Destruction and Imprisonment . . . What Happened Next

Two weeks ago, we shared about the imprisonment of some North Indian believers. Here is an update.

Fourteen men and women were arrested as they prayed. All were members of families whose homes were burned last year by local Hindu extremists. Why were their homes burned? They had recently become followers of Jesus. The families stayed with relatives in surrounding villages for a while, but, fully aware of the risks, they all decided to return.

As of August, they had rebuilt their huts in the village. This time, radical Hindus went one step further. They got local police to join them and barged into a home during a prayer meeting. The police destroyed the home while the disciples were dragged into waiting vehicles. Police jailed all 14 and demanded extortion for their release.

Twelve disciples were quickly released, and, as of September 9th, all 14 were home with their families. Other churches have gathered around them, providing food and helping to fix the house that the police wrecked. Glory to God! Thank you for praying! Please keep it up! Pray that everything that has happened would actually serve to advance the gospel. (Phil. 1:12)

Burnings, Imprisonment, and Extortion

About one year ago, some house church leaders in North India had their homes burned to the ground. They are facing difficulties again. 

A few months after their homes were burned, all the families moved back and rebuilt their huts. Last week, a local Hindu extremist group joined forces with the police, damaged their rebuilt homes, and arrested fourteen people. 

Two are still in jail. The police are demanding extortion to release them.

However, we have reasons to rejoice! In the midst of very real persecution, the church continues to advance! Sanjay, a leader in the movement, recently read through old diary entries from the first movement meetings in 2012. He had written, “God, give us North India.”

We praise the Lord for the big vision of these committed disciples! Today, the work has spread to nine states and over 200 caste groups (people groups). Thousands and thousands of families have become strong disciples of Jesus, working to make more disciples of Jesus. 

Pray for our brothers and sisters to remain attached to the Vine, and for their joy to increase even in the midst of their persecution. Pray our Father will bring forth much fruit that the devil cannot snatch away.

*pseudonyms

Friend, Peon or Manager?

In the West, it is the general practice for a business owner to hire a manager if he or she doesn’t have the time or desire to manage it themselves. In India, however, this is not the custom. The owner is the manager. He or she trusts no one else with the business. The owner manages, and everyone else is a peon. Yes, peon is a commonly used word in India. 

Imagine the wonder, then, that people living in this rigid society of hierarchy feel when they hear Jesus say that He freely shares His authority with us (Matthew 10:1; 16:19; Luke 9:1; John 1:12; Acts 26:16). But He goes further than that! Jesus says, You are my friends if you keep on doing what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer… but I have called you friends . . .. (John 15:14-15). What?! The God for Whom there is no idol doesn’t consider me a peon? He calls me friend, and entrusts to ME the task to make other disciples? What a message! 

Beyond’s South Asian field leaders, Ethan and Nicole, learned that the disciples in India were sharing Matthew 28:18-20 as part of the Gospel Message. “I love that they had eyes to see something about the Gospel that we with our western eyes and deeply rooted Christian traditions could not see,” Nicole says. “Have you ever included Matthew 28 in your Gospel presentation? I’m guessing not. But, for those coming out of slavery, for those who live in a culture where peon is still in common use, sharing in the Master’s authority and carrying responsibility IS Good News. They’re so excited about having a purpose for their lives that they can’t hold themselves back. They embrace the honor to be given the chance, and they quickly share the opportunity with their friends.”

Praise God for obedient friends of Jesus who diligently share His message! 

Our field leaders ask for prayer as top Indian movement leaders travel to meet with local leaders to check on the wellness of the churches, gather reports of persecution, pray over needs, and pass on new trainings from God’s Word. The traveling is difficult; they can be harassed by the local police; they are away from their families. Your prayers for these trips are greatly appreciated.

Secondly, we can be praying for the disciple makers’ financial provision. God is giving them creativity to make money/work with their hands. Many are farmers. Some own small shops. Please pray that God would bless their labors so they can continue in the work of making followers of Jesus. Pray, too, that they would continue to be generous with one another like we see in the book of Acts.

 

*pseudonyms used

“Does God Have a Hearing Problem?”

“Can I eat here?” Karly asked the cook of a small food stand near her new home. The young Muslim woman, Farah, eagerly responded, “You speak my language?! Please, sit, sit! What do you want to eat?” 

As Farah placed a plate of delicious food on the table and sat down next to her, Karly noticed the beautiful henna designs on Farah’s hands and was reminded of something she’d recently heard. A friend had said that Muslim people believe God cannot hear the prayers of a woman who wears nail polish. (Muslims are to wash before their ritual, five-times-daily prayers. This includes washing every part of their hands. A layer of nail polish is said to prevent “wudu,” or purification, from being complete as water cannot reach the actual nail.)

