India (MNN) — 1,000 years ago, there lived a king in Rajasthan, India. The king had many wives and concubines, but one concubine happened to be a tribal woman.
It was an unorthodox match, but no one questioned the king. At least not until years later.
500 years afterward, the current king of Rajasthan was dividing up the kingdom. Everyone wanted to get their fair share, including one lonely tribal group, the Garasias.
The Garasias were the descendants of the previous king and his concubine. The king, outraged that tribal people were demanding land but aware that he had a responsibility to them, gave the Garasias land in the jungle so they could live with and as the animals.
Fast-forward ahead 500 years to today. The Garasias are currently known for a good deal of violence and animism. They continue to live in the jungles bestowed to them five centuries ago.
On a recent stay in India, J.P. Sundararajan with Audio Scripture Ministries met a pastor who has been ministering to the Garasias. Despite warnings against going to them, the pastor continued and began sharing the message of Salvation with them.
"They don't have a concept for God, so he had to create one for them. So he came up with this name called ‘Uparwala,' which basically in Hindi means ‘The One Who Lives Above,'" explains Sundararajan.
"He said to them that this God, this Uparwala, loved them. It was the most amazing message the Garasias had ever heard. They still had those scars from that legacy of pain and rejection that happened over 500 years ago. And to hear that somebody actually loved them was quite overwhelming. Their response was, ‘Why did you wait so long to come and tell us that story?'"
Work was set in motion to get a written New Testament for the Garasias, and it was completed last fall. After generations of hurt, the Garasias are receptive and have the Gospel, but one problem remains.
"They know they have a Bible, but nobody can read it." Sundararajan says as many as 98 percent of the 221,000-person tribe are illiterate. Only two to five percent can read.
Enter Audio Scripture Ministries. ASM specializes in recording the Word and sending it out to those who cannot read it for themselves. ASM hopes to complete an audio form of the New Testament for the Garasias by the end of the year. Funding for the project is actually already covered, but finding people who can read the Word so it can be recording may be a long search.
"Finding people who are literate among this tribe is a challenge in itself. Secondly, this language does not have a script. So the Bible that was translated had to be put into a different script. So whoever has to read it has to read their own language via a different language," explains Sundararajan.
The Garasias are starved for truth. Sundararajan observes, "It's pretty obvious that this is a group that is just waiting and has been ready for this moment for a long time now." Pray that readers would be found quickly, and that funding would come in for distribution as soon as the project is completed.