South Asia… A Patchwork of Cultures
1 Sep 2007
There is nothing in the world quite like the regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia. As Sarah McDonald states regarding India “it is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It’s rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful… It’s all the extremes.” It is a complex mix of life and yet arguably nothing is more overwhelming than the situation found today in this part of the world: the sheer volume of people, the variety of cultures and range of religious beliefs, the entanglement of corrupt governments and the complications of the massive population of desperately poor people, all mixed together in the melting pot of humanity.
South Asia and Southeast Asia are home to a wide stretch of languages and dialects, people groups and world religions. With the only two countries that have broken the one billion barrier in population, this part of the world holds half of the world’s population in its hand. With the world’s largest Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist populations, the harvest is ripe.
The great reality of these overwhelming truths is that they do not tell the entire story. As desperate as the spiritual situation appears, and as overwhelming as the numbers sound, God has made it clear that he is about the business of ‘reconciling the world to himself in Christ.’ We have no need to fear because God has overcome the world and the spiritual forces of darkness that are thriving in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
In the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of Mission Frontiers, a strong case is made for South Asia and Southeast Asia, specifically India to be made a high priority for bringing long-term workers. They say that when considering Unengaged (no viable work going on) Unreached People Groups (UUPG’s) the ‘obvious priority country is India. This one country …accounts for nearly half of the …number of UUPGs in the world today and more than half of the total …UUPG’s.’ This simply means that if the sheer numbers of unreached peoples are taken seriously then the regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia is a place we must be encouraging more people to prayerfully consider for long-term work.
Around the world Pioneers has recognized this need and already the work has begun. Those who are ministering in this part of the world are building on deep foundations – the sweat and tears of their predecessors. From student work in Thailand, to work with prostitutes in Cambodia, from praying for the doors to open into a sealed nation in some nearby mountain ranges to handcrafted items being created in the streets of North India, from church planting work in rural areas to reaching out to M. friends through business, from touching the lives of runaway kids in South India to sharing the Truth with refugee Tibetans, from teaching English & computers in the Delta to bearing life-witness on the sands of an unwelcoming land, the work goes on.
KP is one of the many Pioneers workers who is seeking to take this challenge seriously: I’ve been living and working in South Asia for four and a half years now. Making the capital city of this country my home, I have come to truly love this nation filled with spice and colour, beauty and intrigue, smiles and monsoon rains. For all of this time the poor of this city have been on my heart, but in the last year Abba has opened the door to journey more deeply with a handful of slum women.
Although our involvement with a particular slum community in the north of the city has been going on for some time through medical and literacy work, it is only in the last few months that we have finally begun our long-term income generation project with the women, in April of 2006. Since then, we have been able to draw alongside this group of women with greater opportunity and intensity.
It is an incredible privilege to get to know these ten women who are a part of the income generation program. Each Friday they come to our local fellowship and work for six or so hours. They are amazing, ready to apply themselves and make the most of this chance. Our desire is for them to own and run this business of making cards and jewellery on their own by the end of 2010.
You may be wondering, if this is a distraction from the ‘real’ work of sharing the good news? It’s a valid question, and yet throughout Scripture we see that Jesus cared for the whole person. Do we have the right to minister to the spirit if we don’t care for the body, for the whole? Through this program the monthly income of these women’s families has increased by 20%. It breathes life and gives hope, developing in these women a sense of dignity and worth. And yet it is only a start.
By journeying with these women, we have found out that one young woman’s family pays half of their monthly income back to the money lender, that another woman suffers from mood-swings, that one of the literacy teachers has started reading the Word, that our youngest worker’s sister died through child-birth, that yet another lady spoils her son because she lost her daughter several years ago. And so, into these lives, we bring the message and light of Jesus Christ, the only one who can bring complete transformation. From the slums of this city in South Asia to a mansion in heaven – that is our prayer.
As I consider this, I think of the two literacy teachers, one of whom is Muslim while the other is Hindu; these women whom I have come to love, come to share life and hope with, who perhaps would never have heard and had the chance to respond if we weren’t involved in their lives. I think of the guys across the park and of the short-termer who built relationship with them by playing sport! I think of the vast opportunities that ordinary people like you and me can be involved in from designing handmade cards to teaching ‘Australian’ English in a call-centre, from hanging out with truth-seeking tourists to simply loving street-kids and teaching them basic education, from showing that in a land of darkness there is light in Jesus Christ to praying for a nation like your life – and His Kingdom – depended on it.
And so we go, we pray and we work that these women and their community will be our inheritance, that His Kingdom will come in this slum community as it has in Heaven.
And you? Will you pray as though His Kingdom were dependent on it? Will you send as though the harvest were ripe? Will you go as though the unreached still exist? Will you?
by KP and TS- Pioneers workers in South Asia
- As workers on the field, our primary priority would be to glorify God with all that is within us
- That the Lord of the harvest would raise up more workers, both from within each nation and abroad
- That God would reveal to us the secrets of the enemy as we build strategies
- That God would break forth in South Asia and Southeast Asia through intimacy with His people
- That the defences of the enemy would be broken through the unity of the church.