The following information is provided by Elijah Challenge Board Member Bill Willis whose focus is on India:
The primary ministry focus for Church Planting and Evangelistic Feeding Events (which partners with The Elijah Challenge) is the outskirts of New Delhi, Northwest Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand (Haridwar District) and Orissa State. Additionally, the Lord has given us opportunities to preach the gospel in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and most notably, in the city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, where Simon Haqq, our Director of Missions, preached in a huge tent crusade to 2 million people. As he preached the gospel approximately 1 million surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
The circled areas below are our focus.
- Population of USA is 314 million
- Population of India ——- 1.27 Billion (17.31% of world)
- Growth Rate —- 1.58%
- Estimated population 2030 —– 1.53 Billion (will be largest in the world)
- Christians in India —– 17% to 20% (216 million to 254 million – — growing faster than in any country)
- 72.2% of the population lives in 638,000 rural villages.
- 50% of population is under age 25 and 25% under age 35 (75% are 35 or younger)
- India has the largest illiteracy rate in the world —- 74% for men and 82% for women
Statistics for Uttarkhand State, where Haridwar District is located
- Population of 8.5 million, of which 6.3 million live in rural villages with an average of less than 500 people per village.
- Average Family Income —- $1.00 to $2.00 per day.
- 90% are Hindu and 90% work in agriculture.
Haridwar is called, “The Home Of Hindu Gods” and is openly resistant to Christianity.
Why We Train and Send Out Indian Missionary Pastors
There are over 500,000, rural villages in India, many of which have never heard of Jesus Christ. Our primary focus is taking the gospel to the hundreds of remote, rural villages in the Haridwar Distrist and the outlying villages of New Delhi. The following information refers to conditions in these villages.
When you go to the refrigerator and get a drink of clean, cold water, remember that most missionary pastors and the lost they are trying to reach still drink dirty water from polluted streams and ponds or shallow, hand dug wells. It’s only tourists and foreign missionaries that require certified, pure bottled water.
The primary ministry focus for foreign missionaries to India is the larger metropolitan areas because they need a clean, air conditioned hotel rooms with a soft mattress, a modern western style bathroom and a restaurant that serves American food. Indian nationals, that surrender their lives to Christ, as missionary pastors, are committed to plant and disciple churches in villages and live the same lifestyle as the poor villagers. That means they will sometimes go without food, have no electricity or warm water and wear dirty, ragged clothes, just like the members of their little fellowships or house churches. Most of the time the only bed these pastors and their families have is a blanket spread out on a dirt floor.
The next time you take a hot shower, with sweet smelling soap, remember that most of the world has no indoor plumbing, no hot water, much less soap, so they have become desensitized to the body odors that are so very offensive to Western Christians. If enough water is available and if they have some kind of soap, they will pour water from a bucket to wet themselves. Then they will wash with soap and pour the rest of the water on their heads to wash off the soap. In some villages a bath can be a luxury. I have seen people bathing beside their little huts, without taking off their clothes, because they have little privacy and because they can wash their clothes at the same time.
Many remote villages have no schools, septic systems or play grounds for their children and 80-90% of the children and adults are illiterate. That environment simply will not do for western missionaries. For the indigenous missionaries with families there are however very few changes to their lives, as they come from that kind of village. Their children will also suffer for the cause of Christ and some may indeed die. My first trip to India in 1989, I preached in a house church where the pastor’s eldest son died of heat stroke the year before. That is never a consideration for Western missionaries and frankly, it would not be for me either. Indigenous Indian missionaries live, work and sleep with no air-conditioning in the summer with temperatures that can hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Then in the winter, when temperatures fall into the 40’s, they heat their huts and cook with dried buffalo chips.
In the extremely poor areas, where we take the gospel, there are few radios, TV’s, cell phones or laptops. It is difficult for villagers to keep up with what is happening in the outside world or in their own country. Children entertain themselves by playing with a few old, worn out toys or in mud puddles, while missionary children play with beautiful dolls and toys or do their schoolwork from books that will never be available to poor village children. It is easy to understand why an evangelistic gospel event it’s a really big deal and everybody comes.
