Asma* is a Christian living and working in exile in South Asia, unable to return to her home country. The country she originates from is 100% Muslim, and she could be jailed (as she was in the past) or killed for her faith. Asma offers hospitality and help to those from her country who have come to the city where she lives for medical treatment. Asma shares her faith when possible, trusting the Lord to use her for His glory.
Sue: How did you decide on the hospitality ministry in a foreign country?
Asma: When the Lord called me to go back to my people, I was not able to go into my country. I started this hospitality ministry in the bordering city of another country in South Asia. Everybody comes to where I am for medical treatment as there is good medical care available. Only the patient and one more person can come to a place with a completely different culture and language.
I opened my home for them to come and stay. They can save all the money they have towards paying for their medical care as they get a free place to stay, and I cook for them.
Whatever they might use for patient treatment — IVs, injections, and everything — the patient has to bring the replacements. I get the supplies for them. They need somebody to help when they come for medical treatment. For 26 years, I have been known as a place they can always go for help.
Sue: Can you tell me how you help the people who stay with you?
Asma: I cook three meals daily, clean, and take care of them when they are in bed after recovering from surgery. I transport the patients and their caregivers between the hospitals and the house. The hospitals don’t provide food for the patients and the bystanders. So I take food to them at the hospital. Once a week, I have the bystanders go home, and I’ll stay overnight with the patients. For me, doing these tasks opens up the only way to have contact with my people. People have come to know the Lord through this hospitality ministry. Yeah, so I’m blessed.
Sue: What are the challenges of living in a Hindu and Muslim community as a Christian?
Asma: One of the challenges with the Muslims is that I am an infidel because I’m a follower of Christ. Even though I cook, clean, and care for my Muslim house guests, they hesitate to eat at the same table as me because I am an infidel.
I’ve had people get healed because I prayed for them in the name of Jesus. Yet, they get angry with me. They only remember I prayed in the name of Jesus.
The Hindus don’t trust me because I have a Muslim background.
I am an outsider. I’m living in the Hindu people’s area where I rent a house from a Hindu person, and I have all these Muslims coming. They’re really suspicious. It is difficult because I don’t belong to any of the groups.
[Where I live,] you can rent a place for 11 months and then renew it. Typically, renewing the house is automatic, but in my case, I was asked to move every year because they distrust me and what I am doing.
Sue: What are some of the other challenges that you face while running your hospitality house?
Asma: First of all, it’s having to move every year and not having the trust of the house owner.
Second, being in a different country and ministering to different people groups is a challenge.
Third, there are practical things. I don’t have a vehicle. It is a lot of work to transport people and food between the hospitals and the house.
Fourth, where we live has [high] humidity. When you have a lot of people, they go through bed sheets and pillows. Even though I keep washing them frequently, they have to be replaced every year or so.
Fifth, financially, it is a challenge, but I do have people who are helping me now.
Sue: As isolated as you are in a Hindu and Muslim culture, how do you connect with other followers of Jesus?
Asma: Because of my own background, people have come to know the Lord through my hospitality ministry and the radio broadcast. I meet with them four times a year. It’s not in my house. It’s where I live in South Asia, but we will go to a different, secure place for two weeks.
Sue: What gives you hope in this difficult situation?
Asma: What gives me hope is to see how God cares and shows mercy to people who don’t know Him yet. I have seen that God is providing for me, giving me strength, or opening up a situation for my benefit or for the person I am caring for. They don’t even know that it was the Lord doing this for me. But I see, and I share with them how God really cares about the details of the people who don’t know Him. That is a blessing and a huge encouragement to see that God is in charge and in control.
Sue: Can you share a story of a specific person you ministered to?
Asma: Sonu was on a faraway island from the main island. His island was very small, only a half-mile island. As a teacher, Sonu wanted to bring education to his island. He was married with two kids. People respected him so much. Sonu knew there was an outside world other than that island. He had a small radio which he used to hear other language programs from South Asian countries every evening. One night when he was listening, Sonu heard a program in his own language, [which seemed] impossible! He knew everything that is published or broadcast has to go through a censor board. All media are owned by the government. He was really surprised but enticed to listen.
That was my Christian radio program! Sonu made himself a raft to go into the ocean and listen to the program safely. After he listened to the program for about a year, he came to know the Lord.
I give a PO box number on the broadcast for people to respond to what they have heard, and Sonu wrote immediately. I invited him to visit. He came to where I was located to meet and pray.
When he went home, he told his wife he was a Christian. She gave him two choices: either he reject the Lord or divorce her. For one year he tried to live with her. His wife would not tolerate his choice of Christianity, so she got a divorce and custody of children. She also reported Sonu to the police. He was imprisoned and tortured for six months until, finally, they freed him.
He came back to see Asma. Through God’s mercy, she helped him to meet some people from Germany. They were developing a type of farming to use in difficult climates. Where Sonu was from, there is a lot of salt spray, so it’s very difficult to grow crops. The Germans hired him to try their method of farming on his island using techniques they had developed. He went back to his island, where he was not respected because of his faith. His people said, “If he’s on this island, you know, God will curse us. We should throw him to the sea.”
Sonu was really lonely because he was not allowed to see his children, but he planted his farm. He had such good crops that he was able to provide the needs of all on the island. His farm was so successful that the company that invested in him wanted him to teach this method to other islanders in other parts of the country. God gave him the respect that he lost. Now he’s able to see his children.
Sue: I understand that you do other ministries besides the hospitality ministry. Could you share about those with our readers?
Asma: I have a radio broadcast that reaches into my home country in my language.
I have been hearing from a [government] minister, a professor in the university, a doctor, and others who are also followers. They wanted to be introduced to other believers. Some attend meetings, which I hold only four times a year because they involve a lot of organization. We need finances to get plane tickets, and then we have to go to a place where we will be safe. We usually stay for two weeks when we get together.
In my culture, we would recite the Quran. It is in Arabic, and we recited it morning and evening, but we don’t have to [understand] what is written there. The new Christians have used the same method for reading the Bible. I have been putting Bible studies together to teach them how to read and understand the Bible.
For now, the new converts are calling me for prayer. I hope they will learn to call each other for prayer and to depend on each other.
I also do the translation of the books of the Bible into my language. Twenty-six books from the Old and New Testaments have been completed. I’m working on 1 Corinthians now. I go through the six drafts; the last one is the actual translation.
I finished working on The Jesus Film. I translated it into my language and found actors to dub the movie.
Sue: How do you have the energy to do all you do?
Asma: When I’m telling from here, it sounds crazy, but when you’re doing it, it’s just … you’re doing it. I have a family that lives nearby. They’re a mother, a father, and their grown-up son. They help do the work because they’re caring, gentle, loving people. I pay them for the work. I have this other brother from the northern part of the country helping me. He volunteers anytime we want him; he’s available. Also, there are so many doctors, physical therapists, and nurses who are believers. All of these people feel like the team working with me.
Would you pray for courageous and faithful missionaries like Asma? Download “7 Days of Prayer for Native Missionaries” today to get started.
*Names have been changed for security.