Paying the price of revival in India

I went to watch Slumdog Millionaire last week, the most amazing film about a country once visited, never forgotten. I urge you to watch it! The movie deserves every accolade, and reminded me to blog about the great privilege I had to go out to India a few years back. I’d love to return!

I was based out of a little island called Rameswaram, at the southern tip of India pointing toward Sri Lanka. It’s the second holiest place in the world for Hindus, coming many miles on pilgrimage to wash their sins in the ocean nearby.

In the spot where they burnt down his little training centre with people inside, a  Christian man called Paulose is now building a 30,000 seater stadium, five stories high.

If you're going to build for God - build big!
If you're going to build for God - build big!

I was privileged to be invited to dedicate the prayer the room under the stage, where 300 intercessors will pray for the speaker at the events they’re planning. They make all their plans with revival in mind!

Me preaching through an interpreter
Me preaching through an interpreter

At the side of the stadium they’ve dug out a large fresh water lake, in the midst of this very arid area. I remarked what a good idea this was for amenities, only to be corrected, “No! When revival comes, we will need to be able to baptise many thousands of people at once. That is why we have the water. India has a population of over a billion people you know.”

We’d drive for hours in the day to an unreached village, calling the people to gather. I’d preach a basic message to people who’d never heard before about the Son of the one true God, who died on a cross for our sins, and rose again as our Saviour and Shepherd. At the end, standing with a local pastor to translate and follow up, I’d ask, “Who wants to pray and commit your life this Jesus?” Invariably, every hand would be raised. A whole community won.

Spend any time with Paulose and you hear a wealth of amazing, Acts of the apostles-like stories happening, now! When he’d first been called to Rameswaram he found that the only other Christian to set foot there and preach had his head cut off and put in the temple immediately. Paulose and his heavily pregnant wife decided therefore they only needed to buy one way tickets for themselves and their two young sons – they knew they were not coming back. He sold his own blood several times to purchase projectors to show the Jesus film.

His wife had her face smashed in by an angry Hindu mob. She lost all her teeth for preaching in the streets, then went back two weeks later, forgave – and there was revival. Fanatics tried to lynch his two sons.

Each Christmas since they came to the island, his home is surrounded by locals who throw stones and break every window. The family pile up the stones and pray for those who threw them. Within a few weeks a steady stream of people come to the door, “I threw a rock, I can’t sleep since. Please forgive me. I need to know your Jesus.” It’s one of the major ways their church grows.

Paulose’s leaders are routinely beaten when pioneering mission work. They expect to live hungry yet generous lives. Their mission strategy is to go to the very hardest places, epicentres for worship of other gods and there be willing to lay down their lives for the gospel. “If we die or are beaten, when we go back with love, we find there’s great revival!”

Their leadership training concludes with a trip to the graves of missionaries (many British of course). Paulose stands and challenges, “These people left their homes and came here carrying all their possessions in a coffin. They knew they would probably die here for our people, our nation, for the gospel. Now will you be willing to die, so that all India can be saved?”

How does that line up with your church’s plan to reach its community? I had someone say recently that most Christians in this country are afraid to even die of embarrassment!