NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
[Editor’s note: Certain names of people and places in this article have been withheld because of the risk of persecution.]
“Now brothers, we want you to know about the grace of God that was given in the churches of Macedonia: In a severe test of trouble, their overflowing joy and their deep poverty overflowed into an abundance of their generosity. I testify that of their own free will they gave according to their ability, and even beyond their ability. pleading with us with an urgent request for the gracious privilege of joining in this service to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4 EHV)
When I had the privilege of representing the CLC in Bangladesh and India in January 2020, the above passage struck me very vividly. We give our support to our foreign missions, and what a privilege it is to be able to do so. However, I quickly realized that they give way more than most of us. Perhaps not in actual dollar amounts but, as Jesus said of the widow’s two mites, she gave more than all the rest, “For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:43-44) Our brothers and sisters in the foreign fields are like that woman and like the Macedonians. They are giving beyond their ability freely to the Lord. Allow me to introduce you to a few of these extraordinary givers.
Rev. Monotosh Banarjee. He is the founder and head of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission-BLCM. He quite literally gave up everything and took up his cross to follow Christ. He was born into a Hindu family in the class of Brahmin, the most privileged class of people. As such, he had a very promising future in worldly terms. But as a teenager he was introduced to Jesus Christ by a friend and given a Bible. A few years later he announced to his family that he was a Christian and was promptly cast out of his family and found himself on the streets, penniless. Through hard work and the Lord’s blessing, he was able to get back on his feet. He had a burning desire to tell his fellow countrymen the good news of our salvation in Christ. With the Lord’s guidance and blessing, he began the BLCM working mostly among the Dalits, the poorest of the poor whom, as a Brahmin, he had once considered “untouchable.” For the past four years, while studying the Scriptures with our missionaries and pursuing fellowship with the CLC, he has supported the work of the BLCM entirely with his own meager resources. He sold some property that he had acquired and sold his wife’s jewelry to support the ministry of the BLCM. The BLCM has grown to fourteen congregations and six schools in eight districts. Due to the limited support we are able to provide, he continues to support the ministry in Bangladesh in any way he can. Like the widow in the Temple, Rev. Banarjee has given his whole livelihood for the work of the Lord.
Dr. R. is a young man whom I met at the Joint Asia Pastoral Conference. Dr. R. learned to give from little on. He is the son of the president of the BELC in India, who has given his all to the work of the Lord in India for over 20 years. Dr. R is following in his father’s footsteps. He worked hard to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy, not so he could break free from the grip of poverty, but so that he could support the preaching of the Gospel. He also studied to become a pastor and serves a congregation in Southern India. He uses his secular job to support his and his father’s ministry.
Unnamed Believers. There are countless others one could mention who give of themselves and all they have to the work of the Lord: Pastor J. and his brother N. who work tirelessly in the Seminary and Orphanage in Nidubrolu; a pastor who lives in what is little more than a tent with canvas walls, waited on me hand and foot as we travelled around the CLCI. But I would also like to mention many unnamed believers in a remote fishing village. They live in extreme poverty. They worship outside on the street. Yet when two young women in their village, both with little children, were left destitute because their husbands abandoned them when they became Christians, the members of the congregation banded together to support these women and their children as best they could.
Such is the heart of love that the Lord has worked in these brothers and sister of ours. Jesus gave His all for us, so naturally they give their all to Him and to one another without question. May we be inspired by them and likewise moved by our Savior’s love.
David Reim is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.