Not far from the city of Secunderabad, in a boulderstrewn landscape, the Uddamarry Good Shepherd School models the new approach of Operation Mobilization India (OMI). A simple cement structure, Uddamarry educates several hundred bright-eyed children from 14 villages. Most students at Uddamarry are Dalits—members of the "untouchable" caste that composes the lowest rung on Indian society's ladder. They long for education.
In this rural setting, where Christianity has never gained a foothold, children are learning Bible verses—and so are their families. Almost three times as many students have applied for admission as the school can accommodate.
OMI teachers live in the surrounding villages, one married couple per three villages. OMI teachers are viewed with great respect. When they start church fellowships in their homes, they do not encounter the same level of resistance as do traditional missionaries.
Churches are opened as the school gains credibility. Then comes a variety of development schemes. In Uddamarry, OMI has started a tailoring school where workers stitch the students' blue uniforms.
There is also a small health clinic, a microenterprise office, and a self-help center. All projects work in concert, demonstrating a holistic gospel in a place where the name of Jesus is scarcely known. OMI offers Christmas programs, Awana children's clubs, vacation Bible school, and other programs. They invite local officials to these events. The gospel gradually becomes less foreign, hostility fades, and interest in Christ grows.
Ragland Rameshwarren, who oversees OMI's community development projects in Uddamarry, says, "In the old days, there was no place for me. You had to become a pastor or an evangelist. But now we are ...