For most village families, if they have transportation, it’s a worn out bicycle that the husband rides up to 20 miles a day to find work. American or Western missionaries will normally have a good car and drive to the village from their hotel or secure compound and then go back to spend the night. Our gospel event pastors actually move to the village and stay there to disciple new believers as they continue to reach out, not only to that village, but also other nearby villages.
As these small congregations and bible study fellowships grow they are encouraged to help support their pastor and his family. When there is enough support from the village we stop supporting the pastor and send another pastor to a different village and repeat the process. So far God has made it possible to plant 30 small house churches in our focus area.
This is harsh, but when it comes to food, we simply do not understand that two-thirds of the world has very little to eat. Americans feed their pet dogs and cats more food each day than many poor people in India have to eat for a whole week. Americans spend $19.53 Billion on pet food every year. We spend another $18 Billion on coffee and $80 Billion on soft drinks. Enough said!!
The cost to support a full-time American missionary in India is $50,000 to $100,000 a year and it takes two years or more to get them ready to go. Then, because of visa restrictions, what they can do is limited. No one knows the actual cost of winning one soul to Christ, but I have read various articles that say it might be as high as $1,000. Compare that to the $1,600 ($3.56 per person accepting Christ) it cost us to do and evangelistic gospel event that results in an average of 450 people coming to know the Lord.
As Americans, we think nothing of spending $40 for lunch after church on Sunday. That’s more than the monthly income of most families in India. Many families, in remote villages, exist on $1.00 – $1.50 a day. If they have special skills, that figure could be as high as $5.00 a day.
The villages we go to are remote and controlled by Hindu extremists. It is can be very dangerous, so only a few foreign missionary have taken the gospel to these villages. Our evangelistic team has been told many times, “Don’t go there, they will beat you if you do.” and we found out that was correct. One our evangelist pastors was beaten so badly that he had to be taken to a hospital. Consequently, there are no churches or even one Christian to share the gospel in many, many of these villages. In fact most have not even heard of Jesus, the only Son of God.
100% of the people in these small, remote villages, as well as all their ancestors, have worship nothing but demonic idols for thousands of years. There is a witchdoctor in almost every village. In fact, many die from demonic curses placed on them by these witchdoctors, simply because they do not know who Jesus is or the power of his name. When demons are cast out we sometimes discover they have been passed down from generation to generation, in the same family, for hundreds of years. Without Jesus there is no escape. Yet, as obvious as the need is, training for foreign missionaries is woefully inadequate, when it comes to healing and taking authority over demons in Jesus name. Missionary evangelists, born and raised in India, have no problem with it at all. They fully understand that the demons must be bound and cast out, before a person can be born again and be of service to King Jesus. These missionary pastors have been trained and stand ready to enter the battle for the souls of their family and friends.
Unlike here in the USA, when we minister to the sick and infirmed in these villages, it is not uncommon to see many demonic manifestations within the people. When they are set free, in Jesus name, we sometimes see scary and violent manifestations, as the demons come out. (Just like it was when Jesus cast them out.) There is an immediate change in their lives followed by repentance of their sin and acceptance Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus came to set the captives FREE.
There are very few doctors, hospitals or medications in these remote areas. When someone is sick or gets injured they go see a local village, Hindu priest. Then, for a hefty price, the priest prays to the image of his favorite god or goddess to heal the person. When nothing happens, the sick person goes to another Hindu priest, in a nearby village, and repeats the process. When, the family has no more rice or chickens left to pay the priest, the priest tells them he did all he could and the gods must be very angry at him. This is repeated over and over in villages all over India. Men and women, boys and girls and little babies are born, live and die without ever hearing about Jesus.
