Friday, October 17, 2014

From Graveyard to Vineyard

For many years the Indian State of B*har was known as the “Graveyard of Missions.” Christians from many denominations in the 19th and 20th century placed a high priority on reaching the region, and soon the southern part of B*har was mostly evangelized with hundreds of indigenous churches.
 But in other parts of the same state, these missionaries were viewed with skepticism and fear, seen to be a part of the Western efforts to bring colonialism. Only a very few people responded to the gospel. After India achieved independence, almost all foreign missionaries had to leave India. Since there was no strong indigenous Church most missions were closed, leaving behind only missionary graves, a solemn reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears sown with little apparent fruit.

But this picture has changed in recent decades! B*har fell into despair and hopelessness as the state lost some of its former glory. The people were looking for a source of hope and change, and they began to find it in Christ.  ER’s School of Evangelism Director, S.D. P*nraj was among the wave of visionary Christian leaders who re-energized missions in B*har, and in the decade between 1999 and 2009, more than 50,000 people were baptized and 5,000 new churches were planted.
This validates the missions philosophy of Evangelism Resources—training indigenous workers to reach their own people with the gospel is the best, most cost-effective approach to church planting. 

In late August of 2014, forty-five women and fifteen men were baptized in one service. They represented five villages in one local district of B*har, and at least four people groups.  P*nraj writes, “We continue to see the move of God in B*har, and this is ‘His time’ for the 105 million people of this needy state. We need to strengthen our partnership to reach out to these ‘most receptive’ people. There is an urgency in reaching them with the gospel while there is no organized opposition or persecution in B*har.”
Please continue to pray for these new believers, and for the hundreds of missionaries, church planters, and evangelists laboring in B*har with the vision to make it a fruitful “Vineyard of Missions.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Blood of the Martyrs

In July of this year, D____ was murdered for his Christian faith by a group of radical Hindus, hung from the rafters of his own home while his wife was forced to flee. This chilling story roused concern, prayer, and support for his young widow, who was nine months pregnant at the time of the murder.  You may read the former blog by clicking here.
Second-century Church father Tertullian famously wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  The history of the early Church illustrated this fact—persecution, even killings, served only to fortify the faith of believers and caused the church to grow even more rapidly.
What was true then is true even now.  Recent news from Odisha tells, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”  S_____ (name withheld to protect her from further persecution) refused, even in the earliest moments, to recant her Christian faith. Though she and her husband had only been Christians for less than a year, S____ insisted on a Christian burial for him.  Family and neighbors pressured her to follow Hindu tradition: anyone killed by hanging must be cremated.  Indeed, this was likely the intention of the murderers when they chose that method of his death.
An intrepid pastor conducted a Christian funeral and burial, which certainly inflamed the ire of some Hindus. But others, touched by her tremendous courage, must have wondered what would make her so staunch in her beliefs.  As is often the case, that curiosity provided an opening for the gospel message.
To date, 40 people have professed faith in Jesus Christ and have received baptism!  This is in contradiction to the intent of the Hindus to intimidate and stamp out Christians in the small village. A vibrant church has been planted, and worship is now being led by their pastor, a graduate of ER’s School of Evangelism in Odisha.
S______’s faith, her courageous obedience to the cross, and her stalwart testimony has brought transformation to the lives of many people and the light of the gospel where once there was only darkness.  Will you join Evangelism Resources in supporting S______ and this fledgling church in prayer? Pray for protection as they continue to stand against the onslaught of hatred from persecutors, and pray that even some of the murderers might come to faith in Christ.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Under the Coconut Tree

Rev. D. B. H. (left) preaches to the Kaibartta House Church in D_______ village

The small group of people sitting under a coconut tree would likely have no significance to most onlookers. But to a group of people praying in the United States, their assembly is a direct answer to prayer. For more than a year, ER’s Kaibartta UPG (Unreached People Group) prayer team has been interceding before God’s throne for evangelism among this simple tribe of fishermen.

Outreach began soon after prayer commenced, with disaster relief following a major cyclone. Months later the gospel of Jesus Christ was presented at a Sea Beach community festival, and 200 Kaibartta leaders indicated they wanted to receive Christ. Schools were started for the Kaibartta children with teachers and support provided by Evangelism Resources’ partner ministry in Odisha State, Odisha Follow-up (OFU).  Click here to send an e-mail requesting a pictorial timeline of events following the formation of the Kaibartta prayer team.

In mid-July another exciting development was reported by Rev. D.B. H., leader of OFU. In D_____ village (name withheld to protect the Christians from persecution) a key Kaibartta leader and his family invited OFU to begin worship services in his home!  An OFU/ER trained pastor, who lives in a nearby village with his family, responded to the call and now a small church is meeting regularly. 

