.”

Sharing stories is at the core of this multiplication. As is getting to the point quickly. Ben encourages church planters to share their stories of transformation in just three minutes. “Not everybody you talk to will respond,” says Ben. “But some will, and then you tell them more about God.”

Top tips for evangelism graphic
Men and women sit together with bibles.
Ben says that the growth of people coming to faith seen in India can happen anywhere in the world.

One place where there has been an extraordinary response to the gospel is the state of Odisha (formerly Orissa). You may know about it because you supported our recent appeal focusing on church planting there. Or perhaps you followed the brutal persecution that happened in Odisha a few years ago.

Christians are still persecuted by extremists today in Odisha. They’re beaten. Intimidated. Humiliated. Murdered. Yet, in spite of extreme opposition, Christians continue to preach the Word of God – gently, respectfully and boldly. You’ve been supporting more than 40 church planters in the state, and in recent years, they’ve taken the gospel to over 1,600 villages.

And while the work you support in India is amazing, you’re going further, too. By supporting BMS, you’ve been helping Christians in other countries expand their church planting. Ben has been equipping churches in Europe and Asia to better communicate the love of Christ, just as he does in India. Soon you may even get a chance to learn from him in person about how you can start a disciple-making movement where you are.

“If the growth of people coming to faith can happen in India, then it can happen anywhere,” says Ben. “The principles of the Word of God do not change because you’re in India, or China, or anywhere. The Spirit of God energises.”

That energy is sweeping through towns and villages in India. Through homes. And through lives, as disciples make disciples. You’re already making it possible. And we’re excited for what comes next.

Watch Ben’s simple explanation of how to share your story of transformation

This story was originally published in BMS’ magazine, Engage. Subscribe to Engage today to get more stories like this delivered straight to your door for free!

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Original article featured in Issue 44 of Engage, the BMS World Mission Magazine. Edited for the website by Laura Durrant.

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.

BMS Day of Prayer: people around the world need you

BMS Day of Prayer:

People around the world need you

Are you ready for the BMS World Mission Day of Prayer? It’s nearly here.

Let’s start with the invitation. We would love you to join us in prayer this Sunday (27 January) for God’s work through BMS around the world. To pray for people whose lives have been torn apart by conflict and disaster. For those who are persecuted and exploited. For those who have yet to welcome Jesus into their lives.

Please scroll down for six specific prayer points for our Day of Prayer. We want church after church in the Baptist family to be praying with us this Sunday, so please share the prayer points, which you can also download here. We’re sure that you, our faithful prayer warriors, will be keen to add more prayers to the list which is why we’ve put extra prayer needs in this article. Please do check them out and encourage your friends to join you in prayer on this critical day in the BMS calendar.

The scene of devastation caused by an earthquake and tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi
People suffering from disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi need your prayers today.

We don’t believe we need to make our prayers complicated or impressive for God to answer. So here are six simple areas to pray for:

What the BMS family will be praying for

We have six prayer themes we would really love you to read and share with your church for our Day of Prayer:

1. Pray for wisdom, safety and resilience for our mission workers serving around the world.

2. Pray for encouragement for our partners around the world. Pray that lives would be transformed through their work.

3. Pray for those affected by disaster and conflict today. Pray that God will bring peace and stability to their lives.

People sit on the floor in India, praying
Thanks to you, people’s lives are being transformed in the name of Jesus. Please pray today for our work around the world.

4. Pray for those who offer and receive training at BMS’ training facility. Pray that the growth of the kingdom is served through our work there.

5. Give thanks for the prayers and generosity of our faithful supporters. Pray that the Lord will continue to bless them.

6. Pray for opportunities to share faith and for disciples to be made in places where Jesus is not yet known.

Why not print these prayers and put them on your fridge? Or save them to your favourite device? All you need to do is hit the button below. You can also find them on the Day of Prayer page on our website.

In addition to those larger themes, here are some extra prayer needs we’re currently focusing on in the office:

– Pray for energy for the team at Guinebor II hospital in Chad. Pray too for encouragement and good health for BMS workers Claire and Kalbassou.

– Pray for the Syrian refugee children who are being helped at a BMS-supported education centre near Beirut. Pray they might have stability in their lives and that they find joy in learning.

– Pray for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to sense God’s love. Pray for extra resources for the BMS local workers who are helping them.

– Pray for warmth for those displaced by conflict in Ukraine. Pray for safety for Ukrainian Baptists who, with your support, are distributing heaters and thermal underwear.

No matter where you are, whether at home or in church, at work or on holiday, you can be part of our Day of Prayer. You just need to pray. And remember, there are daily prayer points to be found in our Prayer Guide, and you can also receive them by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Please help spread the word about Sunday.

We can’t wait to see what God is going to do.

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The prophecy and the golden book

The Prophecy

and the golden book

There is a prophecy among the Karen people. It involves three brothers and the truth hidden within the pages of a golden book. It is said that there is one God and that God can be found through the words written in the book. The prophecy states that the book will reach the Karen people in the hands of the youngest of the three brothers. A white man. It is said that through the book, the Karen people will know God.

For thousands of years, the Karen held onto this prophecy. On their wrists, they wore a bracelet, a symbol of their bondage to dark spirits. When the true God revealed himself to them, they would cut their bracelets. They would be free.

And so they waited. Holding onto this prophecy until the 1800s when a Baptist missionary arrived in Burma (now Myanmar) to preach the gospel. He brought with him a Bible. Its gilt pages glistening gold in the light of the sun.

The Karen are a minority people group in Thailand. A hill tribe. They live mostly in villages in the mountains. They have their own national dress. Their own flag. Their own language. They even have their own national anthem. But they don’t have a country. They’re dispersed around the world. Many of them fear they will lose their Karen-ness. That eventually, their people will be lost forever.

For the Karen people BMS World Mission is partnering with, Christianity is inherently part of the Karen identity. Karen as a written language has come through missionaries – through the Bible, the golden book.

While other religious texts cannot be read in Karen, the Bible can. Culture, language and faith are inextricably entwined for Karen Christians – if one of them is lost, they all will be.

A field with mountains in Thailand
The Karen villages are breathtakingly beautiful.

With your support, BMS is helping the Thai Karen people protect their identity. You’re standing with them as they make our faith known and save their culture. You’re helping them fulfil their prophecy.

The cool young brothers

It’s the young people that will be the first to go. Karen villages are generally beautiful, idyllic places, relatively remote and cut-off, so in order to access higher education young people must move to Thai cities. They leave their villages – where avocados and passion fruit grow in abundance and their parents work as farmers – to study in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. These are big cities where you can easily get swallowed up. You study in Thai. Communicate in Thai. You’re suddenly thrown into a completely different culture. And many older Karen people would see this new culture as godless. Thailand is a Buddhist nation. It’s made huge advancements in technology. Cities are littered with cars and bars. It’s a million miles away from the life these young people have grown up in.

BMS is supporting five Karen youth leaders to come alongside Karen students in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, building community with them, connecting them with churches and making sure they don’t lose themselves and their identity in the chaos of adapting to life in the city. “If we don’t take care of them they might lose their faith,” says Chirasak Kutae, one of the BMS-supported youth team. “We have to follow them and bring them back to keep their identity. To keep their faith.”

Five Karen men
When you give to BMS, you support amazing people like these youth leaders.

The youth team also work in Karen villages in the ten associations of the Thai Karen Baptist Convention (TKBC). They encourage young Christians and invite them and their friends to attend sports events and camps. Over the last four years, 3,748 young Karen have been involved in the youth team’s sports events – 1,247 of whom were not Christians. And amazingly, through their witness, 78 young people have found Christ!

Fortunately, not all young Karen people are at risk of losing their language and culture. The young leaders studying at the BMS-supported Siloam Bible Institute in Chiang Mai are special. They’ve moved to the city – yes. But they’ve chosen to study the Bible. And they’ve chosen to study it in Karen. Many of them have a specific vision to go back to their villages and work as pastors and children’s leaders. By supporting them and their teachers, you’re helping to keep the Karen culture alive.

Vitoon is in his fourth year studying at Siloam. He plans to go back to his people when he finishes his studies. “I want to keep our language and I want to restore it again,” says Vitoon. “Many Karen people don’t know God yet. They’ve never heard about Jesus. I want to plant churches in the mountains, amongst Karen people.”

You may wonder why Vitoon and the other Karen people you’re serving when you give to BMS are so desperate to preserve their culture. Prateep Dee (also known as Timu) is the General Secretary of TKBC and believes that every culture and every language is a gift from God. “Culture is a God-given thing. God has given value and beauty to each nation,” says Timu. “If we lose our identity, that is something very serious, because it is something God has given.”

