In March of 2016, we entered into a time of prayer and discernment. Seeking God’s direction, a new core team explored how the Learning Centre could expand its reach. The team included a young couple from the UK, a couple from the Nazarene Church, two YWAM staff, and myself. The mission was to love people in Jesus’ name, respond to their felt needs, and introduce them to Jesus while providing a safe place for them.
In April 2016, we started a pilot project for women to run sewing classes on Tuesday afternoons. We also put together homeschool packets to gauge the interest in a potential two-afternoon-a-week school for Rohingya children. There was great excitement and enthusiasm as we looked to the future for what God had for the Learning Centre.
The pilot projects did not go as expected. We all felt that we should not move ahead with either the sewing class or the schooling. We didn’t have enough staff for the school, and most of the Rohingya women wouldn’t leave their homes for safety reasons. However, the women and children continued to come on Sunday evenings.
In early 2015, a young man from Bangladesh arrived. Adnan was a Muslim background believer. He had a heart for his people and a growing desire to reach the Rohingya with the Gospel. Adnan joined us at the International Church and was loved and cared for by our church family. He helped us at the Learning Centre while making connections in the area. God used him to introduce many people to Christ. In the fall of 2016, Adnan and I both felt it was time to expand our reach to another part of our area. We met at some hawker stalls with a group of men to study English on Friday nights. Elie was the first student who joined us that night, and he invited many of his friends to our classes each week.
The hawker stalls were a very public place, and there was a lot of interest; however, unless we found a more private place to meet, we would never be able to introduce Bible stories or talk about Jesus. We prayed, and God provided an office building for classes. The young men loved coming every week, and for about 18 months, we had many new, consistent students. Adnan and I recruited volunteers from the church to help us with this growing class. God was beginning to give many in the church family a deep love for the Rohingya!
This new group grew. Hundreds of men, a few women, and some children came through the doors, learned English, received help getting their refugee cards, received medical assistance, and were exposed to the Gospel. During this time, three more Canadians from the International Church joined us. It was so encouraging to see God build our team. Through our contacts, Adnan started a school for Rohingya children. The school went through some ups and downs and eventually closed in 2019.
In early 2017, once it was evident to the community that the Learning Centre wasn’t the UNHCR, the numbers dropped to a more manageable number. In May 2017, we stopped offering women’s and children’s ministries as there was no longer interest once it became clear we couldn’t provide UNHCR cards. However, some church volunteers continued visiting some women in their homes.
In the fall of 2017, one of our young men, Jad, decided to follow Jesus. A short time later, he was arrested and placed in detention. He had an awful time in detention because the guards repeatedly beat him. I asked him why the guards beat the prisoners, and he said, “Because they can.” After he was released in the spring of 2018, he suffered from constant back pain from the beatings and, as a result, has had a tough time holding down a job. Some volunteers invested a lot of time discipling Jad. He has a genuine desire to tell his people about Jesus, and he has continued to be active in sharing the Gospel with his community. Sadly, in June 2019, he was arrested again, even though he had his refugee card, and was placed in jail. After he was released in August 2019, he was very active in telling his community about Jesus.
In 2017, another young man, Rami, gave his life to Jesus. He was baptized in February 2018, and he has continued to deepen his faith. In 2020 and 2021, Rami has become an evangelist in his community. As a result, we hear about more and more Rohingya people who have given their lives to Jesus.
These three young men, Adnan, Jad, and Rami, will become leaders in the Rohingya church!
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