From one small church in 1960 to 11,130 churches today, Hopegivers says persecution has grown the church.

By July 21, 2005

India (MNN) — Hindu extremists have vowed to fight Christian missionaries and stop forced “conversions” by distributing weapons and forming armed anti-Christian squads.

Hopegivers International runs a Bible College to train and equip national Christians for ministry. Dr Samuel Thomas of Hopegivers says their students are unswerving in their commitment to Christ, even unto death: “The persecution is strong, more than ever before, but again, I believe – you’re talking to a man with 18 attempts of assassinations on his life – to me Christ is real. Our people do take a martyrs’ oath when they graduate from the seminary. So it is not just a seminary or a Bible college that’s just putting out students with a Bible education, but we tell them that they are going to a place where they may never come back. We send them to the hostile environment. And 100-percent of the students do realize that and that is why they stand up and take a martyrs’ oath, that ‘whether by life or death, we will glorify the Savior.'”

In the course of Hopegivers’ more than 40 years of ministry, thousands of students have offered their lives in service for the Gospel, no matter what the cost. And 13 of those Hopegivers students have paid the ultimate price and been martyred for their faith in Christ and ministry. Dr Thomas says that whenever there is persecution, it is only a sign of labor pains, giving birth to new churches.

Hopegivers began in 1960 with one church in Kota, Rajasthan. And today, that has grown to more than 11-thousand churches sharing Christ across India. Thomas attributes such growth to God working through persecution and the faithfulness of believers: “The main thing that we need to understand is that persecution and inconvenience are two different things…There’s a difference between whining and rejoicing in tribulation…But the people in India are faced, most everyday – Bibles are burned, they are spit on their faces, stoned like the book of Acts talks about Stephen was stoned, beaten when they go in groups to share the Gospel in a hostile village – but again, if we didn’t have the persecution, I don’t think we would have this church growth.”

Thomas focuses on the heart of that growth: “What is the secret? Is it the Thomas’ leadership? No. Is it the Biblical teaching we give them in the Bible College? Yeah, you can say that, but the thing that I would pinpoint is: the men and women who have died in this ministry are the reason we have 11,130 churches, because the blood of martyrs are the seeds for new churches.”

In the midst of hostilities, Thomas thanks God for the faithfulness of national Christians and asks others to stand with them: “Those people who are being tortured for the Lord, they’re asking us, ‘While we are willing to die for the Lord, would you be at least willing to pray and support us as we stand in this hostile environment?'”

Pray that God would keep giving Hopegivers students who are faithful unto death. Thomas says, “That’s what we want. Not just students who are students of the Bible, or know the good songs and worship hymns, but who would be dedicated until the Lord calls them home.”

If you’d like to help support a national pastor or be more involved in Hopegivers’ work throughout India, go to their website by following the highlighted link above.

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