Orissa - 17th to 19th November 2017 - NEW!

 RISING FROM THE ASHES


Following through on MY INDIA vision, the Lord had been opening doors for me in different parts of India. And I had been especially praying for openings in new states where I had heard churches had undergone severe persecution.

I had been planning a ministry trip into Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. However my plans were tentative as I had not received a final response from the brothers there as yet. I gave myself to prayer as I had been told that the believers in these states were very hungry for the Word of God.

It was when I was in prayer that I received a call from a Pastor in Orissa. He told me that he had heard about me from some End Time preachers, had read my testimony on Bro. Richard Gan’s website, had gone through my blog, and wanted to know if I would be willing to come over to Orissa and preach.

I had heard about the Khandamal riots of 2008, and seen the live persecution videos that had been floating around whatsapp, and since then, had been praying earnestly for a chance to visit and preach there. In fact, it was after the 10 day Convention in Pune, that a brother showed me a video of the riots in Khandamal and asked me, "if you have a vision for India, then would you want to go to preach in places such as these?" It was from then on that my prayer for Orissa had begun.

Orissa has a long drawn out history of religious intolerance. Major incidents that had drawn international attention to the state were the Killing of Graham Staines, Australian missionary in 1999, and the Khandamal Riots of 2008.

Graham Staines was an Australian Christian missionary working with the Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj, an Australian missionary society that was engaged in the education of poor and illiterate Hindu tribes in Odisha. He also worked among the leprosy patients in the region. On the night of 22 January 1999, he was sleeping in his station wagon when it was set afire. Graham and his two sons, ten-year-old Philip and six-year-old Timothy, were killed. 

(source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_violence_in_Odisha)

On 25–28 August, Hindu mobs set fire to many Christian settlements, and at least 45 people were killed. The violence damanged or destroyed an estimated 1,400 Christian homes and more than 80 places of worship. In addition, an estimated 18,500 Christians were forced to flee their villages to refugee camps "after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs".

On 1 January 2008 further violence was reported at several places. Houses and shops were torched at Phiringia, Khajuripada, Gochapada and Brahmanigaon by rioters on Tuesday night (1 January 2008).

According to a fact-finding team of the Odisha state chapter of the All India Christian Council (AICC), the violence in Kandhamal around Christmas time was perpetrated by Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) groups that killed at least more than 50 Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches. Hundreds of displaced Christians were in various relief camps set up by the state government.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_violence_in_Odisha)

(Some images of the Khandamal riots and post riot condition in the district)

 

        









It was providential that this Pastor, Pastor Pradeep, had called me just then, and I took it as confirmation from the Lord that I should go there.

The problem was I knew only manageable Hindi, and even though I could get on with a few words and understand what was being said, I found it hard to communicate with Pastor over the phone. However, we somehow managed to discuss some basic doctrinal points, he trying to grasp my English, and I floundering in my broken Hindi trying to make myself understood as best as I could. Anyway, at the end of the conversation, Pastor Pradeep was very satisfied with my explanations and my ministry introduction and expressed his desire to see me in Orissa soon.

His son Rajesh, knew English, and it was agreed that he would interpret my messages in the Oriya language during the meetings. The dates were set, and I was ready for my long expected journey to the state that had seen so much violence against Christianity over the years. I indeed felt blessed to be called here to preach. The Lord had honoured my prayer and was taking me into the heart of Khandamal.

Bhubaneswar Airport
The meetings were scheduled from the 17th to the 19th of November. I boarded my flight to Bhubaneswar via Hyderabad on Thursday, the 16th with the prayers of my church upholding me. I left Coimbatore by 11:15 am and was in Hyderabad by a half past 12. My next flight to Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, was at 3:00 pm. I reached Bhubaneswar by 4:30 pm.

Pastor Pradeep was waiting to receive me at the airport. He told me that the drive from Bhubaneswar into Khandamal by bus would take around 7 hours, and the sleeper bus he had booked was scheduled to leave around 9:45 that night. Pastor Pradeep had booked a room for me to rest awhile in a lodge above the State Bus Transport Station, and I was grateful, as my back had been giving me some trouble, and I needed to lie down for a while.

