The Blood of the Martyrs in India - a report by Neil Anderson
The gospel came to India in AD 72 when the Apostle Thomas evangelized the southern portion of the country. More than 5,000 Christian ministers from around the world came to celebrate the anniversary of Thomas coming at a four-day crusade in Madras Jan. 22-26. They were from China, North Korea, the United States, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Bahrain. India is one of the key countries Sowers Ministry ministers in.
Salvation touches a nation
The message of Christ and demonstrations of supernatural power are making converts in India. About 15,000 people are becoming Christians daily in the country of 900 million. Indigenous evangelists are preaching in Northern India. More than 5,000 congregations have been started by workers from 25 denominations or missions agencies in the region since the 1970s. Central and northern India are Hindu and tribal strongholds and resistant to the gospel.
Prayer and a new missionary zeal are behind the success. Christians used to be reluctant to travel to the north because of its difficult terrain, climate, and hostile spiritual atmosphere. But the prayers of Christians worldwide have given the Indian church more boldness.
Workers have started churches with 40-60 believers within two months of their first visit to a village. Many Muslims and Hindus, discouraged from trying to gain salvation through good works and religious rituals, respond immediately to the message of grace preached by Christians. When they hear that Jesus sets you free and gives you eternal life, they respond very quickly.
Evangelists pray for the sick. It has become a pattern and its just like Jesus did. He preached the word and healed people. "We always tell them that it is not us, but Jesus Christ who is the healer. We are just instruments," one worker for Sowers ministry says.
Hundreds of people became Christians after a woman was cured of a stomach tumour. Evangelists prayed for her after meeting her husband. He had gone to the [Hindu] temples all his life and made all the pilgrimages, but still had no meaning in life and his wife was dying. The evangelist told the man that Jesus Christ would heal his wife and the man invited them to his home to pray for her.
That night in a dream the man saw Jesus Christ touch his wifes stomach, and later told the workers. In the morning her stomach pains were gone and a visit to the doctor confirmed that the tumour had disappeared. More than 80 families from their village became Christians and have started a church as a result of her testimony. More than 80,000 people responded to Christs message at services preached by evangelist P.P. Job. "It was so awesome to see. They had such a hunger, and you could see it in their eyes, dripping with tears."
1998 saw severe persecution of Christians following a rise in Hindu fundamentalism. There was also a new escalation of violence over the recent Christmas holidays. However in the midst of persecution tremendous numbers of people are turning to Christ. Following is a report compiled from eyewitnesses and updates weve received from several sources. Please take time to read and pray for our brothers and sisters in India. Also feel free to pass this report to concerned members of the body of Christ.
Persecution of Christians in India is reported to be at its highest level in 50 years. Mobs of religious fanatics have attacked churches and Christian schools, dispersed outdoor gospel meetings, and beaten evangelists in dozens of incidents since last year. There have been at least 33 incidents of violence in 11 of Indias 25 states in 1998, much of it in Gujarat, a predominantly Hindu state that lies in west central India.
Churches have been burned in the villages of Bhapkal, Singana, Lahan, Kadmad, and Borkhal. A gang of Hindus invaded a Christian girls school in Rajkot and burned its Bibles. In Naroda, 400 people used tractors and crowbars to destroy a Catholic church.
The workers trust God for their protection. They take the threats before the Lord in fasting and prayer and ask Him to protect them. Christians have been beaten, tortured with razor blades, and thrown from speeding trains. Six to twelve Christians are martyred this way every year.
We received the following report from eyewitnesses: "On the night of December 30, 1998, about 300 men belonging to the Hindu militant groups arrived at Jarsol village in trucks and set the church building on fire. Then the believers were dragged out of their homes and beaten mercilessly with thick sticks, rods, bicycle chains and swords and told to renounce Jesus. When they refused to do so, the mob got even more violent and badly injured many of the believers.
We met with these people the same day this happened. We asked them, "Do you still trust Jesus in spite of all these things?" They were quick to reply, "No matter what has happened we will never stop following Jesus." A group of women said this while their husbands were lying in the hospital covered in blood. Among the injured was a 70 year-old lady who had tried to protect a loved one by fending off an attack with swords. These kind of attacks continue regularly.
Christianity is spreading into northern India. The apostle Thomas is said to have brought Christianity to southern India 2,000 years ago, but the churches influence thins in the central regions. In some northern states there may be one Christian for every 22 million people. Christian evangelists are bringing the gospel to these areas for the first time. These areas are Hindu political and spiritual strongholds, so the persecution is greater. Workers are constantly told to leave or be killed. Leaders have a price on their heads from anti-Christian groups.
On January 23th, 1999, in an unbelievably violent incident that has shocked the Christian world. An Australian missionary, Mr. Graham Stewart Steins, (58), and his two sons, Philips (11) and Timothy (6) were burnt to death at Manoharpur village in Orissa. The Hindu radicals poured petrol on the station wagon in which Mr. Steins and his sons were sleeping after a church meeting and set it on fire. Mr. Steins served the Lord amongst the Ho and Santhal tribes in the jungles of Orissa, and worked with leprosy patients in India since 1965. Graham leaves his widow Gladys, and their 13-year-old daughter Esther behind.
The Blood of the Martyrs Bears Fruits:
A day after Graham and his sons were martyred, TSM Director, Guine Anderson sent us the following report from Chennai, India: "We saw between 120,000-150,000 people gather every night in a mass crusade to hear preaching about the saving, healing and delivering power of Jesus Christ. Literally tens of thousands responded by giving their lives to Jesus. Thousands were healed of physical illness throughout the crowd." These meetings were held January 24-27, 1999. Guine was preaching with our family friend Dr. Job of the Love in Action Society.
Another reporter said, "Hundreds of tribal people in a section of northern India are becoming Christians through the efforts of evangelists. The area is known for violent tribal clashes. It is the greatest revival we know of at this time. You dont get this kind of revival without persecution, and bloodshed, and martyrdom. One comes with the other."
Our friends and partners from India write, "Jesus said that these things must come in the last days and therefore we request you to pray for us that in the midst of persecution we will continue to boldly preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that in the face of violence we will be able to share the love of Jesus."
Neil works for Sowers Ministry - which has about 200 evangelists and church planters at work in northern India. Workers are trained at the ministrys Bible College and are sent in pairs to preach in villages that have never heard the message of Christ. At least 80 churches have been started through their efforts. Contact the Sowers Ministry at P.O. Box 608 - Fanling, N.T. Hong Kong.
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