From the River of Death to the River of Life!

Report: Bibles for Mideast and an Assembly of Loving God (ALG) church in South Asia

Rabinder and Padma*, devout Hindus, lived with their daughter in northern India.  They dutifully performed the regular Hindu rituals of worshipping and praying to a vast array of deities both in their home and in local temples.

One day, to their extreme distress, their daughter left their home proclaiming her love for a Muslim boy, who she then married. When the parents went to the newlyweds home to appeal for the return of their daughter, she instead asked them to convert to Islam as well.

Because of the shame of the marriage among their fellow Hindus, Padma and Rabinder were hated and shunned. Priests and community leaders forbad them entry to the temples to see their many beloved and feared idols. They accused the couple of creating opportunities for their daughter to develop a friendship with the Muslim boy. Then, when they had visited their daughter in her new home and could not convince her to return to them, why had they not killed the two of them, they demanded? Further, if they allowed the parents in the temple, surely they would misguide other boys and girls.

Rabinder and Padma were devastated. Everyone, even close neighbors, now kept their distance. In desperation, two weeks ago, they decided to drown themselves in the great river Ganges. According to Hindu belief, such deaths would not be considered suicide but as giving their lives into the hands of the goddess Ganga. [The Ganges River is considered sacred, and personified as the goddess Gaṅgā—Ed.]. Hindus believe that dying in the river Ganges or leaving a dead body there means a direct journey to Vaikuntha, the highest heavenly abode. With so many dead bodies floating in the polluted waters, Rabinder and Padma knew no one would search for them. So off they went, and after tying their hands together, jumped into the contaminated river.

Dead bodies floating in Ganges River near Pariyar (Getty Images)

Dead bodies floating in Ganges River near Pariyar (Getty Images)

By next morning, their bodies landed ashore, many miles downstream. Pastor Praveen* of Bibles for Mideast along with two other believers happened to be out on their morning stroll when they spied two bodies on the nearby shore. Certain they must be dead, they still approached, noticing one was male, the other female. Discerning some slight movement, they immediately pressed down on their abdomens, releasing some of the water inside. Both became conscious but were obviously extremely weak. The pastor and his friends took them inland to their ALG church.

The Hindu couple had never in their lives met even one Christian. What they’d heard and believed was that all had converted from the Hindu Dalit, or ‘untouchable’ class. So when they discovered their rescuers were Christian, all they wanted was to get away. But in their weakness, they could barely move. Surely, they thought, every last bit of goodness had vanished from their lives. Both began to cry.

When Pastor Praveen and a few others attempted to touch and console them, they screamed out for them to stop. The pastor's wife attempted to give them glasses of drinking water, but they refused to even touch the glass.

The Hindu woman wore a pendant around her in her neck, bearing an image of the lord Shiva. The two held onto the idol and called out to Shiva to save them.  By this time, other believers had joined the group.

Shiva pendant necklace similar to the one Padma wore

Shiva pendant necklace similar to the one Padma wore

Understanding what was going on, the pastor and his fellow church members simply sat nearby, praying the two exhausted visitors would come to know the one and only, true and living Lord God.

Pastor Praveen read aloud from Psalm 115, David’s beautiful ode to the greatness of God and the utter impotence of idols. As he brought in the Gospel to explain the reading, the Holy Spirit began to move mightily. The Hindu couple glanced around fearfully, wondering what on earth the Christians were up to.

"When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead,” the pastor now read. “But He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades’” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Suddenly an electric shock passed through the couple's hands and the idol shattered, the pieces flying everywhere.

"THAT is the true Word,” a mighty Voice thundered. “I am your Creator and Savior. I am neither a man nor an idol. I brought you here for your salvation." Everyone in the room heard it.

The couple began to weep, this time feeling burdened with sin. They confessed their sins before the Lord Jesus, and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.

Rabinder and Padma now stay with Pastor Praveen and his family, feeling joy they’d never known and worshiping the Lord Jesus in Spirit and in Truth. Please pray for them. They also request prayers that their daughter and son-in-law would come to know and accept Jesus as their own Savior and Lord as well.

_____________________
* 
Names changed for security reasons

Muslim terrorist moves from death and destruction to Life and healing

Report: Bibles for Mideast

Radical Hindus destroy historic Babri Mosque: AFP (1992)

Radical Hindus destroy historic Babri Mosque: AFP (1992)

Ameen* decided as a teenager, back in 1992, to join the forces of Islamic terror. Radical Hindu nationalists had just destroyed the historic Babri Mosque in northern India (they believed the 16th-century mosque stood where one of their most revered Hindu deities had been born).**

After completing his training, Ameen became commander of a terrorist group with the main objective of destroying both Hindu temples and Christian churches—along with their priests, ministers and worshipers. 