The capital of Orissa was in sad disrepair. The recent rains had flooded the mud roads, and the bus station was filled with chocolate coloured pools and the squelching of boots and tires. There were cows and dogs roaming around in abundance. And I had to walk over the sleeping bodies of a dozen dogs as I ascended the steps of the State run lodging house. It was certainly not the Bhubaneswar I had expected.




Bhubaneswar State Transport Bus Stand
A couple of pastors who were going to be attending the meetings the next day had come over to meet me. After a brief conversation in delicate Hindi, they left. I freshened up and had a snooze, and was up before 8 to prepare for the bus journey.

When I left Coimbatore, I was a bit unwell, and was wondering how I would get on. The issue was, my back had been acting up again and I was suffering from spasms now and then. In addition, for some reason, a day before I left I had been hiccoughing the whole day through. It was hilarious for a while, and then everyone began worrying about how I would preach with the hiccoughs, and it seemed like a fit because it just wouldn’t stop.

Well, it did stop that afternoon, and then started up again just as I began readying myself for the bus journey. My wife had asked me to buy some powdered mustard and take a pinch of it with a spoon of honey. It was supposed to be a home remedy, but I couldn’t seem to find the ingredients anywhere in the shops around the bus stand.

On the way to Raipalli
Anyway, me and my hiccoughs, and Pastor Pradeep made our way to Raipalli Village, in Udaigiri Block of Khandamal District by the 9:45 pm sleeper bus. The roads were uneven and bumpy and I was thankful Pastor had booked a sleeper so my back would suffer less of an impact. I couldn’t sleep a wink though, and just managed to lie in the small bunk till dawn.

We reached at 4:00 am the next morning. I was put up in the home of a retired teacher in the village: Bro. Thomas Pradhan. His family welcomed me warmly, ran me a hot bath, and made me feel at home. The meetings were set to begin around 10:00 am that morning, so I had some time to rest and meditate.

I slept till 8:00 am, had some fruit and biscuits for breakfast, and then sat out on the porch with my Bible, and a cup of ginger tea. My hiccoughs by this time, had mercifully stopped.

Raipalli was a small village surrounded by mountains and farmlands. The air was crisp and chilly. It was pleasantly cold, and the family informed me that it would have been still cooler if not for the recent rains. The rains in Orissa, I was told, increase the humidity in the atmosphere, and so make the cold more bearable. It was the opposite of Coimbatore, where the winter showers make the already cold air almost freezing around this time of year.


The people spoke a tribal dialect called ‘Kui’ (a dialect with Telegu influence) in addition to Oriya. The villagers ate simple food: rice, small rotis, and puris, and wholesome vegetable dishes with very little oil.

Khandamal district was a wild, hilly, and naturally beautiful place, home to numerous developing tribes. The elders were only now entertaining modern facilities, while the youngsters were quite techy and knowledgable.

As far as I could see, the State Government in Orissa had not aided in the development of its citizens in any measurable aspect. The state buildings and institutions I was told, were badly run, there was a scarcity of manpower everywhere, and no proper infrastructure for the people to get by. The roads were horrible, mostly patched up mud, and the cell phone network was almost non - existent in some areas.

I was ready for the meeting at 10:00 am. We had been expecting a crowd of around 200, but it had been raining steadily, and Pastor Pradeep wondered how many would actually show up.

The meetings were held in a church in Raipalli where Pastor Reuben leads the flock.

The church building still stands as a witness to the violence of those times, and within its walls, God has now raised living witnesses to his never failing love.

After the Church burnings, 2008 

The Church in Raipalli




Bro. Thomas Pradhan's house after the riots
Today, after repairs.

The meetings began by 11:00 am. Around 200 people were present. Many pastors from the surrounding villages were in attendance as well.


Only around 60 - 70 people could be accommodated inside the meeting premises, so chairs had been arranged for others to sit out on the portico.


Bro. Manas Pradhan, (Bro. Thomas’s son) who was employed in the Kolkata Metro / Railways, and spoke fluent English and Hindi, had agreed to interpret for me instead of Pastor Pradeep’s son. Bro. Manas was a member of Pastor Andrew’s congregation in Kolkata (Calcutta, West Bengal). The message was to be interpreted in Oriya.

