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Citizens of Heaven

Throughout the last four months of the COVID-19 crisis, I have been newly struck by how powerful the church is when we take seriously God’s call to be citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). 

We work in a world where true persecution is a reality. 

This past month one of our pastors brought help and comfort to the family of a teenage boy who was martyred by Hindu radicals in northern India because of his family’s Christian faith. One of our missionaries in Myanmar took in three children whose Buddhist father beat and then abandoned their mother because she began following Christ. A pastor in Nepal was arrested for recording and sharing a video sermon, while his Hindu counterparts were free to do the same. Yet the main prayer request, apart from comfort and safety for these believers’ families, is always the same: 

“Pray for our persecutors to follow Jesus.” 

Our partners’ prayers for their persecutors display a kingdom mindset focused on seeking God’s will – that enemies would be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Countless Christians were overlooked for help from government food distribution programs during recent lockdowns. But so were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. 

In each of the countries where we work, minority religions are persecuted – whether Rohingya Muslims experiencing genocide in Myanmar, systemic injustice toward Muslims and Christians in India, or Hindus facing discrimination and violence in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our pastors, missionaries, and believers responded in this time by feeding the marginalized: the poorest of the poor, those facing discrimination, and the outcasts of society, regardless of faith or status. 

These men and women have displayed Jesus’ heart of justice and mercy (Matthew 25:31-46), which has opened new doors for the Gospel.

Recently, while speaking about the hundreds of families his network of missionaries has helped so far during COVID-19, our Bangladesh director Darpan* said, 

“When COVID-19 began, many of our missionaries responded very well, seeing how they could help many people during this time feel the loving touch of Christ. They fed people with what they had. My wife and I requested help from you in this time and the Lord sent some blessings. Instead of working directly [i.e. obvious miracles], the Lord is using His people to meet these needs…The feedback in the communities has been very good. People are learning that Christians are so caring when even the government is not helping. Besides giving food we gave hand washing and hygiene lessons too, as this information had not reached many of them. We gave thanks to the Lord publicly, and the non-believers understood where these blessings came from. Already, many want to know more about Jesus…very soon there will be more preaching centers – there will be a baptism program when it is possible again….Our missionaries are enduring a very hard time – but everyone is ready to accomplish His commandments as He called us. So, pray for them and hope for this. We are busy with relief work, but very silently the Holy Spirit has been working among lots of hearts; so on His work we need to keep our attention and pray and commit.”

Responding from a position of putting God first and loving their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30-31), these brothers and sisters are seeing God change hearts and minds. 

An American missionary friend recently pointed out that when Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that we are citizens of heaven, he didn’t just mean looking forward to heaven as our true home. A first century reader would understand this; the city of Philippi in Greece was a Roman colony where many had the privilege of Roman citizenship. The citizens of a colony were not supposed to aspire to go back to Rome. Their job was to secure a conquered country by permeating the local culture with Roman culture. By telling Christians they were citizens of heaven, then, Paul was telling them to permeate the world with heavenly culture. 

The believers we come alongside are doing this.

In June, while discussing future goals and plans with our Nepal director, Shalva*, he said, 

“I believe without planting churches, we can’t bring changes in society. Churches are the nucleus to transform the society, as well as replace superstition with truth.”

In Shalva’s specific case, the church transforming society looks like the church being the safest place for a woman of any faith to seek safety from an abusive marriage. It looks like people learning that medicine, and not witchcraft, can heal them. The church is where people of all castes can worship together. 

This is all a natural outpouring of seeking God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). I pray I follow our South Asian brothers’ and sisters’ example in living as a citizen of heaven here on earth.

In Christ,

Kate Therese, Executive Director

 *Names changed for safety

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Stories

Thoughts on Persecution: Moved and Convicted

Throughout the last five months of being on staff with Harvest Bridge, I have heard countless stories of pastors, families, and other Christians in South Asia enduring persecution for their faith. Before working for HB, stories such as these remained mainly in anecdotes from missiology books I’d read, or were tales I heard from a friend working in a “far-off” country. Now, they’re personal.

