Chris and Deb Hindal just returned from a six-week trip to Asia, what Chris calls “my longest trip ever” in his ministry of representing GARBC churches to a growing network of international partners. The 26,000-mile trip took them to five countries, along with more than a few airport layovers.
The International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries includes more than 50 church groups around the world—with two-thirds of them in Asia. The IPFBM now represents more than 10,000 Baptist churches worldwide.
“My ministry is changing,” Chris says. “When I travel to visit our international partners, I try to maximize my time by pulling the partners together in one location and helping them visualize how they can minister together on a local level.”
Daegu, South Korea
Pastor Joseph Hwang, a graduate of Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa., is the founding pastor of Spring Water Baptist Church. God has greatly used Pastor Hwang and his wife, Sue, as they minister in this city of 2.5 million people, the fourth largest in South Korea.
I spoke at a Saturday evening gathering at the Hwangs’ home, sharing with them the scope of the International Partnership. In Sunday School the next day, I presented a study on the end times, then, during the morning worship service, challenged them with the characteristics of the true church. Every Sunday the church fellowships together around a noon meal followed by an afternoon service. This church warmly received us, showing gracious and generous hospitality, giving us tours of the area sights and feeding us wonderful traditional Korean cuisine. Spring Water Baptist currently supports four pastors from the International Partnership in other countries. While we were there, Pastor Hwang challenged the church to take on two more international pastors this year.
God opened the way for us to visit the ministry center of the Bangladesh Tribal Association of Baptist Churches in Lama, located in the Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. This remote and mountainous region has restricted access for foreigners; no missionary had received permission to enter for over a year. God opened the way for us when Brother Uttam Tripura gained permission and served as our host on behalf of the BTABC. Most of the churches scattered throughout this vast mountainous region were started by Bangladeshi evangelists, who have now reached eight of the 11 Hill Tract tribes. What a testimony to the indigenous principle of nationals reaching nationals with the message of the gospel!
I brought extended greetings from their brothers and sisters in the United States, preaching a message in three of the churches on Sunday. The believers showed great appreciation for the encouragement they received from our presence and words. We were showered with bouquets and leis of flowers. The BTABC joined the International Partnership last year and received the right hand of fellowship at the GARBC Conference (see sidebar “Not on the Map” below).
A few days after our visit in the Hill Tracts, I met with the BTABC executive committee in Malumghat, where ABWE’s Memorial Christian Hospital has been ministering for many years. This meeting allowed me to explain the breadth and benefits of the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries. The pastors were not only encouraged that they were a part of something bigger than themselves, but they got excited about the resources available to them on the IPFBMconnect website. They began thinking about the possibility of holding a joint conference with another association in their region that is also a partner in the IPFBM. With their 207 churches isolated from contact, the thought of a joint conference brought them hope as they plant churches in the hills.
Later I met with the officers of the Bangladesh Association of Baptist Churches, where Pastor Ajoy Mitra is chairman. This association started in 1998 and has 17 churches among the Bengali-speaking people. All the churches have pastors—some serving full-time, others serving without pay. Eight church planters are also ministering. One church was started last year, and two were started this year. The goal for 2013 is to start three churches. When I proposed holding a joint conference with the tribal churches, their officers also responded positively. Such a conference would cost about $2,000. The churches will take offerings for that purpose but will need some outside help.
While in Bangladesh, I also had the opportunity to speak at the dedication service for the second printing of Unger’s Bible Handbook in Bengali. Advanced orders were to be processed that week, as sales were opened that day. Gospel Literature Services funded both the first and second printings. (Read “GLS Funds 2nd Printing of Unger’s Bible Handbook in Bengali.”) Praise God for providing this most requested book by Bengali pastors.
Meeting with the leaders of two Thai Baptist church associations, an ABWE missionary couple, and several missionaries from the Philippine Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, I had another opportunity to introduce the International Partnership. This meeting in Bangkok set the stage for future partnerships in Thailand. I again shared the partnership’s history, organization, and function, outlining various ways the associations could potentially cooperate in fulfilling the Great Commission globally. The morning-long meeting was punctuated with questions and closed with a delicious meal provided by the hosts, Charlie and Lourdes Holmes, PABWE missionaries. Praise God for new friends!
Bangyai Baptist Church and Pastor and Mrs. Nimrod Acosta opened their doors and their hearts to us on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The church gathers in a small rented room near Bangkok. Pastor Nimrod pioneered this ministry in 1996 as a Filipino missionary with PABWE. Using the American Thanksgiving as their theme, the church sang hymns and choruses expressing thankfulness and watched a video on the first Thanksgiving in America. Prior to the morning service, the church was filled with English classes that met from 8:30 to 10:30, a great outreach. The class I visited had one believer and five Buddhists. For the last 15 minutes of the class, a visiting Thai pastor gave his salvation testimony, speaking in Thai. The Sunday service concluded with a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and blueberry pie. Praise God for the light of the gospel shining in Bangyai, Thailand!