The evil-spirit-fighting warrior sisters

A Karen woman
Plerka has seen God do amazing things in her village. You've been a part of that.

It’s not just young Karen people you’re standing with when you give to BMS. You’re standing alongside women, too. The women in Karen villages are beacons for everything that is beautiful in Karen culture. Handwoven traditional dress, hospitality, singing. A simple life of farming, family and fellowship. But they’re also strong. Brave. And isolated. Many of the older generation are unable to speak Thai, while their grandchildren are barely able to communicate in Karen.

If you were supporting BMS in 1988, you helped send Jacqui Wells to Thailand to work with our Karen sisters. When she arrived, the women of TKBC told her they had been praying for more than 12 years for someone to come and help them start work among the Karen women. They saw Jacqui as an answer to those prayers.

Jacqui spent more than 20 years working alongside the women of TKBC, with BMS support – helping to set up a network of evangelists who would encourage the women in village churches across northern Thailand and help them to engage with their communities. This work has had a huge impact in places like Maeka village.

“Before the women’s ministry started here 25 years ago, only six families were Christian,” says Plerka, a member of the church in Maeka. “Now, every person has become a Christian. Fifty or sixty families.

“Before, there was a very strong evil spirit working here, and many people did not dare to stay in this village. But now, because of the Christians, the evil spirit and the demons have walked away. They are not living here anymore.”

Because of your giving, we continue to fight the darkness in Karen hill villages, through evangelism, discipleship and the spiritual growth and prayer they encourage. You’re funding ten women to work as evangelists among the associations of TKBC, as well as someone to oversee the work.

“Because the evangelists come and teach the word of the Lord, that’s why our faith grows and grows,” says Plerka.

The Father’s workmanship, hand in hand

A Karen woman sits weaving
Women like Supaw are sharing the gospel in Karen villages, thanks to your support.

There is a prophecy among the Karen people. It involves three brothers and the truth hidden within the pages of a golden book. It is said that there is one God and that God can be found through the words written in the book.

When you give your support to BMS, you’re helping the Karen people fulfil their own prophecy. They have a vision to spread the gospel throughout Thailand – and you’re walking with them, hand in hand. Taking the golden book to places where its pages have never been read. Shining the truth and cutting through the darkness.

“We are the workmanship of the Lord and it is beautiful when we work together,” says Timu, head of TKBC. He’s speaking to me, but his words are meant for you, wherever you are in Britain, and whatever way you’ve helped make BMS work possible. “We are so thankful that you are part of our ministry,” he says. “Because our ministry is your ministry – it’s the ministry of our one true God. And one day we will be in the presence of God, and he will say: ‘well done children for working together for my glory.’”

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This story was originally published in Engage, the BMS World Mission magazine. To read more inspirational stories like this one, subscribe to Engage today!

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Catalyst Live: videos to inspire, challenge and encourage you

Catalyst Live:

videos to inspire, challenge and encourage you

Catalyst Live 2018 was brilliant, perhaps even the best one yet, which is why we’re delighted to bring you a selection of some of the incredible talks and performances that made the two days in Birmingham and Bristol so memorable. Check them out right here!

The talk about using your imagination to understand the Bible

Ever used your imagination when reflecting on Scripture? Yes? No? Either way, we think you should hear what the outstanding biblical scholar, speaker and author Paula Gooder has to say on the subject.

Paula Gooder: why imagination is an important tool in biblical interpretation

The performance that made us laugh, think and sing

Just when we thought they couldn’t get any better, Harry and Chris did. This outrageously talented, humble, kind and poetic comedy-music duo treated the Catalyst Live audience to stunning performances on both days. Their final performance though, at the end of a wonderful day in Bristol, is the one we’d like to show you for the time being.

Watch: Harry and Chris get everyone in the room singing

The seminal theologian on prayer, the Church and learning to listen

Stanley Hauerwas is one of the greatest theologians of our time. And we got to sit down with him for an extended interview earlier this year. How amazing is that? We played the interview with Professor Hauerwas first at Catalyst Live. Now it’s time to make it available to everyone.

Watch Stanley Hauerwas in an exclusive Catalyst Live interview

The part about a crime writer who loved Jesus

Amy Orr-Ewing knows a lot about the life and work of Dorothy L Sayers, the famed writer of Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels. After all, Sayers was the subject of her PhD. But in her Catalyst Live talk, Dr Orr-Ewing gave much more than a biographical account of Sayers’ life. She considered how Sayers was able to communicate her Christian faith to her generation, and though this was many decades ago, remains relevant today.

‘She was aghast at the feeble articulation of Christianity around her’

Loving the intelligent comment on faith and culture from Catalyst Live speakers? Then subscribe today to Mission Catalyst, the BMS World Mission magazine that is essential reading for thinking Christians. Mission Catalyst is free and produced three times a year. If you don’t receive it, now is the perfect time to subscribe

The speaker who posed one very challenging question to us all

“How do you live in this unpredictable time when all the rules have changed?” This was the question put to the audience by Gary V Nelson, President and Vice Chancellor of Tyndale University College and Seminary in Canada. It’s one that got us thinking. A lot.

‘We’re living in this time that we thought we’d never see’

The people who came from far and wide to Catalyst Live

One person came from Sydney. Another from Brussels. Others from around the UK. We were thrilled to speak to so many of you in Birmingham and Bristol. Have a listen to what a selection of attendees had to say about Catalyst Live.

‘It talks about the questions everyone is thinking but not saying anything about’

Keen for more Catalyst Live content? We thought so. Don’t panic, we’ll be putting all the talks and performances on the Catalyst Live website by 22 November so stay tuned for news on when they go live. That means you’ll get to hear from other brilliant speakers such as Rosie Harper, David Bebbington, Helen Coffey, Ruth Gledhill, Adrian Snell, Alistair Brown, Mark Woods, Ron Choong, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge and Rula Khoury Mansour. Until then, please share this article with your church.

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Catalyst Live was a success because of your support and your hunger for thought-provoking talks, vibrant conversation and great fellowship. We thank you for making all of that happen and we can’t wait for Catalyst Live 2020.

Lessons from a secular state: four ideas to help your church

Lessons from a secular state:

four ideas to help your church

The Church in France has long faced hostility. After decades of hard work, one BMS couple is seeing people begin to open their hearts to Christ.

John and Sue Wilson have been serving in France with BMS World Mission for 30 years. When they first arrived, they were treated with hostile suspicion. But after years of dedicating their lives to the Church across France, they are seeing fruit, and more people than ever before are coming to Christ. Here’s how John and Sue’s experience in France could help you and your church engage more people.

People worship in a church
The Wilsons committed themselves to using these four ideas in every aspect of their work. Now, their church is bigger than ever before.

1. Pray

It may seem obvious, but we so often forget. Praying about your situation and struggles is one of the most powerful strategies for growing and engaging your church. “Through the people who pray regularly, we have constant support and encouragement,” says John. “Without them, we couldn’t be here.”
Could you create a prayer network that is regularly praying for your church? The benefits could be breathtaking.

Through the people who pray regularly, we have constant support and encouragement

2. Learn to trust

It’s not unusual for churches in France to be investigated by the Government. So, it’s natural that, when a woman who worked for the French Government rang up the Wilsons’ church, they were suspicious. “She had bought a Bible in a shop and didn’t understand it,” says John. “So, she contacted me at the church and asked if she could come to our Bible study.” She could have been spying on the church. John could have turned her away. But he didn’t. Next year, she’s planning to be baptised.
It’s easy to distrust new people, even if you don’t realise you’re doing it. By making a conscious decision to open your heart to new people at your church, you can create a space that is safe and welcoming for all.

It’s really difficult to keep time with them because they spend ages afterwards just chatting together and talking about things

3. Understand the needs of new Christians

For new Christians, getting more involved in church can be a daunting prospect. It’s easy to be put off by people who are confident in their faith. John and Sue saw this happening in their church and decided to do something about it. “The existing Bible study is more for mature Christians,” says Sue. “People who have just come to faith don’t feel able to ask what they might consider obvious questions.” The Wilsons set up another Bible study group specifically for new Christians to explore their faith. And they’re seeing real results!
“It’s really difficult to keep time with them because they spend ages afterwards just chatting together and talking about things,” Sue says. They even ask for homework!
Why not set up a group in your church that specifically makes space for new Christians? It’s a great way to ensure that they have a safe space to ask questions without feeling alienated from the rest of the church.