We live in a world where true persecution is a reality. I think I’ve always known this, but admittedly, living in the US has afforded me the all-too-expedient convenience to believe being persecuted for one’s faith doesn’t happen all that often. During these short five months, this preconceived notion has certainly been challenged, and for this I am grateful. 

The circumstances of persecution faced by Christians in South Asia have stark similarities to those posed in the novel Silence by Shūsaku Endō, in which persecution often occurs with seemingly no purpose, at least from man’s vantage point. This is a hard truth, but as I’ve come to realize, a reality of the Christian faith: there is purpose behind our suffering far greater than we can comprehend. 

Harvest Bridge’s partners, whom you support, understand this well.

Early on in Silence, the 17th-Century Jesuit priest Sebastien Rodrigues laments to God regarding the Japanese Christians’ suffering: 

“Lord, why are you silent? Why are you always silent…?” 

His doubt probably resonates with most of us at times during our lives. It causes us to ask questions such as, “Why does God “permit” suffering? Is our suffering accomplishing anything? How close is Jesus to us when we suffer?” 

The reality that I will probably never deal with persecution the way our South Asian partners do is sobering – and their faith-filled response to the seemingly unanswerable questions of suffering is humbling. Our pastors are facing real and, oftentimes, harrowing persecution – threats, discrimination, and violence are far too common. These circumstances remind us that following Jesus comes at an earthly cost, and that the reasons for this suffering sometimes seem agonizingly inane.

When our partners experience persecution, their response is often to praise God despite hardship. As we spoke this week, Pastor Bharat* in India explained that when his community experiences persecution – being denied clean water, disowned by family, or harassed by police – it strengthens their prayer life and enables relationship-building with other believers. Bharat went on to share with me that, 

“There is no time you feel closer to God than when you are persecuted.”

This is a belief that embodies Romans 8:18, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Our missionaries’ response to persecution reveals a spirit-led life.

Towards the end of Silence, Rodrigues comes to realize that his education in Christian Portugal has blinded him to what Christ’s life message means when those comforts are stripped away, when he is tasked with comforting the poor, hurting, and vulnerable in Japan. The meaning of the suffering he’s encountered hits Rodrigues as he hears God say, 

“When you suffer, I suffer with you. To the end I am close to you.” 

He realizes Christ was always suffering with the Japanese Christians, close to them, beside them, and watching with as much anguish as the priests did as they watched their friends being crucified in the ocean. The believers we come alongside realize this – sometimes the answer to our suffering is that God is suffering as well, right beside us. That God was born into this world to share men’s pain. What a God we serve who identifies with us in this way. 

I’m moved and convicted by our partners’ response to the persecution they encounter. Let’s be moved and convicted together.

Thank you for standing with our suffering saints.

Humbled by the One who heals,

Daniel Scott, 

Director of International Partnerships

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Stories

Finding Truth in Crisis

Harvest Bridge’s ministry is to come alongside local South Asian believers who are reaching their own communities for Christ; we join with men and women who have done much with little, equipping them to do even more to share the Gospel in word and deed. This approach has been crucial in responding to COVID-19.

We support local believers who are experienced in disaster relief, who understand their local contexts, and who, characteristically, sprang into action to help their communities cope with COVID-19 even before any external funding came. With your support, thousands of families and individuals have received life-saving food and hygiene supplies since March.

As I wrote to those of you who generously gave to our successful Summer Giving Match, we are in a historic time of revival. Believers in South Asia have never seen such great physical need, nor a greater openness to the Gospel.

Many countries in South Asia greatly downplayed the virus, saying that their religion would protect them – Islam in Bangladesh, Buddhism in Myanmar, Hinduism in India, and so on. When lockdowns were enforced, those same governments often did very little to practically help their citizens. As people’s trust in their religion and government erodes in the midst of immense suffering, they are searching for truth – truth that can only be found in the real and practical love of Jesus Christ. 

