Hindu by tradition but with deep belief in the tribal religion of her ancestors, a young mother in eastern India sought peace in the mother goddess who dwelled in trees.
The desire for some assurance that the gods of her ancestral religion would bring good fortune was strong in Varsha*, who was eager to protect her family from the despair of poverty evident throughout her village. She sold liquor to supplement her husband’s meager day-labor earnings, but they knew one day of lost work meant going hungry the next day.
Varsha had long believed that the mother goddess dwelling in the trees, the Gram Devi, would protect and provide for her family if she performed enough rituals in the sacred grove. She found no peace in giving sacrifices of white flowers and white chickens, though, and it wasn’t long before she was in bondage to strong drink.
“She was leading a completely worldly life, and since she was selling liquor, she was addicted to alcohol and practiced all kinds of evil,” the director of a local ministry said. “She tried to find peace through many sources, especially through religious rituals and through magicians, but nothing happened, and she lost all her hope in this world.”
Varsha was alone at home one day last year when two Christian women came to her door. From another village, the two native missionaries had prayed for the Lord to bring them to people open to hearing about the one true God.
Her two children were at school, and her husband was working.
“She was very much discouraged and almost in a depressed condition, as she was unable to come out of the evil habits which she did not like to practice anymore, and therefore there was no joy and peace in her life,” the director said. “The sisters shared about Christ’s power to deliver her from all the evils of this world, forgive her sins and give her the peace that the world cannot give.”
It was the first time Varsha had heard such good news, he said.
“She immediately responded to the gospel positively and showed her willingness to accept Christ,” the leader said. “Both the sisters led her to Christ, and now Varsha is a child of God. The Lord has delivered her from all her evil habits, and she has experienced the joy of forgiveness in her life.”
After a few weeks of teaching, she was baptized, he said.
“She is no longer selling liquor, and instead is doing some work with her hands,” the leader said. “The Lord has blessed her with joy and peace, and now she is a great witness for Christ.”
Turning from Witchdoctors
In Varsha’s state in eastern India, nearly 40 percent of the people live below the poverty line, with more than 19 percent of the children under age 5 malnourished. In such a precarious existence, tribal peoples live in fear of failing to placate the gods of the ancestors.
Although nearly 70 percent of the population in Varsha’s state is Hindu, among the low-caste tribal people their ancestral religion dominates.
As tribal people turn to the Lord, their prayers are often answered instantly – the native ministry leader said he can give hundreds of examples of once dark lives that now give glory to God.
“After accepting the Lord, instead of going to the witchdoctor and magicians for their spiritual and physical problems, they come to church and pray to the Lord and seek the prayers of the fellow believers, church elders and native missionaries,” he said. “The Lord answers their prayers, provides miraculous healing and blesses them spiritually, physically, socially and economically.”
Those coming to Christ give up addiction to alcoholic drink that is so prevalent among the tribal peoples, he said. They begin working regularly and effectively in farming or manual labor and earn steady income, he added.
“Before accepting Christ, they spend all their earnings mostly for alcoholic drinks and for many other evil works,” he said. “Now they spend their entire earnings for the welfare of their families, children’s education and give offering for God’s work.”
In this way their standard of living is raised and they start living with self-respect, he said.
“Their slavery to the devil, landlords and the so-called high-caste Hindus is broken, and they start living a life of freedom which the Lord Jesus has offered,” the leader said. “In this way their overall spiritual, social and economic life is transformed.”
During a six-month span last year, the ministry saw 4,248 people put their faith in Christ and 18 new churches emerge. Its training center regularly develops church elders and volunteer evangelists, and the ministry now has 90 local church planters working among different peoples – 60 full-time workers, 20 part-time and 10 volunteers.
“Despite the problems we face from the anti-Christian and anti-social elements, the Lord continues to bless our ministry, and many people are joining His fold,” he said. “Due to severe opposition, we are not able to conduct the baptism services in many places, although the new believers want to join the Lord’s fold though baptism. Pray for God to deal with the political and social elements that oppose our ministry, that He would remove them from power.”
Local missionaries are overcoming such obstacles throughout the country. Please consider a donation today to help them bring the love of Christ to people trapped in dark forces.
*Name changed for security reasons