The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Unique Church Planting Outreach In India Supported By Campbell, California, Church

Author: Dan Wooding
Publication: Worthy News

Some 30 teams are working throughout India despite much persecution

The Home Church of Campbell, California, is supporting a unique church planting outreach to the unreached people of India. Already some 30 teams from the Indian Christian Research Organization (ICRO) are fanning out through parts of the country to help set up new churches amongst the "hidden people" of the world's second most populous nation.

Dr. A. Selva Raj, one of the leaders founders of ICRO who is based in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, India, said in a recent message to the Home Church, "The poor accepted the Gospel and become Christian in India. So 85% of all Christian in India are Dalits and Tribals. Once they were the slaves. The Indian slave system is the longest and largest in world history. When the Slavery Abolition Act of 1843 legally abolished the slave trade and slave system in India, Dr. Smith, the great historian estimated 20 million slaves in India at that time. Slaves were bought, sold, gifted, hired and abducted. As a result of evangelization several accepted Jesus Christ and they were called Dalit Christians. Others were merely called Dalits.

"Today the Dalits want to escape from Hindu slavery. They are among the unreached people groups. They want to become Christian in order to escape Hindu slavery.

"EMOS (Evangelism Mission Outreach Service) also worked out this strategy in order to bring transformation to them. As a result 56 churches has been planted within three years through EMOS intensive and extensive evangelism. These all churches have been planted as a result of the work among the unreached people groups.

"All these churches have been handed over to the existing denominations such as Bible Faith Mission (BFM), Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC), Christian Church of India (CCI), Church of North India (CNI), Church of South India (CSI), Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (GELC), Gospel Outreach, Brethren Mission and Syrian Orthodox Churches."

Dr. Selva Raj went on to say, "There is tension prevailing against Christian conversion here in India. There are difficulties and the riot acts of Hindu fanaticism are damaging the peace and prosperity of this country. Now the recent riot in Gujarat is also a part of it. What happened in Gujarat was shocking instance of state patronage to armed gangs to kill and burn with impunity. The police machinery is paralyzed and in most places played a partisan role. Hindu fanatics called VHP and Bajrang Dal (Monkey god party) were behind the current riots.

"In many places, shops were looted and set on fire right under the noses of the policemen who even collected a part of the looting. Hindu fanatics attacked the minority Christian as well as Muslims. There had been at least 15 incidents of damaging and destroying minority places of worship were overnight converted into temples with the police remain mute spectator.

"Over 500 people were either beaten to death or burned alive. Among them 116 were the Christian. In the last years Hindu fanatics destroyed hundreds of Churches in Gujarat.

"Christian persecution is continuing all over India now. At Chattisgarh, where our team is working, a 20-year-old nun, Sarita has been tortured, brutally raped and killed by the fanatics. In Kerala the fanatics destroyed 23 crosses standing on the tombs at the cemetery of the Bunassery Holy Trinity Cathedral. So we have to pray constantly."

Dr. Selva Raj then spoke about the visit of one of his teams Chemarajpet in Tamilnadu. "Praise God for He has enabled us to conduct a worship service in Chemarajpet," he said. "We also visited the people at their homes and prayed for their needs. As a result the Lord is changing the lives of the people by solving their problems, healing their diseases and delivering them from drunkenness and smoking habits. Mr. Raja and his whole family of five members took baptism."

A BLIND MAN HEALED

He then spoke of a visit to Gooty, Andhra Pradesh. "Praise God for the nine people who have taken baptism. The Lord is confirming His Word through miracles. Mr. Masthan, aged 32, was born blind. His wife is also handicapped. They have three children. His wife is feeding the whole family by begging from house to house. We prayed for him for six months. Thus they decided to take baptism. After baptism he is able to see. The villagers were in wonder at this miracle."

Dr. Selva Raj then spoke about a visit by one of his teams to Mangalamcombu, Tamilnadu, where he said that five people received Christ and were baptized. "One of them, Mr. Gopal, is from a tribal community whose parents became Christians some year back. He was opposing this severely. One day he left his home for Gujarat without informing his parents. His parents worried so much for they did not know where he went and there were no communications between them for two years. They asked us to pray for his conversion. The Spirit of the Lord started moving in his heart as we prayed. He returned home with a changed mind and started attending worship services without any question. He also received baptism. Further he asked the team to change his name to Andrews."

Eric Thoreson, a global outreach leader of the Home Church, said that his church feels privileged to help support this unique church planting program in India. ""I and a buddy met Dr. Selva Raj in July-August 1981 in Kerela (South India) when he was a church planting team leader. We stayed with him and the team, and worked closely with them for 3 weeks. By July this team had already planted 3 churches that year. We were amazed at his effectiveness, fervency, and character.

"I returned to India in late 1983/early 1984 and spent some weeks working with Dr. Selva Raj. By this time he was leading 8 church planting teams. The anointing and effectiveness of his work enabled him to supervise multiple teams. By the time I saw him in India again in 1988 he had over 20 teams around India he was leading and driving and motivating in the planting of churches. He is one of the most single-minded men I have ever met.

"In 1995 I was in Bangalore and by this time A. Selva Raj had completed his Doctorate in Missiology from SAIACS -- www.epinay.com/saiacs -- and was about to launch ICRO and EMOS. We discussed various issues pertaining to it and soon Church planters were at work again under now Dr. Selva Raj's leadership and inspiration. EMOS started with 3 teams and grew to the present 30. The entire focus is unreached people groups. Thus most of the teams are in the northern part of India, especially Bihar and Orissa. The 30 teams are spread throughout 12 states in India. And they are tremendously effective: over 50 churches planted since 1999, and literally thousands of people who have previously had no access to the gospel hearing the good news daily. It is one of the most fruitful ministries I know of.

"Now we are praying for more partners to team with EMOS as they have trained church planters ready to go and start yet more new teams, but lack just one thing: necessary funding. Lord willing, I am excited to take a team to participate in this great work in November this year."

For further information on the ministry of ICRO, please contact Eric Thoreson by e-mail at eric@thoreson.com.

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