In the darkness of a July night, 200 villagers sat and stared at the makeshift movie screen alongside a river in Nanjanagudu, a rural community in India's southwestern Karnataka state. Six Indian men in their late 20s stood by the LCD projector they had brought to show a film about Jesus.
Ignoring the plentiful mosquitoes and mat bugs, Lakshmamma, 45, a dark-skinned Dalit woman in the crowd, winced as she watched Roman soldiers drive long nails into the body of Jesus. For the fourth time, Lakshmamma was watching Dayasagar (Ocean of Mercy), a gripping Indian-produced feature film about Jesus translated into 15 major Indian languages under the sponsorship of Dayspring International in Virginia Beach. As the film depicted Christ on the cross, Lakshmamma wept openly.
For the last quarter-century, Operation Mobilization (OM), Campus Crusade, Vimukthi Baptist Church, Dayspring, Gospel for Asia, and others have been penetrating the thicket of traditional Indian culture with compelling feature films about the life of Christ.
Dayasagar and the Jesus film, one or both available in 70 of India's 407 living languages, have won over large numbers of villagers. Dayspring says 19 million Indians have seen Dayasagar since 1979, and 7 million have made public Christian commitments. Campus Crusade says 500 film teams show the Jesus film to 100,000 Indians daily.
As a result, feature-film outreach has earned its place as a powerful tool for Christians in Hindu-majority India; it has also garnered severe opposition.
It takes 735,000 villages
After the film ended in Nanjanagudu, the mostly illiterate audience listened to Prakash, one of the six missionaries who had shown it. "Brothers and sisters, you saw how the Son of God gave his life to pay for ...