Hungry hearts, open doors

When seasonal flooding arrives, Johnny and other OM workers traverse to remote areas and offer food to those who were hit the hardest.

“My calling is to proclaim the gospel to unreached people in the country. When I see that people received the good news and accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour, it gives me joy,” said Johnny*, a Jesus follower in South Asia.

When Johnny was a young child in 1988, his father accepted Christ and soon joined OM to share the gospel among his people. But the community and the family’s relatives ostracized them, finding it shameful that they did not follow Muhammad. Because of the persecution from their neighbours, Johnny thought his father had done something wrong and was confused why people did not like his family.

After Johnny finished high school, his father gave him a copy of the New Testament. Two verses in the pages transformed his life. The first was John 5:24, where Jesus says that anyone who hears His Words and believes in God will have eternal life. The second, Acts 4:12, reads: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (ESV).

“This assurance changed my heart. If I received Him, at that same moment, I would actually enter heaven,” said Johnny. With the Qu'ran, Johnny said he had no such assurance, as all his good and bad works were on a scale, and when he died, his punishment or reward would be based on whichever side was heavier. But “Jesus said no; salvation is grace from God.”

Twelve years later, Johnny took up the same mantle his father had donned and started working full-time with OM in his community, sharing Jesus’ love through education and relief work. The tangible acts of love transform people’s lives to see the reality that God satisfies their deepest needs.

“Some people will ask why we help and why we give good education to the children. We share our lives and God’s love with them,” said Johnny. “Some people also want to know more about Jesus, and we invite them into our houses, and they continue to learn about Jesus. This is the way we start house churches.” Throughout 2022, Johnny has seen fifteen house churches planted throughout the countryside where he lives.

Feeding the hungry

Over the years, Johnny’s community has faced sickness, hunger and poverty. The country often floods, and those living on riverbanks or islands must find shelter when their houses are swamped. Because of the lack of resources, many students cannot obtain proper education and spend their childhood working menial jobs to provide for their families.

Johnny and other OMers see their fellow countrymen's physical hunger and empathise with their spiritual hunger. People in the area seek a higher power, going to the mosque five times a day, but they do not know that the God they seek is a God of forgiveness and love, explained Johnny––they have not experienced the same assurance he has.

Johnny and the team strive to share God’s love by providing relief support and access to schools. When the floods come, they traverse to remote areas and offer food to those hit the hardest. In some of the communities, the average literacy rate is below 50 per cent. To address this, Johnny oversees 44 schools, 20 adult literacy programmes and other skill development courses like a sewing centre and computer literacy courses. Even though they cannot openly preach the gospel, the team teaches its principles and shares the love of Christ through the relationships built. Sometimes, they use passages from the Bible for their adult typing lessons.

In 2022, Johnny saw a surprising increase in curiosity among those impacted by the schools. He thinks that because of the amount of relief work he and his fellow workers did among his people, many witnessed the generosity and asked why they would help.

One woman who had just gone through an abusive marriage and a divorce came to the sewing centre when a friend invited her. Reading a quote on the wall from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (ESV), she asked what it meant and listened intently to the explanation. She explained that she felt peace in her mind and asked if she could continue going to the centre to learn. Over four months, the woman started attending a Bible study and, by the end, surrendered her life to Jesus.

Overall, OM workers know of over 25 house churches in the country. In 2021, over 47 people gave their lives to follow Christ. As a chairman in authority over a nearby village listened to their message of hope, he said: “you are sharing good things…this is a need of our people.”

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