Hrudaya also reports a second open door!  Worship has begun in T________ village, with a small group of people comprised of two Kaibartta families. These simple people are also very poor – notice the dwelling in the background of the picture above.  In these locations the houses are small, and during the rainy season it is extremely difficult to travel. T_______ is in the very eastern edge of the district – from OFU headquarters in Balasore it is a 160 kilmoeter trip lasting five hours, including 40 minutes by boat!  Nevertheless, OFU plans to send someone to T_______ each Sunday for the next couple of months. 

Challenges abound, but God’s grace abounds more! Ministry to these dear souls is advancing, fueled by the prayers of the Kaibartta UPG prayer team. You can pray for the Kaibartta by asking God to assist in the training of local laypeople to pastor these small churches. If you’d like to join the Kaibartta UPG team, or a prayer team praying for outreach to any of the 15 Unreached People Groups adopted by Evangelism Resources, please send an e-mail to:  You may learn more about any of these groups on ER’s web page devoted to UPGs. .

One clear truth can be illustrated by these events:  God responds to the prayers of His people for lost souls.  Are you praying?

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Modern Martyr

Bishop D.B. H. was traveling by car on July 2nd to an urgent meeting. Church construction, a pastor’s health problems, serious drought conditions affecting the people… all were pressing problems. But a phone call from a sobbing pastor caused him to set aside lesser issues as horrifying news stunned him.
Market day, July 1, in the village of B---, was just like any other. People had come from surrounding villages, done their shopping and returned home. D--- and S---, a young couple had done the same. They were new Christians, attending a church led by an ER School of Evangelism graduate. The couple prepared dinner over an open fire, as was their custom, and ate by firelight since there is no electricity in their village.
S---, the wife, received Christ after hearing the gospel presented by a woman from the church. The woman evangelist was not literate, but her determination to learn the Bible had led her to complete Portable Bible School training as an oral learner.  S--- was moved by the presentation, became a Christian, and witnessed to her husband D---. He also received Christ as his Savior. They were new Christians, and the only ones in their remote village. There was mild opposition at first from their Hindu neighbors, but it was not worrisome.  Little did they know there were plots being made in secret.
That night the couple lay sleeping. S--- is ready to give birth nearly any day, and she has an 18-month-old as well.  In the thick darkness, a group of hostile men entered the house, and with a friendly greeting tried to wake D---.  S--- woke first, and challenged the men, alarmed by their presence in her home. One man pushed her aside quickly and waved a bright torch in her eyes so she could not recognize any faces.
The men ordered her to leave the house immediately, while one of them kicked D--- until he wakened. Torn between love for her husband and a desire to protect her children S--- fled, while begging the men not to hurt her husband. As she left she could hear the groans of her husband, who was crying out in pain.
S--- began screaming for others to come to help her husband, but no one responded. Eventually, deathly silence fell upon the house. It was over. D--- was dead, hanged from the rafters of their home, martyred for his faith in Christ. Only when light began to dawn did anyone dare to come to S---’s aid.
The murderers protected themselves well. They have not been identified, and to this date no one has been arrested. The crime has been reported to police, but there is little hope that any justice will come in earthly terms.  Great fear has come upon all the Christians in the region – we must pray for them and for their pastors and leaders. We must also pray for salvation even for those who have killed this precious believer, widowed his wife, and made his children fatherless.
ER has already responded with financial assistance for S---. She was forced by custom to abandon the home she shared with D---. She will relocate to a nearby city where she will receive the ministry she needs to get through this crisis. Pray for her now as she brings a second child into the world, and as she faces a bleak future in a culture that makes life difficult for widows.  And continue to pray for thousands of Christians in India and around the world whose decision to follow Christ may cost them their lives.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Testimony of a Muslim-Background Believer

S_____ teaches at a GC3 Camp in April, 2014
      S____ (name withheld for security purposes) fled for his life, his enraged father pursuing him with an axe. Having given his life to Christ, the 17-year-old was being disowned from his family. S_____’s father, a devout Nigerian Muslim, threw out all his belongings and physically chased him from the house with the intention of killing S_____ for becoming an infidel. This bitter experience is not uncommon for Muslim-background believers (MBBs). 
S_____ had been indoctrinated as a young boy with the belief that non-Muslims were condemned. In primary school he carried pictures illustrating the blessings awaiting Muslims in the afterlife and the torment awaiting non-Muslims. This provoked him to physically assault Christian students, and he gladly endured the beatings in the school assembly that were his punishment. He now describes his commitment to Islam as “fanatical.”
S_____ persisted in his new Christian faith in spite of the obstacles. His father continued to affect his life behind the scenes, collaborating with a Muslim instructor to have him transferred to an Arabic college. S_____ explains, “Fortunately, I failed the interview.” His father refused to sponsor his education and continued making credible death threats. His mother took a more conciliatory tone, not advocating violence, but pleading with him to return to Islam.

