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For many years John has been the Pastor of Betkuri Baptist Church in Haluaghat, Mymensingh. The districts of Bangladesh are divided into subdistricts, or "upazilas", including Haluaghat. Haluaghat has a population of 242,000, and is made up of several small villages between high forests.
An Australian believer named Will K visited Betkuri Baptist Church almost 20 years ago, and encouraged Pastor John to share Christ with others in his upazila. Will gave him a GRN Messenger Player with some gospel story cassettes and flip charts. Pastor John was delighted with the resources and used them tirelessly to witness for Christ to the many people in his church who are oral communicators, and also in the Hazang and Coach Tribal areas.
An estimated 2.5 million people in Bangladesh belong to indigenous ethnic tribal groups, which are sometimes known as "Adibashis." The area is divided politically, but culturally it shares a common heritage. There are at least 40 different ethnic groups, which mainly inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts and plains area around Mymensingh. Most of these tribal groups are Buddhist, Hindu and Animist.
The Hazang and Coach Tribes have been living with the Garo Tribe (otherwise known as Mandi hill people) in different villages. The majority of the Garo Tribe are Christians, whilst the Hazang and Coach Tribes are mainly Hindu. All the tribal children attend the same school, and play together, with many becoming very close friends.
In 1998 there were four boys - Ananta, Bikash, Jony and Ashish Hazang, studying in grade 3. They had made wonderful friends with the Garo Christian children and enjoyed playing with them in the playground. Every Friday the Garo children were absent from the playground as they attended Bible lessons with Pastor John, which saddened the Hazang boys. They loved the playtime with the Garo children and missed them on Fridays.
One Friday, the four Hazang boys made the decision to go with the Garo boys to their Church, and listen to the teachings of Pastor John, rather than play alone. The boys grew to love the stories of Jesus and the beautiful bright pictures in the GRN flip books, so they attended the Bible classes every Friday. Before long they became involved with other activities in the Church program and were interested to know more about Christ's love. Pastor John continued teaching the boys and during this time Will returned to Haluaghat with gifts of a new model player and picture books.
Through the wonderful teachings the boys repented of their sins and acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. They realised that only Jesus can save, and that the gods and goddesses they had worshipped, had no power at all. It was a wonderful day.
Beginning their new lives in Christ was not easy for the young men. They were persecuted for their conversion by their families and others in the district. The young men continued to fellowship with the Garo Christians and to mature in their faith. The families did all they could to discourage them, and to dissuade them from associating with their Garo friends, blaming them for the conversion. The young men patiently endured the persecution, refusing to bow down to the gods and goddesses of their old religion. Their faith grew and they attended Pastor John's church regularly.
Pastor John lovingly mentored the young men and encouraged them in every way he could. With his support, they passed their intermediate examination and were given the opportunity to study further in the Haluaghat Mission Centre. They were a great blessing to the Hazang people and were loved dearly by them.
Bikash Hazang continued to share the gospel with his family and as a result, his parents and one of his brothers became Christians. The men are very happy with their lives and serve the Lord faithfully.
Pastor John is now 60 years old and continues to share the gospel with as many people as he can. He had the opportunity to meet some GRN staff at a book stall at Garo Baptist Convention in February 2009 and was able to acquire more GRN resources. Pastor John has effectively used GRN materials to enhance his witness of Christ for many years. Through his hard work and faithfulness to the great commission, many people have heard about Christ and become born-again.