This article was originally written in January 2021 for our 2020 Annual Report. Since then, India has experienced significant impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Please join us in praying for the BIC Church in India as they face this challenge.
Danesh had been sick for several days. Despite trying many medicines and treatments, his fever would not lessen, and his family was getting worried. A BIC evangelist named Aarav heard of Danesh’s illness and offered to pray for healing. Miraculously, Danesh recovered the following week.
Hoping he would be receptive to the Gospel, Aarav invited him to a community prayer gathering. Danesh wasn’t sure as his family had a long-standing tradition of worshiped idols. While he knew of some Christians in his village, he never took their message to heart and certainly had never attended one of their gatherings. But his healing experience had softened his heart.
When believers in his village gathered later that week, Danesh was there, listening attentively. Moved by the prayers and testimonies shared at the meeting, Danesh accepted Christ as his Savior then and there.
Discipling Lay Leaders
Danesh lives in the Odisha region of eastern India, a largely rural region that is home to approximately 20,000 BIC believers in about 200 villages. The Brethren in Christ Church in Odisha employs several pastors and evangelists like Aarav who travel widely throughout the region, leading prayer and worship gatherings like the one Danesh attended.
BIC Odisha also intentionally invested in the discipleship and training of local lay leaders in recent years. Through a series of 2–3-day seminars, those in small villages across the region could receive training in the core elements of Christianity and practical tips for sharing the Gospel. These events were intended for newer Christians who wanted to learn more about the scriptures and become leaders in their local church gathering. Over the years, thousands of believers have participated in these trainings and are now equipped with simple, practical evangelism tools.
After Danesh’s conversion, he was inspired to share the hope he found in Christ with those around him. Aarav invited him to participate in these local lay-leader trainings which better equipped him to share the Good News.
Shortly thereafter, Danesh met his wife Vanya and the two have become a strong ministry team. They both play instrumental roles in their village’s prayer group and Vanya leads several women’s ministries. In 2019 alone, it’s estimated that hundreds of people came to Christ through their ministry and testimony.
Adaptive Evangelism in a Pandemic
This model of lay-leader discipleship and training, established years ago, has prepared BIC Odisha for ministry in the midst of a global pandemic. When COVID-19 struck, the Indian government imposed strict travel bans across the country. These restrictions made it impossible for pastors and evangelists like Aarav to travel and minister to villages as normal, effectively halting the established outreach pattern.
However, working within the travel restrictions, individuals were permitted to travel short distances to stay with relatives in other villages. This allowed lay leaders like Danesh and Vanya and dozens more to continue reaching the people of Odisha with God’s hope and peace. They look for opportunities to talk about God, share their own testimonies, and pray with those in need.
While it is hard to get an exact number of how many people came to Christ through this network, it’s estimated that hundreds of new believers and several new church plants were added in 2020.
Pastors and evangelists are eager to continue their ministry once travel restrictions are lifted, and BIC Odisha hopes to resume their leadership seminars soon. But, in the midst of it all, they praise God for preparing them for the pandemic in ways they never could have anticipated.
*For privacy and security, names in this article have been changed.