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Frustration. Fatigue. Failure. These emotions overwhelmed me as I stumbled toward the finish line of completing my first ministry term in Bangladesh in 1967.
And exactly what did I have to report to our friends and churches—faithful supporters for five seemingly interminable years? I could talk about living without electricity and running water in a small village, or about learning a language for which my lungs produced a torrent of air when only a gentle puff was required.
But what about John 15? The assurance of "much fruit" had prompted this 24-year-old zealot to take his lovely bride of nine months to a remote village where not one convert from Islam had ever existed. Fruit? What fruit? Not one believer. Not even one inquirer to show for my marathon of perseverance.
After years of even more effort, our team of 21 missionaries embarked into the unknown in 1975. As far as we could research, no one was attempting to design and implement a contextualized way to evangelize Muslims.
We were living in a country of tens of millions of Muslims—but only 100 had come to Christ over the past 50 years. Most of these believers were extracted from their community and financially dependent on the small national church, heavily subsidized by foreigners.
The traditional Bangladeshi church was and is an amalgam of Western and Hindi influences. Iswar, a polytheistic word for "God," was the word missionary William Carey chose in the early 1800s while translating the Bible into Bengali. To Hindus, who compose about 10 percent of the Bangladesh population, Iswar is a positive bridge word into the Christian faith. But to Muslims, who compose the other 90 percent, it is abhorrent to think of God in terms of multiplicity and idol worship.
No faithful Muslim would ever enter a mosque wearing shoes. They cleanse their feet, hands, and face prior to worship. Sitting on the floor and prostrating themselves are acts of deep humility before the sovereign ...