Northern Indiana’s Plymouth Baptist Church is experiencing tough times, with fewer attendees and dollars than its pre-pandemic prime. But the congregation of three dozen’s commitment to looking to the harvest of souls has touched thousands of lives in Pakistan.
“When circumstances get more difficult, the tendency is to focus inwardly,” Executive Pastor Doug Dieterly told The Christian Post. “We wanted to be sure our focus was outward, to see what God was doing elsewhere.”
He asked the church to pray for a connection to a Christian work in a foreign country, and members readily responded, having gone through Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God several times as a body. One of Blackaby’s primary principles is to be open to seeing the Lord’s activity in unexpected places and join Him there rather than starting a ministry on our own and trying to get Him to bless it.
God answered the congregation’s prayer through a visitor, Adam, who told Plymouth Baptist about a missionary to Pakistan — “Paul” — he supported. Church members felt God move on their hearts to support work in the country, which is 96% Muslim. (Pakistani Christians prefer to be anonymous due to severe persecution by the Islamic majority.)
Soon after, Paul had to flee, and he ended up taking refuge in the United States, in Adam’s home. Of course, Adam brought the missionary to church, where Dieterly just happened to be starting a 12-week class in Experiencing God. He stayed through the whole Bible study.
Paul was excited to hear the study’s message of how the Lord connects His people, multiplies their efforts, and provides for their callings. He asked Dieterly if he could get copies of the study in Urdu to take it with him to Pakistan.
The executive pastor (who's also the associate teaching shepherd) and the rest of the church had been helping supply Bibles overseas in foreign languages. However, this was the first request for the study by Blackaby, a longtime Southern Baptist who planted 30 churches in Canada by waiting on God’s direction, timing and fulfillment of His Word.
While Experiencing God had sold 8 million copies in the U.S. and has been translated into 60 languages over 30 years, there was no Urdu version. However, Dieterly got permission for Paul to translate the Bible study. He did, and Adam introduced Plymouth Baptist to Rafiq, a pastor in Pakistan, and his daughter, Sana. They had planted a half-dozen churches in small, rural villages where many do manual labor for very low wages.
The church sent photocopies of Paul’s translation of the study, and just days later, Rafiq and Sana asked Dieterly to teach them through it. In weekly video conferences, the three went through Experiencing God together. Within a few weeks of finishing, Rafiq called the executive pastor and explained he had 22 pastors and Sunday school teachers from the churches he had planted who wanted to go through the study but needed materials.
After adding up getting the nearly two dozen the study, providing a secure place to meet, the books and other costs, Dieterly figured the project would cost $3,500 at a time when Plymouth Baptist was perilously close to a zero balance in the bank at times. The small congregation has one paid staff member — Senior Pastor Clark Harless — and Dieterly and fellow Associate Pastor Tom Keb often work full-time hours as volunteers.
“I like to think of it as having a great deferred compensation package,” joked Dieterly, who was an attorney for 33 years before retiring in 2012.
Plymouth Baptist had a tent sale over two days that raised the needed amount without a dollar to spare. The funds were put to good use, with Rafiq and Sana sending back photos of some of the participants teaching the study to groups of more than 100 in Pakistan.
“That’s good, old-fashioned discipleship,” Dieterly remarked to CP. “God loves to multiply.”
Then a second group of 20 wanted to go through the study course, another $3,500. Would God do it again? Nothing happened for several weeks, but one night Harless called Dieterly to tell him an individual outside the church had written it a pair of checks totaling $3,500.
Rafiq has 100 more who would like training, and Plymouth Baptist is waiting on God’s supply. In the meantime, Dieterly said PBC has an immediate goal of $3,500 for another round of 22 Pakistanis.
The church has also just connected with a similarly sized congregation in California, also Southern Baptist, that has ties to a missionary working with three Pakistani pastors going through a seminary in their homeland. They are several hours away from Rafiq and Sana’s churches, and the new group would like to bring Experiencing God along with the Bible to Afghanistan and India as well, as both countries also speak Urdu.
“From the beginning, it’s been God,” Dieterly said.