‘We are always in danger’—the risks our field workers take to be God’s hands and feet in India

August 12, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

A family in a rural part of India has just lost their father—brutally murdered because of his faith in Jesus. It’s your job to go and comfort the family. How will you reach them safely? When you get there, what do you say to them? What actions will you take to show them they’re not alone? How will you be there for them?

For Abhishek*, an Open Doors local partner in India, this is the kind of hard situation and difficult questions he deals with every day. He is literally our hands and feet in India—your hands and feet when you pray and give to support persecuted believers in India.

Binding up the broken-hearted

Talking with Abhishek, we get an up close look at the persecution Christians in India face today. He tells us more about the family’s story above.

“The father was the bread winner of the house with three young children,” he says, adding that he was also a strong believer who distributed Bibles and gospel tracts.

“This man was spreading the gospel,” Abhishek says. “And one after another, people were coming to Christ in his village.”

India’s church is at a tipping point

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Strengthen your family in India

The father’s commitment to spreading the gospel and seeing others meet Jesus were the very reasons why the Naxalites, a militant Maoist group in India, targeted him.

“People stopped obeying the Naxalites and instead obeyed what this father and Scripture said,” Abhishek explains. “He told Christians to be humble, to live in a godly manner.”

During Abhishek’s initial visit with the family, they shared the details of their father’s death. Early in the morning at 4 a.m., the Naxalites kidnapped their father and took him into the jungle where they mutilated his body.

“Then they just beat him senseless,” Abhishek says tearfully. “They tied his legs, hung him from a tree and beat him with rods.” Finally, they shot him.

“It was terrible to see. Such a heinous killing, so brutal. They killed this man of God.” The Naxalites also threatened to kill them, the family said, if they reported anything to the police.

Ministering with both provision and presence, Abhishek provided the family with food and helped them relocate to a safer area. When the children are old enough for school, he will also help provide their school fees—because of your support and prayers. He is also present with them, walking with them through the nightmare.

“I went to that family and I cried with them, I encouraged them, I comforted them from the Word of God,” Abhishek says. The widow shared her gratitude with Abhishek, saying that “nobody has come and comforted us like that.”

A surrendered life

But Abhishek didn’t grow up dreaming about serving others like this. He didn’t even grow up Christian. He’s from East India, raised in a Hindu family. He remembers the day he learned about Jesus from a preacher who asked him, “Since you are good in your studies, what are you going to do in your future?”

Abhishek’s answer wasn’t much different from that of many young people around the world: “I will study well, and I will become maybe an engineer or maybe a doctor,” he told the pastor. “And I will earn money and have a good house.”

In response, the pastor showed the young man Matthew 16:26—a verse that has become a key scripture for his life: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

“That really touched my heart,” he says. “So I received Jesus Christ.”

His decision that day led him to Bible college and then teaching at a Bible college for almost 10 years. “I wanted to surrender my life completely to Jesus,” he says.

In 2014, Abhishek became an Open Doors local ministry partner, sensing a call on his life to serve the persecuted church.

“The people who are poor, those who have been thrashed, those who have been really hated, who have been persecuted and tortured for the sake of Christ Jesus—it is really wonderful to serve this group of people.”

A day in the life of a field worker in India

For Abhishek, serving the persecuted church begins with learning about a struggling believer or an attack and then gathering information from local community leaders and pastors. As soon as he has information about the situation and if the location isn’t too sensitive, he travels to the place to meet with the affected believers.

“We help them if their house is burned or has been attacked physically. We provide help to really repair the house. If they have been physically attacked, we take them to the hospital. If they have been expelled from their village or home, we give them shelter.

“We encourage them; we comfort them; we stand with them shoulder to shoulder, and we share in their sorrows.”

Abhishek identifies the church’s biggest need today: persecution preparedness. “We need to provide this training to church leaders, he explains, “to boost their faith to be persistent.”

The work he does comes with risks, he says, especially when he’s meeting with persecuted believers in their home regions. “We are always facing danger. Danger from political leaders; danger from the Hindu extremists; dangers from Muslim extremists. (Editor’s note: in the past year, India has become so dangerous for Christians we can no longer show faces of believers for their safety.)

“People keep their eyes on us. When they attack one believer in a village, they look to see who’s supporting this person. And when they see us, they ask lots of questions: ‘Why are you helping? Who are you?’”

Standing on behalf of you: A big vision for India

Abhishek has a big vision for India: “We want to see our country be completely Christ-centered. We want to see the name of Christ lifted up everywhere. We want to see all our leaders reaching every corner of our country to spread the gospel—to see people being transformed. To see people everywhere lifting their hands and worshipping the Lord.”

He has a message for Christians like you who make it possible for him to support persecuted believers in India: “If you were not bountifully extending your hands, ministering to the persecuted church would not be possible in India. We are really standing on behalf of you and reaching out to the people of India. We love you, and we thank you so much. ”

Abhishek shared a specific prayer for you:

Dear Lord, we praise You for all the goodness we receive from Your good hand. We thank You and praise You for Your people who generously stretch forth their hands and give to us. We do pray that You would help them, strengthen them, bless them bountifully. Fill their resources and granary in the coming days that they will be able to support Your people more and more. 

Father God, we pray for their children and their family members, that whatever their heart’s desire is, Lord, You would fulfill it. Bless them abundantly, make them great. Help them in all their ways. In Jesus’ name, we pray. 

*name changed to protect the identity of persecuted believers

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