The Evangelization of Indian Muslims

This coach has a game plan to reach Muslims in India
Dec 8, 2005
By Erich Bridges
Baptist Press

EDITORS’ NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for
International Missions, Dec. 4-11, focuses on eight
strategy coordinator missionaries and a church serving
as a strategy coordinator, exemplifying the global
outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Today’s story is the
fifth in a series. Strategy-coordinator missionaries
play a key role in reaching the whole world with the
Gospel, focusing on people groups and cities by
studying cultures, learning languages and developing
master plans for reaching every individual with the

CALCUTTA (BP)--As the youngest high school football
coach in South Carolina Division 4-A history,
24-year-old Carter Bolin* relished the challenge of
motivating his team before games against bigger,
better opponents.

“I’d point across the field and tell my players, ‘Look
at those guys. Every one of them has 20 pounds on
every one of you. It’s gonna be fun to smack ’em,’”
Carter says. “Eventually my guys would start yelling,
‘Yeah! Yeah! Lemme at ’em!’ They might bounce off the
bigger guys a few times, but they’d eventually wear
’em down.”

Carter took his undersized, overachieving team to the
state semifinals for the first time since 1950 --
thrilling the whole town.

“I could’ve run for mayor after that,” he claims with
a grin.

Instead, he joined the ministry staff of his church,
East Cooper Baptist, next door to the Charleston-area
high school where he coached. He spent the next 18
years helping mobilize the growing congregation --
especially its young people -- to follow Christ into
the world. Local outreach spurred international
involvement. About 30 East Cooper members have become
missionaries after participating in short-term church
mission trips.

During the flight home from a two-week mission trip to
India, it was Carter’s turn to be mobilized -- by his
wife, Vienna*.

“It was miserable, it was hot, it was all the things
India can be,” he recalls. “But the people just broke
our hearts. There was a spiritual void, and they were
filling it with idols.

“When we got on the plane, Vienna looked at me and
said, ‘I could never serve in India.’ By the time we
touched down in the States, she was in tears. She
said, ‘I realized that I trust God with my kids in a
safe place like our home, but I don’t trust Him enough
to take them to India. We’re just paying lip service.’

“So we ended up mobilizing ourselves and our kids to
India. We just felt, ‘If not us, who? If not now,
when?’ It was time for me to put up or shut up,
because this is what I’d been preaching.”

That was five years ago. Today, as a Southern Baptist
missionary strategy coordinator, Carter faces a bigger
challenge than he ever encountered as a coach. 

Much, much bigger.

The challenge lies in the Indian state of West Bengal,
where William Carey launched the modern missionary
movement more than two centuries ago. Today it is home
to at least 80 million people. The majority are Hindus
-- the primary focus of Christian missions among
Bengalis since Carey’s day. But one in four Bengalis
proclaims Islam. Muslims comprise a quarter of the 16
million people of Calcutta (Kolkata), West Bengal’s
sprawling capital.

As in much of the rest of India, however, the real
numbers can be found in the villages. In West Bengal
and neighboring areas of India, Bengali-speaking
Muslims predominate in about 30,000 villages. Yes,

Carter’s vision and goal as a strategy coordinator is
to see Jesus Christ glorified through a
church-planting movement among the 27 million Muslims
of West Bengal and nearby areas. How? By planting a
jaamat -— or house church -— in each of those

It’s a vision that fits both parts of William Carey’s
famous motto: “Expect great things from God; attempt
great things for God.”

And it’s doable. In fact, it’s already beginning to
happen. More than 100 jaamats -- with about 1,000
former Muslims who have become baptized followers of
Isa Masih (Jesus Christ) -- have sprouted across West
Bengal during the past two years.

That represents only a typical month’s spiritual
harvest across the border in Bangladesh (once part of
Bengal), where several powerful church-planting
movements among Muslims now count more than a
half-million believers. And momentum is gathering.

“We feel like we’re on the end of the runway getting
ready for takeoff,” Carter reports. “Things are
starting to happen.”

What’s it going to take to reach the other 29,900
Muslim communities? Carter’s team intends to see at
least 50 reproducing churches begun in each of West
Bengal’s 15 majority Muslim districts, along with
three to five churches in each of Calcutta’s Muslim
areas. These churches, in turn, will multiply to
finish the task.

Carter personally knows about 30 of the 100 current
jaamat leaders. The rest are “second-generation”
disciples -- led to faith, nurtured and trained by
other jaamat leaders or the Bengali church planters
Carter and his missionary team have trained.

“We want to build this into the DNA, into the very
fabric and backbone of every jaamat: Now that you’ve
heard the Good News and received it, you must share it
with neighboring villages,” he explains. “It’s the
principle of reproduction, of multiplication, rather
than addition.”

