India (MNN) — There's a "Gangetic" change in the most unreached region of India.
President of Global Advance Jonathan Shibley says, "God's Spirit is really on the move in this region and has sovereignly brought together pastors and church planters, apostolic leaders, that have a vision of bringing the Gospel to literally tens of thousands of unreached villages."
The northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is one of the most unreached areas in India. Of the state's 180 million people, less than 2% are followers of Christ. UP is dominated by Hindus and is part of what some missionaries call the "Hindu Heartland."
In a region of UP near the Ganges River, Global Advance helps indigenous leaders grow deeper in their faith. They come alongside local church leaders with training and discipleship tools, but they credit the leaders' passion for Gospel growth in the community.
"Over 350,000 new believers, 97,000 new people baptized and 13,500 house churches planted in the last four years alone," says Shibley. "It's really one of the most amazing things I've seen in my 15 years of doing missions.
"[This movement] came from indigenous leaders. They've got a plan and a strategy: they're really, as they take the Gospel, trying to meet people's needs on a very practical level."
According to Shibley, the leaders call their strategy "2020," and its goal is simply to share the Gospel with as many people as possible by the year 2020. Shibley says the plan isn't one of extravagant or extraordinary measures.
"We're talking about just very simple gatherings of people to hear the Gospel presented in a clear way that they can understand," he explains, "to be loved, and then hopefully to be nurtured and discipled in the faith, and that being multiplied throughout the region."
One of the tools Global Advance found to be most helpful to indigenous leaders is something called a "Life Book."
It's a "52-week series of lessons that indigenous leaders can use for their own spiritual growth and biblical understanding, but [it's] also something they can replicate and teach others," says Shibley.
Can you help indigenous leaders bring the Gospel to more people? Click here.
While continuing to support leaders' spiritual growth in northern India, Global Advance is also hoping to help in physical ways.
"Practically and socially speaking, we're looking at microeconomics solutions," Shibley says. "They need things that can help them produce income for a living."
Global Advance is partnering with groups who specialize in the area of microenterprise to come up with a solution, Shibley adds.
Meanwhile, as the Body of Christ continues to grow in this Gospel-needy area of Uttar Pradesh, significant risk remains.
"There has been steady persecution in that region of pastors and churches," says Shibley. "Several weeks ago…during a Sunday service, someone came and attacked the service and went up to the front and beat the pastor."
Ask God to protect His people from their enemies in the northern states of India.
"We know through history [that] as there's been persecution, the advance of the Gospel continues to intensify," says Shibley.
"Pray for unity, pray for protection, pray for wisdom, and pray for the grace of God."