As our Bangladesh country director, Pastor Darpan*, reflected recently, 

“We believe that within this high risk of Covid-19 which is a challenging period to human life, where everything is collapsing – Jesus, He has kept the door open where people are thirsty for His Salvation and peace.”

Bihar, the poorest state in India, has a population of 124 million – roughly equal to the combined populations of the UK and Italy. The state is experiencing devastating floods in the midst of COVID-19 and the economic fallout of lockdown. 

One of our lead pastors there, Suraj*, shares about two of the food distributions he and his team have carried out with your support over the past several months:

“First of all, I wholeheartedly thank you for opening doors for the flood survivors of North Bihar, to provide relief in the form of dry food ration packets and sanitizing items during this calamity. There has been a great spiritual impact of the program on the benefitting families and communities. From the beginning we were giving the importance on spiritual impact, and also on smooth distributions to the neediest people. We selected areas where we already had prayer cells and some Christian believers to help in the execution and follow-up. We prayed for the program and appointed Christian volunteers.

In July, with your support, 250 families (1,000 people) were helped. The distribution took place in different communities instead of in just one big community, which helped us to reach the selected neediest people specifically. The beneficiaries were migrant workers, the elderly, widows, farmers, and the unemployed. People from all faiths like Hindu, Muslim, and Christian were helped.

Then on September 10th, with given funds of $3,000, 100 large food packets were prepared and transported by a truck 155 miles away from Patna (Bihar’s capital) to flood survivors and the neediest people in a village. This has been a great relief to the benefitting families. There were about ten handicapped people among the beneficiaries, and most everyone had weak bodies and saddened faces. 

These rations in such a flood and pandemic situation were a great relief and brought smiles to the families.

At one colony, one family who received a food packet was overwhelmed by the gift and the love shared. They started watching our online services and calling me on video to get counselling. I shared the Gospel and prayed for them on the video calls. I have met the man, Prem*, only once on the day of distribution for five minutes, and the rest of the family only by phone. But this had a great impact, and the whole family of four people have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and have thrown the idols from their house. Praise God!

There is a married lady with four daughters and one son who is from a Hindu background. They were a happy family with her husband. But sometime back, unfortunately, her husband died and her cruel in-laws threw all of them out of the house. She was not educated enough to get a job. Meanwhile, this virus and lockdown came, mounting their problems. They were struggling in their life when they got a gift of food packets. It brought a great relief and some happiness among their sufferings.

An old man from a Hindu background was working as a gardener in another city, but because of the lockdown he lost his job and returned back here with his family to his hometown. This family and children were going hungry, as they had no work and no money. They were overwhelmed with thankfulness as our team showed them the love of God and a warm welcome.

In another community after the distributions, a few people stayed back because they heard that I am a pastor, and they asked me to pray for them. So I prayed for six people there and introduced our online services, the local prayer cell, and leaders for follow-up meetings.

Pray for water baptism taking place this month of September. Some of our online viewers are from a Hindu higher caste, have believed in the Lord, and are going to take baptism, leaving idolatry and witchcraft. I have not met them physically, but online only.

Pray for our church believers, that they may stand strong in their faith during this crisis of COVID-19, job loss, unemployment, etc. There is great need of more such relief projects in Bihar, as the population of flood survivors and needy people is huge. People are facing financial crises due to loss of work and income during this dual crisis of floods and COVID.

A bouquet of thanks and heartiest appreciation for this great support and prayers towards Bihar flood relief. This was indeed a great help and relief during this crisis time. Everybody, including local leaders of the villages, volunteers, and beneficiaries have expressed their immense gratitude.”

Pastor Suraj’s stories represent thousands of other families and individuals throughout our network in South Asia. With your support, we continue to join these local leaders sharing the Gospel in word and deed in this life-altering time.

Thank you for continuing to join in God’s work in South Asia. Your partnership is making an immediate and eternal impact.

In Christ,

Pastor Suraj, with Kate Therese, 

Executive Director 

*Names changed for safety

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Countries

India

India

India is where it all began! Here, we come alongside local leaders all throughout India in 11 states and three union territories. We directly support the work of about 30 followers of Jesus on the mainland (not including Andaman Islands or Kashmir) who are reaching their people for Christ through childcare and education, pastor training, women’s business empowerment programs, disaster relief, and more.

