Dr. Ajit Paul, his wife Maya, and another missionary walked into the marketplace of Porsha Upazila in northern Bangladesh. Ajit approached a group of men and asked, “Where are the tribal people living in this region?” The men pointed to a jungle area in the distance and then resumed their conversation.
Ajit was sent by Bangladesh Outreach Ministries, which established its first church in the country in 1984. The ministry takes the Great Commission seriously and searches throughout Bangladesh to find native people groups who have never heard the name of Jesus. As of today, BOM has reached 28 of the known 52 unreached people groups in this northern region.
The group trudged on. They came to a small village called Balichan and met with a group of people who called themselves the Mal-Pahari. The missionaries had never heard of them before.
“Good day. I am a village doctor and a Christian missionary,” Ajit ventured. “What god do you worship?”
“God? We worship gods, goddesses, and idols. We follow Hinduism.” They seemed to feel sorry for Ajit because he only had one God.
The village leader and Ajit engaged in conversation about this God, and then Ajit asked if he could address the entire village. Permission was granted.
“My God’s name is Jesus,” he began. This was the first time they had ever heard that name! The mission team proclaimed and explained the Gospel and sang worship songs. The villagers were not convinced, but they were introduced to the Truth.
Now that the first steps have been taken, the challenge is to return, probably again and again, and show them Christian love. Ajit will return with others to distribute gifts—cooking pots or new hunting tools—to the chief and the tribe.
Building relationships and trust takes time. When a relationship is established, the chief will be asked if a missionary can actually live among them. Once a part of the community, the missionary can show the people helpful skills, such as how to garden and plant fruit trees, or he or she may offer to teach the children. As the missionary brings improvements to the tribe, they will be more open to hear what he or she has to say about Jesus.
The goal is to “reach” this unreached people group, but not just to gain a few representative converts. They want to start an indigenous movement here that could transform the whole population. (Joshua Project calls a people group “unreached” if it is less than 2% Evangelical Christian. It’s not just a number; its a signal that there is an indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people.)
The chief told Ajit about three other villages of Mal-Pahari peoples. The team visited and shared with them as well—for the first time!
As Gandhi once said, “A small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
How do you reach more unreached people groups? Native missionaries apply strategies specific to each mission field. For Bangladesh Outreach Ministries this often includes operating primary schools, Bible schools, and adult literacy classes. They also conduct film outreaches and plant churches.