Their neighbors knew them as warriors. Convinced that other tribes had more than they, the Bawm tribe residing in the Chittagong hills region of Bangladesh, was constantly on the warpath. They were feared as a tribe that never took prisoners. They pillaged and burned down villages as quickly as they could get to them.
Missionaries were warned to stay out of the area. The Bawm warriors were headhunters. When missionaries finally arrived in the Chittagong hills, the tribe’s number totaled 26,000 people. They did not trust the missionaries, their new religion, and their educational plans. They were fearful and filled with a mindset of scarcity. There were no schools and the literacy rate was nonexistent.
Over the years, small numbers of this tribe began to take to heart the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These were new believers in unreached regions. Discipleship was slow. The Bawm people had very little social or spiritual framework to understand the concepts of biblical stewardship and the fruit of generously giving. It was not a part of their individual or collective mindset.
To begin this work in their people, the local church leaders requested a simple tangible action and symbol of generosity of their people. As they went into the forest to gather firewood, they asked tribe members to collect one extra stick to bring to the church as their offering.
The Gospel continued to make a difference in the hearts and minds of more and more of the tribal members and the concept of giving began to grow. Education was brought to the tribe through the local church and within a few short years 95% of the children in the tribe could read and write. The message of biblical stewardship began to influence the men of the tribe. The scarcity mindset began to be challenged as they began to see with new eyes and hearts all God had provided for them. They implemented new methods of hunting, fishing, and farming.
Giving became a natural part of life for the Bawm tribe. When a hunter would shoot a deer in the forest he would cut off a hind quarter and give it to the church. Fishermen fishing in local streams and rivers gave as much as 20% of their catch to the local church. As the women prepared meals, they set aside one handful of rice and once a week brought that to the church to be given to those less fortunate or sold in the market for the church.
The giving of the Bawm tribe is not solely been focused inward. Recognizing their history as headhunters and marauders of their neighboring tribes, they felt compelled to give towards missions in these regions as well.
Today the Bawm tribe proudly reports that all members of the tribe are followers of Jesus Christ. They have committed to fully funding 15 of their own who travel as full-time missionaries to neighboring tribes. The community that once lived with the mindset of violence, fear, and scarcity, today is determined to reach their region of the world for Christ. Their literacy rate is one of the highest in the world. Men whose ancestors once were known as headhunters now hunt for those who so desperately need to embrace the truth of the Gospel.