Persecution Prompts Missions Agency to Transform
He began to pastor the quarry villagers in 1997. The most obvious change, he says, is that most people have replaced makeshift huts with simple brick houses. Less obviously, thanks to Bangarraju their children go to the local Good Shepherd school. They remain very poor, but their trajectory is upward. With Bangarraju's regular visits a house church began to meet; now they have built a small neat structure, about 18x12 feet, decorated with Scripture and colorful banners. During the week, black treadle sewing machines occupy most of the small room. Three times a week, an OMI teacher comes to teach tailoring, providing potential careers to village women.
As he strolls through the village, Bangarraju is greeted respectfully by women cooking over open fires and by girls decorating the ground with brightly colored powders for an upcoming Hindu festival. At one home, a loud fight breaks out—a drunken man lifts a rock and threatens violence, then tries to tear apart the hut where his mother lives. Bangarraju helps restrain him; he explains to his guests that the man's wife has left him and his mother has refused to keep feeding him.
Another family stops him to talk. It is impossible to miss their respect and appreciation. "They believe that Jesus is one of the gods," says Bangarraju. "I'm not criticizing them when I say that. They open their home for our Tuesday meetings. I believe one day God will speak to them.
"The people here respect me. They say so much change has come since I arrived. They say I brought education to their children. I say, 'No. Give glory to God.'?"
Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today.
This article appeared in October 2011 issue under the title, "A Local Witness: A leading missions agency transforms itself in the wake of persecution."
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Previous Christianity Today articles featuring church growth and missions in India include:
India's Grassroots Revival | With its people turning to Christ in waves, India hosts more believers now than at any time in its 4,000-year history. (July 8, 2011)
Worse Than Ever | Christians knew the attacks were coming, but no one knew they would be this deadly. (October 9, 2008)
India's Burning Issue| Conversions in Orissa—and the violent reaction against them—highlight tension in India's not-so-dead caste system. (January 1, 2008)
India Undaunted | Escalating repression can't seem to dampen the church's growth. (May 1, 2004)