Nearly one in five people on earth live in this diverse country – India has 121 languages spoken by 10,000 or more people, and its geography ranges from the Himalayas to dry deserts to tropical rainforests and everything in between. Not only is it home to the largest Hindu population in the world, it is also home to the third-largest Muslim population.

Through conferences and pastor training courses, Harvest Bridge has trained several thousand Indian church leaders. In 2020, more than 500 men and women began following Jesus, and 374 were baptized. In 2020 amidst the pandemic, nearly 1,700 families – about 8,500 people – who suffered tremendously due to COVID-19 lockdowns received food and sanitation relief items. 650 children were educated through night schools run by pastors and church volunteers. 15 children received monthly sponsorship, enabling their families to afford keeping them at home instead of sending them to an orphanage. 14 men and women received job training or micro-investments for their small businesses. Although the ability to plant new physical churches was next to impossible with lockdowns, dozens of new online Bible studies began. About 150 pastors received education through two Bible schools, and 60 believers completed lay church ministry training throughout the country. 

Capital: Delhi

Population: 1.35 billion

Religion: Hindu 79.8%, Muslim 14.2%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh and other 3.7%

Persecution Watch List Country Ranking: 10

Ministries: Pastor TrainingChildren’s MinistryHope Through EducationVocational ProgramsGATEDisaster Relief

Leadership Information: Our India Director oversees HB’s network of partners in India. For over 40 years, he has helped plant dozens of churches and has led pastor training and discipleship programs throughout South Asia.

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Stories

Our Savior and Our Comfort

Miriam*, a widow in northern India, is in her early 70s. Her late husband Benjamin* was one of the first missionaries Harvest Bridge began supporting, nearly 10 years ago. After a life well lived, Benjamin passed away suddenly three years ago. Even in her grief, Miriam has continued her husband’s ministry. 

Already looked down upon for being poor and a Christian, Miriam became all the more ostracized in a society that regularly dehumanizes widows. Not only did society push her away, but, her extended family rejected her, discouraging her from ministry. 

When I was with her earlier this year, she was very honest about the hardship and pain she has experienced while grieving the loss of Benjamin. As we held hands in prayer, crying together, the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 came to mind, as they often do in times like this:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

As her sister in Christ, I could offer love and sympathy to Miriam, but never could I or anyone else truly step into her shoes and fully bear that burden with her. 

But Jesus, our great High Priest, can. 

Who else could enter and heal this brokenness better? Who else, other than our God who, for a time, walked on earth, fully human and fully God? 

Jesus, who was not only tempted by Satan himself and then separated from God while on the cross, but who was also rejected by much of his family, hated by many, grew up in poverty in a disrespected town, and died a brutally painful and humiliating death. 

Jesus, who while being human, was also fully God, and so was able to see into the depth of sin and pain in the lives of those around Him. 

Jesus, who can sympathize with our weakness and welcomes us to come to Him boldly.

That is the God we pray to, the God that Miriam was able to cry out to when no one else could understand her pain. This is who all of our national missionaries and followers of Jesus around the world cry out to. When they too are rejected by family for their faith, when they are physically stoned because of sharing the Gospel, when they do not know where their next meal will come from, when they are tempted to give up.

In a recent update from Miriam, she wrote, 

“I am doing the ministry in remote villages…there are a lot of ups and downs, and many times I am feeling much discouragement by the situation around me. But the word of God is giving me strength to go forward with more enthusiasm, power, and courage…all my relatives left and were discouraging me to leave the ministry. But I have decided to follow Jesus till the death and do the ministry which my husband left and handed to me…God is helping me in every aspect of my life, especially in this critical situation of my husband’s death. This is my humble desire and vision that even in this situation, I want to become a great godly woman, an example for many families, and be faithful in this hard situation until the last day of my life.”

That is a perspective only possible through knowing our Lord. 