S_____ fled to the home of a Christian relative living in a city in a predominantly Muslim region which nevertheless has several churches. He began immediately to connect with other youth, talking with young Muslims about Jesus and the Bible.
In 2013, S_____ attended a GC3 camp organized by youth who had attended the Master Trainers’ Seminar in Jos, Nigeria, on the campus of ER’s School of Evangelism. He was taught to look for those whom the Spirit had already prepared—for a “man of peace,” as Jesus instructed in Luke 10:5-6. He also learned how to use statements about Jesus in the Koran as a bridge to the hearts and minds of Muslims. This approach would be less confrontational and safer for everyone, and would also result in increased fruitfulness.
     S_____ returned to his home city with a new methodology and a new resolve. The region is still mostly Muslim— every effort is made by local officials to frustrate and openly persecute all Christians, but especially MBBs. Energized and inspired by the GC3 seminar, S_____ began quietly to organize a camp for local youth. Last month (April of 2014), S______ conducted a GC3 camp at a secondary school with 43 youth in attendance, many of them MBBs.
     S_____ says, “I am grateful to God for showing me the light and revealing to me His grace. I thought I was on the right path until He showed me the way.”
     In Jos, ER's President remembers a Muslim-background believer (MBB) standing to his feet after the lesson about persecution. “When we wake in the morning, we never know whether we will be alive at the end of the day.” This is no exaggeration, and in the silence following his statement, St___ turned to D___ P___ and asked him to pray. P___, from India, is no stranger to persecution.
     He had been marked for death and tied to a tree by Hindus intent on killing him. Only his mother’s prayers and the providential arrival of the police prevented his death at that moment. As the group surrounded P___ and the MBB, earnest prayers for protection, courage, and perseverance ascended to the Throne of Grace. Will you add your “Amen” to those prayers?And will you commit to pray, as God leads you, for persecuted Christians around the world?  We must be faithful—lives are in the balance!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Among the Cloud of Witnesses

“Years have passed since Clara Stromberg laid down her life for a tribe’s salvation, but there are tribes who wait still today. They are hopelessly lost, fearful each day, knowing no hope for life. Day after day we receive word of our brothers who are giving their lives for the salvation of those tribes, and they are enduring persecution. But they are working for the salvation of lost tribes, and God is wonderfully blessing their efforts. Better yet, they are serving the Lord who laid down His life, and we know that He will pour out His rewards when we meet Him around the Throne.”
Thelma Braun’s distinctive voice flowed forth from my computer speakers, and it was as if God had rolled back time a few years. I was working earlier today on a new project: posting treasured recordings online so they may be heard by anyone with access to the internet. Before I could post them, I needed to listen to a few. Reminded again of her passion for missions and her love for Jesus, I couldn’t help but wonder what she would have to say about all ER has done since she went to heaven in 2009.

I know she would be pleased that S___ R___, supported by the home office staff and ER’s precious partners, has launched a mighty movement to mobilize Asia’s women for discipleship—the Women’s Impact Network. We are following in Thelma’s pioneering footsteps as she initiated the movement, launching Women’s Work Conferences in 2005. She discipled both S___ and me in a very meaningful way, calling forth our gifts for ministry and encouraging us to work hard for the Lord’s Kingdom. There is no doubt she would have great joy as she saw the women assembled for training and making their commitments to begin discipleship groups.
Willys and Thelma (left) and fellow Africa missionaries

The concept of winning Unreached People Groups (UPGs) to the Lord would seem “old hat” for Thelma. She and Willys left America in 1945 for Belgian Congo for just that purpose. Her radio message, “Why India?” lays out clearly the rationale for opening new ministries in that vast nation—that’s where the majority of unreached people live and work.  In the radio message quoted above, Thelma called them “lost tribes.” No matter the terminology, the concept is the same: the message of salvation in Jesus Christ needs telling.

 Great Commission Challenge Camps (GC3s) were the first brand-new initiative for ER after Thelma went to be with the Lord. She loved young people and many who attended those early GC3 camps count it a blessing to have met her and heard her messages.  Thousands of youth have been trained, and as the movement has now spread to Thelma’s beloved Africa, it’s clear that GC3 has staying power. Spin-off camps, most of them funded by indigenous ministries (without any ER support), continue to train young tentmakers who will be equipped by GC3 to share their testimonies, win people to Christ, and disciple the new converts to win others.

ER’s digital presence has increased dramatically since 2009. A revamped website came first, and then we have added a Facebook page, blog, and now an internet radio station. We receive donations online, and have added a weekly Friday Foto e-mail in addition to the Prayer Hotline which Thelma enjoyed writing.
Hebrews 12:1 reads, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”  Thelma’s familiar voice speaks now only from recordings—she has now joined the “cloud of witnesses” referenced in Hebrews. The Scripture then urges those of us who yet live to

  • "...throw off everything that hinders”—Let us cast off any burden that would keep us from fulfilling Jesus’ mandate for discipleship (the Great Commission).
  • “…and the sin that so easily entangles”—Let us live holy lives, making us a fit vessel for God to use as we share the gospel.
  • “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”—Let us patiently endure the trials of the Christian life and persist in witnessing for Jesus until our last breath.

ER has an internet radio station!
If you would like to hear Thelma’s challenge again, visit ER’s new
internet radio station by following this link:

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