There are so many amazing books about how God is moving among Muslims and Animists. And there are scores of useful gospel training seminars by former missionaries to these religious groups. But what about Hinduism and Buddhism?
When I worked with high-caste Hindu people in India, I often wished I had access to more true stories about Hindu background believers. I wanted to hear from honest, soul-baring Hindus about what it’s like to consider following Jesus. What they’re up against, why it’s difficult. What really draws them. How they handle the clash between the expectations of culture and Christ. I had read textbook definitions of Hinduism, but things looked so different on the ground. I often wished there was a Seeking Krishna, Finding Jesus. Or even a Peace Child or Bruchko set in the high-rise apartments of New Delhi.
Slowly, over the years, I’ve collected the names of a few insightful books. Eventually, I wrote my own. My adventures were far from those of Bruce Olsen, but I shared from my heart. I shared about what it’s like to wrestle yourself every day so that Jesus can lead you. I shared about the beautiful people I knew in India, why following Jesus there is difficult, and what we tried to do about that. And I shared about how our real God is meeting real people right where they are.
There’s so much more to reaching people in a Hindu context, but I hope my stories and experiences can begin a conversation about it.
A New Story to Tell
Last year, I was approached by a family friend who serves as a missionary in Cambodia. Her father is Cambodian, and he narrowly survived the Khmer Rouge genocide as a child. Sovath survived because, as he says, “I called on a God I did not know.” Eventually, he came to know that God when he saw a vision of Jesus in a refugee camp.
Sovath and his family asked me to write his story.
To say I felt honored and excited is an understatement.
In between interviews, I went online to find resources to help me understand Buddhism. I found precious few. Again, I wished I could read Seeking Buddha, Finding Jesus, or a Peace Child set in the rice paddies of Vietnam or the traffic-jungles of cities in Laos.
That’s when I realized just how important Sovath’s story is.
As Sovath began to unravel exactly why it was so hard to follow Jesus as the member of a Buddhist family, and why he chose to follow anyway, I was surprised. His explanations were not what I had predicted. My experience with Hinduism didn’t translate to Buddhism. It reminded me that picking up your cross to follow Jesus will look different from person to person – and from culture to culture.
I’m about to give you a list of books and resources I’ve sourced from A Life Overseas readers, colleagues, and from my own shelves.
But before I do that, I wanted to ask for help in bringing another book into the world.
It’s tentatively titled Great Unsearchable Things, and I’m praying for the grace and insight to make it a work of art that will help readers understand their Buddhist background brothers and sisters better.
How You Can Help
Firstly, I’ve set up a fundraiser to help cover the cost of researching, editing, and marketing Sovath’s book. You can read a little more about his story on the GoFundMe page. You can also read the first chapter of the book at this link.
Secondly, I would like to put together a team of beta readers who would be willing to read the first draft to offer insight and suggestions. I’m hoping to be ready for that step in Spring, 2024. If you’re interested, send me a note at abigailfollows AT gmail.com.
Thirdly, I want to encourage those of you who think you might want to write your missions story–or the story of a friend. If you were looking for a sign, I hope this article is it! We need to read these stories to help us understand and empathize with each other. We need people who have asked tough questions and listened hard to the answers to share what they’ve learned. Your story just might help someone lead a person to Jesus. So below the book lists, you’ll find a handful of resources for aspiring writers that will help you on your way.
On to the lists.
For Working with Hindus:
When learning about ministry among Hindus, it’s important to know that India’s relationship with Christianity is complex. Spend ten minutes looking at discussions on Quora or articles in Indian news outlets about Christianity in India, and you’ll quickly understand some of the major issues. As a result, many books, websites, and ministries are searching for the best, most authentic, least damaging way to reach Hindus with the gospel. Think of these resources as adding to the conversation, rather than as definitive “how to’s.”
Living Water and Indian Bowl, by Swami Dayanand Bharati
The Camphor Flame, by C. J. Fuller
LearningIndia.in — Very practical, though not currently updated.
Mimosa, by Amy Carmichael
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo – Not a Christian nor a missions book, but Boo’s artful reportage will help you understand the social infrastructure of India like nothing else I’ve read.
William Carey Publishing’s list of Hindu missions books
Following Jesus in the Hindu Context, by H. L. Richard
From Hinduism to Christ, by Raj Vimuri
From Hinduism to Christianity, Embracing the Journey, by Anjli Sharma
Hidden Song of the Himalayas, by Abigail Follows
For Working with Buddhists:
Change the Map Prayer Network
Seeking the Unseen, Edited by Paul H. De Neui
Leaving Buddha by Tenzin Lahkpa & Eugene Bach
From Buddha to Jesus by Steve Cioccolanti
William Carey Publishing’s list of Buddhist missions books
For Aspiring Intercultural Biographers and Memoirists:
Storycraft, by Jack Hart
Telling True Stories, edited by Kramer and Call
Scrivener, a computer app/word processor/organizer that separates content by chapters and scenes. Great for writing out of order and keeping track of everything.
Abby Emmons is one of MANY YouTubers who talk about writing. She focuses on fiction, but I found her analyses and insights to be applicable to story-based nonfiction as well.
Photo by Joshua Follows.