This blog was written by Young Adults Director Robby Flack.
"Namaste!" Pastor Srinivas Naik greeted us as we walked off the plane and stepped onto Indian soil in Hyderabad. We were welcomed with smiles, hugs, and wreaths of brightly colored flowers placed around our necks. Indian's pride themselves on incredible hospitality for their guests- and they lived up to their reputation!
This began some incredibly impactful days as myself, Steve Winstead, Matt Wukasch, and John Sarver had the privilege to interact with and train a group of local Indian church-planters ata Pastor's Discipleship Conference. This group of approximately 70 church leaders and their families traveled to the village we stayed in, some traveling many hours, to deepen their ability to reach their own people, the Banjara people, with the gospel of Jesus.
The Banjara people, a people group of over 60 million worldwide, are predominantly Hindu and and less than 2% Christian, making it an unreached people group. Pastor Naik, the local leader for these pastors, was the only believer that he knew of when he first began following Jesus as a young man. Over time as he grew in his relationship with Christ, he began to lead other men to Christ and disciple them and teach them to make disciples. Out of this one man's faithfulness to the Lord, an entire network of Banjara churches have been established!
As our team drove from the Hyderabad airport to the small rural village where the conference would be held, what began with crowded city streets jammed full with vehicles, people, and animals slowly faded into miles of crop fields tended by local village farmers. It was here that the spiritual reality of Matthew 9:35-38 was so evident- the harvest in India is plentiful (1.2 billion people with approximately 2% Christian) and the laborer are so few. Our hope and prayer for our time with these pastors was that we would be able to equip them to be laborers for the Kingdom of God advancing in India.
From the outset, what stood out most to me was the spiritual hunger and desire to be equipped for ministry that these pastors possessed. With Pastor Naik faithfully translating, our team spoke for multiple hours each day, giving the pastors an overview of the entire New Testament and training on spiritual disciplines. Each pastor, alongside their wives and families, listened with incredible focus and took furious notes. What we found out later is that they take notes on everything because what we teach is exactly what they will reteach to those in their churches in the following weeks. I've never seen more eager listeners! Between teaching, we spent time with the pastors and learning about their lives and their ministries and the struggles and persecution that they face taking the gospel to their own people.
We ate meals of homemade Indian food- rice, bread, curries, chicken, vegetables, and amazing chai tea served in the mornings and as at afternoon tea break. After each break, before resuming our teaching, the group of pastors would lead each other in songs of praise to Jesus in their native tongue (Telugu) and filled the air with an attitude of worship for the Lord. It was times like these as I sat listening to these songs and watching the worship, I was reminded that our God is a God of all nations and he desires praise from every people and language.
Together, the Americans and our new Banjara, Indian friends prayed for and dreamed of the day that we will stand before the throne of Jesus and worship alongside each other, no translators needed, and celebrate our King together. It's a privilege to be a part of advancing his Kingdom on this earth, especially with 70 humble pastors in a tiny Indian village filled with so much love for Jesus and an unquenchable desire to reach the world.