This Christmas season, I am reminded that when our God came to earth as a humble baby to save us for eternity, He also became our greatest source of comfort and strength in this life. 

And I am thankful that as part of the Body of Christ, you are the hands and feet of Jesus in supporting our many South Asian brothers and sisters like Miriam as they serve Him. Thank you! Merry Christmas!

In Christ,

Kate Therese, 

Director of Mobilization 

*Names changed for security

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Stories

Resurrection Life

It was only 10AM, but the temperature was already nearing 100 degrees. Pastor Ritesh* led the way up the hill, first on a rough gravel road and then a narrow footpath. 

As we ascended, I couldn’t resist turning around frequently to catch glimpses of the beautiful sun-dried landscape in this remote district of western India.

Ritesh, an indigenous missionary supported by Harvest Bridge, was the first person to bring the Gospel to this region. 

For 27 years, he and his wife Sunila* have shared Christ’s message and demonstrated His love among two tribal groups reputed for being drunkards and thieves.

Distrustful of neighbors and outsiders alike, members of these tribes live in homes separated by large distances, in contrast to the densely-packed villages found in most parts of India and other South Asian countries.

As the footpath wound its way up, it approached one such tribal house; similar homes were visible on the nearby slopes. 

A local woman met us, identifying herself as a follower of Jesus with the customary Christian greeting in her tribal language. She directed us along another path to a house on the adjacent hillside. 

I was pleased to learn that both of those homes, and several others nearby, were occupied by Christians! 

These brothers and sisters came to faith following years of labor by Pastor Ritesh; they now meet every Sunday for church, pastored by one of Ritesh’s coworkers, and hold weekly prayer meetings.

This church, which gathers in homes and under palm trees outside, is one of 30 planted through Pastor Ritesh’s ministry. 

Called to shine God’s light in remote, difficult places where others refuse to go, he and Sunila have remained faithful to the Lord’s call despite numerous opportunities to take more comfortable roles in larger cities. 

Their ministry spans a 220-mile radius across three Indian states; in addition to church planting, it includes pastor training, Bible distribution, economic development programs and caring for orphans.

We waited in the shade for about a dozen people to arrive from their dwellings on the nearby slopes. When everyone had gathered, we held a prayer meeting. 

Linguistic and cultural differences were no barrier to our fellowship as brothers and sisters in God’s family, bound together by the Holy Spirit.

My time with Pastor Ritesh was one among many visits on a recent trip to observe our partners’ ministries, monitor existing programs and evaluate new partnership opportunities. 

Ritesh is one of over 260 national missionaries we are privileged to partner with. 

Though his ministry is remarkable, it is the norm rather than the exception among our missionaries.

Earlier this month, we celebrated Easter. I am humbled by the way our partners celebrate Easter with their lives. 

Following Christ’s example of death and resurrection, Ritesh, Sunila, and the other missionaries in our network have died to self and sacrificed “better” opportunities for the Gospel’s sake. 

They have found joyful, resurrection life as they follow Jesus and obey His commands. 

We are deeply grateful for your part in their work, through your prayers and support!

In Christ,

Andrew David

Director of International Partnerships 

 *Names changed for security

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Stories

A Journey Through The Himalayas

2 AM, southeastern Nepal. A car carrying three sleepless occupants cruises toward Kathmandu, the country’s capital. The passengers, myself and an Indian Harvest Bridge partner, had just visited church planters in Bangladesh, Bhutan and northern India, checking on projects and gathering reports from their ministries. We intended to do the same in Nepal, but our flight was cancelled due to heavy fog. Scrambling for an alternative, we hired a cab driver and set out on the 390-mile drive from Nepal’s southeastern border to its capital city.

Despite starting our journey at 4 PM the previous day,  we had yet to reach the foothills of the Himalayas. As we drove across flat lowlands on a rough road, I contemplated the difficulty our driver would face in navigating hairpin turns under the cover of darkness. Before confronting the hills, however, an unexpected challenge arose.

