Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ministry in Focus ~ Gospel for Asia

March 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Going Global, Monthly Articles

Ministry in Focus:  Gospel For Asia (used with permission)



Gospel of Asia




The women squat and sit cross-legged, gathering in a circle on the thin rug, talking and laughing as they settle in expectantly for class. Malika, their teacher, opens her primer and they begin. When today’s lesson is over, the women will be one step closer to reading and writing fluently.
Malika reads the Hindi alphabet aloud, one letter at a time, and her students repeat the sounds, pointing to each character as they follow along in their own booklets. Then they practice drawing the characters and writing simple words. Malika helps the ones who are still grasping the fundamentals of holding a pencil.
Learning to read and write is just plain hard work for these women. Introducing new ways of thinking and looking at the world is a difficult process for anyone, and it is especially tedious for Malika’s students, who have never gone to school.
But difficulties are nothing new to them. Traditional, cultural and religious currents are strong and have already set them up to be suppressed, beaten down, segregated, even destroyed—simply because they are female.
All across Asia, women face the same grim facts: If you want to survive, you must be strong. The weak will most likely die.
Gospel of AsiaLeast and Last
One of the greatest threats Asian women face today comes even before they take their first breath. A baby girl still developing in her mother’s womb, exposed by the probe of ultrasound, is increasingly vulnerable to abortion, even in countries where it is illegal.
If a female child does survive her mother’s pregnancy, she then faces a lifetime of potential abuse and neglect. An Asian woman’s place in society is usually least and last. She will receive the smallest portions of food in the family—and only when everyone else is finished eating. She will be passed over for medical care in preference to the males in the household and will be neglected more often when ill.
She will have little or no education, because she likely will have been pulled out of school at an early stage to stay at home and help with the housework.
An Asian woman, after all, is born into a world that sees her as inferior and as a liability. So it makes no sense to invest much in her growing-up years. The custom of dowry means parents will pay dearly to marry off a daughter, who then leaves to become part of her husband’s family.
As a wife, she will often live an anxious and thankless existence, pressured to produce male children and only valued once she does.
“May you be the mother of a hundred sons,” is a common Asian wedding blessing. If girls are born—or she has no children at all—she is blamed, giving rise to further abuse, divorce and sometimes even murder at the hands of her husband or in-laws.
“India loves its mothers and despises its women,” goes one saying in the country.
If her husband dies, a woman faces not only loneliness and grief, but also ostracism from society. She is considered a bad omen and the bringer of bad luck. When a wife loses her husband, she loses her purpose, dignity and value as well.
It is within this world that Malika and her literacy students live and labor; it is all they know. They have not grown up to expect anything different than these dictates of their culture. All these women are Nepalese migrants, working as house servants in the residential areas surrounding Delhi, India. They come from rural areas of their homeland, and their lack of formal education means they must toil at low-paying jobs to even make ends meet.
But these women have the one thing that frees them from a life of slavery and oppression: a relationship with Jesus Christ. And now, because of the literacy classes, they are beginning to read God’s Word for themselves and grow spiritually.
‘My Life Is Totally Different’
Daya is one of Malika’s students, and the tiny infant daughter she holds on her lap is a living testimony to the power of God. When Daya went to the hospital to give birth, complications set in, and doctors said surgery would be necessary. In the midst of this crisis, Daya drew her hope from the Scripture verses she knew how to read because of Malika’s literacy class.
“Because I could go to God’s Word, I understood the importance of prayer,” Daya remembers, “and I was continuously praying to Jesus. As I prayed, my confidence in the Lord increased, and I understood that the Lord would stand by me, even though the situation was difficult.”
When the believers in Daya’s church heard of the complications, they all began to pray, and Daya’s daughter was born safely. Then another crisis arose when the little girl was not digesting food properly, so the Christians again went to the Lord in prayer on Daya’s behalf. The baby was miraculously healed, to the joy and relief of Daya and her husband.
“For three or four days there was a lot of difficulty, but the Lord stood with me,” Daya states.
“The one important thing is that I am now able to have access to God’s Word. I cannot yet read fluently, but I can at least read little by little.
“My life is totally different than it was in the past. And I am so happy about it.” Daya’s pastor, Tobias, was a primary factor in starting literacy classes. He caught the vision to instruct the illiterate women of his church when he learned of a GFA program just for women.
Firmly Grounded, Offering Freedom Over the past two years, a new branch of ministry has been growing within each of the GFA-related Believers Church congregations. Known as the Women’s Fellowship, it was established in early 2005 with the goal of strengthening the local church through ministry to its women.
In each church, a Women’s Fellowship group meets regularly to study God’s Word, spend time in prayer and learn about missions. The women also serve within their local churches and are actively involved in ministry in their neighborhoods.
“Presently the women in our Believers churches are first-generation Christians,” says Gisela Yohannan, wife of GFA President K.P. Yohannan. “Their greatest needs are to become firmly grounded in the Word of God, grow spiritually and be equipped for ministry.
“Church history shows that whenever a church movement strengthened and encouraged the women in their devotion to the Lord and their service to Him, the Church was blessed and grew as a result.
