From the Jungles to Jesus

Abhay and his wife, Priya,* don’t hide the fact that they used to be Naxalites (a guerrilla terrorist group)  who lived in the jungles of northeastern India and frequently terrorized Christians. In a time of chronic unrest, the couple served as area commanders of their Naxalite battalion.

“We thought of ourselves as the sworn enemy against Christ followers.”

One day Priya heard a Hindi radio program, Mahima Ke Vachan (Words of Glory), produced by Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) and its partner organizations in India.

“I was skeptical at first,” Priya recalled about her first exposure to the story of Jesus’ birth. “I refused the message as a wild imagination of some unknown writer, but I wanted to know more.”

At great personal risk, Priya bought a Bible and began to read it. Eventually convinced that every word in the Bible was true, Priya gave her life to Christ.

Abhay then began listening to the program and was similarly filled with questions about what he heard. He spoke to a local pastor who gave him a Bible to read and encouraged Abhay to keep listening. As Abhay continued to hear God’s truth, his heart was transformed, and he too submitted his life to Jesus. The couple immediately left the Naxalite group.

Today Abhay and Priya are strong witnesses for the Lord. They are members of the Mennonite church in India and they encourage others to tune in to Words of Glory.

A Force for the Gospel

Stories such as Abhay and Priya’s motivate Rev. A. K. Lama, the Hindi ministry leader for BTGMI, to keep going.

Lama has served as a pastor and church leader in India for more than 25 years after initially studying to become a veterinarian. “When I left the veterinary practice, my family thought I was crazy,” he admitted. “They knew that ministers didn’t make nearly as much money. They also knew I would be targeted for my beliefs and profession.”

Still, Lama could not ignore the voice of God calling him to share the gospel and disciple others. He told his family and friends, “I want to give 100% to the Lord.”

The work can be dangerous. Lama  has been publicly ridiculed and beaten by government officials. He has been forced out of towns and villages where he ministered. Yet, because of his passion for sharing the gospel and giving people the opportunity to come to faith in Christ, he persists.

“Compared to what God has given, we are very insignificant,” he says of the suffering he has endured. “The Lord has rewarded.”

His ministry is greatly needed. The majority of people living in northern India are Hindus who practice a variety of mystic religious rituals.

“Many people live in darkness, poverty, and isolation,” Lama explained. “Ninety-seven percent of India’s 1.3 billion people have not accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Many have never heard the name of Jesus.”

A Partnership for the Gospel

Rev. Lama joined the BTGMI ministry team in 2014. He oversees the northern India media outreach partnership between BTGMI, India-based Good Books Ministries, and Words of Hope, the media outreach associated with the Reformed Church in America.

His team of 39 full-time and 12 part-time staff produces three radio programs in the Hindi language plus adaptations of the programs in several local languages. In places where the radio signals are weak or people don’t have access to radios, they distribute the programs through CD, cassette, and MP3/SD devices.

Members of the team take long treks by foot into remote mountain villages to visit listeners and share ministry resources with seekers. In addition to the audio programs, they distribute Masihi Ahwah (Christian Calling), a monthly discipleship magazine that contains daily devotionals, information about health, and biblical articles about family life and culture.

“This is a vast mission field,” added BTGMI director Rev. Kurt Selles. “Our vision is to bring the gospel to people who are unreached, using various kinds of media. We also offer leadership training to equip those who are discipling new believers.”

The Hindi ministry team has established 35 listener groups throughout northern India. These groups meet together--sometimes weekly--to listen to the program, discuss its content, and pray for one another. They also invite neighbors, family members, and seekers to join the group.

Ali* came to faith through one of the seekers’ meetings. “I was born and brought up in a Muslim family,” he testified. “There were a lot of struggles in my family. Being a staunch Muslim, I offered prayers and performed all religious duties, but it all proved of no avail.”

A friend gave him a copy of the New Testament. “I began to read and learned that Jesus died on the cross to forgive all the sinners. I believed that Jesus died for me.” 

Ali was invited to a seekers’ meeting where he met the producer of the BTGMI program in his local region. “He helped me to understand the truth of the gospel. Now I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord.”

Jesus in the Hard-to-Reach Places

BTGMI also does ministry in the primarily Hindu remote Garhwal region of northern India, located in the Himalayan Mountains.

“Garhwali people are very simple. Most are farmers. They are facing a lot of problems,” producer Ajay Kumar explained. “People want to know about the Christian faith, so the ministry is growing very rapidly. We are getting a very good response from our listeners.”

Senior producer Rev. Rajesh Mansell added, “Our phone is always open. People call late at night.  Sometimes 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, saying, ‘I have listened to [the BTGMI Hindi] program. God changed my heart.’ Others ask for prayer.”

Asked whether these late night calls bother him, Mansell said, “God never sleeps; we also never sleep. And I never puzzle about this because we are the servants of God. And always we are ready for the Lord’s work.”

“One of the things I see among our listeners, they do respond,” Lama added. “They are excited about what we are teaching them. I see some level of deepening of their faith, their understanding of the Bible, their participation with our producers.”

Amarjeet Singh, a former Hindu, is one such listener.

“When I heard about God on the radio, I felt so good. I kept listening for some time and now my life is on the right path,” the 23-year-old pharmacy student said. He encouraged his family and friends to listen to the program so they could also be blessed. “Now I praise God that each member of my family believes in Jesus and lives a happy life.”

Whether it’s former militants such as Abhay and Priya, those struggling with another religion such as Ali, or young people such as Amarjeet who are seeking answers, many people across India are turning to Christ as a result of radio ministry.

“People are coming, they are calling. The church is growing and growing and growing,” Mansell concluded. “We are seeing that God is working.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

At-a-Glance

  • BTGMI uses media to proclaim the gospel and disciple Christians in 10 major world languages.
  • In 2009, BTGMI began Hindi outreach in partnership with Good Books and Words of Hope.
  • Last year BTGMI distributed the Masihi Ahwan (Christian Calling) magazine to 1,400 homes.
  • The Hindi team provided five training events for pastors and church leaders in 2016.
  • At least 90 volunteers help facilitate discipleship of listeners in remote regions.

Please join BTGMI in praying for

  • Rev. A.K. Lama and the Hindi staff who sometimes work in risky places to share the gospel.
  • Amarjeet, Ali, Abhay, Priya, and all those who recently have embraced Christ as Savior. Pray that God will use BTGMI’s ministry and believers in India to grow their faith and witness.
  • the 97 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people who have never heard the name of Jesus or responded to his call to believe in him.

About the Authors

Nancy Vander Meer is a staff writer with Back to God Ministries International in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Kristen Fergus Van Stee, Back to God Ministries International

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