‘The risk is always there’: Rajesh on the cost of faith in India

July 1, 2020 by Robert Kenna in Stories of Persecution

I’m sitting with Rajesh* in a small, abandoned house in a remote location. A small gecko crawls up the ceiling and outside we hear the sounds of birds. The floor is gray and the chipped paint on the walls shows layers of white, cream and orchid pink. The late-morning sun spills in from a small window next to Rajesh and casts light across the side of his face—illuminating only half of his smile.

featured in presence magazineRajesh grew up in a Christian home in India, but when he was young, he didn’t follow Christ—instead, he lived for himself. Then, when he was around 16, he attended a youth conference—only because he thought it would be fun. Little did he know, God was orchestrating a divine calling on his life.

On the third day of the youth conference, the preacher called out to Rajesh—even though they had never met before. The preacher said: “Rajesh, the Lord is calling you. You’re wearing a red shirt. You’re here on this campus, come to the front.”

“I couldn’t run away from that,” Rajesh says. “I had to go, and when I went up front, he prayed for me and I felt the very presence of Holy Spirit in my life. I can’t explain it—it was so powerful, and I started crying. I committed my life to Him.


Watch Rajesh's story
Watch Rajesh's story

“I would not say that I chose God, or I decided to follow God,” Rajesh adds, “but I would rather say, God chose me and made me follow Him—that’s a special grace upon my life.”

As Rajesh grew in his faith, he always asked the Lord one important question: “How do you want my life to be a blessing to others?” After 10 years of asking , the Lord provided Rajesh with a clear answer: serve My Church in India.

So Rajesh began to work with persecuted Christians in India, and these are the stories that he tells me today. On one of his first trips to visit persecuted believers, Rajesh visited a pastor in a remote village who had been beaten for his faith. When he arrived to meet this pastor, Rajesh was shocked: The pastor was smiling. “That pastor was badly beaten, but he was not in pain,” Rajesh says. “That was amazing for me to see. That was my first encounter with someone who was directly persecuted.”

Help believers in India now

Followers of Jesus in India need our help. As Rajesh notes, so many people he serves face discrimination, persecution, violent attacks and more. But you can rush help to Indian Christians today—legal help, emergency aid, safe houses, discipleship materials, Bibles and anything else needed by the Indian church. Will you help now?

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But when Rajesh left the pastor’s home, it was clear something wasn’t right. All the people in the village were looking at Rajesh, and the others with him, as if they did something wrong. Then the pastor said: “Please leave now. As quick as you can!”

When they got to the car, it was covered in paan—a red-colored chewing tobacco people use in India. a car covered in spit

Rajesh’s heart started pumping. They got in the car, pulled out and drove away. When they reached a ravine, there were 20 young men on motorbikes blocking their way. Rajesh’s driver kept on the gas and somehow maneuvered around the bikes, but the young men chased them.

“They wanted to stop us and beat us,” Rajesh says, “and they chased us for around 10 kilometers. And the entire time our prayer was, ‘Lord, please be with us.’”

By God’s grace, Rajesh and the others escaped. And when he arrived home, Rajesh had a special message for his wife: “This is the ministry the Lord has called us to.”

Over the years, Rajesh has met with families who have lost loved ones, pastors who have been beaten or had their churches burned down, families who have been kicked out of their villages and many others falsely accused or imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus.

“Every persecution is a lesson to strengthen the church,” Rajesh shares. “Persecution is not something new to Christians in India—they are facing it and they are growing through it. Through the persecution, God is making the church grow.

“The most suffering church in India is the house church,” Rajesh adds. “Because they are isolated and can be easily targeted. So, if you want to pray for India, pray for this house church movement because they are the easiest victims of persecution and they do not know how to face it, but the grace of God is enough for them.”

For Rajesh, the work he does is a labor of love for Christ. “It is just a joy to serve the persecuted church,” Rajesh adds, his smile spreading across his face and catching the light. “Because when you serve the persecuted church, you actually serve the Lord.”

As we finish our conversation, Rajesh sings a special song for us in Hindi: “I Have Decided.” The familiar hymn has a rich Indian history. “It was birthed out of persecution,” Rajesh says, “and it’s very meaningful to Christians in India.”

Rajesh tilts his head toward the ceiling and his voice fills the space.

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.

The room is still for moments after he finishes the hymn. “If you love the Lord and live your life,” Rajesh adds, “the risk is always there. But God is always there to support us. God is always there to encourage us.”

*Name changed to protect security

Pray with India’s growing house church movement

The most persecuted believers in India are those who lead or are involved in the growing house church movement. “Because they are isolated and can be easily targeted,” he says. “So, if you want to pray for India, pray for this house church movement because they are the easiest victims of persecution and they do not know how to face it, but the grace of God is enough for them.”

Father, we pray for our Indian family in house churches. We ask that You would remind them them they’re not alone, and we ask that You would thwart the plans of their persecutors. We pray for our local partners like Rajesh and ask that You would make it possible for them to reach more house churches and equip them with persecution awareness training so that when trouble comes, they will not be surprised and will be ready to respond. And we ask for your continued grace to our Indian sisters and brothers as they share Your Gospel. In Your Son’s name, we pray. Amen.

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