“We are convinced that if we want to have strong churches that carry the Gospel to the unreached, we must focus on building strong families. That’s why we are committed to establishing Women’s Fellowships in all our churches, so our sisters have opportunities to grow in their faith and commitment to Jesus.”
All across Asia, Christian women are shedding their “second-class, lower and lesser” image for the call of the Lord, who values and welcomes them to join Him in His work. In doing so, they are finding the freedom to follow Him and do His will—their true liberation—and then offering that freedom wherever they go.
As they have grown in Christ, these women are also becoming more aware of the spiritual need of their lost neighbors. Spurred on by the love of Jesus, which they have personally experienced, and freshly equipped with the Word of God, they are taking the initiative to spread the Gospel. They see the framework of their culture as an opportunity rather than a restriction, giving them greater freedom and access than male missionaries to reach out to women and children in their homes.
Amazing Results
Within the two short years since it was established, the Women’s Fellowship program has shown amazing growth—with a group in nearly all 29,000-plus Believers churches—and even more amazing results.
A Women’s Fellowship group in the state of Madhya Pradesh visited one remote village and shared the Gospel from house to house. As a result, eight families made decisions to follow Christ.
In Chhattisgarh state, a paralyzed man was brought to a Women’s Fellowship meeting for prayer. The ladies prayed for him and shared the Gospel with him and his family. He was completely healed, and the entire family received the Lord as Savior.
One woman who attended a Believers Church in the state of Rajasthan arrived at the funeral of a neighbor who had died from a prolonged illness. His family was already preparing his body for cremation, but she began to pray for him. Suddenly he came back to life and started praising the Bhagavan (“Holy One”) who had raised him from death. He and his entire family came to Christ, along with others who witnessed this miracle.
All across Asia, women are finding creative ways to raise funds for their own outreach work and to support others in ministry.
In Meghalaya state, ladies raise pigs, weave shoulder bags, and make chutneys, pickles and other regional dishes. Women in Tamil Nadu are learning to make handicrafts so they can start a small business and sell their wares. The Women’s Fellowship groups in Goa recently arranged to sell sweets, fruits and handicrafts at an annual GFA meeting. In Sikkim, women are planting ginger to harvest and sell in the market.
In Bangladesh, the women of the Believers churches use their sewing skills to make handkerchiefs and other small decorative cloths. And in some communities, the ladies in each church collect handfuls of rice as donations.
Even in the poorest regions, the hearts of the women are hungry to do something to support mission work-so they work with what they have. One Women’s Fellowship group harvests sticks from neem trees in the forest, which are locally used as toothbrushes. They also make cow dung patties, dry them and sell them for fuel.
“They are very excited that they can also help win the lost with their contribution,” reports Gisela.
And in churches such as the one Tobias pastors where the illiteracy rate is high, one of the most powerful catalysts to encourage missions outreach has been to teach the women to read and write.
Strengthening the Whole Church Tobias realized that about half the women in his congregation could not read—including his own wife—and he saw that this had a direct impact on their spiritual growth.
“Even when I asked them to write their names, they could not do it,” Tobias remembers. “And when we were reading the Bible during the church service, they could not always understand it.
We were struggling in this area.
“This meeting was the first time I ever started thinking along these lines, that if a program is begun for these women, how much they will be blessed—and the church will benefit, too.”
So Tobias approached Malika and challenged her to consider teaching the illiterate women of the church to read and write. Malika, who had only a fourth-grade education, knew the value of literacy and caught the vision too.
“As I am able to read and write, I had a great desire that the other ladies would also. That was the main motivation for starting this literacy program,” she shares.
Malika’s task was not an easy one. At first, many of the women were ashamed to admit their uneducated and illiterate status.
“Some of the ladies were not at all interested to even learn,” she recalls. “They had never thought in their life that they would ever read and write. They had already given up.
“But after I shared the importance with them, these ladies slowly became more interested. Now they are more keen to attend the classes, and they want to learn.”
Pastor Tobias has seen how the literacy classes have made a positive impact in his church—on a number of levels. The first is the spiritual growth he sees in these women’s lives.
“One thing I am seeing is that the sisters are able to get the blessings out of the Word of God by themselves,” he says. “At first I was trying to communicate to them, but it was not going into their hearts because they did not know how to read.
“But nowadays the women come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I read this portion in the Bible and the Lord spoke to my heart and gave me peace.’ They are now learning for themselves and hearing the voice of the Lord directly rather than just through me.”
Malika’s class has had a strengthening and expanding influence on the whole church as well.
“Apart from the literacy program, the women have prayer meetings on Saturday,” Tobias shares. “And as the women have started to read and write, they are also showing interest in going out to witness about Jesus. Sometimes they come and say to me, ‘Shall we go?’ and two or three of them will go with me during their break time and share the Gospel.”
As a result of their desire to spread the Good News, three new families are attending the church.
Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan wholeheartedly believes in the power of women in ministry, and he sees their effectiveness only increasing in the days to come.
“Our Women’s Fellowship is going to turn the work of the ministry upside-down,” he comments. “I think these women will take the initiative and go many times faster than the men!”


Read more stories here about how God is using Asian women in ministry.

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