Hello, my dear friends,
How I wish I could sit with you, share some chai and tell you about all the amazing things God did in 2016 through your partnership and through the lives of our brothers and sisters on the field. If I think about all the good things that happened just last year in 2016, I'm amazed once again by how great our God is!
Men, women and children in Asia are living new lives in Christ Jesus. We've seen people healed from life-threatening diseases, the poor freed from poverty, discrimination against women reduced, congregations strengthened by God's Word—and that is only the beginning. We've also seen our brothers and sisters on the field endure a tremendous amount of opposition for the sake of Christ.
In the U.S., we too have had our share of struggles and difficulties, as you likely are aware. Yet in the midst of it all, we have seen the Lord faithfully sustain us and go before us day after day.
By God's grace, in 2016 we've seen amazing accomplishments in the field. This report shows only a small part of what God is doing on the mission field. I wish we had the means to share with you every story of all that has taken place this past year, but my prayer is that even through this brief report, you will get a glimpse of the miraculous ways the Lord is moving throughout Asia.
I want you to know that if you have ever prayed, if you have ever supported, if you have ever given of your time or resources so people in Asia may know our Lord, you have not done it in vain. One thing is certain: We are striving together for the faith.
Our hearts at GFA are gripped more than ever by the passion the Lord first gave us 38 years ago: to take His love, in word and deed, to the untold millions who've never experienced hope in this life—but who may experience it in the life to come. God is answering our prayers, and you are part of seeing that fulfilled.
I thank you, my brother, my sister, for joining us on this journey. Your sacrifice is not in vain. I hope this special report encourages you.
May our Lord bless you and keep you.
Your servant for Christ,
K.P. Yohannan, Founder of GFA
The Lord God has consecrated men and women throughout Asia to be His servants in ministering His Word to those who are perishing without having heard His name. These are GFA-supported workers. They are the hands of Love, giving Christmas gifts to poor and destitute families; they are the mouth of Comfort, speaking words of freedom to fathers trapped in addiction and to mothers desperate for help; they are the feet of Peace, bringing messages of hope amid adversity and hardships.
It was September 4, 2016, and Kaamila prepared dinner for herself and her daughter. Grabbing the poison off the shelf, she mixed the only relief she could imagine into their meal. Kaamila's life was miserable.
Her husband stayed away from her. Her daughter never obeyed her. Kaamila felt it was better to end her life than to live it. After she finished mixing in the poison, she went looking for her daughter so they could die together. She found her next door with a crowd of people watching a movie hosted by a GFA-supported film team.
Kaamila became engrossed in the movie, which was about a family so entrenched in debt they had planned suicide. Tears streamed down Kaamila's cheeks as she watched.
One of the film-team missionaries approached the grieving woman and discovered her situation. She comforted Kaamila and shared more about God's love. Then the film team went to Kaamila's house, threw out the poisoned food and prayed. A friendship soon developed, and Kaamila began seeing miracles in her family. Her husband became attentive to her. Her daughter was obedient—thanks to a children's club the missionaries had started. The Lord replaced Kaamila's sorrow with peace.
"The Lord Jesus changed my family's fate," she says. "I will be a witness for Him throughout my life."
Angry shouts filled the room. The smell of alcohol clung to Kuwar as he yelled at his family. Kuwar's youngest son, Bijay, hunkered down amidst the familiar scene. His schoolbooks lay abandoned—how could he study while his father was enraged?
Food was scarce in Bijay's house, but the supply of his father's strong drink never ran short. Although Kuwar had a job as a laborer in paddy fields, he relinquished very little of his income to provide for his family. His wife struggled to make ends meet, and her difficulty to provide food only worsened over time.
Bijay's family lived in a village riddled with poverty. Civil war had ravaged the region, and many lives remained shattered.
While some families were financially stable, other families were unable to give their children proper food or opportunities to continue their education. Some children labored alongside their parents to help earn money instead of attending school. Their futures uncertain, they did all they could just to buy food for the day.
Bijay watched his parents struggle—one trapped in an addiction and the other caught in its wake—and worried about his family. Many other children in his village were poor, but Bijay saw some of his friends eating good food, wearing new clothes to school and studying with new school materials. The sharp contrast between his family and these other families made Bijay wonder when he would be the boy happily going to school with a full stomach and nice clothes.
With so many children in need of assistance, Bridge of Hope staff members pray for wisdom and carefully interview families to determine which children need help first.
