“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” (Isaiah 54:13)
The world seems like a very dark and depressing place at the moment. If we spend too much time watching the news it’s easy to think that evil is winning and God’s kingdom is losing. Nothing could be further from the truth!
We recently spent an extended period of time meeting our project leaders throughout Asia. After weeks of praying and strategizing with these key co-workers, we felt greatly encouraged. Despite many hardships and struggles, the kingdom of God is advancing in extraordinary ways, and entire communities are being transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have been serving the Lord in India since 1991. To be honest, in the early part of those 25 years we often felt demoralized about the prospects for the Gospel there. Anyone who has spent time in India knows that it’s a place of chaos and confusion, and we struggled to see how the myriad of more than 2,300 unreached people groups within that amazing country could ever be reached. More than once we said, “India is so complex that only God can reach it.” Well, we have some good news: God is reaching India!
While the Gospel continues to face many barriers in the cities, where resistant Muslims and high-caste Hindus tend to live, the bulk of India’s population lives in more-than one million rural villages. About 90% of those villages are inhabited by poor Hindus and tribal people, and it is among these precious groups that the Lord is reaping a mighty harvest.
If you are familiar with the work of Asia Harvest, you will know that China has been our major focus since we began in the 1980s. Indeed, we gained a reputation for knowing something about the Church in China, and even wrote several books on the mighty revival there. Now, we are seeing and hearing testimonies from throughout India that are very similar to stories that came out of China when the revival fires burned hot in the 1990s. We are excited to be in a position to help the kingdom of God advance in India, as we have in China. In fact, after much prayer and many meetings with key ministry leaders, we would like to make a bold prediction: In the next decade or so, India will be home to more Christians than China!
Experts say India will surpass China as the world’s most populated country just six years from now, in 2022. India’s population currently stands at over 1.2 billion people. The government claims that 3.5% are Christians, which would give a total of about 42 million believers. However, every Indian church leader we know says the government’s estimate is ludicrously low, and that the true percentage of Christians in India may already be at least 8 to 10 percent. If true, that would give a total number of between 96 to 120 million Christians in India today. Hallelujah!
The Holy Spirit is doing a powerful work throughout India, especially among the poor and downtrodden of society, and many are pressing into the kingdom of God. This is not going unnoticed. The Hindu newspaper on August 30th last year ran an article about religion in the large state of Odisha with the headline: “Population of Christians Grew by 478% in Odisha in 50 Years.” The article summarized how Christianity in the state far outpaced Hindu and Muslim growth over that time.
While the population in many Western nations is aging, when you travel to a place like India you are instantly struck by the extraordinary number of children everywhere. In fact, 40 percent of India’s population are children under the age of 15. For the kingdom of God to flourish throughout the thousands of ethnic groups in India, the children must hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
In the remainder of this newsletter we are honored to introduce a new project, which we have named the Bless the Children Fund. We are excited about the effect this project will have on the lives of thousands of families and their communities. Reaching children for the Lord Jesus has always been a major focus of Asia Harvest’s work. We have provided help in many ways, including printing thousands of children’s Bibles and story books, training workers in children’s ministry, and supporting orphans. We have also been engaged in many humanitarian initiatives that are always accompanied by the proclamation of the Gospel. These include providing hundreds of wheelchairs to disabled children, supporting the children of persecuted church leaders in China and other countries, and rescuing girls from sexual slavery in South Asia.
We plan to continue supporting all these and more important initiatives through this new project. Even Project Smile, which has provided more than 15,000 surgeries to children in Vietnam over the past 15 years, has now been placed under the umbrella of our new Bless the Children Fund.
Blessing the Children of India
With a staggering 40 percent of the population of India aged 15 and under, now is the time to impact the future of this great country for Jesus Christ. We would like to share some ways our co-workers in India are doing this, by describing six effective steps they employ to reach precious children with the Gospel.
1. Vacation Bible Schools
In the next few months, all across India, untold millions of people will be busy working in the fields from morning until night, bringing in the harvest. This is the most crucial time of the year, because there is little government assistance in India. If the harvest fails, countless millions of people will struggle to survive. During this time, our Christian colleagues, who already serve God is more than 1,000 villages throughout India, offer free “Vacation Bible Schools” (VBS) to village children. This program actually dates back a long time, having been introduced by missionaries over 100 years ago. Parents are more than happy that someone has offered to look after their kids for up to ten days while they gather the harvest, and they gladly send them along, knowing full- well that the program is run by Christians.