4. Be patient

John and Sue have seen powerful changes in France. But they’ve been working there for 30 years. Don’t lose heart when you don’t see results straight away. It might take a while to see a real difference in how people are engaging at your church. But keep attempting for God and expecting from him. It might take months, it might take years, but if we humble ourselves, pray and make space for God to work, he will be faithful. Just ask John and Sue!

Please pray for:
1. The Wilsons, that they continue their work in France with the same determination and enthusiasm that they have for the last 30 years.
2. French people who may find it difficult to profess their faith due to France being a secular state—that God would encourage them and empower them with love.
3. BMS mission workers Christine Kling, Claire-Lise and David Judkins and Philip and Rosemary Halliday, who, like the Wilsons, are currently working to strengthen the Church in France.
4. UK churches who might be struggling to engage members of their church family.

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Kang-San Tan on: mission and being led by the Spirit

Kang-San Tan on:

new frontiers of mission, taking risks and being led by the Spirit

He’s shaken a lot of hands, remembered a lot of names, and travelled a lot of miles since he left Malaysia to take up the position of BMS World Mission General Director. Now that Kang-San Tan has been in the role for a year, we thought it was a good time for a chat.

Let’s look back to when you first arrived at BMS. What was it like for you?

I think it was a bit overwhelming because of the diverse aspects of BMS work, not only with our colleagues in Didcot, but also with our mission personnel and UK churches, and just trying to get my head around the long history of BMS. My colleagues really helped me to get to know each aspect of the work, and I’ve really appreciated that.

What was it about BMS that attracted you to the role of General Director?

I was converted in a small Baptist church in Malaysia, and in a way we, as in many other Asian and African and Latin American countries, trace our roots back to the Baptist missionary movement. It is quite moving for me in the sense that I have worked with various aspects of Asian mission as a theological educator. So, when I was invited to come and serve with BMS, it was almost like a full cycle back to my Baptist roots.

To be seeing God raising a non-western mission movement, and yet to serve with a historic mission society, reflects the sovereignty of God and also reflects the changing Christian mission. It points to an exciting future, not just for me personally, but for BMS and the wider Church.

A video to play in your church: Kang-San Tan’s special message to you

We’d really love it if you watched the video above and shared it with your church. To download it, all you need to do is hit the button below.

How has God supported you over the past year?

Psalms 127: 1 says that unless the Lord builds the house, we all labour in vain. There is a danger that we rely, as leaders, on our own wisdom and strength, but really it is good to be reminded it is God’s work, done in God’s way and in God’s timing. And for me personally, I have been reminded that we need to rely on the Spirit of God, God’s wisdom and God’s resources.

BMS workers receive a welcome marked with beautiful garlands at an event in India
As you can see, Kang-San Tan received a tremendous welcome when he visited India earlier this year.

Aside from visiting UK churches, where else have you been in the past year?

Well, in February I went to Kolkata, and in May I visited Lebanon to see a little bit of our work in the Middle East, and then in August I visited France. I’m still looking forward to visiting other BMS workers in Africa and in Latin America.

What piece of BMS work has most impressed you?

In Kolkata, I was introduced to BMS-supported work that seeks to plant indigenous discipleship making movements among a major group of Hindu communities. A lot of this work has grown and existed, not only because of the passion of our Indian churches, but also a sense of partnership from our UK churches.

We were on a boat in Kolkata and went out into a remote Hindu community that has no church. I met some young believers, many of whom have been Christians for just a year or two, and they’re leading fifty small groups. Many of them have this passion, a sense that they have received the gospel, not because of their own merit or good work, and they are passionate to serve Christ.

Gabi and Maher, two Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, in a classroom
Kang-San Tan visited Lebanon where Syrian refugee children like Gabi and Maher are getting their education back with your support.

Can you tell us a little more about the experience of visiting Lebanon?

We heard stories of people opening their homes to Syrian Muslims who were strangers, who were former oppressors and enemies. There were many practical expressions of Christian love demonstrated by Lebanese Christians. Many of them I visited are much poorer, and have far less, than many of us who live in western societies. I think it is a challenge for me, and for us Christians in the West, as we think about groups of migrants that are flooding into Europe who are our neighbours.

Let’s look ahead to what’s to come for BMS. What would you like to say to our supporters?

Over the past year, we’ve been able to look at our five-year strategy and bring together some reflections and lessons. But in the coming 24 months, BMS will be engaging in a process of consultation with our staff, Trustees, BMS Council, mission personnel, our partners globally, and closely with our supporting churches.

Watch this space as we begin to unfold a process of consultation so that in our vision for the future, new frontiers and priorities, we don’t neglect our historic work and our historic partners. We hope that you are excited to be involved with BMS in this re-envisioning of the future together, for the growth of God’s mission, both locally and globally.

BMS General Director Kang-San Tan holds a cup, along with his colleague, Steph, at a BMS cafe
One of the many ways Kang-San Tan has been meeting people is through BMS Café events.

How excited are you about meeting BMS supporters and our supporting churches?

I think I’ve spoken at over 20 churches so far, and each year I’m looking forward to visiting another 20 more. I think BMS is really a mission that belongs to our Baptist communities and we can’t do the work that we do without that close partnership of our Baptist communities.

And so, I want to say thank you, not only to churches, but to the many of you who are prayer supporters. Please know that your partnership in the gospel is so vital for us to continue our work, to impact the nations, to see one million live transformed. Please know that our prayers and your support are an integral part of our work for mission.

And finally, what can people pray for?

Please pray that we do not run ahead of the Holy Spirit, nor do we lag behind, not taking risks or pioneering new work. So, I ask you to pray for the BMS leadership, to pray for a good sense of teamwork and community work, but also not forgetting the cutting edge of mission.

BMS is a ministry of over 200 years and yet we are excited that we are still pioneering into new frontiers of mission today. So, join us in this exciting venture of being a missional community, which is not just for BMS but for every church and for every disciple of Jesus Christ.

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Pioneer mission: The church planters who need your prayer

Pioneer mission:

The church planters who need your prayer

Being Jesus in a village that is 100 per cent Buddhist is challenging work. Our church planters Helen and Wit Boondeekhun would love you to partner with them in prayer as they live out their faith in Wang Daeng village. Meet them and their new neighbours in this video brought to you straight from Thailand!

“We have one secret believer. But nobody really knows about this. She hasn’t been brave or bold enough to tell her friends yet, because it’s hard.”

It’s really difficult for people to convert to Christianity in Wang Daeng, in northern Thailand. BMS World Mission workers Helen and Wit have been living out their Christian faith in the village for the last two years – faithfully serving the community and trying to meet the practical needs of their new neighbours.

if you're praying for Wang Daeng Click Here
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They’ve been building friendships, teaching English, and helping women develop new skills. They’ve also hired a youth worker called Tah, who is training young people in football and guitar, and building relationships with their families.

Helen, Wit and Tah have become part of the community – and they’re so happy that their new friend Suree has become a believer. Now, they would love to see more fruit!

Would you pray with them for Wang Daeng? Download our prayer poster at the bottom of the page, print it out and stick it somewhere you will see it to remind you to pray for Helen, Wit and Tah, and the village of Wang Daeng.

PLEASE PRAY

  1. Pray for ten people to come to know Jesus Christ as their personal saviour in the next 12 months, through the ongoing witness of Helen, Wit and Tah. Pray that they will be the beginnings of the first church in Wang Daeng.
  2. Pray for Suree. Pray that she would continue to grow in her faith, and that God would give her boldness to share the gospel with her family and friends. Pray too that he would give Wit and Helen the wisdom to support her and disciple her well.
  3. Pray for Tah, as he seeks to build relationships and share the gospel with young people in Wang Daeng. Pray for energy, discernment and opportunities for him to pray with and encourage his football players and guitar students.
  4. Pray for God to bless Wang Daeng and all of its inhabitants with peace, joy and opportunity. Pray for real hope to drive out despair.
  5. Pray for Helen and Wit as they live and serve in Wang Daeng. Everyone knows that they are Christians, and they feel like there are thousands of eyes on them. Pray for protection and blessing on their lives, so that they can be salt and light.
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Click the image to download and print the prayer points.

The North Korea you never see – and seven prayer requests

The North Korea you never see

and seven prayer requests for this isolated nation

The power of prayer is needed more than ever in North Korea. You can play your part today.

The Holy Spirit is moving in North Korea, and it is incredible. Christians are worshipping there, praying there, and sharing God’s love there. And yes, the demonstrations of faith may well be monitored and contained, but people are following Jesus. They’re doing so with tremendous courage and belief, often alone, hidden, or under the gaze of an observer, cut off from the global community of Christians we’re so privileged to access.

