This article was originally published in the January 2019 edition of ITMI Monthly.
When ITMI’s founder, Bill Bathman, visited U.S. churches and groups in between smuggling Bibles to pastors and ministry workers behind the Iron Curtain, he would tell them,
“I can’t tell you where I’m going next.”
“I can't tell you where I’ve been.”
“I can’t tell you his name or where he lives. But there’s a pastor who needs…it will cost this much.”
“I’ll [risk my freedom] delivering it if you’ll raise the funds for it.”
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what ITMI’s Director, Steve Evers, saw when he visited the Indian village inhabited by people stripped of all value and called “untouchable” by the rest of their countrymen, because many parts of it are too graphic.
We can’t fully describe what happens when a society is isolated from the goodness of Jesus for generations and carries the cumulative devastation of evil and constant barrage of aggressive behavior, because this is a family-friendly publication.
But we can tell you that Steve and ITMI’s Paul [last name undisclosed for protection] visited a village in rural India that desperately needs to know that they were created beautifully in His Image.
A group of people that don’t understand that they live in a world twisted by sin, both systemic sins of oppression and dehumanization which they have been the victim of, and their own individual rebellion against their Creator.
That the brokenness and separation from Him they experience isn’t how their Creator intended the world to be. That the Almighty God has been working a plan throughout history to save the people He lovingly created.
That the One who has glory beyond measure became like them - a member of one of the lowest possible classes in that society - in pursuit of a loving relationship with each of them. That one day, He will return to gather those who follow Him from every tongue, every tribe and every nation to Himself.
They must know that the exclusion they experience now is nothing compared to what will be felt by those who didn’t give their lives to Jesus.
They need to hear that they can be part of God’s royal family, this cosmic celebratory feast. They must hear that He came to reverse earthly exclusion and that there is a place at His table for anyone who follows, no matter what caste, country or culture they hailed from on earth.
There’s little to start with in this remote village of “untouchables.”
Paul and his team will be starting their Spirit-led engagement by teaching and demonstrating the most basic but completely foreign truths. It will be a staggeringly huge task that will only find eternal results with God's necessary touch.
This daunting mission is not unlike what was faced by ITMI’s Sonja and Charl van Wyk, ITMI’s Mark and Cindy Parris and Dr. Bradley Kuhn when they began ministering in the marginalized settlement of Stone Hill in the early 2000s.
Stone Hill’s culture and people were mired in dysfunction and demonstrated at every turn that they were highly averse to the messages of the Gospel. The basic Biblical concepts seemed beyond foreign.
The youth appeared unresponsive to the outreaches. They stole from those who were ministering to them. Their mindsets didn’t change after months of strategic and intentional investment. The needs, both spiritual and physical, were overwhelming.
The needs in Stone Hill were overwhelming.
But Charl, Sonja, Mark, Cindy, Bradley and their team started with small but regular demonstrations of the goodness of God. They met one need, then another in Jesus’ name. They started with one weekly event.
Years later, Stone Hill has been referred to by someone from another township as a “Christian settlement.” Once angry, bitter and sin-driven thugs are now becoming the local Christian leaders.
New believers are thriving in discipleship - individually and communally. There are multiple outreaches each week, a Community Center, a Medical Clinic and an Early Childhood Development Center, all making resounding declarations: God is good. He loves you. Give your life to Him!
The Community Center at Stone Hill houses many outreach events and discipleship opportunities.
The Stone Hill Early Childhood Development Center is a safe place for the youngest of the community while their (mostly single) mothers work long hours.
The Medical Clinic at Stone Hill is open 2 days per week!
There are still many in Stone Hill who don’t know Jesus, and much work remains to be done, but the township is a significantly different place than it was before the Lord led our partners to get involved by meeting one small need, then another, then another.
Early on, one of the first needs our partners and their teams met were providing a mattress for many who were sleeping on the ground.
ITMI’s Paul and Molly are inviting us to join them, to get in on the ground floor of this initiative to reach a group of people who have been excluded from knowledge of Him for generations.
To be part of rebuilding shattered trust, opening the door, paving the way for the Gospel.
Shattered trust needs to be rebuilt to pave the way for the Gospel.
Paul and his team have identified the first need. This forgotten village needs some outhouses. This would give people living here privacy and dignity that they have never experienced and pave the way for ministry workers to begin working here.
So, dear believers and friends, we echo Bill’s words.
If you’ll help with funds, Paul and Molly will lead their team of Indian believers in the socially and politically risky, emotionally painful, physically uncomfortable and overall daunting-but-hands-down-worthwhile task of bringing Jesus to people who have languished for generations without Him.
Psst...want to know what we couldn't publish? Steve would love to share with you in person. Contact our office.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.