Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Song in Their Heart

Dora Women
The Konda Dora is a tribe that dwells in the forests spread across the hills bordering the states of Andhra and Orissa in India. Their population is less than 300,000. Most of them are animists, worshipping tribal deities and various spirits.

Dora Women in their forest coming to an IET medical camp
Traditionally, they live in remote villages. Their primary occupation is hunting, small-scale farming done on cleared forestland, and collection of forest produce. Men wear simple earrings and cotton clothes. Women wear anklets and often adorn themselves with tattoo marks. Marriage is through kidnapping of a girl a boy likes or through arrangements between families. Monogamy is common though polygamy is also practiced.
The Konda Doras call themselves the watchmen of the hills.
Sanyasi belongs to the Dora tribe and lived in these hills. His family has been the village priest for several generations. As a young boy, he learnt the art of magic and rituals to appease the various powerful Dora deities and spirits. "Unless our deities are appeased, our crops will not be blessed and the health of our tribesmen will rot away," a young man with a sharp axe hung across his shoulders says.
Young Sanyasi carefully practiced the various arts of magic and rituals. "I would sacrifice various animals to ward of evil spirits and keep our gods happy," he says. The crops had to be blessed by the village priest to be fruitful and so also the birth of a child in a family. Everything in a village revolved around rituals, which was led by Sanyasi, the village priest. "However, I was never at peace," Sanyasi says.
Sanyasi was also the village healer. But, his family was bound by various illnesses. Within a span of few months, two deaths happened in his family. It seemed as if the trap of sickness and lack of peace were choking him and his family. It was then that one of our native evangelist walked into his very remote village. "It took me six hours to trek into his village and there God led me to Sanyasi," the evangelist says. He shared about a God who gives peace to our souls and healing to our bodies.
An Evangelist
Sanyasi did not initially believe the words spoken to him. But, after several encounters he began to experience a deep calm. "The truth of the Word of God began to penetrate into my soul," Sanyasi says. It was not long after when Sanyasi decided to "follow the trail shown in the Living Word." Sanyasi recalls, "The very moment I put my faith in the Lord, I experienced a deep peace in my heart. Interestingly, there were no more deaths in my family nor any lasting sicknesses. Christ gave me peace in my heart and in our bodies. "
Sanyasi lifts both of his hands in expressing gratefulness to God and breaks into a song which means, "I have now known the truth, oh what joy the Lord fills my heart."                     
                     CLICK HERE to see a video of Sanyasi singing in the backdrop of the hills where he lives and serves.
Sanyasi could not now stay still. "There was a growing itch in my soul," he recalls. It was the itch to share this peace with others. Untrained Sanyasi would listen to the pastor in one of our churches in the nearby village every Sunday and then trek from one mountain to another with the truth he had learnt that Sunday. "I was consumed with deep love for my Lord. I would trek for days, from one village to another, sharing with my own tribesmen and women about the Lord Jesus Christ," says Sanyasi, who by now had decided
Sanyasi: One Mountain to Another
to call himself Samuel, after the prophet and judge in the Old Testament.
Sometimes he would get chased out of the village. At times, cautious people would gather under the tree to listen to his 'new teaching.' Often, the sick families would invite him to pray for them after they heard the testimony of healing in his family. 
At the local church, our pastor began to notice a growing call on the life of Samuel. He was offered a training program in the local language that would allow him to be trained during the daytime in the basics of Bible and ministry. In the evening, he would be free to go to the village to share the Gospel. All this would be done under the strict mentorship of the pastor of the church Samuel attended, some 15 kilometers away. Within two years, Samuel had planted three village churches among the Dora. 

Samuel now pastors a total of five churches. Each of these churches are several hours trek from the other. "I conduct weekly services on different days so I can reach each village," says Samuel, who was called Sanyasi. The three village churches have more than 300 believers right now. He is also reaching out to three more Konda Dora villages. "These villages are remote. Most of them have never seen a doctor or a railway engine. These mountains are difficult to climb. Yet, I climb with the song of the Gospel in my heart and the name of Jesus on my lips," he says.
Sanyasi has only one desire—to saturate the villages and his tribe with the
Sanyasi has only one desire—to saturate the villages and his tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Once a village church is planted the goal is for a holistic transformation of the entire village. The missionary focuses on adult education and motivating the families to send the children to school. The villages are educated on basic hygiene. Mothers are educated to immunize their children.

 As Sanyasi says in Konda language, "We want these villages to sing a song. But, the song should first start in their hearts." He is referring to the song of Jesus Christ that, once birthed in their hearts, will then permeate to transform the entire being and the community.