What you can see below are images from North Korea. Look at the streets, the metro and the buildings, and imagine what it would be like to be a Christian there. Then read the prayers. Read them aloud, to your friends, or in church. Pray wherever you can, just don’t let them go unspoken. Don’t let your brothers and sisters in North Korea feel alone when they’re not, and don’t let the darkness stop others from seeing the light of Christ in their lives. Pray for North Korea today.

The Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea, seen across a river with a barge crossing it
How amazing would it be for the Word of God to be preached one day on this riverbank in Pyongyang?

1. Pray for more opportunities to share the gospel

Please pray for opportunities for people to speak Jesus’ name and share his ministry without fear. Pray that the Bible is read and understood, and that it reaches people yet to hear the truth of our living God.

Pink and green coloured apartment buildings seen from the top of the Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea
So many people in these homes have yet to hear the good news. Pray today that would change.

2. Pray for a repeat of the Christian revival

Pray for thousands of people to accept Christ into their hearts, just as thousands did in Pyongyang in the early 20th century. Pray for the Holy Spirit to sweep through North Korea’s capital city and beyond, liberating people in the freedom that comes with following Jesus.

A man reads a newspaper in Pyongyang Metro
Pray that people would come to use the Bible as their source of truth.

3. Pray for protection and boldness for Christians in North Korea

Please pray for encouragement for the Christians who want to worship openly in North Korea. Pray that they would be kept safe, and would feel the freedom of rejoicing that you feel in church.

The outside of Pyongyang Railway Station, with people milling around
May Pyongyang Railway Station one day become a start point for people wanting to share the gospel in North Korea.

4. Pray for the reunification process

Pray that the leaders of North and South Korea would repeat their handshake of earlier this year. Pray that both nations would pursue a peaceful relationship that would allow families separated by the border to become whole again for good.

A mural of Kim Jong-un and workers in Pyongyang Metro
Join us in praying for economic prosperity for the people of Pyongyang and beyond.

5. Pray for the economy to grow

Pray for economic development for North Korea, one that is sustainable and ensures people have plentiful access to food and healthcare. Pray too that leader Kim Jong-un would accelerate his country’s focus away from the military, and towards developing the economy.

6. Pray for people who need medicine

Pray that people who are sick do not suffer from the sanctions imposed on North Korea. Pray that medical supplies are plentiful, and that aid workers are not restricted in trying to reach people who need help.

Planes at Pyongyang Airport. A North Korea plane, and a Korean Air plane
Join us in praying for students who want to leave Pyongyang to study overseas.

7. Pray for students who want to travel

Please pray for North Korean students who would like to travel abroad to further their studies. Pray that travel restrictions would not be imposed upon them, and that they would be welcomed into other nations and classrooms with open arms.

You can hear more about what God is doing in North Korea by signing up to our Project Cyrus prayer network. There may even be an event coming up soon near you, so find out more today.

And while you’re here, please share this article with your friends and ask them to pray for North Korea. Let’s start a revival of hope together.

Praying for North Korea today? Click here
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How football is being used to share the gospel

More than just a game:

how football is being used to share the gospel

The best part of the World Cup has already happened, even if your team wins.

We’re in love with football right now at BMS World Mission, and it’s not just because of the action on the pitch in Russia. The reason is far more important than any goal or victory. The gospel is being shared, accepted and lived out thanks to the powerful combination of your support and the beautiful game.

The World Cup mission field: introducing fans to Jesus

One-to-one chats about Jesus. New Testament distribution. Booklets answering questions about Christianity. It’s not the usual build-up to a game that football supporters have, but it’s what fans from Iran and the Arabic nations of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia experienced at the World Cup.

Thanks to a BMS grant, and support from churches and Christian organisations around the world, evangelists from the Middle East and Europe travelled to Russia to meet these fans. In the days before matches, the volunteers approached supporters, and in their own language, shared their faith. Then on match days, they handed out New Testaments in Arabic and Farsi, along with booklets and SD cards that explained more about what it means to be a Christian.

And though none of these five countries made it to the next stage of the tournament, many of their supporters will be heading home having experienced Jesus’ love for the first time, and with the Scripture our Father desires them to read.

The Brazilian footballer in India: outreach goals

Joshua* sought fame and glamour when he started his professional football career in Brazil.

After his worldly success, his passion for football still remains, but Joshua’s focus has changed. He’s now a coach and a Christian, and he’s combining these two influential parts of his life to help children who have next to nothing.

Thanks to your giving, Joshua held training sessions in Delhi last year for children aged seven to 14. The children received coaching for the first time, got to play on a first-class training pitch, and sense, often for the first time, the joy that playing sport can produce. But it’s not only the children who attended those sessions who will benefit from Joshua’s work. Christian football coaches from across India were also there to learn so that they could return to their communities and hold training sessions that will help young people.

Young people with footballs at their feet listen to a man talk.
Children in Delhi take in every word that Brazilian football coach Joshua says, as do the local coaches behind him. From Brazil to the world: football is carrying mission, with your help.

With your support, Joshua’s work has made an impact in India and he hopes to work in Guinea and Thailand later this year too.

“I know I can get a ball, go on a field and share the gospel with more than 50 children,” says Joshua. “It’s amazing when you go into a place, leave a legacy, and see people becoming Christians.”

The club that teaches a whole lot more than how to play football

It takes more than skill to be part of Blessed Boys Football Club in Guinea. Players need to show teamwork, discipline and a commitment to putting school first.

BMS worker Ben takes deprived children under his wing and shows them a different way to the one taken by other managers in his community.

Whilst others use aggression and violence to get results, Ben does not. If one of his players needs someone to advocate for them in school, Ben is there. And if they need extra help, they can receive it at the summer classes he helped set up with his wife, Isabelle, a passionate teacher.

Here, football often leads to learning – both academically and values.

Boys of the Blessed Boys Football Club in Guinea play football.
These young players in Guinea are becoming better footballers (and people) with the help of BMS worker Ben.

The team that warms up with worship

Most teams start their preparation for a game with sprints and ball drills. Not so for the team that youth worker Ajarn Tah formed in a village in northern Thailand. For these players, preparation begins with Christian songs in a local church and a short message before they head to their match.

Supported by BMS, Tah formed the team to stop young people from falling prey to alcohol and drugs, like others are in the village of Wang Daeng. It didn’t take much to start the side, just a few hours in fact, and enough players had come forward.

But had it not been for your giving, those ten-to-13-year-olds would have not been able to enjoy the thrill of winning their first game, or the joy of worshipping Jesus together. And this wholesome hobby is, in a very real way, keeping them safe.

Young football players take the ball round cones on a grass field
Children in a village in northern Thailand had little to keep them busy until a football team was formed with your help.

Jesus’ love has been felt at the World Cup and on football pitches in Delhi, Guinea and Thailand.

Even if football is the last thing on your mind, consider this: there are people stepping into the freedom of a life in Christ through sport. What a victory that is. What a reason to cheer. That’s something we can all support.

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* Name changed to protect identity

Introducing the Lynches

4,956 miles to Dhaka:

introducing the Lynches

On Thursday 26 April, Louise and Peter Lynch fly to Bangladesh with BMS World Mission. Find out why they feel called to mission and what they’ll be up to overseas.

Whether it’s climbing snowy mountains in Scotland or ridiculously long cycle rides, Louise and Peter Lynch are always up for an adventure. And this time round, they’re getting ready for a big one. Having worked as a social worker (Louise) and a pastor (Pete) in the UK for 27 years, they’re leaving this country behind and moving to Dhaka, in Bangladesh. Amidst packing up their belongings and selling their car, they sat down with us to talk about the new venture that they’re embarking on with BMS .

Two people standing behind a green garden backdrop.
Social worker Louise and pastor Peter have two sons, Calum and Jonah.

Alright, we’ll start off with an easy question. How would you describe each other in three words?

Louise: Oh that’s hard! I want to say adventurous, principled, and football-crazy.

Peter: Dynamic, thoughtful, and fun.

Tell us about your decision to move to Bangladesh.

Peter: Since first becoming Christians we’ve always had the sense that God was calling us to work overseas at some point. The last 27 years have been a bit of a surprise in some ways because we’ve been UK-based all of that time. But it came to the point where it felt like change was coming, our family circumstances were changing and it freed us to look at what God might want for the next phase of our lives. So, we began talking with BMS. As the conversation developed there was a growing sense that the skills and experience we have and the needs in Bangladesh were a good fit. We’ve grown into the idea and sensed that this is where God wants us.