2. Cleaning the Outside
Many of the children who first turn up at the VBS have great physical needs, so before their spiritual needs are met, the children are given a good clean. Our Indian Christian brothers and sisters bathe the kids, give them a haircut, wash their dirty clothes, clip their fingernails and toenails, and generally scrub them up nice and new! They also feed the children healthy food, with hardboiled eggs, bananas and nutritious biscuits filling the bellies of the children. Many of them come from extremely poor families who struggle to survive from day to day. Incredibly, the cost of providing food to these precious children amounts to just 10 Rupees (about 15 cents) per day for each child.
3. Song and Dance
You are probably aware that Indians love to sing and dance. Their entire culture seems to be centered on music. After the children have had their physical needs met, our co-workers don’t waste any time before they introduce the children to songs about Jesus Christ. Many wonderful Christian teenagers, like the ones pictured below, lead the way in teaching the Gospel to Hindu, Muslim and tribal children through song and dance (Note: on the Asia Harvest website we have some short video clips of children being taught about the Lord this way).
4. Teaching the Basics
Each child is then introduced to the basic truths about God and the Bible, starting with Creation and the Fall of Man, through to the Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The younger children are given large coloring books and pens, and are taught Bible stories as they color in. Older children study more detailed aspects of the Gospel, and can ask questions as they interact with their Christian teachers. There are 5 different study books produced for various age groups, ranging from small children to 15 year-olds. Each book costs just $1 to print, so a full set of books costs $5 per child. This sounds inexpensive, although this year alone we are printing books for 30,000 children, so we would appreciate it if you could please join us in praying for this need.
5. Confused Parents Demand Answers!
Recently, the main Indian leaders of this work shared that after just the second or third day of the VBS, many parents come marching in, demanding to know what has happened to their children. “We want to give our lives to your God!” they exclaim. “In just a few days our children have been transformed. They are now obedient and respectful. They came home singing joyful songs that you have taught them. Our gods cannot change a person on the inside like this. Please help us! We want to know your God.”
6. Joining God’s Family
The Vacation Bible Schools take place every year, and are a tremendous way of introducing children to the faith. This year alone, 30,000 precious children in more than 700 villages throughout India will have their first contact with Christians through this strategic project. These children come from 132 different unreached ethnic groups. Many go on to become mature followers of Jesus Christ, walking in His grace and knowledge. They, in turn, reach out to more children the following year. It is through projects like this that India is being saved!
In future newsletters we plan to share details of how the Bless the Children Fund functions in other countries of Asia, including China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal and elsewhere. We invite you to join with us in praying for the salvation of Asia’s children. By reaching them, entire communities and ethnic groups are being impacted for the kingdom of God.
The average cost of reaching a child through the Bless the Children Fund is just $20. This includes all the materials and costs from when the children arrive, to the time they graduate from the courses as true followers of the Lord, including being provided with a Bible in their local language. If you would like to support this project we welcome you to do so. Support can either be mailed in to us by using the enclosed yellow Response form, or one-time and monthly donations can be set up online via our secure website at www.asiaharvest.org
How to Give
1. By credit or debit card or Paypal to our Bless the Children Fund
2. By mailing a check/cheque to one of our offices (Contact page)
3. By bank transfer to one of our accounts around the world (Contact page)
“I was born into a Hindu family. We prayed to many idols and also worshipped nature. I had heard about Christianity but didn’t understand why it was any different from other religions. My wife and I had a son. While I was away working as a driver he fell sick and was admitted to hospital. I rushed back home but by the time I arrived my beloved son had died.
Two evangelists heard the sad news and visited us. In her desperation, my wife asked them to pray for our son so that their God might raise him back to life. Before praying, they asked us to close our eyes. I did not believe, so I kept my eyes open. To my surprise, I saw the two Christians pray very intensely. When they finished their prayer my son sat up. He was alive! My heart leapt with joy to see this great miracle. I left my sins behind and became a lover of Jesus Christ. I committed my life to Him and received His wonderful salvation. I am now burdened to tell other unreached people what God has done in my life.”
Surendra is one of hundreds of Asian evangelists we support through the Asian Workers' Fund. We have dozens needing support right now. We invite you to join us as we help them.