Compassion stirs Hindus
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
December 23, 2009

Compassion stirs Hindus

Compassion stirs Hindus
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
December 23, 2009

TAMIL NADU, India — A charred body lies in the rubble of a

church. Hindu extremists had blocked the doors and burned the church to the


It’s a disturbing picture — one that International Mission

Board (IMB) representative Cole Elbridge* has carried with him on his laptop


He uses the image to remind himself and others of the cost

of sharing the gospel.

BP photo

Indian believers raise their hands in worship as they gather for a Sunday morning service near the eastern coast of India. As a result of 2004 tsunami relief and ministry work, this church grew from 12 members to more than 100.

In some areas of southern Asia, the risks of telling others

about Jesus are great, even deadly.

The message of Jesus Christ, however, is penetrating those


Since the 2004 tsunami, Southern Baptists have found

opportunities to meet both physical and spiritual needs of those who survived

the disaster.

More than 4,000 people along the coast of India and into

Bangladesh have professed faith in Christ and more than 1,400 churches have

been started.

But the danger that comes with being a Christian in some areas of India remains


One of Elbridge’s friends, Vikash*, knows those risks all

too well.

Vikash was a fisherman in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu

more than a decade ago when he converted from Hinduism to Christianity.

When word got out about his decision, Hindu extremists

stormed his house. They beat him and dragged him to a nearby pond where they

tried to drown him.

“After all of the persecution,” Vikash recalls, “it’s by the

mere grace of God that I’m standing here.”

Fearing for his family’s life, Vikash and his family fled to


After the tsunami, he returned to his home along the coast

to help the same people who had tried to kill him. Most of those hit hardest

were in the fishing community.

“Their houses were gone,” Elbridge says. “Their money was


“They had been brought to their knees and broken. They were

asking for help, and the help came from Christians.”

In the months following the tsunami, Elbridge remembers

Vikash unexpectedly showing up one night — accompanied by men who once had

wanted him dead but, since the tsunami, had sought him out for help. Vikash

turned to Elbridge.

Through the help Elbridge was able to offer from Southern

Baptists, more than 900 families in Vikash’s community received food, shelter,

boats, fishing nets, boat motors and other supplies.

But that’s not all.

More than 100 people accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, 35

were baptized and about 12 house churches were started.

Pravin* is one of those whose life was transformed by


BP photo

An International Mission Board representative lifts Indian believers up in prayer at a Sunday morning worship service along India’s eastern coast. Strong friendships were formed after the 2004 tsunami when this worker brought needed supplies to the people.

Growing up worshipping idols as a Hindu, Pravin says his

life was empty.

“Before the tsunami I was struggling for life,” he says.

“I was facing a lot of problems. I didn’t have a real


Witnessing the love of Christ expressed through tsunami

relief helped turn his life around.

On the day of the tsunami, six of Pravin’s nieces and

nephews drowned. Pravin was looking for answers, and Christians got his

attention by reaching out to his community.

“When I came to the church, I found a real peace, which I

wanted,” he says. “I came to know the taste of Jesus Christ.”

Though Pravin still deals with threats and persecution, he

describes himself as a “free man.”

‘Just beginning’

In another village — located down a long road, past

watermelon fields, roaming cows and roadside temples — five generations of

churches have started and local Christians regularly supply new believers with


Before the tsunami, Christians were not welcome in that same

village. At a Hindu temple that is the centerpiece of the community, villagers

gather in the evening to dance as they worship their gods.

But because of relief efforts here, tensions between the two

groups have eased.

“This is a village where you started with zero believers,”

Elbridge says. Because of Christians “coming and opening up relationships, you

have believers here.”

“The work is not done,” he says. “It’s just beginning.”

Elbridge is one of more than 5,500 Southern Baptist

representatives serving overseas, thanks to Southern Baptists’ support through

the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for

International Missions.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer for the

International Mission Board.)

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