That first day, I introduced myself, and told the congregation about my call, my vision, and my ministry. The message was: “Blow the Trumpet in Zion”. It was my chance to explain regarding Prophetic Awareness for the church in the last days.

I was able to preach for only around 50 minutes. I felt my tongue growing thick, and understood my travel sickess was catching up with me. I had endured a similar experience in Andaman, and so I closed the first session, and told Pastor that I needed a rest.

I went to bed without food, and was out like a light. Pastor Pradeep decided that I was in no shape for the second session and let me rest till night. In that day’s second session, he informed the attendees about my condition, and answered the queries of the congregation regarding the preaching in the first session.

I woke up at 8:00 pm, still groggy. It had been a combination of travel sickness and my pain medication that had incapacitated me. I was understandably embarrassed and apologized to Pastor Pradeep. He told me that he and Bro. Thomas had been really worried and wondered whether I needed a doctor. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary and that I would just sleep it off. He then told me that the congregation had been so joyful and roused with just that 50 minute message in the morning session, that they had all agreed to come again the next day, and bring others along as well to hear the next day's message. I was glad that he had handled the second session maturely and apologized again. He told me not to think of it and to get some rest so that I would be fresh and fiery the next day.

That night I slept off as soon as my dinner was done and found myself waking at midnight restlessly. I felt an urge in my spirit to pray, and so began to pray hard even though I felt drained out physically. From midnight till around 4:00 am that morning, I could sense several demonic powers oppressing me in that room. Every time I drifted off into a fitful sleep, I was roused again, and found myself praying. It was only after 4:30 am that I was able to slip into a deep slumber, and then suddenly I was awake again, maybe by 5:00 am. It was then that I could make out standing over me, a black horse. It was half-dream, half vision, but I remember I could hear the horse neighing and puffing out its breath on me, and I could see a shadowy black figure mounted on the horse. In my spirit I could feel my hands fending off the horse, trying to strangle it, and then I felt my lips move in rebuking the powers of darkness. I found myself speaking into the darkness: “Satan, I am not afraid of you. But you are afraid of the work that the Lord wants to do in this place through me, and that is why you have come here to trouble me. I rebuke you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And in my spirit I felt my lips say the Lord’s Name: ‘Jesus Jesus Jesus’, and then suddenly the specter was gone, and I was wide awake. I felt tired out with this visitation and lay back down in prayer.

I realized it had been the territorial spirits of the place come to disturb the Lord’s work. And the black horse and rider reminded me of the third horse rider of Revelation 6.

“And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”

And I received a message from the Lord: “Satan cannot harm the life and revelation of the Word that I desire to give to this people.”

Bro. Manas and Bro. Thomas knocked tentatively and questioningly on my door the next morning, 

“Pastor Ji???”

I responded that I was alright and got up for some food.

I felt surprisingly fresh and rested in spite of the events of the night. I felt the tiredness slowly leaving my body, and asked Bro. Manas if we could go out for a walk. We went out to the fields at around 6:30 am in the crisp dawn chill, and walked across the gently moving grass talking about our Lord.

Morning walk with Bro. Manas
As I felt the cold revive the sluggishness in my muscles, Bro. Manas began narrating to me his father Thomas’s experience during the riots of 2007.

“The attackers came in the night”, he said,

“They would suddenly wake us up, drive us out of our homes, and destroy the huts and little houses, with axes and hammers, then burn them to the ground. If anyone questioned them or even pleaded with them, they were assaulted, beaten, and left for dead.”

“Our attackers sometimes, were people we knew, people whom we thought had been our friends. They talked with us in the marketplace, they knew us, they laughed with us, they did business with us, and then here, suddenly, they were destroying our homes.”

“It was a terrible time, but once the violence died down, it became apparent that it had all been orchestrated with a political motive – to instill fear in the hearts of the people, to usher in a new government which could subdue the minorities, especially Christian groups which were well hated in Orissa. It had been the politicians who incited the mob riots and the violence to establish their own little kingdoms and dominions.”

“Later on, after the attacks became fewer, God intervened, and brought judgement on many of the attackers. A few of the men who had attacked us were found dead in their sleep for no explainable reason, and this bred fear among the others.”