Then one day, some GFA-supported Bridge of Hope staff members visited Bijay's home, conducting a survey to invite additional children to join the Bridge of Hope center in the area. With so many children in need of assistance, Bridge of Hope staff members pray for wisdom and carefully interview families to determine which children need help first.
After the staff members talked with Bijay's family and learned of his plight, they decided to enroll him in Bridge of Hope.
The day Bijay had always dreamed of finally came! Knowing the young boy's need, the Bridge of Hope staff gave Bijay new shoes, school uniforms, school supplies and even a new backpack for carrying his precious books. Bijay also received a nutritious meal each school day and regular medical checkups, which enabled him to grow stronger physically.
Yet even with these joys, the problems in Bijay's family still burdened his heart. Worry held Bijay back in his studies, preventing him from being able to concentrate well.
When the Bridge of Hope staff understood what was troubling Bijay, they helped him. They visited Bijay's father often and encouraged him to leave his drinking habit. The young boy learned that his teachers truly cared about his family and, even better, that Jesus cared about his family, too. Bijay faithfully prayed for his father, asking Jesus to help Kuwar overcome his alcohol addiction.
Gradually, Kuwar stopped drinking and his love for his family grew stronger. The money Kuwar would have used to buy his alcohol now went to meet the needs of his family, which made a substantial impact on their financial situation.
As Bijay's worries faded away, he diligently applied himself to his studies, thankful for the help he received at the Bridge of Hope center.
"I thank Jesus for blessing my family," Bijay shared.
God worked through Bridge of Hope to shine joy into the life of young Bijay and to also bring peace to his entire family.
I sat on the deck of the boat, my skin sticky from the humidity while a warm breeze brushed the hair off my face. As I looked past the murky brown river, I could see a group of almost-naked children on the far shore playing and laughing in the water. Behind them in the distance were thatched huts nestled by the trees. Closer to me, coming from the deck below, I heard happy, quick voices speaking words I could not understand. One by one, the faces of the missionaries below came up the ladder, smiles beaming and eyes sparkling.
Before I visited Asia to see the work GFA supports, I had anticipated my heart being burdened for the desperate people I would see. I was prepared to be impacted by the transformed lives I would meet inside the churches. What I didn't foresee was the deep connection I would experience with the men and women missionaries I would walk alongside. Their infectious joy and dedication to the Lord called me to something deeper.
These men and women were exactly whom I imagined them to be yet completely different.
I have read the amazing stories coming out of Asia: miraculous healing, supernatural protection in the face of persecution, and hundreds experiencing the love of Jesus personally through the humble service of Sisters of Compassion. When I was in Asia, I met a Sister of Compassion. I met a missionary whom escaped persecution. I met a pastor whom God used to bring miraculous healing. And when I met them, I met my brother and my sister, my co-laborer, my friend. I felt a deep attachment and camaraderie to these precious servants of the Lord.
I am one of them, and they are one of us.
Now that I'm home from my trip, I often think of the brothers and sisters I met in Asia. My joy and dedication to the Lord has multiplied with each individual I met oversees.
Romans 12 verses 5 and 10 now have flesh and blood for me. When I read these verses, I am back on that boat, floating on a river, seeing the smiling faces and laughing eyes of my friends as they serve in the remote islands of Asia.
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . . . "
Not a single nurse or doctor could be found among the 1,500 people in Kinjal's village, yet the lack of medical help hardly concerned the general population. Along the dirt roads that wove through the thatched-roof homes in the village lived superstitions and misunderstandings about health care, especially concerning pregnancies.
Some people thought visiting the doctor would result in worse health after taking all the medicine, while others were simply afraid of receiving shots or swallowing pills. Some women feared that iron supplements taken during pregnancy would cause the baby to grow faster and hurt the mother in the process.
A lack of knowledge about general health and hygiene also caused many people to get sick. Some worked outside all day in the intense humidity and wore the same sweat-drenched clothes for several days at a time—without taking baths. In the homes, surroundings were often dirty, and food could be found uncovered, inviting insects and other critters to a feast.
In light of their neighbors' living situations, Kinjal and her husband, a GFA-supported pastor named Rahas, recognized the crucial need to conduct a health care training seminar for the women in their village. One of those women was Sarasi.
Sarasi (pictured) and her husband, Cholan, were both believers and were married for five years before they had their first daughter. A few years later, Sarasi became pregnant again. Like many women in her village, Sarasi didn't know how to take care of her body while expecting a child—nobody taught her how.
"I was very sad when I learned that our baby died in my wife's womb. I regretted the situation we lived in because none of us had the knowledge or information about how to take care of a pregnant lady."
