Walking In the Footsteps of a Native Missionary in India
Recently I was given the chance to walk in the shoes of a native missionary through hostile areas of India and see firsthand the impact they have in reaching the lost for Jesus Christ. It all started not long after I went to India in 2011 and had the privilege to learn more about native missions.
With the Meesalas: Chris Pick, Pastor Kantharao (President of RMI), Sastry (Vice President of RMI), Johan, and Pastor Ratna Raju
Last year, God opened a door for me to go to India. And while there, I learned more about native missions. While in India, I saw firsthand the impact many mission agencies have on spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ in a poverty-stricken nation. It wasn’t long after I returned home that a door opened for me to return.
Vice President Sastry Meesala of Rehoboth Ministries India (www.informi.org) invited me to come back to India and see the work they are doing in Southeast India.
RMI was founded by Kantharao Meesala, a pastor in a place called Vuyyuru – one of the states of Andhra Pradesh, India. He grew up in a Hindu family and did not know who Jesus Christ was. In the mid-60s, he was diagnosed with cancer, and no doctor could heal him. Nor did he find healing in the false gods of his religion. He came to know Jesus Christ through his wife. She went to a church hoping that Jesus could heal him. The local pastor came to the Meesala’s home and prayed over Kantharao. And he was miraculously healed! He then gave his life to Christ.
This healing brought Christ into his life. Because he became a Christian, he lost his relationship with his parents and had to leave his village. But he chose Christ over his family. He confessed his sins and was baptized. And that same year God called him for His ministry. He has served the Lord since 1965 without backsliding. Two of his seven sons also serve the Lord in the work of RMI.
RMI also trains native missionaries and sends them out throughout India to unreached villages. The missionaries RMI trains in their Bible school are trained intensively day and night for 40 days. On weekends, they send them on different ministry assignments to various villages to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The trainees mostly come from poor families and are first generation Christians – coming from Hindu backgrounds. They can read and write Telugu (the local language). But they cannot speak English. They are provided free training, food and transportation expenses. After the six weeks of training are complete, they are sent out to unreached areas for church planting and discipleship ministry.
The dates were immediately set for me to go to India with RMI in January 2012 for six weeks, but religious persecution broke out in the area where I was going. So the trip was postponed until May. Because I was involved with several projects at the time plus finishing up a recording project in Nashville, I knew this was going to be an exhaustive trip going to India for six weeks. With the RMI trip, I would have three back-to-back trips – and I would be away from my wife for a total of three months. But I felt the Lord calling me to go and see the work RMI was doing.
While in India, I stayed with the Meesalas. And not long after I arrived in India, a terrible heat wave struck the Southeastern part of India. Temperatures reached 130 degrees in some spots. By the second week, I started getting sick from the heat and suffered from dehydration. In the village where I stayed, 18 people died in one week from the heat – and many suffered heat strokes. Power cuts were frequent everywhere we went, so there was no escaping the climate. It turned out to be the worst heat wave to strike Southeast India in a long time. However, the heat did not stop the work.
Besides training, the ministry was involved with film crusades every evening.
As I’ve learned with other ministries, people in India are really drawn to films. And when there is a film showing in a poor unreached village, many people will come.
For six weeks, I traveled with RMI’s film team throughout Southeast India.
The film teams are made up of five people. At the beginning of each showing, RMI would show eight to ten short Gospel video clips put to music with messages addressing current issues (marital abuse, drinking, false religion, etc.) as well as community needs. This is not only to draw their attention to the Jesus films but help educate them for a better life. They even have special videos for children. And the children will all sit together at the front and sing along to the songs in the clips.
The Jesus film RMI shows is called MAN OF MERCY, an India-produced film based entirely on the Gospel accounts of Christ, but using Indian actors and language. The film is set in the Indian culture and tradition, so it really speaks to the people in India.
Salvation messages are often shared at these crusades and, generally, there is an altar call given for prayer and blessings. The responses are incredible! The team has been there for up to an hour and a half praying for people after showings. During the six weeks I travelled with RMI on these crusades, I witnessed people give their lives to the Lord, I’ve witnessed healings, and witnessed people set free from demon possession. The people would come and wait in long lines for the missionaries to put their hands on them. They are hungry for God’s Word and want to experience this Christ which was made known to them through the film.
