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Back from the dead: Tilak's story of faith and miracles in India


01 October 2018

“See, as your Jesus was beaten and killed, so have we killed your pastor now. His body is in a ditch in the forest. Find him and bury him!”

It seemed as though all hope was lost. Tilak, a church leader from rural India, was dead. Some of his Hindu neighbours had complained to a local group of violent extremists that Tilak was brainwashing the villagers and polluting their minds with the Christian faith – he had led 40 families to Jesus. The extremist group kidnapped Tilak, and when he refused to deny his faith in Christ, they beat him and tortured him. Finally, he collapsed. He had no pulse. Tilak was gone.

Or so it seemed.

The Christian families from Tilak’s village found his body and brought it home. They laid him out in a hut, and people gathered to pay their last respects.

Then suddenly – he started to move. His eyes opened. Tilak was alive!

No one could believe it. Some of the militants who had attacked Tilak were present when he came back to life – they must have been the most shocked of all. They knew what they had done to Tilak. They had tied him up and beaten him with sticks until he had bloody wounds all over his body. Then they made him crawl up a mountain, still beating him with their sticks to force him forwards. When Tilak had taken his last breath, they sent for the village doctor to confirm that he was dead. Finally, they threw his body in a ditch. There was no way he could have survived.

And yet, here he was – alive! As Tilak woke up, he could hear people saying, “It was because he believed in Jesus.”

Every £22 could resource a local Rapid Response team for a month as they bring emergency aid to victims of violence, such as food and medical care.

Tilak

NO PLACE FOR CHRISTIANS

God is working in truly amazing ways in India. There are countless stories of believers coming to faith in Christ through miraculous healings, and courageous church leaders like Tilak are taking the hope of the gospel to even the most isolated and hostile communities.

But wherever God is at work, there is opposition – and the powers standing against the church in India are formidable.

The Indian government is led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They believe that being a Hindu is part of Indian identity, and frequently turn a blind eye to attacks on those of other faiths. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a militant Hindu nationalist group linked with the BJP; they have stated that they want to see India free of Christians and Muslims by the end of 2021.

When the government of India is allowing violent attacks to take place against Christians, and an extremist group linked with the leading political party is actively trying to wipe out the church, it isn’t surprising that Christians in India are facing horrific levels of persecution.

Open Doors church partners estimate that almost 24,000 Christians were physically attacked last year because of their faith. India is number 11 on the 2018 World Watch List, Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution, its highest ever position.

Hindu extremists are stepping up their efforts to free India of Christians – so we must step up our response. Open Doors has been working through local churches and partners in India since 2000, and the work they do is already extensive, but they have a plan to double their impact and extend their reach to every corner of India over the next two years.

Your prayers and long-term support can help to make that plan a reality, and show the powers that stand against the church that we have an even greater power – Jesus.

Every £22 could resource a local Rapid Response team for a month as they bring emergency aid to victims of violence, such as food and medical care.

‘GOD ALWAYS HAS A PLAN FOR US’

Despite being miraculously raised from the dead, Tilak’s troubles weren’t over. A year later, the militants who attacked him the first time threatened to kill his entire family if they didn’t leave the village.

Tilak says, “I left the village with my family at once. I had suffered extreme torture a year ago; I didn’t want the same for my family.

“That day, we carried absolutely nothing with us. We only had the clothes we were wearing. About six hours later we arrived in a village in another state; we believed we would be safe there.”

By God’s grace, they met a man there who had heard Tilak preaching and had come to faith. Despite having very little, the man offered to share his home with Tilak’s family. “He led us to his hut; it was just one small room. He set a bedsheet like a curtain in the middle of the room and told me that my family could use the half of the room divided by the curtain for sleeping in the night while his family used the other half.

“He told me: ‘You can stay with us and whatever we have in this house our families can share.’” Tilak smiles as he says, “He was a very poor man with a very big heart.”

Another year has passed since then, and the two families are still sharing the hut and doing what they can to help each other – but even between them, they have very little. Your support and prayers have enabled Open Doors partners to provide them with practical help.

But Tilak’s family need more than just help to survive. Tilak says, “It’s been a few years, but we are still very much traumatised. We did not have courage to talk with anyone in the new village or share the gospel.”

Open Doors partners run persecution survival training to help families like Tilak’s recover from the persecution they have experienced, and be better prepared for the persecution they may face in the future. It’s a combination of teaching from the Bible, teaching on the Indian constitution and Christians’ legal rights, and sharing testimonies of other persecuted believers to show that they are not alone.

Tilak says, “When we attended the persecution survival training we experienced change in our hearts and minds. I keep reminding myself of the things I learned in the seminar, especially the teaching that God is for us and He will always stand with us.

“God always has a plan for us. If He had not thought about us, we would not have received all the help from people and from Open Doors partners.”

Every £67 could provide persecution survival training for three church leaders like Tilak, training them in a biblical response to persecution and helping them to understand their legal rights.

God is using the prayers and support of people like you to show our church family in India that God has a plan for them and has not forgotten them.

Tilak says, “I want to thank everyone who helped us through Open Doors partners; we will pray for them, that God will increase their blessings.”

FOUR WAYS TO PRAY FOR INDIA

The theologian Andrew Murray says, “Most churches… don’t know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, and that through prayer the church on earth has access to the power of the heavenly world.” When we stand with our persecuted church family in prayer it is truly powerful.

We will be including prayer points for India in our prayer diary and our monthly email every month for the next two years to help you pray for your church family in India on a regular basis. Looking for other ways to pray? Here are some ideas:

On your own: A lot of our tea is grown in India. When you’re making a cup of tea this month, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, ask God to bless and protect your church family in India. You could keep your copy of the prayer diary there for more specific prayer points.

With your family or small group: It’s National Curry week 9-15 October! Why not make a curry or order a take away with your small group or some friends, and spend some time praying for your church family in India as you wait for your food.

With your whole church: Order a free copy of Can you believe it? - our resource to help your whole church to pray for their persecuted church family around the world, including the story of Meena* from India.

With a brother from India: Come to our Standing Strong celebrations to hear Samson* share stories of faith and courage from the church in India, and stand with him in prayer.

*name changed for security reasons

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