This article was originally published in the May 2019 edition of ITMI Monthly.
He was still a practicing Hindu when he passed away earlier this year. His wife and children follow Jesus and regularly attend the church pastored by ITMI’s Paul in southern India.
His wake was a sad affair. Paul’s wife, Molly, described it this way, “all the guests and family came to ridicule the widow and blame the death [of her husband] on her faith as they do here.”
Around the same time, Paul’s cousin lost her husband.
“She and her children are grieving in a bleak [rural] village where all blame the loss of her husband on the fact that they follow Christ,” Molly reported. These accusations against Paul’s cousin were considered reliable enough that local police opened an investigation into the matter.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. One in millions of examples of a disturbing country-wide - perhaps worldwide - trend.
In a 2019 report on global persecution, Open Doors found that in India, since the current government took control in 2014, more Christians are being targeted by Hindu extremists each year. These nationalists’ view is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith is viewed as a serious threat.
The research found that, “Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences,” and “converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination and violence.”
Nevertheless, people are exchanging their bitterness and fear for the truth and hope they find in Christ through Paul, Molly and their church. They know it might cost them dearly, but they are overjoyed to fill the emptiness that only Jesus can fill.
Paul and Molly joyously shared one story of a young man who has been part of their church and coming regularly for years. Though his kin would beat him, he remained steadfast in his faith. Recently, he had the courage to leave his family and be baptized.
Not long ago, Steve shared an ongoing situation we faced with two Indian banks that refused to give your acutely needed support funds to ITMI’s David and Taru.
ITMI's Steve Evers with David and Taru Kumar
This is the income they rely on to cover their pressing ministry and living expenses. Their financial well-being on thin ice, they were forced to live off of small savings for over two months.
We’re sure they had to limit ministry activities and delay purchases of any family needs but the most essential.
We have temporarily resolved the issue and have been able to get your sacrificial gifts to the Kumars so they can continue reaching the Bangalore slum with the Good News, but the incident shows the difficulty of being a Christian and living on the large protrusion from the south side of Asia.
David Kumar and two residents of Modi Road slum.
Modi Road slum, where David and Taru minister.
Last month, Paul was originally denied a visa to return to his home country, where 22 of his children were staying with relatives and friends, awaiting his return.
After filling out massive piles of paperwork and answering invasive questions, the Indian national was finally allowed to board his flight home with Molly and their 2-year-old daughter, Bella.
The flights that had to be rescheduled while Paul waited for his visa cost the couple hundreds of dollars.
This year, India jumped to the 10th most dangerous country in which to be a Christian. With a population of 1,354,052,000 this amounts to a huge increase of Christians with targets on their backs - 65 million, as a matter of fact.
Nineteen of those targeted are Paul and Molly’s own girls, their beloved daughters who they’ve raised as their own. The young ladies have grown up together, and have called Paul and Molly “mom” and “dad” since they were little.
Up until recently, they lived happily in a beautiful home that God provided for them years ago. Their place. The place they were protected and deeply cared for by Paul and Molly and Paul’s aunt and uncle.
The girls with their beloved Mama and Daddy on their porch.
The place where they would all gather on the bed with Molly and have Mama comfort them and teach them God’s love and truth. A place that Steve describes as a “bit of heaven in the middle of the Indian countryside.”
The home was kept immaculately clean, and the girls well-fed, including fresh homegrown vegetables and fruit from trees they helped plant and nurture.
They were growing and thriving as humans and in the knowledge of the Lord, their humble confidence in Him reflecting in every interaction, both between each other and uniquely with those on the “outside.”
But due to a legitimate and growing threat that their cherished daughters would be removed from their care by government officials, DNA tested and dropped in villages where similar DNA is found, Paul and Molly recently had to make the heart-wrenching decision to separate the girls and conceal them from those who might want to do them harm.
These heavy concerns are piled on top of the regular matters of parenting, discipleship and providing for 23 children. Support for the girls’ basic necessities dropped to a deficit earlier this year.
The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, an island country off the tip of India, that killed and injured many as they attended Resurrection Sunday church services, serve as another reminder that our brothers and sisters in this part of the world are suffering.
“The Bible says we will suffer,” says Steve Evers, ITMI’s Director, “but those of us who aren’t currently under attack need to stand with our brothers and sisters who are.”
ITMI began when many of you equipped Bill Bathman with Bibles and necessities to deliver to Christians persecuted by communist governments in Europe. In many ways, we have cycled back into areas and times of distressed Christians and heavy persecution.
According to Voice of the Martyrs, for those serving bravely in dangerous areas, “their first request is for prayer.”
This is echoed by our own partners, who repeatedly express how important our prayer support is to them.
Whatever they face, He can handle it, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain...He who sits in the heavens laughs.” (Psalm 2:1,4)
Many of you have stood with the persecuted for years through your support of the Bathman’s ministry to the distressed Christians behind the Iron Curtain. You know the joy of being with Jesus as He comforts the suffering.
If you have yet to experience that feeling of knowing your time, talent and treasure are with the Lord in His work, or if you’d like to increase that joy, we invite you to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in prayer and financial support.
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.