When we meet 65-year-old Ravi, one of Open Doors’ local partners in India, he is dressed in a white cotton kurta, his white hair parted on the left. He smiles and greets us saying, “Jaimasih ki beta, kaise ho,” which means, “Praise the Lord, child; how have you been doing?” in Hindi.
Ravi has faced all kinds of persecution for his faith in Jesus. He tells us his story, saying, “It has been over three decades since I started working as an evangelist. I have faced countless oppositions since then.
“I have been falsely accused of trying to lure people to Christianity in the local newspapers; two times I was beaten brutally and once a group of extremists even came to burn my house. I was terrified that time, but thankfully their plans didn’t succeed. They continued threatening me not to preach.
“Once, during the early days of my ministry when we were younger, my wife and I were both beaten badly by extremists while we were returning from a prayer meeting. They even tore the clothes I was wearing. I felt humiliated and was extremely worried about my wife… The police arrived and stopped them. I was a little relieved, but to my surprise, instead of helping me they threatened me not to continue my ministry. Then we were allowed to go home. That day I was very fearful.”
Ravi continues, “Many times I was so very afraid, but over time God helped me understand that I do not need to fear. After some years of continuing the ministry I was able to overcome the fear of persecution. I have been interrogated many times since then, but the police could never find enough charges to arrest me. I never backed off my faith or my ministry because God strengthened me.”
Today, Ravi leads a church with 30 families and continues preaching in all the nearby villages. “Even at this age, I am able to reach 250-300 people with the Word of God in the vicinity of my village. We don’t have a church building that can accommodate so many people, thus we conduct Sunday worship in a tent.”
HELPING A NEW GENERATION RISE UP
Ravi also helps to organise persecution survival training whenever the seminars are conducted in north west India. Every time he helps conduct the seminars, he brings along five or more Christians who need this teaching.
In fact, it’s during a break in a day of persecution survival training that we meet with Ravi. This is the tenth seminar he has helped to conduct the training, and this time he has brought 10 Christians along with him.
He says, “My church members have been immensely blessed by attending these seminars. I try to bring the new converts to the seminars because they are the ones who face maximum opposition. The teachings help them to understand persecution from the Biblical view.
“Besides nurturing the believers spiritually, the persecution survival training imparts legal knowledge also. Christians are often arrested by the local police officers, even when no charges can be brought against them. They are also often beaten by Hindu extremists and no complaints are filed against the attackers. If we Christians were aware of our rights as Indian citizens we could claim protection up to some extent for ourselves.
“I even purchased some books on our constitutional rights after learning the importance of knowing about them through the persecution survival training.”
He pauses and smiles as he goes on: “A lot of times persecution comes because of our own mistakes also. As a simple, young village pastor I never knew such things before. We need to be careful of many things like the fact that using microphones during our meetings attracts much attention. We need to be discreet at times and seek wisdom from God. Above all our church members should grow in the knowledge of the Word continuously. All this I learned in these seminars.”
He is very excited about the changes he can see in his young church members after they attended a persecution survival training for youth, conducted by Open Doors partners in his area. “After attending the seminar, our young church members have become very active in the prayer meetings. They even started youth prayer visits every Saturday wherein they visit nearby villages and conduct prayer meetings every Saturday. They are careful to do it quietly and without catching much attention.
“Open Doors is helping a new generation rise up with even more wisdom of the Word and love for Christ; and yes, these youngsters are ready to persevere for their faith.”
As Ravi finishes the last sentence the bell in the hall rings. It’s time for the next seminar session. Ravi asks us to excuse him as he is so keen to move back to his seat.
He goes and settles down in his chair; his hands slightly tremble as he puts on his glasses and takes out an old Bible from his cloth bag. He gently strokes it, opens it and reads it softly. The worship group starts the session with a popular Hindi song, “Yeshu mera haath na chodega, badi aandhi aane par, bada toofan aane par,” which means, “He will never let go my hand, even amidst the storm and even amidst the strong wind.”
*name changed for security reasons
Source: Open Doors
Photo: px here