“A few came to the affected families to make amends. They asked for forgiveness. They said, ‘We don’t know what came over us, why we did what we did. Please, can you ever forgive us?’”

“And so we as Christians forgave them, and now there stands a temporary peace between us. We have been left alone.”

“During this time, we received no aid from our sister churches in India, very little help from other brethren in the faith across the country. The denominational assemblies helped only their own. It was as if we had been completely isolated. So the churches within Orissa rallied together, and helped one another with whatever little we had.”

My heart went out to these brethren, as I tried to remember the videos I had seen, I tried to imagine living and preaching here in that time of violence, and my heart grew heavy for the pain they had suffered – in silence, and alone.

We walked back home to get ready for the meeting, and I had some Puri Bhaji for breakfast before I sat down to meditate.

That day there were around 250 people present for the meeting.

Pastor Reuben and Bro. Manas leading the worship

I could feel the congregation’s hunger the moment I stood in the pulpit. And the Lord led me to speak on The Ark of the Covenant and The Days of Noah. This teaching especially touched the pastors who were in attendance.



We broke for lunch at 1:30 pm, and were all settled in again by 3:00 pm.

In the second session, I spoke on the Symbolism of Noah’s Ark, the Lord’s Grace and Judgment, the scripture: “the elements shall melt with fervent heat”, and the Meaning of True Repentance with the text from II Peter 3.





 The congregation rejoiced greatly, and I felt the Lord’s hand moving mightily.

A few souls committed their lives to him and came forward for baptism.

Pastor Pradeep baptizing

The next day being Sunday, many of the pastors in attendance with a few members of their congregation had planned to go to their own churches to conduct the morning service and had said that they would be sorry to miss the morning session. However, after that day’s preaching, 5 pastors got together for a discussion, and at the end of it decided to shut down their churches for that Sunday and instruct their whole congregations to accompany them to the meeting place in Raipalli to attend the Sunday service there. Around 100 people who had to travel from far off places were accommodated in the church that night, so that they could attend the meeting the next day. The spiritual hunger and thirst of the people was palpable.

Most of the people in the congregation, although sound in basic Christian principles, were not very well schooled in reading their Bibles, and as such, when they saw the images and videos projected on the little white screen, it brought the Bible prophecies alive before their eyes, and made it easier for them to understand.


That Sunday, I preached on The 10 virgins, and gave the congregation a Bible Study on the History of the Church. I then shared the testimony of my conversion, and emphasized on The Spirit of Unity in the Bride of Christ.








Many came forward for prayer, and the service was concluded.

After the service, a few pastors came to me with certain doctrinal doubts, and the Lord gave me the wisdom to resolve them as best as I could.

The meetings had been successful. Pastors Pradeep and Reuben were grateful for the spiritual benefit to the flock, and joyous that all the pastors in the area had come together in a spirit of co-operation.

With Bro. Thomas Pradhan and pastors after the meeting

That evening I finally rested mentally, and Pastor Pradeep took me around the village just to get a glimpse of life in Khandamal.

We walked across the fields and farmlands, with a river running alongside, and talked about the Lord, me in halting Hindi once again, doing my best to understand his speech.



With Pastor Reuben and Pastor Pradeep

It was during this time that Pastor Pradeep shared with me the testimony of how the Lord had delivered him during the attacks.

He and his family had run away from their home as it was being destroyed. They ran away from the village into the forest, as this seemed like the safest place to be. As Pastor Pradeep was a known minister, he was especially marked. As it was night, they had kept hiding behind rocks, and hillocks, and making their way slowly into the darkness of the forest.

They met many others in the forest as well, all having been driven out of their homes, come to live in the isolation and darkness of the wild for fear of their lives. However there was no food to be found there in the wilderness, and no drinking water even. The adults were able to manage for a while, but the little ones were suffering.

So Pastor Pradeep decided to venture back into the fields near the village to find some food for the small group of escapees.

Pastor said he remembers his wife pleading with him not to go, but he told her, “I have lived my life, but you have to live for the children’s sakes. I live for Christ, and I will die for Christ.”