"How can the global body of Christ join with you in letting these mountains sing the song of Christ?" I ask. He smiles wide and says, "Oh, let us join our hearts by praying. Prayer will open up these villagers and transform these darkened villages with the light eternal." He then, again, lifts his hands and begins to sing unto the Lord.
A motorycle
Side Note: Samuel needs a motorcycle. If he is given a motorcycle, he can  reach more villages. Going to the current five villages itself takes several days. If he has a motorcycle, he can cover them in two days and then go to new ones as well. A motorcycle costs $900. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Golapally Pitchee

Golapally is a sleepy little village in India. Lalta lived in this village. She was known as the Golapally pitchee, the crazy girl of Golapally.


Lalta wandered through the streets of the village. She would often beat up people and throw stones at those walking in the streets. People were afraid of her. Her family tried to tie her up with ropes, but it was difficult to keep her restrained. She refused to take a shower or comb her hair. She would also often tear her clothes and run through the streets naked and screaming. Her family was afraid to sleep at night because they were afraid of being attacked by Lalta. Her violence terrified everybody. She had been the crazy girl of Golapally for twenty long years.


One day, a friend visited Lalta's family and shared, "There is a Christian man who preaches about Jesus Christ. Their God hears their prayers and has compassion on the sick." Their hope rose as the friend shared about a mentally challenged girl who had been completely healed.

The next morning, the family of Lalta managed to tie her hands and legs. They put her in an oxen cart and, as directed by their friend, took her to the hut of Yohann, the IET missionary. They tied her to a cement post and left her with Yohann and his wife.   

Yohann says, "I did not know what to do with Lalta. But I knew that our Lord always had compassion on the rejected and the sick. So, I decided to take her in and let the presence of Christ heal her."


Yohann and his wife began to pray for the girl. They were afraid to let her go free from her ties, at first. But, within few days, they observed a great calm in her. The girl was not violent and stopped screaming. They continued to pray. By the end of the first week the girl could be untied. They continued to pray, and by the second week the girl started to eat on her own and decided to take a shower. They witnessed slow progress in Lalta each week as they continued to pray. "The healing presence of God gradually delivered her," says the smiling Yohann. 

The girl was completely healed by the end of sixth week. 

"Completely healed," emphasizes Yohann, "by the grace of God alone!"


Village congregation meeting in home
Yohann took the girl back to Golapally. The villagers were amazed. "I was the Gopally pitchee for twenty years and now I stood before them calm, smiling, and completely healed," says a beaming Lalta. As a result, soon several families put their faith in Christ as Yohann explained the power of Christ to not just heal our bodies but also our souls.

Lalta with her husband, today
Today, a beautiful village church gathers several days each week to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Lalta and her husband are pillars of this congregation. Lalta declared, “I owe everything to my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ!"

What a privilege we have to be the healing hands of our Lord Jesus Christ in this broken world. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Taking the Whole Gospel: Village to Village

Story Told by Sister Pusma: 

South Asia has a very high rate of illiteracy in rural villages. I go from village to village six days a week teaching villagers how to read, write and count (literacy classes). At the end of the sessions, I share stories. These are stories from the Bible.  

I was in a new village, where I started a literacy class. At the end of one teaching session, people gathered to hear a story.  I shared a gospel story. The villagers then said, "Young lady, your story is a good story; it's very interesting."
  But a family in a nearby house was crying. I asked, "Why are they crying?"
 The people replied, "Last night, a poisonous snake entered their house and bit their oldest boy. Many charmers came and did many things, but nothing could save the boy."

I decided to visit this family. I went to them and said, "Don't cry, dear brother and sister. God is with us."
  Just then someone came out of the house and said, "It looks like the boy is dead."
 I told them again, "Don't cry. I want to tell you a story." But because of their grief they could not listen.

So I went into the house and said loudly, "Don't cry. Listen to me!" I shared the story of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis chapter 3). And I told a second story from Acts 3:1-16 about the lame man who was healed.
 I then decided to pray.

I prayed a long time for the boy, but he did not open his eyes. So I continued telling stories and praying late into the evening. Then we went to bed. Early the next morning the boy was breathing and opened his eyes. When the village people heard the news, they came running to the house. 

They asked, "He did not die. How is this possible? The snake was a poisonous one. The young lady did something to revive him."
 I shared about Jesus Christ, who heals our bodies and soul. Several people—including seven from the boy’s family—accepted Christ and decided to take baptism baptism.

