NEW DELHI (BP)–They represent only a small sliver in their country’s population pie, yet usually unbeknownst to them, they are giants in the faith who daily impact the Kingdom of God.
These are the Christian believers of India, the men and women who courageously live out their faith in Christ before an overwhelming sea of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and animists.
Nineteen million evangelical Christians may seem like a huge number, but they represent only 1.8 percent of India’s 1.07 billion people.
Yet, one Christian friend shared with Vijay, a Punjabi Hindu, how Jesus forgives sinners. One Christian friend told Sydney,* a Jat Sikh, that Jesus offers peace. And Christian friends explained to Philip,* a Bihari Muslim, the depth of Jesus’ love.
Sunday, May 15, is the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization, with Southern Baptists this year focusing their prayers on the peoples of India.
Vijay’s father worshiped the Hindu god Krishna, and his mother managed a temple for Devi. The odds that Vijay ever would have a relationship with the true God seemed insurmountable. Then God brought a friend into Vijay’s life who told him about Jesus and how He provides forgiveness from sin.
“A friend led me to the Lord,” Vijay said.
Vijay has now followed Jesus for seven years. His father, who once beat Vijay with an iron rod for denying the Hindu gods, has been a believer for three and a half years. Even Vijay’s mother, the devout temple hostess, now follows Jesus only. Today this whole family, once Punjabi-speaking Hindus, worships the living God — all because a Christian friend ignored the obstacles and dared to share.
While in college, Sydney was feeling a vacuum in his life and began trying everything he could to fill it.
“I started feeling I was empty, that I needed something more. I thought that maybe if I made friends with the senior students, maybe that emptiness would go away,” Sydney said. “So I started sitting in the company of senior students and I started taking part in many filthy things. I started taking some drugs also. I thought maybe this could satisfy me, give me what I was longing for — but it never did.
“Then I met a friend of mine who was Christian,” Sydney said. “I told him about my condition, that I was really struggling in my life and wanted to have real peace in my life and real joy. He said, ‘Come to Jesus Christ — He can give you that.’”
Philip became frustrated trying to be a good Muslim.
“Everything that I could do I did, but I started realizing the emptiness in my heart,” Philip said. “I realized that even after doing my level-best to be a good Muslim or a good person, there is an inbuilt system in my body and mind that never allowed me to do good. I saw good people dying in the hospitals without hope, in confusion. No one had a clear concept about what would happen after death.
“During my stay in Delhi, I met with my Christian friends,” Philip recounted. “I always enjoyed working and talking with them. Their simplicity and positive approach impressed me. They used to talk about Jesus and His love. I had one basic question. In Islam, God spoke to His people through a ‘prophet’ who was just a person like us, but in the Bible God spoke to His people by no one less than His own Son! It was exciting to me.”
Because Christian friends were faithful and acted on the burden the Holy Spirit gave them to share Jesus with their friends, families and whole communities have believed in Jesus. Vijay is a leader in a church made up of former Punjabi Hindus. Philip produces Christian radio programs in his Urdu language that reach the ears of Muslims throughout southern Asia. Southern Baptists helped train Sydney to be a church planter and he now ministers in Jat Sikh communities.
Among the prayer needs provided by organizers of this year’s Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization:
— Pray for the evangelical believers in India, asking that each one would be a friend who leads someone to faith in Jesus. Those who played parts in leading Vijay, Sydney and Philip to faith in Jesus were not evangelists; they were simply friends. Pray that more of the 19 million evangelical Christians in India would be strengthened in their faith and testimony and that they would reach out to share Jesus with their friends.
— Pray that leaders of religious groups in India would recognize the emptiness in their own hearts and search for truth. India’s population is 79.83 percent Hindu; 12.5 percent Muslim; 1.92 percent Sikh; 1.4 percent tribal animist; 0.8 percent Buddhist; 0.35 percent Jain; and 0.23 percent Baha’i. About 0.55 percent of Indians are nonreligious.
— Pray for Vijay, Sydney, Philip and others like them as they try to communicate Jesus’ love with those in their own people groups. Pray specifically for the salvation of Sydney’s parents and Philip’s siblings.
— Pray that American and Canadian Christian believers would befriend Indians living in their countries, making the most of every opportunity to change Indian lives through the saving power of Jesus. Pray that they would remember the command to practice hospitality, especially during Christian holidays.
*Name changed for security reasons. For more information on the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization, go to http://ime.imb.org/dayofprayer. For additional prayer requests, view http://imb.org/compassionnet. To learn more about what God is doing in southern Asia, go to www.go2southasia.org.