As he drew nearer to the villagers, he was recognized by a a few men who began suddenly chasing him with rods, knives, and flaming torches. "We're going to murder you!", they yelled as around 10 – 12 men pursued him across the fields into the forest.

With this he kept running without looking back, expecting at any time to be either knifed or clubbed to death. But as he ran farther and farther away, he heard a voice within him, saying, Stop, look behind you.” He heard the voice twice more as he kept running, and turned back the third time he heard it:  "Turn back and look at them. I am with you. They cannot harm you." And as he turned, and looked straight at the men who were chasing him, he saw them suddenly look at him, then turn backwards and run away.

It was indeed an incredible testimony and I listened with joy and awe as he recounted the horror of those days, of being woken up by screams in the middle of the night, of being chased wondering when his last breath would come, and whether it would be painful to die, and later after his deliverance from death, how he returned to the village in the course of time to build up his broken life, just like his neighbors around him.

I was reminded of the incident in the garden of Gethsemane, when the army of the night came to seek out our Lord.

    "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 
    They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
    As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground."

(John 18: 4-6)

It was the same 'I Am' who was with Pastor Pradeep that day, making his pursuers fall backwards and retreat. It was the saving hand of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To hear Pastor Pradeep's testimony click on the link below:-


To hear the Orissa Meeting Review go to:-

Orissa Meeting Review by Pastor Pradeep

Broken home, broken church, broken life – all repaired and rebuilt once more…the Christians of Khandamal have risen again, slowly and silently, but with greater faith in the living God they serve.




Sleep was sweet that night. I rejoiced in the labours of my fellow servants, whom God had preserved even in the midst of such persecution, and fell asleep praying for Orissa.

The next morning we left for Bhubaneshwar at 7:00 am in a hired car, the waking fields and trees whizzing past us on either side. On our way to the airport we met a brother named Ashok Deagal. He was a pastor with a ministry in Baaripada, Mayurbhanj district, who had unfortunately not been able to make it to the meetings. He came up to me, greeted me, and said he had heard about the meetings, and would I come and preach in his church the next time I was in Orissa? I replied I would be ever so glad to and we parted ways.

We reached Bhubaneswar at 1:30 pm. My flight was at 3:15 pm, so we had a quick lunch together and made plans for meetings in the future. Pastor Pradeep conveyed to me that the ministers who had been present for the 3 day meetings in Raipalli had already asked him to arrange for a second convention, and he would God willing be in touch with me over the next few days regarding this.

I bid goodbye to Pastor Pradeep and Bro. Rajesh and boarded Indigo Airlines for my 3:15 to Hyderabad. I had to stop over there for around 5 hours, as my connecting flight to Coimbatore was scheduled to depart at 8:55. I reached Coimbatore by 10:30 pm and was home by a half past 11.

Over steaming cups of black tea, I recounted my experiences to my family. My wife Benita, had felt led to fast all the three days I was away, and she told me how she had felt a sudden pressing urge to be in prayer for the meetings there. We both prayed and gave thanks to the Lord late into the night.

The next day had barely dawned before I received a call from Pastor Pradeep saying that he had spoken to the rest of the ministers, and that they had all agreed to unite their entire congregations and arrange a big public meeting closer to the capital to accommodate more people.  He asked if I could make it in December, but I told him I needed that time to be in prayer for the year ahead, and to finish up with this year’s pending church work, and our regular year end church building repairs and renovations. I asked if we could make it in January, and he agreed.

Do pray for the churches is Orissa, for God to continue to preserve His children as He has been doing, so that they may stand strong even in the face of persecution and social stigma, and hold fast to His unchanging Word.

Do uphold Pastor Pradeep and his family and all the other ministers of Orissa in your prayers, that God may continue to move among them, that many more souls may enter His kingdom in this last hour, and that they may present a united front against the powers of Ecumenism in this age.

Do also pray for the meetings which are tentatively scheduled for February 2018 in Orissa.

2 comments:

  1. God Bless you Pastor, for all the strength you had for the day in your ministry in Orissa, will keep you & pastors, brothers and churches in Orissa in prayers, God Bless & Tq

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Pastor for sharing & for allowing yourself to be used by God in spreading the good news. It was moving & touching for me to read your post. I sure will keep you in my thoughts & prayers. Shalom!

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