Visiting the doctor for a pregnancy checkup was unheard of in her family. Being a hard worker, Sarasi often carried heavy loads that strained her body, and she knew little about the importance of day-to-day cleanliness in the home, including the simple act of hand washing. Sadly, unawareness led to Sarasi's eventual miscarriage during her second pregnancy.
"I was very sad when I learned that our baby died in my wife's womb," Cholan remembers. "I regretted the situation we lived in because none of us had the knowledge or information about how to take care of a pregnant lady."
Yet in their time of grief, Sarasi and Cholan found comfort in the encouragement of their neighbors, Kinjal and Pastor Rahas—and in the presence of the Lord.
Sometime later, Kinjal invited Sarasi to attend a health care training seminar in the village, led by the local Women's Fellowship. During the training, approximately 30 women learned how to take care of themselves and their families, including little ones growing in the womb.
Sarasi and the other women were taught how important it is for women to visit the doctor and take prescribed medicines and to put fewer, less physical demands on their bodies when they are pregnant. They also learned simple ways to keep a household clean and free of dangerous bacteria.
Sarasi's family is healthy now, and it's growing: The Lord blessed Sarasi and Cholan with a baby boy not long after the seminar. The proud parents know their son is a gift from God.
"I will teach my child to trust and believe in God," Cholan says. "[I will tell him], ‘It is our trust and faith in Jesus that you were born healthy and sound, so you are actually a gift and an answer from our God.' "
Tavleen (pictured) tearfully took the rope from the pastor's hand, overwhelmed at the gift staring back at her from the other end of the leash. Was this water buffalo really hers? Who would give her, a lonely widow, such a valuable gift?
Tavleen had lived a difficult life in a small, unfinished house with her husband, Bhavin, and their two young children. Bhavin was the sole breadwinner for the family, and although money was scarce, they managed to provide scanty meals for their children.
Then one day, Bhavin had a heart attack and collapsed. He was gone. The family's financial situation was already precarious, and the death of Tavleen's husband brought further devastation.
Tavleen, 55, quickly stepped into the role of provider, but the cleaning jobs she found couldn't fully support her family. Her seventh-grade son realized their desperate situation and decided to drop out of school to work as a daily laborer, hoping to help his mother. Soon, his younger sister followed his example and began taking care of the home instead of going to school.
For two years, Tavleen's family struggled alone—until God brought a stranger to Tavleen's doorstep.
Pastor Chintan, a GFA-supported pastor in Tavleen's village, happened to visit her home while he was meeting families in the community. Although many people in Asia believe widows carry a curse that caused their husbands' deaths, Pastor Chintan understood how much God loves widows. Pastor Chintan couldn't solve Tavleen's financial problems, but he gave her what he did have to give: the knowledge of Someone who could carry her burdens and give her hope.
Later, on International Widows Day, Pastor Chintan honored the hurting women in his community by organizing a gift distribution. By distributing gifts provided through GFA's Christmas Gift Catalog, he could bless widows with income-generating gifts—something he couldn't have done on his own.
The generosity of the Church touched her heart and filled her with excitement for the future—this gift would completely transform her family!
He arranged for Tavleen to receive a water buffalo, knowing it would provide nutritious milk for her and her children to sell and drink.
Tears ran down Tavleen's face when she joyfully received her water buffalo. The generosity of the Church touched her heart and filled her with excitement for the future—this gift would completely transform her family!
Tavleen and her children patiently waited for their pregnant buffalo to have a calf and start producing milk. Then, after a few months, the water buffalo surprised Tavleen by giving birth to two calves instead of one!Milk vendors began buying buffalo milk from Tavleen, giving her a steady income of $22–$30 every month. With her new earnings, Tavleen repaired her damaged house and even began saving up for the future.
The kindness Pastor Chintan showed to Tavleen through his concern for her and the gift of the water buffalo warmed this widow's heart. She began attending worship services with his congregation, where she heard more about the One who truly cares about widows and orphans. The truth of Christ's great love and mercy resonated within Tavleen and her children, and each one decided to receive the Greatest Gift ever given.
Their hearts overflow with gratitude toward those who provided for their needs and toward the Lord, who saw them in their time of struggle.
In 2016 I had the privilege of visiting Asia with my husband and another GFA staff member. This trip was a huge answer to prayer for me. I had been praying for more than three years for the opportunity to see the work on the field that my life is part of as I serve in the U.S. administrative headquarters—and for even longer than that I have had the desire to travel to Asia.
