India (MNN) — India. It’s a country known for giving the world Gandhi, its vibrant festival of color, and spicy curry. But, India’s also a place filled with spiritual darkness.
e3 Partner’s Jeff Johnston recently returned from a trip to India where he had a chance to dig into the happenings of the Gospel work there.
“You know, I encountered so many people that were so nice, so friendly. Complete strangers that were more than willing to talk to me and share with me about their daily routines, their lives, their culture, what they believe,” Johnston shares. “They were just so welcoming and loving. But, ultimately, even with all that, even though they seemed like ‘good people’ and they really are, they don’t know Jesus.”
India is a country filled with poverty, Hindu extremism, and Christian persecution. But, it’s not these things individually which have left the country in the dark. It’s as Johnston said — these people don’t have the light of Christ.
Open Doors USA’s *World Watch List ranks India #11 for the persecution of Christians. Out of its 1.34 billion population, only 63 million people are Christians, according to Open Doors USA. That’s just 4.76 percent of India that knows Christ. But, through relationships, the right to share the Gospel is earned and disciples can be made.
This is why e3’s structure is to bring over short-term mission teams who provide a spark to the local people. Trip participants spend time connecting with individuals and sharing the Gospel message. Then, the individuals who are interested in Christ and want to learn more are discipled and plugged into a group of local Christians partnered with e3.
Openness to Christ
Johnston had the chance to be a spiritual spark on his recent trip. Over the course of one day, he had the chance to talk to 30 people. Not one person turned away from him.
“Everyone was just so open and happy to share and talk,” Johnston says. “I got to do it with my friend, Alex, who was there with me. [He] was able to help translate for me when needed and we were able to just kind of talk to these people and…what we found was a lot of the younger generation there…the religious beliefs are there, but only…loosely.”
A lot of the younger generation of people Johnston connected with identified Hinduism as their religion. However, many of them didn’t practice. In fact, their religious beliefs seemed based mainly on family and societal influence, and not an actual personal belief.
Johnston and Alex also encountered a couple of college students who showed a lot of interest in their conversation about Christ and even asked questions about Jesus. Alex was even able to give them a Bible in the Hindu language and swap contact information so they could meet again.
This was one of Johnston’s favorite parts of the trip — sharing the Gospel and seeing people respond. What started as just a spark in the lives of Alex and other nationals has turned into a roaring fire of faith.
“Ultimately at e3 it’s about pouring into the locals,” Johnston explains. “Pouring into the nationals and training them on how to share the Gospel, how to start churches and make disciples themselves because ultimately, we can’t change the world ourselves. God is the only one who can change the world, and he can use us to do it.”
Today it starts with Alex. Tomorrow, the two college students he connects with may bring two more people to Christ and eventually a church is planted. And in time, Christ’s love becomes a movement in the nation.
Challenges to the Gospel
Still, the challenge remains that India plans to push out all Christians by 2021. Why? Religious nationalism and the notion that India should be completely Hindu, no exceptions.
“We’re not going to stop sharing the Gospel…. Jesus called us in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations and we’re going to keep pursuing that and wanting to pursue that charge,” Johnston says.
“It’s just important to really stay ‘in the know’ though, just from a cultural and political standpoint in understanding that there are times and limitations and you do have to take precautions and be careful.”
And while e3 itself and the mission teams it leads to India may not be able to go into every village themselves, the people they meet in the urban areas can. Do you want to help send sparks of the Gospel to India and empower national believers to mature those sparks into an uncontainable, roaring fire?
If so, start by praying. Pray for Christians in India, for their faith and perseverance, and for their encouragement. Ask God to provide the necessary resources and training for these Christians to plant churches and share the Gospel with their non-Christian family, friends, and neighbors.
And please, pray that God would multiply the number of believers in India so when 2021 comes, there would be even more Christ followers in the country than ever before. Let’s pray the big prayers.
Will you also consider physically going? e3 has upcoming trips to all over the world where you can be a part of a team who shares the love of Christ with people who don’t know him.
*Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.