Then someone brings news that Christians have come to the village down the road and they are feeding people and healing the sick in the name of Jesus Christ, a god they have never heard of before. Most of the time news of what is happening in these gospel events is carried from village to village by new Christians who were eye witnesses to the miracles done in Jesus name. Believe me, when families hear that the sick are being healed, they come and it’s not to be entertained, it’s because they are sick and dying.
I want to make it perfectly clear that we are talking about healing and deliverance “In The Context Of Evangelism”, which is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to do in Luke 9 and 10. Feeding Events India is laser focused on introducing the lost to Jesus Christ and he has graciously given us authority to trample on demonic snakes and scorpions and overcome all the works of the enemy. (Luke 10) The Holy Spirit sends us from village to village to preach the gospel of Christ and to confirm the gospel by healing the sick delivering people from demonic control. It is an amazing thing to see what happens in villages when new believers in Christ learn that all things are possible in the name of Jesus. “All things are possible for them that believe.” (Mark 9:23)
There are over 500,000 small, unreached villages in India that have never heard the gospel of Christ. In the 91 villages where we have done gospel events, approximately 90% of the people that hear the gospel, turn from their Hindu gods and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. How does that compare with denomination sponsored missions work?
I know two undercover American missionaries in the Middle East who have been there for over five years and have only a half dozen or so people that they have led to Christ. I also know an American missionary to India, who is in her second year. She has only led one person to Christ and she is about ready to give up and return home.
Why is it that missionaries coming out of our western culture cost so much and bear so little fruit? Simply this, most Eastern and Middle Eastern countries, do not allow foreigners to preach the gospel. If you apply for a visa and list your purpose for going as, “Missionary or To preach the gospel”, your visa will be denied. If an undercover missionary gets caught preaching they can be deported and sometimes face imprisonment and even death. So, we send them as doctors and nurses, school teachers, agriculture specialists and orphanage managers, etc. instead of sending them as evangelists to preach the gospel and plant churches.
Then there is the language problem. Baptists send out more missionaries that any other domination. However, they require their missionaries to learn the language and culture before they will send them. Baptists spend millions of dollars each year teaching their missionaries to speak foreign languages. Sometimes it takes two or three years to for the missionary to be able to speak enough of the language to communicate the gospel. Empowering native missionaries to preach the gospel eliminates almost all the time and training expense.
It can cost 500 to 1,000 times more to send an American missionary to India than it does to send out a native born, Indian missionary pastor and the souls harvest by this missionary pastor will be ten times greater. Why? Because missionaries from the Western culture cannot live like the people they are trying to reach. They live like Americans, inside walled compounds in nice homes, with guards and servants and require pure drinking water, American food and a modern bathroom and a car. Just the food that is not eaten and thrown away from one meal would many times feed a poor Indian family for a week.
Our church facilitates many two week mission trips to India and other countries each year. My wife and I have been on seven of them and have paid for others go when we could not go ourselves. The average cost to go on one of these two week mission trips is about $2,500 per person. Everyone should go on one of these trips, it is a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to the lost and reap a harvest for God. However, the same $2,500 would pay an Indian missionary pastor’s salary for a whole year and the number of souls reached would be far greater.
When non-Indian missionaries get sick they are treated by a doctor and take medication. If they don’t get well they are flown home for treatment in the States. Just the opposite is true for an indigenous Indian missionary. They survive on $100-$150 a month, they live in small, one room, mud huts and eat less than 1/3 the amount of food that foreign missionaries eat. They eat the same food, drink the same water and suffer just like the people they are sharing the gospel with. And they do it with a joy in the Lord that is almost completely unknown to foreign missionaries. They suffer for the sake of the gospel, knowing their reward will is reserved in heaven.
So then, the Lord has laid before his church a choice. Do we continue giving huge sums of money to denominational missionary groups or do we take notice of the abundant harvest that is occurring through small, efficient, independent ministries, like Evangelistic Feeding Events India?
Thy will be done Father.