From COVID Relief to Growing Church Communities: Advancing the Gospel in South Asia

By Andrew Shaughnessy, Jan 11, 2022

When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across the globe in early 2020, many governments enacted harsh lockdowns to halt the spread of the deadly virus. These measures certainly saved lives, but they also made life more difficult for many, crippling supply chains and keeping many workers locked at home and without income. In much of the developing world, the poor live a hand-to-mouth existence, buying food with the money they earn each day. For these people, being kept from working or taking their crops to market meant not having enough to eat. 

Over the course of 2020 and 2021, dozens of MTW missionaries and their national partners all around the world showed the love of Christ to their neighbors by helping deliver life-saving food supplies to vulnerable communities. More often than not, these practical acts of mercy sparked gospel conversations, initiating relationships that missionaries and local pastors have been able to cultivate in the months that followed. Today, many of those relationships have borne fruit, resulting in people coming to faith in Christ and being baptized, and churches starting in communities that previously had none. 

Late last year, we reported on one of these stories from South Asia. There, as COVID-19 lockdowns were at their worst, a local Presbyterian pastor named Adnan Sikdar* used MTW Compassion Funds to distribute one month’s supply of rice, lentils, salt, and other basic food items to 561 families—many of them Muslims or Hindus—who were struggling to find enough to eat. By September 2020, 143 Hindus had been baptized and two churches had been started in a previously unreached area. 

Now, just over a year later, those new believers and churches are still going strong and growing in grace.

“We really give thanks to God for all his faithfulness and provision for His churches, and all the work in the midst of the pandemic,” said Adnan. “Those who were baptized are still with us, and we are having regular worship and fellowship with them.”

Since the mass baptism last September, the Presbyterian Church of South Asia* (PCSA) has sent four staff members to work full time in the village where the conversion took place. In addition, Adnan and his ministry partners regularly travel to the area to follow up with local Christian leaders, teach and disciple new believers, and lead services for the fledgling church.

Against the Odds

Still, these new Christians are converts in a country with a history of persecution, and the little church faces countless difficulties. Some problems are social, such as non-Christian neighbors pressuring Christians to recant their faith; others are more practical, for example, the town graveyard will not allow Christians to be buried on its grounds. Some struggles are more dangerous. In the not too distant past, Presbyterian churches have been burned to the ground by local mobs and Christians have been beaten and even killed for their faith. In a recent communication, Adnan asked for prayer for safety and security for two believing families in a community where violent religious extremists are known to be active. 

Despite the challenges, pressures, and clear and present danger, people are flocking into the fold. 

Throughout the year, Adnan visits “cell groups” in villages across the hill country, teaching, encouraging, and praying for believers and their families. On a visit to one of these villages this past October, 10 non-Christians attended a training Adnan conducted on the gospel. By the end of the week, four Muslim attendees had come to Christ and were baptized. Elsewhere, Adnan’s fellow Presbyterian pastors have been ministering, leading worship, praying for the sick, visiting believing families, and sharing the gospel in unreached villages across the country. And as the Church grows across this South Asian country, Christian communities have begun boldly raising concrete block buildings in their villages to serve as churches.

A Flourishing Partnership

Mission to the World has been working with Adnan and the PCSA through it all, partnering and helping the denomination raise funds for church buildings and pastoral trainings. Though the denomination’s fledgling Presbyterian seminary was forced to pause amid government lockdowns during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were recently able to resume classes—preparing pastors for the ongoing kingdom work. And just this past June, helped by funds raised through MTW partners, the PCSA finished building the “Harvest Center”—a hub for the denomination’s discipleship and church strengthening efforts. 

“The Lord has extended tremendous love and blessings to South Asia through Mission to the World,” said Adnan. “We feel that it is a great honor, but also a great responsibility—implementing all these flowing blessings for His Kingdom purpose. … We are excited to keep moving forward and expect great things to happen here in South Asia through the power of God. His witness has proven His provision to us.” 

“We are working with all our heart and soul for the ministry as the Lord Jesus has commanded us to do for His glory,” he added. “It is truly inspiring to bring the gospel among the unreached people.” 

*Names have been changed.


Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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