RMI then sends a Bible team to follow up with the work in the village – ask questions, answer questions, pray with them, etc. The ultimate result is to start a Bible study or hopefully a church.
Before each film showing, a team will go to the villages in the morning and do a prayer walk around the village as well as invite people to come. If the villages are hostile, the team will still show the film but do so in a village home.
Each show costs between $30 and $50. This all goes to cover gas prices (on some trips, we have traveled over two hours to reach a village), it also provides for electricity as well as food for the team members. In some cases, toll tax is required to travel to a village.
Some of these villages were hostile to the message of Jesus. Many times RMI has been threatened at villages for preaching the Good News. In one communistic village, a pastor was told by villagers that they would kill him if he planted a church in their village. But you can’t stop the moving of God. I had visited this same village every Sunday while I was there. I saw people who were hungry for the Word of God. People were always inviting the team to their homes to pray for them.
I only witnessed hostility once at a crusade. Some angry Hindus shouted at us one time during a film showing. After 20 minutes, they settled down.
In a very hostile district, a missionary preached a message called “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?” which spoke of the power of God using the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. He really got emotionally into the message. When he shouted out the words of Jesus, “Roll away the stone!” and then “Lazarus come out!,” applause and shouts of joy filled the village when they heard that the dead man came out. They had never heard this message before. Most had never heard about Jesus. Afterwards, many people came forth for prayer. This was an unreached village that had never heard about Jesus.
Prior to leaving India in June, 25 missionaries RMI had trained while I was there were all commissioned and sent out. RMI has sponsorships for ten but need fifteen more sponsorships to cover all their basic needs as they plant a church (housing, food, clothing, medicine, etc.). It costs $200 a month to fully sponsor a missionary or $50 per month to partially sponsor one. Those willing to help support one of these pastors can call RMI at 469-586-6127 or at 469-586-6127. They can email Sastry Meesala at email@example.com or they can donate directly on-line at www.informi.org/sponsor/sponsor-a-missionary/.
In January, RMI is planning to train more pastors for church-planting and discipleship.
God also gave RMI a vision to start a Christian school for their orphanage as well as a television ministry. Pastor Kantharao has even written a book which the ministry hopes will be published soon.
The ministry is also planning to start a tailoring center for women in one unreached village. This would not only help provide for families in need and help the lives of these women, but it is a great opportunity to help share the love of Jesus Christ and bring hope to the least of these.
RMI plans to train the women for three months. At the end of the training, each woman will be provided with their own sewing machine. Many families cannot afford to buy new clothes when their clothing starts to tear or wear out. So, besides having the skills to stitch their own clothes at home, the women can help other families in need. Not to mention, this could become a great way for these women to provide income for their families.
These women come from very poor and destitute families. They are house wives with no employment, but seeking work to help provide for their families. They are also school drop-outs. Some of the women had completed elementary level education but could not attend high school – either they could not afford to attend or there was no high school in their village. That being the case, some of these women are very uneducated and illiterate.
The women come from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds (mostly Hindu). The RMI-supported missionary in charge of coordinating this program will share the love of Jesus Christ with each woman. He will also provide an experienced instructor for teaching this skill to the women. Before each class, a missionary will come to each session and hold a Bible study with the women and will explain how they can effectively use this skill to provide for their families as well as help other families in need. Families that receive such a gift are touched by the generosity and the love of Christ displayed through His brethren.
And this love breaks through the hearts of each of those that receive this gift. The women realize just how much Jesus loves them through the giving of His Church.
Besides providing for families, and opening doors for the Gospel, the work will also strengthen the faith of women believers and give them opportunities to become more involved in ministry. It will let them know just how important they are in the eyes of Jesus and His family.
Because the women all come from various villages, financial assistance is needed to help them travel to the center. RMI plans to start with seven students. So, besides financial aid for the women, the ministry also needs eight sewing machines to begin this program (seven for the women and one for the instructor). Also, there are costs for rent of a home for instruction, as well facility expenses (electricity, maintenance, etc.).
The cost per sewing machine is $150. Student aid per month is $30 per month per student. The teacher salary is $200 per month. Office maintenance is $50 per month. Rent of the facility as well as other expenses is $30 per month. This brings the total cost to $2,670.