Boats in a major river in Dhaka,.
Dhaka is famous for it's rivers, which are vital for the city's transport and trade.

Do you think the skills you’ve gained while working as a social worker and pastor in the UK will be transferable?

Louise: I think so. What’s excited us about Bangladesh is that the role involves the sort of things that we’ve got experience in. It’s going to be difficult because we’re used to working in a UK context, so doing the kind of cultural switch and learning different ways of working will be more challenging. We’re quite heavily reliant on speaking skills, so being able to do that job in Bengali is going to be very challenging.

Peter: What we offer is probably some experience of having been on the road in terms of pastoral ministry, training and community engagement for a number of years, so we’re hoping those skills will transfer and contribute something to a different cultural context.

What exactly will you guys be doing out in Bangladesh?

Peter: The first thing will be to just meet people, to build relationships, to learn the language and try and understand and adapt to the culture. I think in the longer term, the Baptist Sangha – the name of the denomination there – see us having a role in leadership development, helping to train and encourage pastors and community leaders in the different parts of Bangladesh. It’s quite a broad role, but potentially a very exciting and far-reaching one.

Louise: It’s not so directly written into the job scope, but I think very likely some safeguarding training around all the different projects that the churches work with too. We’re trying to really work in partnership so don’t want to predict what we’re going to do too much until we’ve really met the people we’re working with. What we need to do is discuss with the leaders in Bangladesh what they most want and then take it from there.

Map of Bangladesh with an arrow pointing to Dhaka, the capital city.
Louise and Peter will be based in Dhaka, working with Baptist church leaders.

How’s language learning been going so far?

Peter: We’re making a bit of progress. It’s quite enjoyable, but we’ve not really got into the in-depth stuff. So just learning vocab, learning the alphabet, understanding how the script works, those sort of things.

Louise: We can say random words at random times, no sentences yet! We think we’ve learnt the phrase for ‘I don’t understand,’ but we’re not convinced we’ve got the pronunciation right!

Peter: We’ve learnt how to say ‘how are you?’ and ‘what is your name?’, the normal things to begin a conversation.

Louise: Men’s and women’s toilets we’ve got sorted out as well.

What excites you the most when you think about moving to Bangladesh and your role there?

Peter: For me, I think it’s standing alongside Christians there so that all of us can be the people God’s called us to be. We recognise the Church there has challenges and struggles, you need to know their situation, and part of what excites me is just being able to be an encourager and to stand alongside and partner with people so we can be faithful to Jesus in whatever place he puts us. Also, I’m really excited about living in a different culture, learning from the Church in Bangladesh and seeing what following Jesus looks like in a completely different place to what we’re used to.

I’ve been to parts of Asia before and I just loved the colour, the dynamism and the hospitality in those places. I also love all geography and geology stuff, so being in the massive delta and the kind of outwash of the Himalayas, in a bizarre way, quite excites me as well.

I’m really excited about living in a different culture and learning from the Church in Bangladesh.

Woman on a mountain covered in snow, wearing Crampons
Louise loves the outdoors and is always up for a challenge, as you can see from this photo of her up a snowy mountain!

Louise: For me, when I read what the Baptist Sangha writes about their vision for their churches and the schools they run, that they want them to be like beacons and really great places, that excites me. I’d like to be part of something that means when children or adults come to church, meet Christians or go to Christian run schools, that they see something really different about the quality of care and the love they receive. That makes me very excited.

I’m also looking forward to the food, and deep down I’d like to see a tiger. I like exploring so I love new situations – I’m just looking forward to new smells, new sounds, everything.

What are your biggest fears about moving there? What are you most worried about?

Louise: I think in the UK I understand how things work, so I know where to put my energies if things need to change. I think it will be really hard not knowing how things work, and that can leave me feeling really ineffectual and frustrated. So I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.

Peter: Building good relationships is key to life isn’t it – it’s key to everything we do. I think just doing that cross-culturally, we’re hopeful that that will happen. I think to have good team relationships, to have good relationships with partners and just building good friendships. That’s not a fear or an anxiety, but it’s a recognition of what we need the most to enjoy being there, fulfilled and useful in what we’re doing.

Pray for wisdom and insight about where we settle ourselves.

So what are you going to miss the most about living in the UK? Your two children are at university, aren’t they?

Louise: Yes, thanks for reminding us!

Peter: We’ll miss just being able to see the boys (Calum and Jonah), see Louise’s mum and dad, and we’ll miss good friends that you can just drop in on and share life with. I’m hoping there will be access to various ways of keeping up with sporting events and I’m sure we’ll end up missing food that isn’t spicy, and going for a run. We like exercising and being outside so having some restrictions on what’s appropriate in terms of activity will be a challenge for us.

Man taking a selfie high up in the mountains.
Both Peter and Louise are going to miss the mountains and being outdoors.

Finally, what can people be praying for?

Louise: We would really like to make friends when we arrive in Bangladesh. Being able to meet people and make friends would be really, really important.

Peter: Pray for God’s wisdom in knowing how quickly to do things, or how slowly to do things, and to have the right attitude of being there to serve others and to serve God.

Louise: We’re borrowing a house when we first arrive and then we’ll need to decide where to live. That will be quite an important decision, so we’d like some wisdom. Pray for wisdom and insight about where we settle ourselves.

If you want to commit to giving and praying regularly to support Louise and Peter, become their 24:7 Partner by clicking the box on the right!

Want to support the Lynches? Click Here
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Could you be called to mission overseas? We have plenty of opportunities to serve with us.

He preached the gospel and they poisoned his daughter

He preached the gospel and they poisoned his daughter:

David's story

When you give to BMS World Mission, you’re supporting people like David. Read his incredible story today and be inspired by the way God is at work in India.

David wanted to end his life. His unhappiness ran so deep, he was desperate for a sense of peace. His father was an alcoholic and, despite promising to quit, he couldn’t break the addiction that was destroying his family.

A church gathering in a tent in Odisha, India.
Thanks to you, people are able to worship God in an area where it's difficult to be a Christian.

The situation quickly got even worse for David, who lives in Odisha (formerly Orissa) in India, when he suddenly got very sick. “It seemed like I had many heavy things on my head,” says David. “I could hardly breathe and my heart used to beat very fast.

“I was told that I had serious problems with my brain and I might not live.”

As David’s health deteriorated, his family did everything they could to make him better. They took him to several different doctors, but none of them knew what was wrong with him or how to improve his condition. Next, they tried magicians and witch doctors. But their attempts were futile. No-one knew how to heal David.

“Everyone in my family thought I was going to die and was very upset,” says David. “I was unable to recognise people because my brain was not working. I had become bedridden and completely senseless, more like a dead person.”

As they prayed, I felt a kind of touch like an electric shock in my body. God touched me and gave me new life.

One day, as David lay on his bed in despair, his father met a Christian pastor. The pastor started to tell David’s father about Jesus, and when he heard about David’s sickness, he offered to pray for him. David’s father was desperate to save his son’s life, and said that if God could heal David he would give up drinking alcohol forever. The pastor gathered his church, and together they prayed and fasted for David for seven days. Then they came to see him.

A man baptising a woman in a lake
A woman gets baptised in Odisha.

“As they prayed, I suddenly felt a kind of touch like an electric shock in my body,” says David. “At that very moment I sat up on my bed and was healed. God touched me and gave me new life.”

Everyone who watched on was amazed. Just moments before, David had been like a dead man. Then, in an instant, his senses were restored and he was professing his faith in Jesus Christ and surrendering his life to Christian service. It was completely unbelievable. It was a miracle.

Knowing that he owed his life to Christ, David decided to train as a pastor. He began to tell Hindus in his district of Odisha about Jesus. As they heard David’s testimony, people gave their lives to Jesus, and David planted three churches in the area. His life had been completely transformed and he wanted everyone to know about it.

But his newfound faith was about to result in the greatest sadness he had faced yet.

People are looking to kill me.

A fundamentalist group began to target David, angry that he was converting people to Christianity and away from Hinduism. They sought an opportunity to harm him. David’s daughter got sick and was admitted to hospital, and while she was there she died. “She was poisoned by the fundamentalists as they came to know that I had become a follower of Jesus Christ.” She was just three years old.

“My daughter’s death was very tragic to my wife and myself,” says David. The couple were forced to leave their home and move to another district in Odisha, fearing for their lives. They’d lost their daughter, but they held tightly to their faith in Jesus and have continued telling people about him to this day.