When Karly asked about the nail polish, Farah replied,  “Yeah, some people think like that.  But I feel God can hear fine. He is God, right?  Does He have a hearing problem? Also, people don’t care about henna.  It’s clean. It doesn’t block the water. Would you like me to put henna on your hands?” Karly accepted her offer in the spirit of Luke 10:7 (Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality.).

As the henna dried, a few customers came to the food stand, and Farah introduced Karly to them, pointing out that she could speak their language. In a moment of quiet, Karly asked how she could pray for Farah.  “Anything you think of about my business or life!” Farah replied. “I will pray for you too.”

Because of Farah’s introductions, Karly has been welcomed into the homes of two other families on the block!

  • Please pray for Karly as she extends the light of God to these new friends.
  • Pray that God will open Farah’s heart to seeing and accepting Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) as her Lord and Savior.

Read another story about Karly here.

*pseudonyms

Balking at Baptism

Three thousand people believing and being baptized in one day?! It sounds too good to be true, yet we know it is. The second chapter of Acts records this supernatural event. Thousands of people “from every nation” heard the loud arrival of the Holy Spirit and came to investigate. Filled by the Holy Spirit, Peter’s words pierced the hearts of 3,000 people. Answering their stricken question, “What should we do?” Peter responds, “repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” In verse 41, we read, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.”

Perhaps you can think of other instances of groups of people believing and being baptized the same day or soon thereafter? (Cornelius, Lydia, the jailer, etc.) Actually, in the book of Acts, there are only three times when a lone individual comes to faith in Jesus. The vast majority of people who came to Christ in Acts came as part of a group.

And we see it happening today. 

In North India, the Banjara are a poor and marginalized people. They live in tents next to open sewage at the side of the road. They eat leftovers that people throw to dogs. They get run out of town. Their children don’t attend school. Society has taught them that this is what they deserve. Life is very difficult for them.

But through Sanjay, a movement catalyst in India, many Banjara have heard the Good News and become disciples of Jesus. Among them are a man named Arjan and his family. Soon after believing, Arjan’s entire family (he, his wife, and their three young children) were baptized. In a nearby town, however, other Banjara believers had reservations about being baptized. As baptism is a public declaration of loyalty to Jesus, many feared retribution from their neighbors and their old gods. They wondered, too, if God would test their newfound allegiance with trials they could not bear. They were afraid. Wasn’t life already hard enough?

Wanting to embolden them to take this step of obedience, Sanjay brought Arjan to speak to this Banjara community about his baptism experience. When Arjan spoke about Jesus, he pointed out that Jesus Himself had experienced testing. He was tested by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. And He prevailed. He was not defeated by His enemy. And so, because He has already been tested and come through victorious, we, too, can face our fears, our potential tests or trials, knowing that anything we face is nothing when compared to what He faced. He walked the road of testing before us so that when our turn came, we’d be able to walk it, too. We have nothing to fear.  He went on to say, “I thank God that when my child was about one year old, my whole family, came to God together,” Arjan told them. “From the oldest to the youngest, we came . . . all five of us took baptism together. And you would think that after this, we would have fallen into big (troubles). But no. Not at all. Everything changed. For the better. We felt joy.

Far from regretting his decision, Arjan shared that his family was only glad they had been baptized. The terrible tests and pressures that he thought would come never materialized. Their greatest fears did not come true. In fact, the opposite happened. Blessings came. “And so I am telling you,” Arjan concluded, “you should absolutely remove from your minds any thoughts that after baptism, insurmountable (afflictions or persecution) will occur . . .. Please do it. Because Jesus has already given proof of his superiority, (and) you have already put your faith in Him. We are left with absolute life. Hallelujah!” 

An announcement was made that a baptism would occur in three days. When the day arrived, more than half of the families were baptized together as a proclamation of their faith and allegiance to Jesus. Hallelujah, indeed!

*pseudonyms used

Going Out Among the Lost

Evan and Anna, BEYOND’s Austronesian field leaders, recently shared tips on how they purposely go out among the lost to share the love of Christ. One of the ways they do this is by praying for the felt needs of people they meet. Anna shared this recent example from her life.

Anna and Tess, another Beyond missions catalyst, were in a sunny Austronesian cafe looking for the person or people they felt the Lord would lead them to talk with. Earlier that morning, they had prayed, “God, give us the sensitivity to know the exact felt need of whomever You will lead us to.”