As we passed through a small village, the only vehicle in sight,  a drunk man stumbled onto the road about a hundred yards ahead. This was no careless act; our headlights revealed a cold determination in his eyes. As our driver hit the brakes, the man staggered directly toward us, intent on throwing himself into the car. Evidently, our driver was familiar with such encounters; he slowed down to precisely the speed necessary to swerve around.

My heart breaks for the man. What hopelessness, what despair, drove him to this desperate suicide attempt? How many times had he tried it? Is he still alive? Memories like this vividly remind me why Harvest Bridge exists. Ultimately, it is not about programs or numbers, but individuals. It is not only about providing material help – which Jesus called “the food that perishes” (John 6:27) – but about ministering to the deep needs of the soul.

By God’s grace, Harvest Bridge’s Asian partners are ministering to the deep needs of many souls, helping the lost encounter Jesus and find freedom from hopelessness and despair. Recently, in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, 34-year old Kumar* was delivered from his drug and alcohol addiction following the prayers of HB church planter Levi* and members of his congregation. Kumar is growing in the faith, and his whole family has been baptized. 

In southern India, Prakash*, an organized crime ring leader, was badly injured in an automobile accident, which opened the door for him to hear and believe the Gospel. Though Prakash’s injuries restrain his mobility, his countenance reveals hopefulness as he studies the Bible daily and encounters the living God on its pages. 

Through your prayers and support, you play an essential role in bringing healing in the lives of people like the man we encountered that night.With your help, stories like Kumar’s and Prakash’s continue to be written and the Good News goes forth to those who have never had the opportunity to hear it. Please consider investing in this transformative work with regular support Where Needed Most, if you aren’t currently doing so. We thank God for your partnership!

* Names changed for safety.

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Stories

Nonexistent in India

Imagine having no type of ID, not even a birth certificate. In fact, no one in your family has any kind of identification. Without this ID, you cannot go to school, be hired at a business, open a bank account, receive legal protection, or any number of  other things. And imagine that without outside help you will never be able to get this identification becauseno one trusts your stigmatized caste. 

Just think of trying to break the cycle of poverty in those circumstances!

Priya*, president of GATE, aka Gypsy And Tribal Empowerment, recognizes this need. This strong woman has successfully helped many Gypsy and Tribal communities in Tamil Nadu, South India, secure personal identification. These communities are legitimately the lowest one can possibly be in the Indian Caste system, even below the Untouchable Dalit caste. 

It is an uphill battle, which requires long hours of wading through red tape, standing up to government officials, and helping illiterate families fill out paperwork. However, her success has helped Harvest Bridge establish ways to secure identification for other marginalized communities throughout India, and other South Asian countries. These will be taught to other Harvest Bridge partners who are fighting for the “nonexistent” individuals in their communities.

GATE was one of Harvest Bridge’s earliest supported ministries and has seen encouraging moves forward in over 20 Gypsy and Tribal communities.

 John, an 11 year old boy has been impacted by the education to which he now has access because of GATE’s advocacy.

“After regularly going to school, I have learned to be more disciplined. I have learned to dress and talk better, and to obey my  parents. My friends from the village and other areas help me study and I help them. I am more mature and confident. I will be able to be employed in the future, and that is what I like about school the most. My English teacher is my favorite and it is my favorite class. The teacher encourages me and does not beat me for being a Gypsy. If another boy did not want to go to school I would tell him to go so he could learn more; I would help him learn! Because of school I can talk about more things. I have taught my parents how to read the Bible and newspaper, and how to count money. GATE and Priya encouraged me to go to school. I want to be a doctor when I grow up so I can care for my village.  Please pray for my education”.

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Stories

The Lord Has Not Forgotten Me; I Cannot Forget Him

Kani was born in a small village in Southern India into a Hindu family; they were in one of the lowest castes, Dalit, sometimes known as the untouchables. She had an arranged marriage at 16 and by the age of 21 she already had four children. 

Her husband was an alcoholic and died soon after her fourth child was born. When he died nobody helped her, so she had to provide for her four children alone. She found a job gathering bricks to be used for construction. She could not send her children to school, but she was able to keep them fed and clothed.