Man spreading the gospel in an Indian village on an island in the north of the country
You're supporting church planters all over India, including in the Sundarbans, where people are hearing about the gospel for the first time.

David is a BMS-supported church planter and has been involved in starting 50 house churches in Odisha since his conversion. When you give to BMS, you’re helping people like David share the gospel with people who have never heard it.

“Though I lost my daughter and I am deeply sad, the Lord is using me greatly to win souls for him,” says David. “Many new people are coming to the Lord and many miracles are taking place. People are still looking out for me to kill me, but so far God has protected me and my family. So please pray for me, that I may be faithful to the Lord at all times.”

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BMS supports 48 church planters in Odisha – a region known for persecuting Christians

These pastors are risking their lives to tell people the gospel message. By giving to BMS, you’ve helped them to plant 1,700 new house churches in the region since 2010. Thousands of people have come to know Jesus through their work.

Please keep praying for these church planters. Pray that God would protect them and give them boldness to continue proclaiming his good news and sharing his love.

Please also make a donation to support our work by clicking the big red button above.

The pastor, the passion and the escaped slave

The pastor, the passion and the escaped slave

A woman tricked into slavery and locked in a house escapes her prison by climbing through a window. She runs for her freedom. Years later, she steps into the room in the picture above and shares her story with a BMS World Mission worker passionate about showing people the love of Jesus. That love means other stories are being heard.

The homeless women who visit the day shelter in Massy, near Paris, are first offered a cup of tea and a biscuit. That’s what most of us want after a hard day. But we already have what the women get next: warm clothes, something more substantial to eat, and a person to talk to.

BMS mission worker Christine Kling often has the privilege of being that person. Christine helped set the centre up early last year, prompted by and partnering with the pastor of the local Reformed church. Some of the women who come are young, pregnant and alone. All are deprived of rest.

“There are not many places for them,” says Christine, who is the pastor of the Baptist church in nearby Gif-sur-Yvette. “As a woman, you think, ‘I have to do something’.”

The essence of the gospel message is to welcome the foreigner. We have to lead the way.

BMS mission worker Christine Kling gives a sermon in France
Pray for BMS worker Christine Kling, who is telling people in France about Jesus.

Some of the women reveal glimpses of what they’re going through. The stories are of extreme poverty, of living outside the securities of shelter and nourishment. One story is particularly harrowing. A woman, now in her 50s, arrived in France many years ago, travelling on the promise of a job, of income she’d never enjoyed up to that point. What she’d actually been led into was slavery.

She was locked in a house, forced to work as a cleaner, and given no bed to sleep on, just a chair. One day she managed to escape through a window and was taken in by a family – and worked for them as a domestic servant for ten years. She married, but was soon abused by her husband and had to escape again. This is how she ended up on the streets; homeless, unable to read or write, and needing someone who cared. Her story is the story of many women who visit the shelter. Most are asylum seekers with no friends or family to help them. This is where the Church steps in to help.

“The essence of the gospel is to welcome the foreigner,” says Christine. “We have to lead the way.”

Pray for Christine and the women
  • Pray for God to use Christine and for the Holy Spirit to guide her to make every encounter rich with Christ’s love.
  • Pray for God’s blessing on the women who use the shelter.
  • Pray the shelter would have all the resources it needs to help the women.
  • Pray for wisdom for all the volunteers who serve these vulnerable people. Many of the women who use the shelter will get moved on to another place before they can visit again. Pray that they would know how to show the kindness and compassion they need.

“Some of these women are from a Muslim background, some could be Christian,” says Christine. “The idea is more about conversation, about healing, about taking care of the most vulnerable in our society.

“If they ask for prayer we will pray for them. Through that, perhaps they will become a Christian, but the point is about hospitality, it’s about kindness… everything after that is in God’s hands.”

Without your gifts, Christine wouldn’t have been there to show kindness to the woman who escaped slavery. By supporting BMS, you stood alongside her, and helped her to feel valued and loved, even if only for a few hours. Please remember her in your prayers and when you give. Think of the love in the room she stepped into and how others so desperately need to feel that love today.

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The long game


The cursed boy, the better Muslim and THE LONG GAME

Young people are finding a sense of worth in Guinea through the beautiful game.

BMS World Mission worker Ben is a better Muslim, but not in the way Sir Mo Farah might be.

He’s also a great manager, but only partly in the way Sir Alex Ferguson is. Ben is a football manager in a mostly Muslim country in West Africa, and the club he’s started is called Blessed Boys FC. It’s a space where boys who’d otherwise be left behind can learn the lessons that the beautiful game can teach – lessons about goals and how to strike them – and learn that they are valuable to God.

The Blessed Boys Football Club in Guinea train and play.

Ben is a committed Christian (so committed, he’s moved from Angola to Guinea to serve with BMS here). And ‘better Muslim’ is not a reason to write to the editor. It’s just what the people call him in the little town where he and his wife (also a BMS worker) now live. It’s a compliment, particularly to a known Christian who never worships in the mosque. A recognition of the difference he’s making; taking deprived kids, angry young men and ‘cursed’ boys under his defending wing.

Boys like… let’s call him Joao. Joao was born cursed. His mother died while giving birth to him and all his life Joao was told it was his fault. Told that, from the moment of his first breath, the evil power that killed his mum was attached to him. And as he grew, the label stuck. Ditch school to kick a ball around the streets? Of course you would, cursed boy. Never make it to the top of the class? Not surprising, really. Cursed boys can’t amount to much. Get involved in silly, maybe illegal, things? Nobody expects better, least of all you. Cursed boys do not have a future. Why would boys like Joao think beyond tomorrow?

Individualism wins trophies, teamwork wins championships.

Then one day, a stranger came to Joao’s town. He was as old as Joao’s father might have been had he still been around. And he called Joao blessed. He started to teach Joao the long game. Not just the game of football, but the game of life. Ben brought a vision of a God who sees no child as cursed, no boy beyond redemption, and he spoke a language boys like Joao could understand: the poetry of corner and cross, the syntax of the team. And things began to change.

While other managers would beat their boys, berating them for failure and modelling violence to get results, Ben did not. That’s not how a Blessed Boy behaves, he’d say, and boys like Joao would listen. Rules and boundaries as clear as white lines. Discipline and consequence for fouls and straying offside – but never vicious, insulting, condemning – Joao would sit out games and come back determined to do better, be better. When parents weren’t able or available, Ben would advocate for boys at school. He set up summer classes with his wife – a passionate teacher – identifying academic weaknesses and tutoring his boys (and other kids, their sisters, too) so that athletes became achievers in their schoolwork. Football and education.

Boys of the Blessed Boys Football Club in Guinea play football.
These young players in Guinea are becoming better footballers (and people) with the help of BMS worker Ben.

Today they’re model students, many of Ben’s boys. The BBFC rules are clear: no cutting class to practise – school comes first and no Blessed Boy should be on the pitch outside of scheduled training times. They’re learning structure. Learning formal rules and tactics, the techniques that separate the game they love to watch on TV from the scuffling madness they’d all be playing on the street if Ben’s club wasn’t there. They’re learning self-control, self-worth and that nobody is cursed into their future. BBFC boys respect themselves and their team. “Individualism wins trophies, but teamwork wins championships,” says Ben. And 54 boys in his club are learning that is true.

He actually thought that he was done. That there was no hope for him in life. Now he’s doing well.

Blessed Boys Football Club in West Africa

“The sense of hopelessness here is vivid sometimes,” says Ben, “and one can either be repelled by it or try to do something.” Something is being done. If you support the work of BMS you are doing something beautiful here, through the beautiful game. Boys robbed of any sense of choice by poverty are choosing to be better. Boys told by broken homes, polygamy and economics that they might as well give up are looking to the future. They are learning: think about the long game.

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Boys like Joao. Joao is not one boy. Joao is many boys, and almost any boy in Blessed Boys Football Club. Ben talks about a boy like Joao, top of his class and captain of one of the BBFC teams: “He actually thought that he was done. That there was no hope for him in life. Now he’s doing well. We’re working on his skills and employability. I’m offering him career guidance. I’m trying to help him see that he has in himself all that it takes to become somebody.”

Joao is not one boy, but he is not nobody. He’s 54 strong, he’s getting better every day and he is somebody.

This article appears in the new issue of Engage, the BMS magazine. Subscribe today by hitting the button on the right to read more about how your gifts are transforming lives like Joao’s around the world.

