NEW DELHI (BP)–As Hindu neighbors outside celebrated the birthday of the Hindu god Ram with haphazard gunshots into the air and a show of swordplay in the streets, joyful greetings of “Jai Masih” — “victory to the Messiah” — rang out freely inside.
Those inside the meeting place had every reason to celebrate. For the first time, the three-day conference had united 70 believers from among India’s Yadav people group; most had traveled great distances, some as many as 10 to 15 hours by train, to take part.
Numbering about 54 million throughout India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the Yadavs are one of India’s largest people groups. Also known as the Ahir people, they originated as an occupational caste and speak four major languages, conference planner Elvin Trueb* explained.
The Yadav people primarily serve as dairy workers and cattle farmers. Trueb believes they are the ideal group to reach their areas for Christ, not only because of their numbers but also because, as dairy providers, they are able to interact with every caste and people group.
Because the Yadav Christian believers live so far apart from one another, many did not know their Yadav brothers and sisters in Christ, even those from their own regions. Nevertheless, the gathering seemed more like a family reunion than an assembly of strangers. The Yadavs quickly united in purpose and mind through Christ their Savior.
“There is no caste system. We are one in Christ and we must win everybody,” said Naresh*, an elder in the group.
The purpose of the Yadav believers’ conference was to cast a vision for Gospel saturation and rapid multiplication of churches -– beginning among the Yadav people and then spreading throughout the rest of their spheres of influence. Trueb said he was very optimistic after seeing the Yadavs’ readiness to share their faith.
“Many Yadav people are dying and going to hell without knowing Christ,” said Locahn*, one of the youngest Yadavs at the conference. “Yadav brothers have to take this responsibility to tell Yadav people the Gospel. We have to decide not to work for ourselves, but to work for others, so that many can go to heaven.”
Bringing the scattered Yadav believers together gave them opportunities to learn, build a prayer network and encourage one another. Many of the Yadav believers have had a desire to reach out to other Yadavs, but until now they simply did not have the vision or the training for how to do so, Trueb said.
“This conference is an attempt to impart both of these missing elements to empower the Yadavs to go out and reach their own families, neighbors and all of the [region in which they live],” Trueb said.
In the past, lack of literacy prevented many from sharing the Bible, but the conference focused on witnessing and teaching through oral means, such as telling one’s own testimony as well as stories from the Bible in ways that are both accurate and memorable.
“Pastor Trueb told his personal story and biblical stories in this way, so even an illiterate person can understand,” Yadav believer Vikram* said. “The reason that God has given us this opportunity to learn is so that our people can be reached for Jesus.”
Brijesh*, a Yadav believer, was excited about the prospect of being able to share with nonreaders.
“I am not literate,” he said. “I do not know how to read and write, but I believe that even though I don’t know how to read and write that God has chosen me. God has told me to go and preach the Good News.”
With nothing remaining to prevent them from sharing the Bible, the Yadav believers caught a fervor for leading their fellow Yadavs to Christ.
Brijesh pointed out the banner that hung across the front of the conference hall.
“In the banner, our state is going toward the light,” he said. “God has come and is giving the Light to our state. Brothers are coming from outside, encouraging us, giving us the vision.”
The banner also proclaimed the conference theme: “Dus mae teen,” which means “three in 10.”
“Every 10 minutes, three Yadavs die in this state, never hearing the Gospel,” Trueb explained. “These are their brothers, sisters, parents and cousins. They are dying and going to hell without even a chance to accept Christ.”
Trueb said his goal for the Yadavs is to turn “dus mae teen” into “dus mae sunya,” or “zero in 10.” To accomplish this, every Yadav must hear the Gospel and have the chance to respond, so that no Yadav will die without an opportunity to accept Christ.
“I have decided to go back and preach the Gospel among the Yadavs,” Locahn said, “so the status can be changed from three in 10 to zero.”
A task that seems so vast is possible through the method of multiplication, by encouraging every Yadav believer to share the Gospel with five Yadav people each week, Trueb said. Those who accept Christ are then urged to share their new faith weekly with five more people.
“Let’s say you share with five people each week, but only one out of 10 accepts Christ. It takes two weeks to get the first new believer. However, only one out of 20 will be obedient and share his story, so it takes you four weeks to get another person who will also share. But after four weeks, you now are both sharing,” Trueb said. “Since you can share twice as fast, in another two weeks, you have another person who can also share the Gospel. Then all three of you can share. In 36 weeks, over 10,400 people will have heard the Gospel. In a little over one year, over 14 million people will have heard the Gospel.”
Trueb’s hope is that Yadav believers not only will lead people to Christ but will disciple new believers and grow churches. Trueb saw, however, that in spite of their excitement to share the Good News with their own people, one thing still seemed to be missing among the Yadav believers at the conference.
“I asked, ‘Who here really believes that they have the authority to baptize others and to make disciples?'” Trueb said. “‘Raise your hands if you think you have the authority.’ There was some hesitation.
“I explained how in the Old and New Testaments, God used the placing on of hands to bless and empower others,” Trueb recounted. “So I had them find a partner and put their hands on each other’s shoulders and say, ‘By the authority of Jesus Christ, you have the authority to go and make disciples, to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.'”
This simple act made all the difference, Trueb said.
“They all cheered,” he said. “It was really awesome!”
With newfound confidence in the authority granted them by Christ, the believers’ excitement about sharing the Gospel with their people increased even more. They began to encourage and challenge one another.
“Even though he is not from our country, God has spoken to Pastor Trueb to bring this vision to the Yadav people,” Brijesh said. “He is learning the language and preaching about Christ, but we who know the language, how rapidly we can tell the Gospel!
“Do not think you are uneducated,” Brijesh told his peers. “Do not think you are illiterate. You have all the potential. When you work for Him, the Holy Spirit Himself will teach you. Jesus has told us, ‘Freely you have received; freely you should give.'”
Another Yadav believer, Ghirish*, underscored the importance of taking all they had learned at the conference and putting it into practice.
“God has given us authority, and we must use this authority sincerely. We must take the victory that Jesus has already given to us, not only to the three Yadav people who are perishing, but to all the people who are perishing,” Ghirish said. “We must go to them and tell them the Gospel through our testimony. Jesus Christ has given us a promise; He has given us authority. Will we use this authority rightly?
“We need to be faithful, like the wise man who built his house on the rock, to go and tell other people about the Gospel, especially those who are perishing and going to hell,” Ghirish said. “We cannot do it ourselves, but we have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and we have the Holy Spirit. We can do it.”
His words echoed the sentiments of many of the Yadav believers as they prepared to return to their families and villages. They repeated the promise that they would remain faithful to the high calling of Christ.
“There are so many empty chairs here,” Brijesh said. “Next year when we come back, this hall will be filled with all the Yadav people.”
But, he warned, “If we don’t decide to preach Christ, it will never happen.”
*Names changed for security purposes. For more information on how to pray for the peoples of southern Asia, visit www.go2SouthAsia.org.