The food, the traffic, the poverty, the smells, the seemingly unending masses of people can be overwhelming at first, says Pastor Robin Fisher after taking a team from his church to India.
“But before we left, every person on the team had fallen in love with the people there and hoped to be able to return.”
Fisher, with Sunset Avenue Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, N.C., accepted the challenge to adopt an unengaged unreached people group issued by International Mission Board President Tom Elliff at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.
Back home, he shared his vision with his church family.
Then in February 2012, Fisher traveled with five other pastors to a large Indian metropolis packed with people groups.
Rather than picking a single group, Fisher felt the Spirit leading him to adopt sections of the city where many unengaged unreached people groups would be represented.
Fisher brought that vision back to the United States, and his church decided to move forward.
The team from Sunset Avenue Baptist Church in Rocky Mount went into a slum the first day. There, Robin Fisher shared the gospel with a 16-year-old girl who gave her life to Christ.
As the first team from Sunset Avenue prepared to go in early 2013, they prayed regularly and fervently for help in recognizing the persons of peace around them (Luke 10).
When the team went out into a slum the first day, Fisher’s initial conversation generated a religious debate. The team moved down a few doors, and Fisher prayed for a sick man.
When he turned from the sick man, Fisher saw the smiling face of a 16-year-old girl who motioned for him to join her. The girl expressed an interest in Christianity as well as a lack of knowledge on the subject.
“What a clear invitation from God to share the gospel with her,” Fisher said.
After he shared the gospel with her, she professed faith in Christ. Before the week ended, she had received discipleship and begun to share the gospel with her friends.
“God showed me that day that He would honor our prayers for the persons of peace,” Fisher said. “And He did so every single day we were there.”
A key part of the trip was working alongside a local South Asian church. “What a wonderful privilege to see that kingdom work is going on all over the world and not just in our little corner of the world,” said Fisher.
“There was a shared passion for Christ, a ‘family connection’ that surfaced very quickly,” he said. “We met senior adults who have faithfully, courageously served Christ there for decades and young teenagers wrestling with a call to preach.”
As the week continued, Fisher went out with the pastor and another young man, who shared his testimony – how as a young man, he was aimless and needed direction for work.
After he came to Christ, his life changed, and God blessed his career and his ministry. As the young man finished sharing his testimony with Robin and the local pastor, the three men began a conversation with a young man who had tried many religions and prayed to many gods.
“He was desperately looking for help with his future and in what he was supposed to do with his life,” Fisher said.
As Fisher, the pastor and the young man told him about Jesus, Fisher felt led to ask the young man to share his testimony with this young man.
“Their common stories played a part in that young man receiving Christ that day,” Fisher said. “I left that church leader to begin follow up. It was a great, God-authored experience – one of many we enjoyed that week.”
During that same week, two South Asian women from the pastor’s church went out with Christian worker Francis Tanner*.
In one home, Tanner played with a little girl while the two South Asian women shared the gospel with her parents.
They discovered the father had attended church when he was younger but had not returned since getting married. As they departed that day, one of the women, Archana,* felt burdened to return.
About a month later, Archana began bringing the family into her home for Bible study once a week.
Soon, Archana’s church was offering training to Bible study leaders.
Fisher said he’s heard from their host pastor that his church has already started a new small group in the area where his team worked.
“We’ve been captured by the vision to reach the unreached with the gospel,” Fisher said. “That’s why God led us to South Asia, where so much spiritual darkness abounds. … We will be going back on an ongoing basis – at least once a year and hopefully more often in the future as the work progresses.”
“It added so much to our experience to be able to share it with a church family there. Our partnership is one we’re looking forward to pursuing. I’ve already traded emails with my fellow pastor as we seek to build a relationship of encouragement and support.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hope Livingston is a writer serving among the peoples of South Asia. Visit southasianpeoples.imb.org.)