Also, when the monsoon season strikes India in early summer, there are many island villages that suffer much devastation and loss from the heavy rains. On one island village which is off the Bay of Bengal, a terrible flood struck the entire village in 2009. This village is surrounded by water. The main occupation of the people there is farming. And because of the flooding, families lost crops and homes. A child also died in the tragedy.
RMI went to help and minister to these people who were mostly of the Hindu religion. An RMI-sponsored missionary was also sent to this island to minister full-time among the people there.
Recently, RMI received a vision to start a Women Welfare Program. This is to help provide for families as well help encourage women leadership in ministry among the people.
The goal is to provide a goat for each family. They are small inexpensive farm animals in India that can “easily” be taken care of. They provide good nutritious milk for the families. The goat is a source of income for the family as well as a way to provide for neighbors in need. Families can sell the milk and use the money to buy rice and other vegetables. Because the cost of living is high in this area, to provide a family with a good healthy goat would cost the ministry $150 per goat. To start this project, the ministry needs to purchase twenty-five goats.
Giving such gifts opens a door to giving the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ! The families that receive the gift of a goat are touched by the generosity and the love of Christ displayed through His brethren. And this love breaks through the hearts of each of those that receive this gift. They “experience” the love of Christ through one simple act of grace. And their hearts are open to receive the truth about Jesus Christ. The families will then meet together for worship and Bible study every Sunday. The RMI-supported missionary and his family will help in leading worship and the Bible studies.
Besides providing for each family, and opening doors for the Gospel in this unreached island village, the work will also strengthen the faith of women believers and give them the opportunity to become more involved in ministry. In Hindu caste systems and society, many women are at the bottom of the social status. Their role is usually linked to that of their husbands who take the position as their god or guru. Many wives become slaves to their husbands’ families. Women are not given the same importance or status as that of men.
The ministry plans to put women in charge of handling the administrative duties of this project. They are really good stewards. Besides giving them responsibility, it will let them know just how important they are in the eyes of Jesus and His family.
Every Christmas, several ministries distribute their Christmas catalogs globally which allow blessed believers to help bless families in need through the gift of a goat, cow, chicken, etc. I have seen firsthand how these gifts have impacted poor unreached villages in India and opened doors for the Gospel (churches were planted in many unreached villages through gifts such as a goat), I can attest truly that this is a great way to share the love of Jesus Christ to those who have lived in poverty and bondage for so long.
God is working through this ministry. And it was a privilege and a blessing for me to see this work up close. It also helped me to understand what it is truly like to walk in the footsteps of a native missionary in India. I felt like I had stepped back into the Book of Acts. RMI asks that you partner with them prayerfully in the work God is doing through Rehoboth Ministries India.
Let me close with the story of Mariyamma, who was bit by a King Cobra two months ago while graining rice near her home. The cobra was in a big hole in the wall of the home where she had been working. There was a frog and the snake struck fast for the frog but missed and bit Mariyamma in the hand. She was in the hospital for two months. The doctors did not expect her to live. She recently was released from the hospital.
When she heard that RMI was coming to her village, she came seeking healing. RMI prayed over her. She gives praise to Jesus Christ for saving her life. Afterwards, she asked the ministry to come to her home and pray for her daughter and her son-in-law. They had lost their 17-yr-old son to Swine Flu just 10 days prior to our arrival, and when she heard that RMI INDIA was coming to her village, she came seeking healing. I prayed over her. She gives praise to Jesus Christ for saving her life. Please continue to pray for her healing. Afterwards, she asked us to come back to her home and pray for her daughter and her son-in-law. Her daughter and her daughter’s husband had lost their 17-year-old son to Swine Flu just ten days prior to our arrival. Please keep the family in your prayers.
Christopher Pick is a singer/songwriter; missionary; and advocate for the Persecuted Church and Native Missionary Movement. He has been involved with several mission projects which have included work in South America, Africa, Asia, and even North America (ministering among the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota). As a singer/songwriter, Pick’s music has been heard globally and charted on many continents in both mainstream, adult contemporary, and Christian. Pick resides in Williamsport, PA along with his wife Michelle (a Fifth Grade teacher in Central PA). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Pick on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Pick-fan-page/310118944421,
Twitter www.twitter.com/pickchris, MySpace www.myspace.com/pickmusic, or Reverb Nation www.reverbnation.com/chrispick