Before long, a couple at the cafe caught their attention. The women started a conversation, sharing upfront that they were followers of Isa (Jesus). They found the couple to be friendly and polite. In the course of talking, Anna and Tess both noticed that the topic of last year’s earthquake sparked something in the couple.

Anna mentioned that she and her husband, Evan, had been on the island during the earthquake, and they too had experienced some fear because of it. They stayed, however, because of their love for the SaSumBi people and, more importantly, God’s love for the SaSumBi people. 

Right away, this couple teared up, and both of them began talking, expressing their thoughts and feelings on the earthquake in rapid-fire conversation. Anna and Tess looked back and forth between the husband and wife trying to keep up with what each of them was saying. “The flow was just uncorked,” Anna recalls. “Obviously, this was the felt need.”

So Anna transitioned the conversation towards spiritual matters by saying, “You clearly have some intense feelings about the earthquake still. And many people are struggling with trauma. Can I tell you a story that’s been really powerful in my own life?” Eagerly, the couple responded, “Yes!” and Anna shared the story of Jesus calming the storm.

The couple agreed that they had heard from the Koran that Isa has the power to heal the sick and raise the dead. When Anna offered to pray for the couple in the name of Isa, therefore, they agreed. With palms up and eyes open, Anna and Tess prayed for them in the matchless name of Jesus.

The couple expressed a desire to hear more. Since Tess had to return to her family on another island, Anna suggested they meet with Evan and herself. “We can come here and talk with your family. Gather them, and let’s talk further about how God understands our hearts and knows our needs. He’s committed to pursue us and meet us exactly where we are.”

Please be praying as Evan and Anna share more about Isa with this couple and their family.

*pseudonyms use

When Persecution Becomes Celebration

The Bhojpuri movement is an ongoing Church Planting Movement in North India. Persecution is a common component of becoming a follower of Jesus in India. The following excerpt illustrates the commitment of new believers in the midst of persecution and how God chose to intervene in one case. It comes to us from the book Bhojpuri Breakthrough: A Movement that Keeps Multiplying by Victor John, an Indian movement leader who Beyond has had the privilege of working with and learning from. It is co-authored by Dave Coles, an encourager and resourcer of Church Planting Movements serving with Beyond. 

In the 2001 persecution, one group of believers received threats that they would be forced to reconvert to Hinduism in a ceremony called *Ghar Wapsi. The people threatening them said, “On a particular day, we will come and re-convert you to Hinduism.” So on that day, five Hindu priests came from Varanasi. Their team set up a tent, prepared food, and readied cow urine for purification of the Christians reconverting back to Hinduism. They arranged everything and forced everyone to come out of their houses and attend the gathering. 

As the ceremony began, the priests used a public-address (PA) system to make abusive speeches against Christians. Suddenly five women in the crowd became demon possessed. They were very violent. The priests threw water on them to try to get rid of the demons. But the women became even more violent. So the five priests got scared. They packed up their things, got in their car and returned to Varanasi. 

The stage was set up, people had gathered, they had the tent and PA system, and the food was prepared. Everything was ready for a celebration. So the believers cast out the demons and the five women were delivered. Then the believers went up on the stage and used the PA system to preach the good news and share their testimonies. They said, “We followed Jesus because of our own free choice; not because of any inducements or any other reasons.” Many people came to faith through this and many others became sympathizers of the good news. Meanwhile, the newspapers printed a picture of the tent that had been set up and falsely reported that 200 people had been reconverted back to Hinduism! 

Pray for ongoing movements in India and around the world. Pray for new believers as they commit to obey Jesus as Lord knowing they must be ready to face persecution.

Want another story about the Bhojpuri?  Read about a girl raised from the dead! 

Excerpted from Bhojpuri Breakthrough: A Movement that Keeps Multiplying  by Victor John with Dave Coles (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2019)

 1. According to Wikipedia, “Ghar Wapsi (Hindi, meaning “Home Coming”) is a series of religious conversion activities…to facilitate conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism.” The article “India: ‘Ghar Wapsi’ [a Return Home] and the Not-so-veiled Threat of the Sangh” reports: “I have had occasion to document Ghar Wapsi events in various villages of Orissa . . . where the process has involved shaving off the head of men and women, their purification through a mixture of cow dung and cow urine, the chanting of mantras around the fire and, wherever possible, the burning of “alien” books such as the Bible….My own observations after field studies are of Ghar Wapsi as a movement that uses armed force and violence, certainly the threat of violence, towards a conversion of neo-Christians to Hinduism.”