“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to HIS WILL, He hears us. And if we KNOW that He hears us, whatever we ask, we KNOW that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” — I John 5:14-15 The blessed assurance of this precious promise resonates in my heart, as I consider the mighty works of our Lord in the most recent Pastor’s Conference in the State of Odisha, India!
Only a few weeks ago, I was graced with the tremendous privilege to teach “Christ-centered Evangelism” to 150 church planters in the state of Odisha, which is located on the east coast of India. The conference was held undercover, because of the fierce persecution of the Gospel in this area. The Joshua Project designates this particular area in India as an unreached people group. Only 0.18% of the vast number of people even claims to be a Christian! Then the math would inform us that 99.92% of the residents in this state would be antagonistic to Gospel truth! The born again disciples of Jesus face ongoing persecution from the government. This was the first state, in the nation of India, to enact an ‘anti-conversion’ law. This harsh regulation states that ‘no person shall convert or attempt to convert either directly or indirectly from one religious faith to another, by any inducement or any fraudulent means’. In other words, if a Hindu converts to Christianity they can be imprisoned. If a born again believer is caught seeking the conversion of a Hindu, through evangelistic outreach to that person, they too, will face imprisonment. Furthermore, to complicate this issue, there is no legal explanation of the difference between ‘conversion by force or by conversion by persuasion’. Subsequently, this extremist ‘state constitutional measure’ has opened the door for radical Hindus to take the law into their own hands. This has resulted in ‘burned down churches, severe beatings of pastors and other believers and even, in some cases, martyrdom’! One of the leaders of this militant Hindu nationalist movement has recently made this declaration on television, “We must also pass a reconversion law, and force all Christians to reconvert to Hinduism. If we can pass this bill, we will make India free of Christians by December 2021.”
And yet, in spite of this severe pressure and persecution, these 150 ‘house-church pastors’ congregated from all over this state, to study ‘Christ-centered Evangelism’ at an undisclosed location. The concept of holding this conference, in this very difficult area, was initiated by the Lord, in the heart of another dear friend and brother in Christ, Craig James. Bro. Craig is the Director of Missions for the North Central Baptist Association in Louisiana. Bro. Craig had shared with the Baptist leaders of Odisha about “Christ-centered Evangelism”. He testified to those leaders that they needed to have this teaching for all of their pastors. Accordingly, I was contacted approximately three years ago, concerning the possibility of coming to Odisha to teach this study on biblical evangelism. You may recall, it was the Missionary William Carey, who translated the Word of God into the Odia language in 1808.
Pastor and church-planter Bimal Jena is one of the key leaders in the Baptist work in this state. He would be the brother who would translate the evangelism workbook into the Odia language. He would also be my interpreter for the conference. Furthermore, Bimal would be the co-director for the entire conference. However, approximately 2 years ago, I received the horrific news that Bimal had become extremely ill. He had been diagnosed with stage 4-colon cancer. The specialists were going to attempt colon surgery; but they were preparing Bimal and his family that this diagnosis was terminal!
During his illness, another dear American brother (Scotty McDowel) had given a gift to aid in the care of Bimal’s family for a period of time. But sadly, I was receiving nothing but news of his imminent death. After a long period of time had passed, I assumed that Bimal had graduated into glory.
Now on my end of the situation, I have a “Christ-centered Evangelism” workbook, which was translated into the Odia language. But now, I had no interpreter, no director and no known avenues to move forward in ministering in this state. I had been persevering in prayer, asking that if it would please God, that He would open doors into new states of India, for this specific teaching. It has already been translated and taught in 5 different languages in India. However, there are 22 major languages within this vast nation. It appeared as if the door had been closed to the Odia language, as far as this teaching was concerned. Oh, but brothers and sisters, I must always remember, “The prayer that reaches Heaven is the prayer that was initiated in Heaven!”
An entire year passed by, and there appeared to be no in-road to hold this conference in Odisha. in Odisha state Oh, but then (in God’s perfect timing), I received an email from Bimal Jena! With great rejoicing, Bro.Ed.”
he wrote these words, “I have fully recovered from colon cancer. It took a full year, but I am in God has perfect health now. We are ready to receive you in Odisha state Bro. Ed!” God had answered our answered our prayers, according to His sovereign will, His divine agenda and in His perfect timing!
Oh, precious believers, this conference was an awesome time of the mighty working of the Spirit
who was aware of the reason for which I had taken off my sandals. Continued on next page of God in our midst. My heart overflows with rejoicing, as I recall the precious privilege that our Lord has given, to serve these 150 pastors, in an extremely difficult spiritual environment. For even in the midst of this heavy pressure and persecution, these brothers exhibited such hunger, so much humility, tremendously teachable spirits; and so very penitent over various areas of their doctrine of evangelism, their message of evangelism and their methods of evangelism. One particular evening, as I was preparing for the next day's teaching, I could hear the radical Hindus (who are avowed enemies of the Gospel), as they paraded passed the facility in which we were holding the conference. These adversaries were singing their mantras and beating their DRUMS. If these Hindu radicals had known what was taking place within the walls of that facility, they would have surely stormed it with clubs and began beating these pastors. And yet, as I heard those chants and drumming in the worship of their false gods, my heart was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the amazing grace of the One and Only true God. For I was once an enemy of the glorious Gospel! I was once beating on my drums, as an ignorant and arrogant rock and jazz drummer! BUT GOD, Who is rich in mercy, made me alive when I was dead in trespasses and sins.