Bihar, India was once labeled the “Graveyard of Missions.” Now, indigenous Christians at the forefront of a revival are calling their homeland the “Vineyard of Missions.” A group of 200 rural pastors from India Mission, one of Bihar’s fastest growing church planting initiatives, held a week of fasting and prayer. One evening they fervently prayed for resources to reach the thousands of children in their villages.
Why is this group so focused on reaching the next generation? Bihar is one of India’s 29 states, and it’s a tough place to live. The state is rife with violence, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and horrific crimes against women such as dowry murder–more than 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; 33 percent of adults are illiterate.
Poverty fuels hopelessness and despair, as does the rural nature of Bihar where education and aid is scarce. This region is desperate for revival.
Bihar’s Christians have labored for decades and have seen little fruit from their efforts—the state is less than one percent Christian. However, in recent years they’ve seen unprecedented openness to the Gospel. In part this is due to a focus on oral Bible storytelling and the creation of materials that speak to people in their heart language.
David C Cook has come along Bihar Christians through the Story of Jesus evangelistic booklet. We helped these Christians develop a 24-page booklet (taken from The Action Bible) in six Bihar heart languages (a native tongue unique to an area). We’ve equipped the Church in Bihar with three-million copies of the Story of Jesus with the goal of reaching children between the ages of 4 and 14. The Story of Jesus is 80 percent picture content, which is a rich tool for cultures with high rates of illiteracy (or oral learning traditions).
The New India Evangelistic Association—David C Cook’s main partner on this project—continues to fan out across the state, networking with churches, schools, Bible Clubs, teachers, village leaders, and evangelists. Their report to David C Cook communicates great enthusiasm as they see the Lord use the Story of Jesus message to open the hearts of children and adults alike.
Here are three stories that represent thousands of others:
A high school principal and science teacher distributed 300 copies in their rural school. They said, “We are happy to understand Christian worship and to learn about the real God who created the whole world.” Both men accepted Jesus into their hearts, and now avoid all other gods. They have since shared the Story of Jesus with their families. The pastor who initially asked to distribute the booklet now comes once a month to teach the students and teachers more about Jesus.
Pastor and Evangelist, Rajiv, has carved out a special place at the Gaya Railway station. Thousands of people come and go out of Gaya each day to pilgrimage to the birth place of Buddha. He says, “I want people and children especially to hear about Jesus. Even though this is considered the birthplace of Buddha, they will hear about Jesus’ love. I enter the railway compartments and share with passengers traveling to and from this holy city.”
And the 200 pastors from India Mission who fasted and prayed for children’s resources? The New India Evangelistic Association says, “They were surprised to see us the next morning when we reached their campus.” Said one of the pastors, “You have come at the right time, just when we prayed for this—and now God has answered our prayers!” Each pastor received two boxes to share with children in their areas.
Half the population of Bihar is youth. And there is a determination to reach each of them with the Gospel. Bihar is truly a vineyard of missons. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who carry the light of Jesus in this dark place of India.