Evangelists in India Encounter Native Beliefs, Rituals

August 11, 2016

Indian believers worshipping.
The gospel is spreading in many villages in India, in spite of persecution.

The ethnic Bhuiya in Jharkhand state, India, are an unreached people who worship the spirit of the nearest mountain, among other things, and indigenous missionaries are accustomed to praying for the demon-possessed among them.

The Joshua Project lists the Bhuiya as unreached because less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the tribe in India profess Christianity, and the percentage of evangelicals among them is unknown. Anthropologists record Hinduism and animism as the Bhuiya's main religions. Among the animists, the earth and sun are their highest gods, followed by local ancestral and mountain spirits, according to the Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceana. Many Bhuiya worship the cobra, with some calling it their mother.

An indigenous ministry in a southern state of India in the past year trained and sent a near-culture missionary to Jharkhand, an eastern state, to visit a Bhuiya village with the message of Christ's salvation. A family there had an older relative who had wandered in nearby jungles for four years, and they brought her home to hear the evangelist.

"I lived a worldly life and worshipped local gods and goddesses," said the woman, whose name is withheld for security reasons. "I was possessed with evil spirits, and as a result I was mentally affected and wandered around in the jungles."

The indigenous missionary shared the gospel with the family and asked them if they wished to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"After their willingness to accept the Lord, he prayed for me, and instantly the Lord delivered me from the grip of the evil spirits and healed me from my insane condition," said the woman. "Now I am absolutely normal and have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. Now my entire family belongs to the family of God. Praise the Lord!"

Praying for the sick, visiting huts and organizing evening meetings to proclaim Christ, the Christian worker reached many village Bhuiya with the gospel. There and in other parts of India from February through April, the indigenous ministry's workers shared the gospel with 2,800 people in 35 villages, the director said. The evangelists saw 1,160 people put their faith in Christ, with 391 baptized and 12 churches planted.

In the undisclosed village in Jharkhand, another Bhuiya said he had worshipped the goddess Durga, the Hindu mother deity regarded as the root force of creation and sustenance, and the destroyer of other, more malevolent gods. Suffering for many years with severe chest pain and breathing problems, the Bhuiya man said he had approached the local witchdoctor for treatment without success. He credited the native missionary's prayer with healing him.

Converted village elder.
A 93-year-old villager in Jharkhand state was a witchdoctor until he put his faith in Christ as age 90.

"He shared about Christ's love for the poor and needy, and about His authority over the devil and over all kinds of sicknesses," he said. "I believed, and I committed my life to Jesus Christ, believing that Jesus is the only Lord and Savior. I requested the missionary to pray for me. Immediately after the prayer, I experienced the power of God in my life, and the Lord removed all the pain from my life. Now I am absolutely normal and love the Lord and live for Him."

His entire family has also put their faith in Christ, he added.

The indigenous ministry director asked for prayer for spiritual growth for the many Bhuiya who have joined the Lord's people in the village.

"Pray for their spiritual growth and to withstand opposition for Christ, as they face severe persecution from the other local people," he said. "Outsiders instigate the local non-Christians to oppose these new believers and attempt to expel them from the village."

Prayer for the Bhuiya Christians to be strong in the face of the persecution is just one of many needs as they live in remote jungle areas where there is no access to schools, health care, roads, electricity and other basic facilities. Helping to meet those needs provides a platform for gospel proclamation.

"Pray for God's provision to meet their social, economic, and educational needs, especially for their younger generation," he said. "They live in utter poverty with no one to care for them. We are trying to start some projects to develop their social and economic status."

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 637ASM. Thank you!