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Refugees are like you and me

Ann MacFarlane:

Refugees are like you and me

They step off the boats praising God for their safe arrival in Italy, but many refugees have been through unspeakable horrors on their journey. BMS World Mission worker Ann MacFarlane witnessed first-hand the people coming ashore, and has seen God at work in their lives.

Blessing arrived in such a state, she had to be sedated. It broke my heart. She’d travelled across the ocean with a group of people in a small dinghy, including her children, a five and a six-year-old. As they approached the Italian coast, a boat came to rescue them. The refugees started to stand and cheer. In the excitement, the dinghy capsized, throwing everyone into the sea. In the panic, Blessing saw her two boys drown in front of her. Their bodies were never recovered.

When she arrived at the port, there was nowhere for Blessing to go. There was no way the authorities could put her in a mother and child facility, so my husband David and I took her into our home. Blessing ended up staying with us for three weeks until they found a place for her to go, a place where she could get the counselling and psychological help she needed.

Ann and David MacFarlane, who have been serving the Church in Italy for 24 years

People like Blessing kept arriving, almost daily. The boats kept coming, and to begin with I felt helpless. I felt like there was nothing I could do. But as a Christian, I believed that I couldn’t follow a living God and not do something. So, I started to do whatever I could to help the refugees who were arriving every day. I would welcome them as they came off the boats. Alongside an army of volunteers and people from our church, we would offer water. We would give them snacks, work alongside the doctors and help to translate. We would do anything we could to help.

Preparing snacks and drinks to give to refugees arriving on the coast of Italy
Volunteers preparing snacks and drinks to give to refugees arriving on the coast of Italy

Some of the people arriving had been raped or tortured, others had terrible injuries, and the majority had travelled through desert and ocean just to get somewhere safe. The people we met had been through horrific things. Things that no-one should be put through.

But we’ve seen God at work. We’ve seen miracles happen and I’m constantly reminded of his greatness. I’ve sat with a woman giving birth in a hospital the very same day she came ashore. I’ve sat with that very same woman in church, praying for months on end for her husband to arrive, unsure of where he was. And I’ve rejoiced as I’ve seen them reunited. I’ve listened to a man desperate to see his wife again after they were separated on their way to Europe. And I’ve seen him, months later, overjoyed, as they were reunited. We celebrated the birth of their baby boy and dedicated him a few months later. Throughout all of this, we saw God’s provision. We saw God’s hand in everything.

A refugee with hew newborn baby
One of the courageous refugees Ann met with her newborn baby

God has taught me that the people arriving on boats are no different from you or me. Christ doesn’t see us as different. To him, we’re all the same. We have blood that runs through our veins. We all have souls. And I can’t help but praise God for all that he does for these people. Through all the horrible things that have gone on, God has been there. It’s heart-wrenching to see what people have been through. I can’t really put it into words how I personally feel, except that I am humbled to have been there alongside them.

Ann MacFarlane tells us what you can be praying for:

To him, we’re all the same. We have blood that runs through our veins. We all have souls.

I’d like to ask you to keep praying for the people at the heart of the ongoing refugee crisis in southern Italy. Pray for our church fellowship in Reggio Calabria, who have opened their hearts to what’s going on and have been so faithful in serving God. Pray for the new leaders and volunteers of the church who are taking over from us, that they would continue to welcome refugees and be there for them. And finally, pray for David and me, that as we leave Italy, we would know where God is wanting us to go next.

We have come to the end of our time with BMS in Italy, and it has been a privilege. Thank you so much for your prayers and support during our time with BMS. Knowing we had people back home praying for us daily and supporting our work was humbling, and made us know that we weren’t alone in all that God was doing in Reggio Calabria. We know that God has plenty of things for us to do to continue bringing glory to him.

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Thank you

Ann and David MacFarlane worked with BMS World Mission in Italy for 24 years, pastoring various churches and getting involved with social action projects. They’ve done an amazing job and will be missed by their church in Reggio Calabria. Thank you so much for supporting them. And thank you Ann and David for all the work you’ve done!

Vive La Revolution

France:

Vive la revolution

God is turning lives around in hyper-secular France, where evangelical Christians make up less than one per cent of the population. You are part of the revolution.

Twenty young people become Christians at a youth conference in October 2015. Another hundred go forward to be prayed for, desiring to step out in faith when they get back home. An angry man who has had a very difficult childhood and gets agonising stress migraines makes friends with some Christians. He meets Jesus, becomes part of a church community and finds peace. His headaches stop completely.

A man who believes in God but has never had a relationship with him has a physical, almost tangible encounter with the Holy Spirit while reading Romans 6 in a Bible study with a BMS World Mission worker. He sees himself completely differently. Sees his sin nailed to the cross. He gets baptised.

The gospel is shared, heard, encountered. The revolution has begun.
It’s not the revolution of a nation – huge, unmissable and hard-won with guillotines and bloodshed. It’s a revolution of lives. Of individual men and women, won and transformed by Christ’s love in one of the most fiercely secular nations in Europe. It’s happening in the whisper. It’s happening through your support. It’s happening right now.

French-ness and the gospel – a real explosive mix

Connexion 2017, a youth conference in France, is causing a revolution amongst young French Christians.

Statistics about the evangelical Church in France are pretty discouraging. While Muslims make up seven per cent of the population, evangelicals comprise less than one per cent. France prides itself on its secularism, and the French Church has a turbulent history, which doesn’t help. “There are two worlds in France,” says BMS pastor Christine Kling, “people who go to church, and people who have no contact at all with faith.”

And yet some stories defy the statistics. They’re miracles, really. Christine’s is one of them. Until a few years ago, Christine was in that other world she describes: she barely knew anything about Christianity.

It wasn’t until 2010, when she moved to Scotland following the death of her husband, that she came to hear the gospel message and have her life utterly transformed.

Six years later, Christine came back to France with BMS, ready to share Jesus with French people who are still as far from him as she once was. Now, she’s working to revitalise a dying church.

Christine Kling
BMS worker Christine Kling, who is a pastor of a Baptist church near Paris.

Understanding that broken relationships and loneliness are huge issues for the French, Christine is using her personal experiences to share Jesus. “I always speak about relationships to explain that in Jesus I feel accepted,” she says. “I feel loved. I never feel alone anymore. There’s this new sense of freedom. I was freed of my sadness.”

Christine’s call back to France is already having an impact.

A man and his wife pray and pray for a pastor to come and serve in their rapidly shrinking church, which has been without a leader for 15 years. Just months before he dies of cancer, Christine arrives to see if she can help. He calls her an answer to his prayers.

Homeless and refugee women of all religions and none gather in Massy at a day centre organised by Christine and the pastor of the local Reformed church. They find safety and rest. They find a place to share their stories. Some of them ask for prayer.

Flashes of light in the darkness. 

Even the fact that the evangelical Church is a minority within a minority in France (evangelicals = less than one per cent, Protestants = two per cent) is actually, in some ways, a strength. “Because we’re so small, there’s no hesitation about what our role is,” says BMS pastor Philip Halliday, who heads up the Home Mission Department of the French Baptist Federation (FEEBF).
“It’s obvious – it’s to live out the gospel and to find fresh ways of communicating the good news of Jesus.”

That’s what Christine is trying to do in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris. And it’s what BMS workers Claire-Lise and David Judkins are doing in Brive-la-Gaillarde – in the physical and social centre of France. They’ve moved away from a traditional church service model in order to better share the gospel with people who have not yet encountered Jesus.

Hallidays
BMS workers Phillip and Rosemary Halliday travel across France, offering pastoral support.

They meet around a table, sharing food and stories, studying the Bible and praying together. The first Church Around the Table officially started in September 2016, and by January 2017 they’d grown large enough to split into two Tables, welcoming around 30 people altogether.

Six people have been baptised since the BMS church plant started.

Six people whose lives have been radically transformed. Who’ve seen the light.

Louise* is going through a difficult separation when she meets Claire-Lise and David. She’s into Buddhism, and when she finds out Claire-Lise is a pastor she tells her she is wrong. Louise is totally against Christianity. But then God touches her heart, and she starts asking questions. Amazingly, she asks for a Bible. She reads it, believes it, gives her life to Christ. She finds peace, forgives and accepts herself and reconciles with her husband. She gets baptised.

And she gets sick with cancer.

Louise’s non-Christian husband prays for her to get better and, by prayer and radiotherapy, she is healed. He gives his life to Christ and is baptised too.

Michael Harrington, David Judkins and David Braggeal
BMS worker David Judkins and part of his church planting team.

“Their whole family is transformed,” says David. “He is somebody who’s struggled with depression, and now we’re struggling to control him in the group because he’s such a goofball, making jokes all the time.”

