Training Center Breaks Down Barriers in Northern India
January 23, 2014
TALIM offers courses in discipleship and church planting. Some of the students come from Muslim backgrounds.
Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ was scary for Haashim*. He knew his life was in danger if he dared share his faith with relatives or friends. As a new believer, he wanted to learn more about the Bible and the Christian life, but there was no one in his northern India village who could teach him.
Haashim heard about a training center near Delhi, called TALIM (Telling About Living Messiah), whose primary aim was to reach Muslims for Christ. Like him, several of the students were believers from Muslim backgrounds.
Among the school’s program offerings was a discipleship course that delved into topics of interest to Haashim—how does the Christian Bible differ from the Koran, what is God’s character, can I have assurance of salvation, how do I pray?
But Haashim desired to do more than grow in his faith. He wanted to share the good news of the Savior with other Muslims. He just needed someone to show him how.
For the next five months he was a model student, joining a class of a dozen young men and women who poured themselves into God’s Word and learned strategies for evangelizing Indian Muslims. This was followed by four months of hands-on ministry in Muslim communities.
During that year Haashim was overjoyed to see his own wife and children commit their hearts to the Lord and receive baptism. Upon completion of the program he became a missionary among Urdu-speaking people and now serves as an elder in one of the house churches he helped to establish in the area.
TALIM, which means “teaching” in Arabic, was started ten years ago by an indigenous ministry that seeks to take the gospel to Muslims in northern India. Christian Aid Mission supplied funds for a building to house the center in 2009.
The program is designed to give future missionaries and church leaders both practical and theoretical training in leading Muslims to Christ. Now expanded to 12 months, the curriculum includes courses in discipleship, Bible discovery, Christian ethics, stewardship, evangelism, and church planting. Thirty students are currently enrolled.
“We realize discipleship is very important, and we want to do it right,” said Prakash*, the ministry’s founder. “We want to stress learning the Word of God and having a working knowledge of the Koran.”
Students/co-workers meet for the seminars every other month, then they teach 10 or more people that same course in their local house churches before they come to take the next course. They must complete 18 classes in order to graduate.
Supplemental classes in income generating and English language studies are also offered to help gospel workers find a means to support themselves financially while they serve with the ministry.
Adding a personal touch
The ministry reaches out to mothers and children through its child development center.
India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world—an estimated 176 million people and growing. Many are concentrated in the northern part of the country, where the ministry focuses its outreach efforts among 14 people groups in five states.
It is a vast and difficult mission field, and who better to carry out the work than indigenous believers, especially those who came from Muslim backgrounds and can point their neighbors to Christ. Of the ministry’s 20 active field missionaries, six were former Muslims.
Anti-conversion laws and increasingly violent opposition to Christianity have forced the ministry to change its evangelistic methods.
“Twenty years ago we did large-scale open air evangelism. I was never thrown out of a community,” Prakash explained. “Today it is almost impossible to hold an open air event. Persecution from Muslims and Hindus against Christians continues to rise.”
Prakash has experienced some of that persecution first-hand. He said he has been held at gunpoint three times. Another time he narrowly escaped serious injury or death when someone fired a shot in his direction, but missed their intended target.
Building relationships and winning the trust of villagers is a more effective approach today. The missionaries live and work in the villages. As they interact and become “one of them,” the believers find opportunities to share the gospel.
Meeting physical needs is an important part of their outreach. To combat high infant mortality rates, in one rural area the ministry is helping to run a child development center, where young mothers attend seminars and receive emotional support as they care for their families. The ministry also operates literacy centers in some of Delhi’s slums.
Prakash said his goal is to place missionary teams in dozens of cities in northern India. Over the last decade they have also planted 100 house churches.
Last year one of the ministry’s church planting teams hosted a Christmas celebration in a village in Rajasthan. Having already experienced the power of prayer in their families, a large crowd gathered to openly worship the Lord. Angered by the celebration, a few weeks later 50 people raided the homes of new disciples, threatening them if they continued to follow Jesus.
The believers were said to reply: “When we were suffering from demonic influence, emotional breakdowns, and our children and youth from bad habits, where were you at that time? Now when the Lord Jesus is working in our families, you want to disturb us and want to put us back into those problems.
“We will follow Jesus with our families,” they said, “whatever cost we will have to pay.”
The ministry is requesting funding to buy a used four-wheel drive vehicle ($10,000), as well as bicycles for their gospel workers. Support is also needed for the TALIM training program, as the ministry provides meals, accommodations, and course materials for students. The cost for one trainee is about $100 per month.
*(all names changed for security reasons)