Once while attempting to attack a major Hindu temple, a surprise counter-attack by Hindu militants forced them to flee. Ameen suffered serious gun-shot wounds and needed to be carried away by his fellow terrorists. They administered first-aid but he subsequently fell into a coma. Thinking they’d failed in their efforts to save him, they left his body alone in a field.

A few hours later, a passerby noticed him lying there. Thinking him dead, they approached the body and on checking more carefully, discovered a pulse. They immediately called police, who rushed him to hospital. There, doctors managed to revive and save him.

Police suspected he might be a terrorist and questioned him, but could not get him to reveal his true identity, let alone betray his friends. So he remained under police surveillance in the hospital.

Pastor Paul and a gospel team of Bibles for Mideast ‘just happened’ to be in the same hospital a few days later. They secured permission from the police to visit Ameen, and found him slowly recovering from his injuries.

The missionaries told the wounded terrorist about Jesus, how He is the author of life and death. They then shared their own dramatic testimonies, and explained how Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary, died and rose from the dead. The visitors assured him that anyone who believes in Jesus will gain eternal life. Ameen listened to their words, but didn’t respond. So the gospel team prayed for him before leaving the hospital.  

According to the anti-terrorist act then in place in India, Ameen was sentenced to prison without bail. He remained there for years without legal assistance. Two years ago, 24 years after being imprisoned, he was finally set free.

Another ‘God-incidence’

Prisoners with their new bibles

Prisoners with their new bibles

But before Ameen’s release, Pastor Paul ‘just happened’ to meet him while there on prison ministry. Ameen was friendly to him, attended the gospel meeting held inside the jail, listened attentively to the message presented, and received a Bible when they were handed out to prisoners. He even asked for Pastor Paul’s mobile phone number.

Then, just last month, Ameen called Pastor Paul in extreme anxiety. He and his family members all wanted to meet with him for prayer.

“When I call on the name of Jesus, I feel relief whenever I’m desperate,” Ameen explained over the phone. “But I do not know what to do more. If possible, kindly come to me, give me needed guidance and pray for me and my family."

Pastor Paul prayed about the request, and asked the church and several others to pray for the Lord's guidance. 

Days later, all spent in fervent prayer, he traveled 18 hours to meet Ameen and his family. Two other ALG (Assembly of Loving God) church pastors joined him on the mission trip.

They finally arrived at Ameen’s house to find a most unwell 46-year-old. He could barely walk, needing the help of his brother’s children to get around. With no wife or children, his younger brother, their elderly mother and his brother’s family—all firm believers in Islam—took care of him.

Ameen happily greeted the pastors when they arrived. The visitors shared the gospel with him and the family. But his younger brother took offence at their presence and their message, and began shouting angrily at them. He wanted them out of his house, NOW! Ameen pleaded with him, explaining the men were there because he had asked them to come.

Neighbours, hearing the commotion, came over to investigate. Soon community leaders and the Imam of the local mosque got wind of the Christian visitors and arrived to voice disapproval and argue with them.

“I politely explained to them about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross,” Pastor Paul relates. “But with great anger, the Imam slapped me on the cheek.” 

Seeing the Imam slap the kindly pastor, Ameen felt wretched and cried out in grief.

Pastor Paul reached out to hold Ameen’s hands, then wiped away his tears and tried to console him. He and his fellow pastors then knelt down before the Lord in front of the family, and prayed for further guidance.

Ameen's brother never imagined the Imam would slap Pastor Paul. He also of course couldn’t help but be moved by Ameen's sorrowful outburst and the Christians’ kneeling prayers. So he turned against the Imam and the community leaders. The brothers’ elderly mother also shouted at the Imam and other leaders, ordering them out of the house.

When they’d all gone and quiet returned, Ameen's brother with the rest of the family apologized to Pastor Paul, asking his forgiveness.

“We consoled all of them and shared the sufferings of our Lord,” the Bibles for Mideast director explains.

“After that, they all sat before us and listened to the Word of God. Some neighboring people also participated. That same day everyone of that house accepted Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior and Lord.”

And that very night, Ameen dreamt that Jesus touched and healed him. When he awoke—and without anyone's help—he got up, walked, and then ran around the house. His brother also had a dream of the glory of Jesus.