Beyond the local church, in the very centre of the Federation, BMS workers have helped to instil a hunger for mission that is permeating the life of French Baptists. “They have given their fire and passion for mission to others at the heart of the Federation,” says FEEBF General Secretary Mark Deroeux. “People are now able to say that, yes, as Christians, it’s possible to give your life to Christ and not be afraid of being a witness.”

In a mining village in the north of France, a struggling young pastor called Thierry Auguste receives a BMS grant to pay his salary. Fifteen years later he is the President of the Baptist Federation, helping to drive the vision of churches across the nation. He says he has never forgotten the gift. Says that, “When I had nothing and BMS helped me, I felt very rich all of a sudden.” Says that the gospel is worth all the sacrifices he now makes to volunteer for the Federation, that “the fruits we receive from the ministry are most precious – they’re men and women who give their lives to Christ.”

When I had nothing, BMS helped me – I felt rich

Following a terror attack in Paris, 200 people gather together for an ecumenical service in Brive, organised by BMS workers and their church planting team. In the midst of tragedy, non-Christians come into a church to pray.

The evangelical Church in France is small, but it’s not weak. At its heart is this fire to share the good news. To reach more people. To save more hearts. And the Christians here are a tiny minority, but they are strong. They believe what they profess – if they didn’t, they’d walk away from the Church and never come back. Because it’s not normal to be an evangelical Christian, it’s hard.

And yet, there is so much in France and the French that is already a reflection of the image of God. As church planter David says: “in their creativity, hospitality, and relationships, there’s so much there that is reflective of God’s plan and desire.

“If the two could go together – this core French-ness and the gospel that’s embodied in that –then you’d have a real explosive mix.”

Fifteen new Baptist churches are being planted across France.

The number of evangelicals here is nine times greater than it was 60 years ago.

The revolution has begun. It’s not the revolution of a nation, not yet. But it’s a revolution of individual lives. It’s people coming to life. The challenge for the French Church is to dare and to keep on daring. To be bold and to speak out for the gospel. The challenge for us, France’s neighbour, with a larger, stronger, better-resourced Church, is to keep helping them to shine.

*name changed

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John and Sue Wilson
BMS workers John and Sue Wilson pastor a church in Paris, and Sue also organises the national youth conference.
Beaux Guests

They’re shining God’s light in France, with your support.

Philip and Rosemary Halliday

Philip is President of the French Baptist Federation’s (FEEBF) Home Mission Department, overseeing the 15 church plants across the country and encouraging FEEBF churches to be more outward looking. He and Rosemary travel across France offering pastoral support and vision to pastors. Rosemary is also involved in a local church’s young adults’ ministry.

John and Sue Wilson

John and Sue are breathing new life into Avenue du Maine Baptist Church in the heart of Paris. John also leads FEEBF’s Ministry Commission, while Sue heads up the Federation’s Youth Committee, which includes organising the national youth conference.

Christine Kling

Christine is the pastor of the Baptist church in Gif-sur-Yvette, near Paris, working to replant and grow the congregation. She also helps run a day shelter for homeless women, works as chaplain at a residential home in Gif and does project management for FEEBF.

Claire-Lise and David Judkins

Claire-Lise and David are pioneering Church Around the Table in Brive-la-Gaillarde. They’re building relationships and sharing Christ as they lead the church plant, which they hope will become a movement of disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Stop, look, listen: restoring community through exercise

Stop, look, listen:

restoring community through exercise

Mending rusted exercise bikes might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ways to bring back a sense of community. But in Thailand, it’s working.

Listening to people and responding to their needs can be an extremely powerful way of demonstrating Christ’s love. In a rural village in Thailand, this is exactly what BMS World Mission workers are doing.

Helen and Wit Boondeekhun moved to Wang Daeng village in the Thai province of Uttaradit with the long-term goal of planting a church. With no Christians or churches in the village of five hundred families, the locals didn’t know what Christianity looked like. Instead of engaging in a battle of words with the majority Buddhist population, Helen and Wit decided to take a different approach. They listened. Upon arrival, they carried out a survey of the village, asking what the main concerns and needs in the area were. One of the biggest issues identified was the state of the gym.

The state of the gym when the Boondeekhun's arrived in Wang Daeng village
What the gym equipment looked like before its renovation
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In times past by, Wang Daeng’s small open air gym gave people a sense of community. It was a place for the youth to go instead of engaging in drink and party culture. But it fell into disrepair. It lay there, dilapidated. A rusted exercise bike, a broken step machine and corroded weight lifting gear, spread out in a row, neglected and unused.

After hearing the results of the survey and seeing the gym for themselves, Helen and Wit believed that restoring the exercise equipment would bring back a sense of community to the village. After applying for a BMS grant, they were able to employ a local worker to restore the gym. He got to work fixing, painting and rebuilding the old exercise bikes and other machines. A roof was built to protect the equipment from rain and people from the sun when exercising. Lights were also added, meaning the villagers could exercise any time of the day.

Mr Charn, the local worker who restored the gym
Mr Charn, the local worker who restored the gym

Once the gym was restored, a grand re-opening ceremony took place. A local government representative came to unveil a plaque and give a speech. Leaders from all over the area arrived, ready to celebrate. Many people from the village rushed to try out the newly oiled and bright green exercise bike. Since then, the gym has consistently been used by the people of Wang Daeng, helping to restore a sense of community once more. “The village were really excited about the revived gym,” said Helen. “It’s been a great way for us to serve, and we hope God will continue to use it to bring people together.”

Helen and Wit are just getting started with BMS in Wang Daeng, having been there for only a year. But, by listening to the needs of the community and acting upon them, they’ve demonstrated the love of a God who hears, and who wants to bring people into community. Your support is helping them show their faith in a village with no Christians. We believe God is at work in Wang Daeng and can’t wait to tell you what he does next.

Unveiling of the plaque at the re-opening ceremony
Unveiling of the plaque at the re-opening ceremony
One of the locals trying out a newly renovated exercise bike
One of the locals trying out the newly renovated gym

Watch the videos below to find out more about Helen and Wit and what they’re up to.

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.

Baptised in a barrel in Phnom Penh

Baptised in a barrel in Phnom Penh

Six Cambodian students have become Christians and been baptised through a BMS-supported Christian hostel in the country’s capital.

Have you ever been on the edge of your seat at a baptism service, wondering if the tall man being baptised is going to hit his head on the edge of the baptismal pool? Or watched with a mix of dismay and hilarity as your friend gets knocked over by a wave on a mission to get baptised in the sea?

Well, in Cambodia, new Christians are facing a slightly different baptism experience, as they publicly commit their lives to Christ by being dunked in a barrel.

We’re really excited that Cambodian students are coming to know Jesus thanks to a project supported by BMS World Mission and set up by a mission worker from Mizoram in India. Watch this video to see the wonderful moment when one of the new believers is baptised! (Yes, in a barrel.)

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Srei (featured in the video) came to meet Jesus through the Horaios hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. The hostel was set up with BMS support and is helping poor students from rural villages who would otherwise not be able to afford to pursue further education. Youth unemployment is a huge issue in Cambodia, and 63 per cent of young people in the country are unable to complete their schooling due to poverty.

While providing a safe home and subsidised housing for 15 village students, the BMS-supported hostel is also sharing the love of Jesus. Six students have become Christians since it opened two years ago. A father of one of the students also gave his life to Jesus and got baptised!

Students from the hostel gather for church.

Chan is 20 years old and has become a Christian through the work of the hostel. Her family are Buddhists and she first got to hear about the Bible and Jesus when she moved in. “In the dormitory every night we have English class with a devotion,” says Chan. “In the beginning I didn’t understand about the Bible and I had many questions in my mind but felt shy to ask the missionary. But as time passed, I came to know more about Jesus Christ. I came to know about the love of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us.”

The missionary Chan speaks of is from Mizoram, a region of India where BMS missionaries helped share the gospel in the 19th century. Today, 100 per cent of the Mizo population identifies as Christian and, thanks to your giving, BMS is supporting Mizo mission workers going beyond their borders to share God’s love in the rest of Asia. The latest barrel baptisms are just one example of the fruit you have helped God’s people to bear.

Leading worship and sharing testimonies
A moment of prayer following Srei's baptism
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It was experiencing God answering her prayers that led Chan to devote her life to him. “God answers our prayer,” she says.

Please pray for the work at Horaios hostel, and for Rev J Lalduhawma from Mizoram who is running it. Pray that more young Cambodians would be able to complete their education and would come to know the God who answers prayer.

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.