It was such a joy for me to witness firsthand what I had previously only heard about in other people's testimonies or read about in the field reports we receive on a regular basis.
But I was also surprised by some of the things I learned and experienced.
One of these surprises came up on multiple occasions throughout the time we were visiting the various areas of ministry. When our guides would finish telling us about the work the Lord is doing in specific areas, some would end their commentary with the statement, "This is the result of your prayers."
It shouldn't have surprised me, but it did—especially when that refrain kept getting repeated. Although I know we are engaged in spiritual warfare and our greatest weapon is prayer, the pragmatic side of me wants to say it's the work I do in the office (what I can see) that makes a difference for the work we're supporting in Asia. But none of the people we met said, "Thank you for what you do in the U.S. office to support our work here."
This is not to downplay the important role we as believers in the West have in supporting our brothers and sisters who are working on the "front lines" of the ministry— whether the Lord has called us to pray, to serve behind the scenes, to give, or some combination of all those. But it was good for me to realign my focus with God's perspective. I need to remember on a consistent basis that it's not ultimately the tasks I complete in a day that make an eternal difference in people's lives.
Regardless of our job title, skill, talents or physical capabilities, when we serve the Lord from a heart of worship, He takes our feeble efforts and uses them for the building of His kingdom. What a tremendous honor He gives us to be part of this glorious work.
"Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith . . . "
The faintest hints of the sun's rays begin to streak across the sky and bounce off the plastic-tarp rooftops as one man makes his way along the narrow alleyways of the slum. Some people recognize him and smile; others take little notice. Many have known him since childhood. The man steps around dirty puddles and piles of garbage; he ducks under low-hanging wash lines, strung between houses and laden with wet clothes. Every morning, Pastor Martin (pictured) walks this route with purpose and prayer.
Martin, also known as Marty, lives and ministers in the same Asian slum he was born and raised in. As a young boy in a poor family, he often dug for food in the bottom of dirty garbage bins to fill his empty stomach. He and his mother were left alone when his father died of alcoholism, and in sixth grade, Marty suddenly found himself shouldering the responsibilities as the new head of the family. The daily struggles and addictions each day holds for a child living in the slum had been his own.
Life in the slums is a vicious, generational cycle. Alcoholic husbands provide families with little money and even less leadership. Wives, many uneducated, take up daily labor jobs to try to stay afloat. Children drop out of school as early as second grade to help earn money. Some kids never step foot inside a school at all—their families are unable to pay for water or electricity, let alone their kids' education.
"He does what Jesus would have done. Helping the poor and needy and also loving people."
Garbage litters the streets. Dirty drinking water and the absence of simple hygienic practices like hand-washing cause disease rates to soar. Prostitution, sex trafficking and other crimes hold countless people in bondage with no escape.
"I went through what these children are going through," Marty says. "That gave me a burden . . . and pain in my heart."
In 2006, the Lord led Pastor Marty to start what would become the first ministry in the slum where he grew up: a GFA-supported Bridge of Hope center. Now, 10 years later, there is a second Bridge of Hope center and three churches led by GFA-supported pastors. God has blessed Marty's efforts amidst the hopelessness of the slum.
"[He] is a great example for us as he represents Jesus," one believer says of Pastor Marty. "He does what Jesus would have done. Helping the poor and needy and also loving people. . . . He is always willing to help people."
Because Pastor Marty has lived in the slums his whole life, locals relate well to him. They feel at ease and are willing to open up and share their lives with him.
"He knows the situation, experienced the situation and [grew up] in the same situation," one believer explains about Marty. "He understands [the slum life] better than anyone else."
Marty is reminded of his difficult past on a continual basis. Yet he knows every hurt, every trial and every tear has an eternal purpose.
"Ever since my childhood, the pain and difficult situations and poverty—all those things," Pastor Marty says, "when I look back, [they] were tools in the Lord's hands to make me strong and to trust and [have] faith in Him, so I would, in the future, do ministry."
To all those who have ever prayed for people
to be touched by the love of Jesus in word and deed:
To those who give of their time
and their resources so others may know the Lord Jesus Christ:
To those who have persevered with us
Your labor, your sacrifice, your tears, your prayers, your support have not been in vain. Men, women and children are living new lives in Christ because of you—and the testimonies you read in this special report gives evidence to that truth.
As we continue to move forward, pressing on to the end, it is our prayer that even more men and women will experience the all-surpassing love of Christ through the ministry of GFA.
Please know that what you do matters, and the GFA world would not be the same without you.
Let us continue to persevere and to remember the faithfulness of our Lord.
—Your friends at GFA