India (MNN) — Every day, more and more lives are being reached for Christ amongst the Banjaras of India. The Partners International-supported Banjara Ministry seeks to spread to all 20 million of the Banjara people (commonly known as gypsies), having reached thousands already.
Founded in 1996 by Banjara pastor Lazarus Lalsingh, the Banjara Ministry mainly focuses on bringing the Gospel to the people through children's education. This seems to be an effective and welcomed tool, considering how the Banjara have had to fight for educational rights in the past. Several children have come to follow the Lord through Lalsingh's schools and spread the good news to their families. In response to the increase of believers within the population, the Ministry has also taken on pastoral and church plant training.
Because Hinduism is a cultural expectation amongst Banjaras, it has been difficult for some to make the transition to Christianity. It is understood, for instance, that all Banjaras are to make monetary contributions during Hindu festivals. The refusal of Christians to do so has caused some tension within communities, but it has also drawn the curiosity of many.
Over the summer of 2008, a three-day outreach was planned by the Banjara Ministry for church leaders, believing Christians and mere seekers. Tents were set up to house families and the hundreds of volunteers who helped to cook for the event. Because it is not unusual for venomous snakes to inhabit the area, others made sure that every cobra on the premises was killed.
The preparation involved was well worth the response of the gathered 12,000. During the three day period of preaching, prayer and encouragement, over 3000 people accepted the Lord and were baptized. More than 300 Christians felt led to plant churches after attending the gathering, inspired to spread the Gospel to even more of their people. As if this all this were not enough cause for celebration, an additional $1,600 was raised through collections during the outreach for the Banjara Ministry schools.
Due to God's provision for the Banjara Ministry, there are now around 54,000 Banjara believers alongside 370 churches. Prayer is needed for continued interest in the Banjara Ministry and in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Banjara people. Pray also for opportunities for the Christian leaders and church planters to take their house churches into unreached regions as the Lord continues to move within the Banjara community.