Gospel Growth in Odisha
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Written by India Gospel Outreach
Categories: Prayer & Praise
Please note: The P&P Blog is a modified version of IGO's Prayer & Praise monthly newsletter. We may change or omit names, locations, or images for the protection of our evangelists and ministry in general. Thank you for understanding.
Praise God for continued growth of the church in Odisha state in spite of continued persecution.
Odisha has more persecution of Christians than any other state in India, except perhaps in Gujarat. A general persecution in 2008 killed hundreds of Christians, destroyed 1,500 churches and Christian institutions and displaced many tens of thousands of believers. Harsh anti-conversion laws are some of the worst in India. Still, the gospel is going forth, and people are responding in spite of all the radical Hindus are doing to stop it.
A Hindu news report from 2015 has said that in the past 50 years, the number of Christians in Odisha has risen by 478% as compared to 323% for Muslims and 130% for Hindus. No doubt, this stark fact explains the harsh anti-conversion laws.
India Gospel Outreach has worked hard to do its part in taking the gospel to all of Odisha. In the past twelve years, from 2005 through 2017, more than 200 graduates from Odisha Bible Training Center have taken the Good News into 20 of Odisha’s 30 districts. These graduates are mostly evangelists and church planters among people who have never heard the gospel.
The current class from Odisha Bible Training Center numbers 17. They have studied in a two year diploma program based upon courses taught at India Bible College and Seminary.
All graduates from Odisha Bible Training Center come from Hindu backgrounds. They are first-generation believers. Many of them have committed their lives to Christ and heard God’s call to ministry through the ministry of other IGO evangelists and graduates from IGO Bible training centers. They know the risks they take by opposing the status quo and preaching the gospel, but they willingly take those risks.
IGO supports evangelists in Odisha. Here, evangelists are often harassed by radical Hindus, but this has not stopped people from committing their lives to Christ.
One evangelist, Pastor Sanjay, rented a house that doubled as his personal home and meeting place for new believers. With increasing numbers of new believers coming to his home, he began to experience rent raises from his Hindu landlord.
IGO has helped to provide Pastor Sanjay a small parsonage that will help him escape this constant harassment. IGO also helped to provide the church with separate property to build a small church for about $5,000, with about $1,500 still needed to complete the job.
In August, Pastor Sanjay moved into his incomplete apartment, and the believers conducted a service of dedication for the new church building. There, Pastor Baachan, principal of Odisha Bible Training Center preached a powerful message. Presiding was Pastor John Mathai, who has long helped to develop the ministry in Odisha and at Odisha Bible Training Center.
Pastor Maahir leads a congregation of 100 baptized believers, all from Hindu background. This church has continued to grow in spite of constant harassment and persecution from radical Hindus.
Until recently, these believers met in a small shed that collapsed during heavy winds. The church is now shifting to a new location. They purchased a small piece of property for $4,000. Most of the money came from a church in Kerala pastored by one of our graduates from India Bible College and Seminary who were impressed by Pastor Maahir's ministry. We are praying for someone who will help them make up the remaining deficit.
Another young fellowship of believers recently built and dedicated a small church building in another village, but they still need $2,200 to completely get out of debt.
More than 30 recent graduates from India Bible College and Seminary have engaged in evangelism and church planting in different parts of Odisha where there is little or no gospel witness.
In addition to church planting, evangelists also engage in gospel-based social ministries which serves as a powerful witness. There is little or none of this taking place through Hindus who take a fatalistic attitude toward people in need and distress. These Christ-based social ministries attract many to the Good News, especially those who have become accustomed to just fighting for survival on their own.
One of these social ministries is the Sneha Bhavan (House of Love) ministry. The Sneha Bhavan is a home for orphaned girls and other young women at risk because of poverty at home. The home was founded in 2014.
As so often happens in India, and especially in Odisha, such young girls are vulnerable to exploitation by sex traffickers or temples where prostitutes are used for “religious” purposes. They have little or no chance to receive an education, medical attention or anything else that boys and men receive. They suffer more diseases and have shorter life spans.
In many ways, girls and women are considered second-class citizens. This attitude is drummed into them at such an early age that most girls truly believe they are inferior beings. Throughout their lives, they suffer humiliations that we in the West would never tolerate but which are considered normal in strongly Hindu areas such as Odisha. All this is contrary to the gospel which makes no distinction between male and female.
At Sneha Bhavan, the girls receive the basic necessities plus an education they would not otherwise receive, simply because they are girls. Everything is done in the name of Jesus, and most of the girls who hear the gospel commit their lives to
Heading up this ministry of Sneha Bhavan is a young woman referred to as “Sister Susy.” She came to Odisha in 2015 as a recent graduate from India Bible College and Seminary. She originally comes from Nagaland. Nagaland is one of the few predominately Christian places in India, but she came to study at IBC with a strong calling from God to make a difference for the gospel in a place where the gospel is little known.
Originally, Sister Susy arrived after graduation at Sneha Bhavan to assist at the school, but during the summer, she revealed her dedication to Christ, strong gifts of leadership and her ability to inspire girls who arrive with little in their backgrounds to offer hope for the future.
Many of the girls who live at Sneha Bhavan come from tribal backgrounds. Sister Susy, who comes from tribal background herself, is a living example and inspiration of what the gospel can do in and through a tribal girl who commits her life to Jesus Christ.
At India Gospel Outreach, we are encouraged by what God is doing through our evangelists and church planters. But we also recognize the many challenges we still face. In addition to radical Hindus, Muslims are also making a strong play for the hearts and minds of Odisha’s people.
Churches like those led by Pastors Sanjay and Maahir need the support of friends from outside in paying off deficits for new property as they seek independence from exploitative Hindu landlords and shelter from the elements.
Social ministries like Sneha Bhavan need the prayer and financial support from friends called to help disadvantaged girls (and boys) overcome circumstances brought about by the darkness of of the enemy.
- Pray that God will glorify Himself through the ministry of India Gospel Outreach evangelists in Odisha.
- Pray that God will raise up a growing harvest force of men and women in Odisha.
- Pray for the expansion of IGO’s ministry in Odisha through the construction of new and larger facilities than what is presently available (we already have the land for this).
- Pray for a great awakening in Odisha.