Eventually her children were all old enough to work as well. It was then, that Kani’s brother in law, Murgan, offered to take the whole family in. This seemed like the best option for them, even though it was apparent he only wanted them now that the children could make money. 

It was also a hard situation for Kani because this brother in law had been asking her to marry him ever since his brother had died. Murgan was already married, but his wife was mentally handicapped, and he wanted Kani. Although it was difficult on her, she decided to stay until the children were older before she moved away.

When her oldest was 20, she was given the chance to move to the large city of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. Her friend let her travel with her family as they moved, and promised that Kani could stay with them until she found a job. After a day of travel they arrived in Chennai, but it was made clear by her friend’s husband that Kani would not be allowed to stay with them and she was thrown out onto the street. She immediately started looking for a job and searching for food. She had always been a devout Hindu, so she also went to pray to the gods at a local temple. But the gods did not provide her guidance or peace, in fact, they had never given her peace. 

On the third day after reaching Chennai, Kani had still not found a job or even eaten anything. She waslaying on the side of the road, discouraged and weak, when a man stopped and told her about a church down the road that could help her. So he brought her to the church where she met Pastor James and his wife Victoria. They welcomed her and let her eat as much as she wanted and gave her clothes to wear.

Kani had heard as a child that Christians could come to God and ask Him for help. So after being overcome by the love and kindness of this pastor and his wife, she knelt down and prayed to God. She prayed for either a job in Chennai or a way to travel back to her hometown. That same day, Pastor James offered her a job at the church, saying that she could eat and sleep there as well! Kani accepted Christ that day, and realized she had peace in her life for the first time. Soon after, Pastor James also helped arrange a healthy marriage for Kani so that her brother in law would stop harassing her.A new life had begun.

12 years later, Kani has an 11 year old daughter, a good marriage, a job working in a public garden, and strong relationship with Jesus Christ. She also works with the Gypsy and Tribal Empowerment (GATE) ministry, by spreading the gospel to her fellow tribal people, and teaching them how to grow and sell their own food. She is a wonderful gardener, and has passed this on to many communities and families. Physical and spiritual lives have been saved due to her faithfulness and compassion in ministry.

However, living for Christ has not been easy. Her brother in law, Murgan, lied to her children about what kind of woman Kani was. He told them she had gone to Chennai to become a prostitute and that she didn’t really love them. Her children and extended family make fun of her Christian faith and are still unresponsive to the Gospel. They say that Hinduism is an inherited religion so how could she possibly become a Christian.  She tells them that “Jesus is the real God because He touched me when I was hurting. Come to Jesus and He will help you too”.

Five years ago the situation escalated when her brother in law went to the extreme in trying to kill Kani by having a witch doctor put a curse on her. She was attacked by an evil spirit, and the spiritual warfare caused her to lose her mind temporarily. She roamed the streets, treated her daughter badly, and would not eat, but she did drink and smoke. Her husband had to tie her legs to the bed so that she didn’t go out and hurt herself. For a month, Pastor James would come and pray for her, and finally the spirit stopped tormenting her and she regained her mind. This was when Kani dedicated her life to ministry with GATE, as a way to thank the Lord.

When asked how she remains faithful to the Lord, even in her trials, Kani says that “the Lord has not forgotten her, so she cannot forget Him“. She says that when the people curse her for sharing the gospel she is able to remain patient because she knows that one day they will change. 

She asks prayer for her family’s salvation, especially Murgan, as well as the salvation of the Tribal people she works with. She is getting older and so she asks for prayer to stay healthy so she can continue to serve.

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Stories

Increased Persecution in India: An Interview

Though it’s not on the radar of many in the West, persecution in India has spiked in the last few months. There are several reasons for this, and it is interesting to see non-Christian news covering the issue as much as Christian sources. Persecution not only affects Christians; but Muslims as well

Re-conversion efforts, known as Ghar wapsi, have been attempted and implemented by a group called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS is a radical Hindu group that has been known to persecute Christians and Muslims for decades. 