I arranged for a meeting of the six Myanmar church associations who are part of the IPFBM. Meeting at the Biblical School of Theology, I explained the nature and function of the International Partnership and its design to have a missions emphasis focused on the world. Each partner told about the scope of their ministry, with the others asking questions. Though they minister in the same country, several of the men had not met before, creating an informational and inspirational dynamic. They were all greatly encouraged by the work God is doing among fundamental Baptists in their own country.
The commitment level of the men was demonstrated by the time, expense, and energy required to attend this meeting. One of them took two and a half days traveling by motorcycle, bus, car, and taxi to arrive at the meeting. Another man willingly rode a bus 23 hours each way, not wanting to miss the meeting. Around the lunch table the men began discussing the possibility of a first-ever Myanmar regional meeting of the international partners. They asked me for help in organizing the first regional meeting, but believe they can host later meetings on their own. They are going to pray about holding the first meeting in 2014.
With 140 young people training for ministry, the Biblical School of Theology emphasizes missions throughout its curriculum and Christian service. On a Sunday two weeks before our trip ended, I challenged the students with the urgency of proclaiming the gospel in light of the end-time events. In addition, I used PowerPoint to show how the gospel is impacting the regions of the world through the International Partnership. Dr. Timothy and Lily Mang took us out for dinner before escorting us to the airport.
On the north side of Tokyo stands a church building representing the miraculous power of God. Like most fundamental Japanese churches, Bethel Baptist Church rented facilities for nearly 20 years. Then God provided in an amazing way, using a Japanese family to acquire a former electrical shop along with the owner’s attached home. The home even has a Jacuzzi to immerse new believers as a testimony to God’s saving grace. With only minor renovation, the church was readied for use. The parking area will hold 12 cars, but the church would like to purchase a vacant lot for additional parking.
Pastor Joe Mita, a Japanese-born Baptist Mid-Missions missionary, treated us royally, as did his wife and the congregation. Speaking on the last Sunday of our trip, I presented the IPFBM partnership during the Sunday School hour and then challenged the congregation with its outreach responsibility. Two ladies made public decisions about their service for the Lord. Following the morning service, everyone gathered in the fellowship room upstairs for a wonderful meal and enriching conversation. The Japanese population has less than 1 percent born-again Christians. Japan’s freedom of religion—coupled with materialism—results in people who are unaware of their spiritual need and their lostness.
Not on the Map
When Uttam Tripura visited the GARBC Conference, he gave a few directions to anyone interested in finding his church.
Start at the Malumghat Bazar bus stop, a short walk from ABWE’s Memorial Christian Hospital in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh. Travel to the Thanchi station, a trip of seven and a half hours. (Hint: This is not a route that plots easily on Google Maps.) From there, take the boat to Remarca, another day. Then start walking for three or four days. (“A villager could do it in two and a half days,” says Tripura.)
You’ve arrived in Jogot Chandra. At this point you are very close to the Myanmar border, gaining a better understanding of why the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says, “We advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts.”
But here you will find a Baptist church, one of 207 churches in the Bangladesh Tribal Association of Baptist Churches. The group recently joined the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries, an international organization representing more than 10,000 Baptist churches worldwide.
“In 1956 a missionary came to Chonda Kha Tripura, my grandfather’s village,” Uttam Tripura says, explaining the tribal roots of his surname, and how villages are often named after a tribal elder or a respected pastor.
In the late 1950s, ABWE missionaries Victor Barnard and Paul Miller returned to the village and organized a church, Tripura says. The mission agency had organized their ministry in Chittagong and Hebron Station. From there they took treks into the Hill Tracts, resulting in many new churches. But the work was difficult. The Barnards’ 14-year-old-daughter, Mary, died here after contracting postsurgical peritonitis. Her passing haunted the missionaries, who were convinced she would have lived if they had access to a hospital. Then Paul Miller died after a sudden polio attack at age 42. These events motivated ABWE to construct the Malumghat hospital.
After the missionaries in Chittagong and Malumghat began planting churches, the new churches began planting other churches, and the network quickly grew.
“We have evangelists who visit village to village, speaking person to person, family to family,” Tripura says. “We declare a church when there are more than 15 members, believers. Then the church selects a pastor.”
This year the village evangelists hope to start 15 more churches. Tripura suggests that U.S. churches could consider sponsoring one evangelist for $70 a month, an amount that covers his salary, family needs, and travel expenses. Or he suggests that partnering churches could provide a new tin roof for one of the churches, a cost of about $400.
Chris Hindal is director of GARBC International Ministries. Deb Hindal (photos) is his wife and administrative assistant.