Meanwhile the mayor of that village, who had  tuberculosis, was listening to all this and witnessed the healing. She asked me, "How is this possible?"   So, I told her the story from Mark 9:14-29 about how Jesus healed a demonized boy. After she listened to the story I prayed for her. Not long ater, she was completely healed from T.B.

I continued to visit the village to teach them A,B,C and also the Word of God.  She told me one day, "Stay in our village and tell more stories." So I stayed two days and two nights and told all the stories from Genesis to Exodus. Now there are 50 people who gather every week to study from the Word and pray to the living God in that village.
Praise God!  I am an ordinary literacy worker, but God chooses to use me to take His whole gospel.

Pray for the women missionaries! 

Story Told by Ms. Pusma. Edited by: Khosla & Paul K

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Reality of Persecution

Jeremy Reynalds (Feb 13, 2014)

(Los Angeles, CA)—The worst anti-Christian pogrom of the 21st century has come not from Islamic extremists but from Hindu nationalists in India, an expert told a hearing in which U.S. President Barack Obama was challenged to quickly fill a key religious freedom post. 

According to a story by  John L. Allen, Jr., author of "The Global War on Christians," today told the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations that one reason Christians are increasingly persecuted is that Christianity is expanding in countries where religious freedom is lacking. Some states in India are prime examples.

While most estimates of deaths from the 2008 attacks in India's Orissa (now Odisha) state are around 100, Allen said the figure could be as high as 500.

"India's northeastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century," he said. "In 2008, a series of riots ended with as many as 500 Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals, and thousands more injured and at least 50,000 left homeless."

A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group.

Tehmina Arora, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom-India (ADF-India), told the subcommittee that the impunity that violent mobs enjoy is an important factor in anti-Christian persecution in India.

Police resist filing criminal complaints and have on several instances allegedly threatened to falsely incriminate victims in some cases. The hostility of the state machinery towards the victims of communal and targeted violence was most evident in the aftermath of the violence in Orissa.

Arora added, "The National People's Tribunal on Kandhamal, (in) a private inquiry titled 'Waiting for Justice' clearly outlined the apathy of the state administration towards the victims and their families. The report also highlighted the fear faced by victims and survivors as well as the refusal of police to register complaints."

In many cases, only orders from the High Court in Orissa prompted police to file First Information Reports against assailants, Arora said. In one case, a Christian whose house was burned down filed a FIR but no case was registered against the named suspects.

"I was attacked during the 2008 riot and my house was burnt," Gajana Digal told ADF-India. "I lodged an FIR in the local police station, Tikabali, which was not registered against the accused persons… I have repeatedly sought help from the local police station for my protection but no action was taken in spite of my petition dated 19 May 2010 against the criminals with specific names like Dahia Mallick, Sudhira Pradhan, Ajiban Mallick, Mantu Gauda and Biranchi Behera. My petition was not registered and no action was taken against the accused persons."

As in other states, the government of Orissa has failed to effectively prosecute those accused of carrying out violent attacks against the Christian community, Arora said.

Though the Orissa government claims it took strict action against the accused, statistics show that of 827 FIRs filed, charges were brought in only 512. Just 75 cases ended in convictions, with only 477 people convicted, primarily for smaller or "petty" offences such as burning of houses and damaging property, she said.

"Only nine people have been convicted for their role in killing of the Christians," Arora told the subcommittee. "Human right activists claim that as many as 84,000 people were accused by the victims in the over 2,500 complaints sent to the police. The acquittals have been due to shoddy investigation and lack of judicial oversight."

In several murder cases, police failed to gather key forensic evidence such as bone fragments after mobs set bodies on fire; nor did they produce key witnesses at trial, she said.

"Police also failed to provide adequate protection to witnesses, many of whom later retracted their statements made to the police allegedly due to fear and intimidations," Arora said. "Even years after the violence, Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa continue to live in fear, unable in many parts to return to their homes and fields. They have been threatened and coerced to convert to Hinduism."

Elliott Abrams, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told the subcommittee that lack of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom has sent a message of apathy to countries that routinely persecute religious minorities. 
He added, "And if there is a long vacancy, it weakens the attention of the executive branch, it weakens the efforts of the executive branch, and it sends a message to countries around the world of inattention and lack of concern."

The Obama administration has not set a timeline to nominate another ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Obama, whose administration has come under criticism for limiting the definition of religious freedom and doing little to protect it, defended his record before 3,500 people attending the Feb. 6 prayer breakfast.

Asserting that promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, Obama appeared to agree with long-time pleas from advocacy groups that the White House regard international religious freedom as an integral part of national security.

"History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people—including the freedom of religion—are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful," Morning Star News reported he said. "Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security."

Source: Morning Star News Report