Now that India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has come into power, many believe this has emboldened the group. Modi is a former RSS member and retains ties to the group.

In this interview, an American Harvest Bridge supporter and friend, Andrew, who is currently living  in Tamil Nadu, India, shares his observations of the increased pressure Christians and Muslims are facing:Were there fears about increased persecution after Prime Minister Modi came into power? Were they worried of his connection with RSS?

Even before Modi won the election [in May, 2014], I remember [an Indian HB partner] explaining the situation to me over the phone with audible concern and asking for prayers. After the fact, my conversations with Christians in different regions of the country reveal a general fear about the possibility of increased persecution. From what I can tell, other religious minorities…are on edge also….Their concerns are validated by the Prime Minister’s deafening silence when persecution and/or derogatory statements toward minorities make the news. He’s not actively vocalizing support for these actions, of course, but silence/inaction is being interpreted by many as silent approval”.
Was the RSS claim of implementing re-conversion widely publicized in your area? What sources did it come through? Newspaper, word of mouth, posters?

“I live in Tamil Nadu, one of the states with a larger population of Christians. To my knowledge, RSS had no formal plans for implementing re-conversion campaigns here. RSS is active in Tamil Nadu, however, and seems to be much bolder than [previously]. Examples include pressure on several churches…to either relocate or “quiet down” during services, pressure on young believers in less-reached tribal areas to renounce their faith, and even a death threat to a pastor planning to plant a second church in Chennai….

Friends in the north (Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, etc.) did encounter the claim of re-conversion programs directly. Newspapers, posters, and word-of-mouth were all used….I think Christians and Muslims are the groups feeling the most pressure. Indian friends have affirmed this view.”What exactly are Christians worried about? Physical attacks, rights being taken away, access to necessities being taken away, etc.?

“India’s constitution guarantees religious freedom; this is unlikely to change under the new government, though parliament may well implement nationwide anti-conversion laws rather than leaving the matter to individual states….[There is a] disconnect…between what’s on paper and what happens in practice.”Will existing religious freedom laws be upheld?

“That’s the concern Christians have. On a local level, it’s entirely conceivable that believers could be attacked, prevented from accessing the village water supply, detained indefinitely at police stations etc. Indeed, such things have occurred in several northern states in the past several months.”That you know of, is pressure coming just from the RSS, or other radical groups as well?

“RSS is big and tends to get the most publicity, but similar Hindu nationalist groups exist. My sense is that all such organizations feel emboldened in the new political landscape, and are therefore more likely to be aggressive in persecuting minorities.”What is the best way for us to pray?

“This might sound crazy given my [statements] above, but this is perhaps the most exciting time in history to be a Christian in India. There are more believers than ever before, and church-planting efforts are now underway for many of the numerous [unreached people groups]. So the biggest thing that comes to my mind is to pray for God to use the current situation to refine, purify, sanctify, and grow His church

History shows Tertullian’s famous the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ quote isn’t always true – but it definitely has been true in many modern nations whose political environments don’t favor Christianity. Cuba, North Korea, Iran, China – just to name a few. If the Chinese church can grow to ~100 million or more under Mao Zedong and subsequent Communism, the Indian church can certainly grow by preaching and living Christ in the face of opposition.

At the same time, as someone who hasn’t suffered beyond verbal persecution and threats for my faith, I don’t want to over-spiritualize persecution or minimize its raw brutality. Prayers for the Indian church in line with Paul’s personal requests in Romans 15:30 and 2 Thessalonians 3:2 are crucial.

We must also pray for those who intend to harm Christians. They know not what they do, so let’s ask God to forgive them, soften their hearts to the message we bring, and turn the persecutors into disciples willing to give everything for the cause of Christ.”

Thank you for reading; please join us in prayer.

Here are just a few varied sources on the issue of re-conversion and persecution:

Competing for People’s Souls

RSS Reconverts 200 Agra Muslims

Christian Leaders Criticize India PM

Conversion Issue Rocks Parliament