Please praY FOR aMEEN, HIS FAMILY, AND THE NEW UNDERGROUND CHURCH

Please praY FOR aMEEN, HIS FAMILY, AND THE NEW UNDERGROUND CHURCH

The pastors stayed four days and nights in the family’s tiny, impoverished home. With only one room plus a kitchen and a veranda attached to the front of the house, the family had no furniture: no tables or chairs, not even cots to sleep on.

“We all were happy to spend more time for prayers and sharing the Word of God,” says Pastor Paul. “We pastors slept in the room with Ameen on floor mats. The other men slept in the veranda, and the women slept in the kitchen.”

The second day of their visit, more people joined in their times of prayer. On the third day, a number of villagers attended and accepted the Lord Jesus as their savior.

By the fourth day, a new church was born! They held a worship service, and Pastor Mujib, who had been working in another area, is now in charge of the newborn ministry..

Please pray for him, the new believers, and the ongoing work in this area.

We also ask that you remember the dire situation in Indonesia after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. With millions affected and the death toll at 1,400 and rising, relief efforts have been slow to come. Bibles for Mideast has pastors and evangelists working in Indonesia, and a number of underground churches with between 12 and 20 members each. By God’s grace all are safe but needs—both practical and for prayer—are huge.

____________________________
Name changed for security reasons
** The religious site where the Babri Mosque was destroyed in 1992 in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya has been a flashpoint between Hindus and Muslims for years and has sparked recurring episodes of violence.

Indian state laws make converting to Christianity increasingly dangerous

Last week, two Bibles for Mideast pastors were attacked by Hindu radicals in north India. The pastors, both converts from Hinduism, led a house church in the region. A group of people entered the church, demanding they discontinue all meetings and services.  The pastors refused, so two days later were brutally attacked. Pastor Stephen of Bibles for Mideast reports that the local government and police apparently fully supported the attackers.

India’s governing party, the BJP, continues to push forward in its stated Hindutva ideology, or the 'Hinduisation' of India. With power at both national and state levels, their philosophy basically holds that the nation can be cohesive and workable only by maintaining the beliefs, tenets and culture of one religion—Hinduism.

The Indian state of Jharkhand just last week joined five other states (Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) in passing an anti-conversion law.

While dubbed the ‘Religious Freedom Bill 2017’, it is anything but. The new law bans people from attempting to convert others "by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means," with punishments including fines of up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,600) and four years in prison. It also states that a person converting willingly must give Jharkhand’s Deputy Commissioner details of the time, place and name of the person administering the conversion.

"This is very unfortunate for the people of Jharkhand," said the Rev. Dr. Man Maish Ekka, a member of the Jharkhand Sadbhavana Munch, a local religious freedom forum. "This is not just an attack on Christians, but is an attack on the religious freedom that the constitution gives to the very citizens of this country.”

The Indian government’s pro-Hindu stance has left it unwilling to tackle Hindu extremism     [Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images]

The Indian government’s pro-Hindu stance has left it unwilling to tackle Hindu extremism   [Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images]

William Stark of International Christian Concern pointed out that Hindu radicals have taken advantage of similar laws in other states to harass and intimidate the country's minority Christian population.

"These laws are widely abused by Hindu radicals due to the legal ambiguity within the laws themselves. Often, these laws provide an easy excuse for radicals to attack Christian leaders with impunity. One simply needs to claim the pastor was forcefully converting an individual following an assault,” Stark explained.

"As a result, instead of the pastor's assailants being arrested, it's the assailed pastor who is arrested by police following an attack.”

As this ministry and many others have experienced and reported, harassment and threats on Christians in India in the first six months of 2017 have been the highest since the country’s independence (report on increasing persecution of Christians in India from Open Doors USA here). Extremists have tortured and killed believers and vandalized and demolished churches, some from Bibles for Mideast.

The anti-conversion laws of course make it extremely difficult and dangerous to talk about and share the Christian faith.

“It's based on the idea that conversion by force should be made illegal,” pointed out Andrew Boyd of Release International.  “I think everyone would agree that conversion by force would be useless."

"But actually, if you preach about heaven, then it's considered to be bribery. If you speak about hell, it's considered to be a threat. If you offer any kind of Christian charity, then it's regarded also as bribery.”

In many of the places Bibles for Mideast missionaries live and work, severe persecution from both Muslims and Hindus remains an increasingly harsh reality.