The positive response they’re getting transcends
mathematics. Bengali Muslims -- many of whom follow a
form of “folk Islam” that incorporates Hindu and
animistic beliefs and practices -- hunger for the
truth most have never heard about God.

When Carter or other missionaries and volunteers on
his team accompany a Bengali church planter into a new
area, they ask about village life, make friends and
inquire about religious traditions. They intentionally
seek out the local imam (mosque leader) or village
head to discuss the Koran, Islam’s holy book, and what
it says about Jesus. That serves as a bridge to the
“before books” -- the Old and New Testaments -- which
the Koran commands good Muslims to read.

“It’s a bridge,” Carter notes. “You don’t camp on it;
you cross over it. It gives Muslims ‘permission’ to
look into the New Testament.”

As each visit progresses, they pray that a “man of
peace” will emerge -- whether it’s the village leader
or someone in the crowd that eagerly gathers around --
who will become the key to reaching the community with
the Gospel.

“If you go as a learner and spend an hour just getting
to know them, love them, play with their kids, talk to
them about their goats and their harvest, have tea
with them, that goes a long way,” Carter says.

Usually they get invited to stay for a meal or to
spend the night. The dialogue goes on; often the whole
village listens.

Not every encounter ends on a positive note. They’re
asked to leave some villages. Once, an imam grew
hostile during a group discussion.

“The crowd actually rallied around me, siding with me
and countering his points,” Carter recalls. “He was
very angry, so as we left I said, ‘Peace, brother,’
embraced him and thanked him publicly for allowing us
to talk.

“A couple of guys followed us back to the vehicle.
They asked for the Book [Bible], and they wanted to
know how Jesus could make our lives so loving and
caring. So in the midst of what I thought was a bust,
since we didn’t get anywhere with the imam, these guys
saw our message of love.”

Another time, a man, soaked to the skin, appeared in
the middle of a village discussion. “Come in,
brother,” the Bengali church planter said. “Where are
you from?”

“I’m from across the river,” the man replied. “We
heard there were some people here talking about Isa
[Jesus], so I swam over to hear it.”

He listened intently, then accompanied the team to the
next village to hear more. By the end of the day he
had become a believer. Today, he leads a jaamat in his

As strategy coordinator for 27 million Bengali
Muslims, Carter mobilizes every partner he can find
for the task: prayer supporters, new missionaries for
his team, evangelical churches in India,
Muslim-background Gospel workers “on loan” from
Bangladesh, volunteers from South Carolina. A recently
completed “Muslim-friendly” edition of the Bengali
Bible, he believes, is a landmark on the road to
sowing the Word of God throughout the land.

But the key to the villages is the Bengali church
planters. With them, Carter’s old coaching skills come
in handy as he applies a tried-and-true training
method: Model, assist, watch and leave.

“We’re cheerleaders, we’re encouragers,” he says.
“We’re going to model it for you, assist you to do it,
watch you do it -- and then we’re out of here. We’ll
go do it somewhere else.

“When Bengalis see a white guy go into a mosque and
sit down with an imam and share his faith, they say,
‘Man, these guys are bold. I can be bold, too.’
Boldness is something that’s caught.”

They’ll need boldness. They will face hardships,
discouragement, opposition and persecution, which will
only increase as the Gospel spreads among Muslims. But
they are committed to the task.

On a recent trek through several Muslim villages,
Timothy*, a church planter, stopped to mop his brow in
the shade. He has started -- or trained others to
start -- more than 20 jaamats. But that’s only the

“There are 1,600 villages in my district,” he said,
with a determined gleam in his eye. “My vision is a
church in every village. You pray!”

-- That a powerful, self-sustaining church-planting
movement will spread through the 30,000 Muslim
villages of West Bengal and nearby areas.

-- That God will give many more Bengali church
planters such as Jacob* and Timothy* the boldness to
spread the Gospel and train house-church leaders
despite hardship and persecution.

-- That God will protect Carter Bolin*, his missionary
co-workers, national partners and their families from
spiritual attack. Every worker involved in the task
has faced a serious health or family-related crisis. 

A single mission trip to India changed Carter and
Vienna Bolin* forever. How about you? Want to get
involved in what God is doing among the Muslims of
West Bengal, India and the rest of South Asia?

-- Visit for information
and ideas on how to pray, volunteer and become a
strategic church partner in Southern Baptist work in
the region. 

-- Visit for up-to-date
prayer requests from Southern Baptist missionaries
serving in South Asia and around the world. 

-- Visit to find out how your gifts
to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are the hands
and feet of the Gospel in South Asia.
*Names changed for security reasons.


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