We stood in the living room of our home in a small town in South Asia. We were packed and ready to head to the airport to return to the States. Our living room was loaded with people from the community who had gathered to pray for us as we departed. Tears filled all of our eyes as we said our good-byes. Uncertainty filled our minds as we wondered how this community of believers would continue to grow in a sometimes hostile environment without us there to walk through the challenges by their side.

When we moved our family to this small town over eight years ago, our vision was to see a multiplying church blessing every village in our state. As we drove away, that vision and our commitment to the people we had been serving remained strong. Our minds swirled with many questions and doubts. Our participation in their lives was changing from very personal, daily interactions to regular meetings via video conferences. In a culture that is highly relational, we knew staying connected would be essential. But what would happen when they needed us and we weren’t there? What would happen if their faith was challenged and we weren’t with them in person? Now we were challenged to trust God with the vision he had given.

One morning shortly after Christmas, we received an unscheduled call from one of our developing leaders, Santosh.* During a recent visit to his village, he was approached by the local leaders. They confronted him on the fact that he had become a follower of Jesus. Santosh was told to go back to following Hinduism or there would be trouble for him and his family. These kinds of threats can mean anything from being kicked out of the local community to physical harm. Despite being caught off guard by this aggressive confrontation, he remained calm and confident. Rather than being intimidated, Santosh simply shared why he has decided to be a follower of Jesus and the changes that have taken place in his life.

Their faith is shown to be strong, and we are hopeful for the future of this region of South Asia.

Once the church leadership learned of this, they organized a 24-hour prayer and fasting chain. Many people from the local church family committed one hour of focused prayer, and they fasted together as well. They committed to supporting each other and standing for their faith. The way the local believers and leadership responded was a true reflection of authentic faith.

A few weeks after this incident, several of the church leaders gathered at the pastor’s house. In the back yard, plastic tarps and bed sheets were hung to block the view from the road. Choosing to be baptized in our region is often a statement that can bring difficulties to the believer. Because of that reason, baptisms are done in the presence of the church community only. Everyone there gathered around the stone water tank of the house. After a short time of singing and a small message, the pastor stepped down into the cold water. Santosh boldly made his way into the water to be baptized. This was a step of faith that he didn’t take lightly. Santosh had counted the cost of following Jesus. He knew the cost could be high, but for him, Jesus was worth it. He was the final member of his family to be baptized. A total of 19 believers made the meaningful decision to be baptized.

We didn’t need to worry about how the local believers would get along without us being physically present. Their faith is shown to be strong, and we are hopeful for the future of this region of South Asia. As we continue to trust God with the work that is happing in our community, Santosh and the local believers are trusting God for everything.

*Names omitted or changed for security.