Louisville—Hurstbourne Baptist Church could tell their neighbors next door were hurting and in need. But it wasn’t a need for food, clothes or shelter. It was far greater.
“Several years ago the Missions Team from Hurstbourne gained a burden for the hundreds of South Asians that live near our church campus and began a strategic work,” said Cameron Debity, senior pastor of the Louisville congregation.
“A key phrase that the leaders have rallied around is, ‘A healthy church reflects the community in which it is a part of,'” he said. “So, many of our folks began to long for an ethnically diverse congregation, filled with individuals from our immediate community.”
The church began an outreach mission to reach a nearby—perceivably lost—community of Indian immigrants, who are living in an apartment complex near the church. The mission specifically arose from a vision from the senior pastor to make the congregation more diverse and look more like the vision of heaven in Revelation.
“I believe our church has become a place of peace and a conduit for friendship-building for our South Asians,” added Debity. “They are an incredibly communal people so we provide many opportunities for them to connect with one another and for our faith family to connect with them.”
The ministry is led by Prasad Aghamkar, a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who is originally from Mumbai, India. He has been serving as a South Asian ministry catalyst at Hurstbourne since 2014.
“I was praying that God should show me a new way in which to reach out to the Indian community,” said Aghamkar. “Hurstbourne Grand Apartments, adjacent to Hurstbourne Baptist Church, has a very large Indian population. God answered my prayer of reaching out to these people by giving me this unique idea, which is culturally relevant and non-threatening to these people.”
The ministry, called the Aashirwad Asian Fellowship, meets every month in the church’s fellowship hall. People from many different nationalities, backgrounds and faiths gather and hear the gospel proclaimed through devotionals, music and testimonies.
The ministry also includes a social aspect, where Indians visit and talk over free tea every Thursday in the church parking lot from 5:30-8 p.m., a time strategically selected because many are out for their evening walk. On average, about 25-30 people show up to the “Tea Stall” each week.
“Indians are very fond of tea or ‘chai.’ It’s part of our culture to have tea and talk,” continued Aghamkar. “Our main goal is to build relationships to have dialogue and discussion so that we can ultimately share the gospel with them.”
The church understands that patience is necessary to see how the fruits of their labor will pay off.
“This is definitely a long-term ministry effort,” stated Debity. “For the foreseeable future, it seems that we will be neighbors to one of the largest South Asian populations in the city. We believe that God has strategically placed our church in close proximity to this people group for such a time as this.”
The goal is to see the community of Indian immigrants come to faith in Jesus.
“We hope to continue to build relationships and to build trust, so that we can give a credible witness,” said Debity. “As one pastor said, ‘We want to be a church who does good deeds, to foster good will, so that we can share the good news of the gospel.’ We are praying for that first Indian family to turn to Christ as Savior and Lord.” (WR)