DEHLI, India (BP)–Although his family follows Hinduism, Tandon does not believe in any god.
But every day for six weeks, Sheldon Catling*, a volunteer from Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., played basketball with Tandon and other Indian university students, sharing his faith each time. And right before Catling returned to the U.S., God began to soften Tandon’s heart.
Catling shared with Tandon about how sin separates man from God and there’s no way for man to bridge the gap. God’s remedy, he told Tandon, came when He sent Jesus to take away our sin.
Catling ventured to one of India’s major cities for a six-week mission trip by eight collegians sponsored by East Cooper Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C. The team included students from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, Charleston Southern University, College of Charleston and Francis Marion University.
During their trip, the team discipled seven Indian college students who are new Christians, teaching them how to study the Bible, share their faith and walk as believers.
“The need for older believers to come along beside them and teach them how to study God’s Word, share their faith, and how to walk as a new believer in this ever-changing culture is great,” said Clint Braddy*, the volunteer team’s leader.
“The Great Commission has never been clearer to me,” Braddy said. “Jesus said go make disciples, not churches or converts. He knew that these things would be the result of discipleship.”
Braddy’s team adopted the vision of Viktor Raimund*, a Southern Baptist representative, to spread the Gospel in the city and embolden Indian believers to share their faith. Raimund’s fiancée is a member of East Cooper Baptist Church.
The volunteer team had their work cut out for them. Many Indian college students, Raimund said, “are envisioning American college students sleeping around, boozing, [and doing] everything they see in Hollywood movies.”
Western culture — from blue jeans to designer sunglasses that is taking the city of 5 million by storm — also shapes Indian young adults’ worldview and their views on Hinduism and the caste system, which continues to give a hierarchical social status for every person.
“This new, upcoming generation wants to be free philosophically, economically, sexually and spiritually from the old traditional India,” Braddy said.
Over a cup of coffee, an Indian college student told Braddy that in his opinion, only the older, uneducated generation believes in the caste system. It’s silly to believe in all those gods, the student said.
When Braddy and the volunteers talked about the living God, the Indian students with whom they shared the Gospel answered in the same manner most college students in Europe and America would: I have my beliefs; you have yours; and they are equal. I believe in all religions.
Idolatry has always been pervasive in India, but now there’s also the idolatry of the West — prosperity and success, to which they don’t physically bow down, but they bow down in their hearts.
Indian students no longer believe in idols — they only bow down to them to please their parents, Raimund said. He said this is truly a generational shift that he’s seen during the last two years he’s been serving in the city.
Raimund’s prayer is that the testimony and witness the American students left behind during their summer venture to India will live on in collegians like Tandon. Although he hasn’t made a decision to follow Christ, Catling planted the seed. He also connected Tandon with Christians in the city who are continuing to share the Good News with him.
“One thing I feel that God taught me was His true desire and heart and love for the lost and how He truly desires to draw lost people to Himself and that He loves using us to do that,” Catling said.
*Name changed. Caroline Anderson is a writer in Asia for the International Mission Board.