Please pray for all of our pastors, missionaries, churches and believers. As regular visitors to this site would know, Pastor Paul, director of Bibles for Mideast, has himself been the victim of threats and assaults by both Hindu and Muslim extremists. He is still recovering from a stoning attack which happened several months ago in a country neighboring India (URGENT call to fast and pray for Pastor Paul, director of Bibles for Mideast). He continues to improve and hopes to be back working in several weeks.

Former radical Hindu man now testifies in most unusual way

Thankappan, a taxi driver in South Asia, once despised Christian missionaries. As a fanatic Hindu and active member of an anti-Christian movement, he often spoke out against Christianity and even organized people near Hindu temples to challenge the evangelistic activities of Christians.

Once, when an evangelist handed him a Gospel leaflet, he made a public display of burning it. Another time he argued with an evangelist and  ended up slapping him.

But Christ Jesus captured him and made use of him as a good vessel in His vineyard. And today he testifies Jesus as a miraculous man.

One day while driving his taxi a few years ago, he happened to drive near a Gospel meeting on a street corner.  Pastor Paul of Bibles for Mideast, himself a convert from Islam to Christianity, led the meeting. Seeing Pastor Paul, a former Muslim, and a former Hindu both witnessing for Christ enraged him. He spat in the diretion of the meeting through his car window.

At that very moment–while his anger distracted him—a huge truck ploughed into his car. Thankappan sustained multiple injuries and ended up in a coma in hospital. 

His intestines, both small and large, protruded from his abdomen. Doctors tried their best, but were unable to reposition them within his body. They declared he had less than a 0.01% hope of survival. So they created a pouch outside his body and just simply kept intestines together as a pack hanging below his waist, and stitched him up.  

While still comatose a few days later, something remarkable happened. He had a vision that Jesus Christ touched him and said, “I am giving you life again. Confess your sins and become my witness.”

When Thankappan opened his eyes, he saw Pastor Paul praying over him. Others, including his wife, stood nearby with tears in their eyes, expecting his death at any moment.

Though he had been unable to speak, he slowly opened his mouth and said to Pastor Paul, “Pastor, I spat at you. I spat at Jesus Christ. I persecuted the Lord Jesus and His servants. Forgive me. Forgive me. Ask my Lord to forgive me.”  Then he began to weep deeply.

A short time later, someone called for the doctor. He was amazed to see Thankappan had emerged from the coma, speaking and crying.

“This is a great miracle!” the doctor exclaimed.  

Thankappan was baptized and became an evangelist, distributing Christian literature and witnessing about Jesus all over the city.  His wife also became a believer and helped him in ministry. 

When preaching on street corners, he holds the Bible in one hand and reveals his unusual digestive pouch as part of his testimony.

“I was an enemy of Christians, but Jesus Christ loved me, made me alive and saved me from sin and death. Now I am His servant,” he declares. “I was persecuting Christians; but the Lord Jesus showed me how He mightily fights for His children. And I am a clear example for that.”

His grown children, living with their own families and also once strongly against Christianity have all accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Thankappan still drives cars for his livelihood as well as being involved with our Lord’s ministries.

Pray for him and his entire family that they would continue to be used mightily as witnesses for the Lord.

India: Pentecostal Christians seek protection

March 2, 2016 (Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India):  Pentecostal Church affiliates in India have protested against “steadily increasing attacks on Christians,” and asked the government to intervene and shield them from violence.

The Tirunelveli District Pentecostal Churches Federation in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu said they were being attacked by Hindu fundamentalists who want them to stop preaching Christianity, even though the country mandates freedom of religion. The attacks have led them to question their belief that they lived in a democratic and tolerant country.

“Though we’re being targeted, we’ve never retaliated and done anything that would undermine the tranquility of society as Christianity is all about love, compassion and brotherhood,” Pastor Babu Paul Dinakaran, district secretary of the federation, told Bibles for Mideast.

He also asserted that they practice their faith without encroaching on others’ religious rights. “However, heads of a few Hindutva outfits are encouraging their cadres to orchestrate attacks against us,” he added.

Churches in India under attack

Churches in India under attack

They noted that even those distributing the pamphlets and praying in the prayer halls were being attacked. The federation urged the government to take lawful action against the perpetrators, and take down billboards that carry inflammatory messages against religions.

"Not only Pentecostals, but Christians in general are being attacked widely all over India,” says Pastor Paul of Bibles for Mideast. “We need to live and work peacefully according to our faith and for that we seek protection from persecution.”

The Catholic Secular Forum in India released a report identifying Tamil Nadu among the top five states with the highest numbers of anti-Christian attacks, with the state of Madhya Pradesh leading the list.