Shining the Light in India

By Maria Trace

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  • Shining the Light in India

How can we best share the gospel in India?

“It was very amazing for me—God has sent me a chance to share the gospel! I’m really happy about this magazine.”

Arpana Peter is a preschool teacher in Bangalore, India. With a heart to share the gospel with the parents of her preschoolers at their upcoming Christmas program, Arpana was brainstorming about what she could give as a meaningful gift to each family.

All the parents will be coming, she thought. What can we do for them? We have to share the Word that day.

And then God dropped the answer in her lap—right before Christmas. The Light magazine, contextualized for the Indian culture. It was such an honour to present Arpana with this copy of God’s Word in December 2015 during a Gideon distribution trip to Bangalore, India.

This magazine, created in Canada with the people of India in mind, was an answer to Arpana’s prayers. Light was the perfect gift she could share with the preschool parents to show them who Jesus is.

“I had a good chance to share the Word of God through this magazine,” she explained, with a big smile lighting up her face. “This Christmas is a really big blessing for me because I’m sharing the Word with people who don’t know Jesus.”

Arpana represents the many teachers, pastors, parents and students who fell in love with the special India edition of the Light magazine during the December 2015 trip to India.

Contextualizing Light for the Indian Culture

How did we end up with an India Light magazine? Light is a central theme in Indian culture. In fact, Diwali (celebrated just before we landed in Bangalore) is India’s biggest national holiday of the year—their “Festival of Lights.” Indians light clay lamps outside their home to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness.

If only they knew who the true Light of the world is! If only they understood they don’t have to walk in darkness—because of Jesus, the One True God, is the Everlasting Light!

Our Light Scripture magazine seemed to be the perfect way to share the Good News and God’s Word with a culture so focused on light. But first it needed to be contextualized for the Indian culture.

The creation of the magazine began by strategically choosing Bible verses that point to Jesus, who entered the darkness to rescue us. Each theme addresses important tenets within Hinduism, India’s primary religion, and how the gospel responds to each one.

Next came the new photographs. Dona Nathan, the photographer, incorporated her Indian background to capture colourful fabrics, famous landmarks, Indian families, and of course symbols of light—candles, lanterns, the sunrise and sunset.

And since India is the land of a million deities and the notorious caste system, a final decision page was added to the Scripture magazine—focusing on the freedom Christ offers us, with a powerful image of breaking chains. This is the most important page—because it offers people the opportunity to respond to what they’ve just encountered in the verses about Light and the Gospel of John.

It is this very contextualization of God’s Word that resonated with the people we met in India—who were honoured and humbled that the precious Scriptures were made available to them, and more importantly, designed with them in mind. Since this was so well received in India, this contextualization process is one we will pursue even more in the future as we venture into new places to share God’s Word with the world—in relevant and engaging ways.

Churches are Eager to Share the Light

Pastor Jacob Daniel is a 23-year-old Bangalorean pastor whose church we visited in December 2015 to share the Light magazines—3,500 in the first service alone! As the stacks of magazines disappeared, excitement filled the air as people discussed their ideas of how and where they would go share this beautiful copy of God’s Word.

Sugasini Elizabeth is a young woman who emailed Pastor Jacob after the trip to tell him that she’s already fulfilled her goal of sharing the Light magazine with medical students on campus, telling each one, “Jesus loves you.” She even got permission from the campus security guard!

“It was encouraging to see that we were able to partner with the church and equip them with resources, so they can impact their community for Christ,” says John Nathan, Outreach Team Member. “We were able to witness the demand for the Scriptures first hand.”

Pastor Jacob enthusiastically expressed that the Light magazine we designed for India has been a great blessing. Once pastors had finished “oohing” and “awing” over the stunning Scripture magazine, their next question was always: “Can we have this in ______?” (insert your favourite Indian language here).

Another local pastor emphasized the great need for God’s Word:  “Every home needs the gospel. The greatest need is for the gospel to go out.”

The demand is indeed overwhelming. After meeting a ministry leader who collects Bible requests in his stacks of binders from Indian pastors, we learned of 250,000 unfulfilled requests since 2014. The Gideons wants to start satisfying these unmet requests.

But in a country with over 450 spoken languages, the English version of the Light magazine won’t be enough. Our goal is to re-create the Light magazine in each of the top 5 Indian languages: Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. Imagine the gospel impact a quarter of a million new Bibles will have in India!

The Key to Gospel Impact in India

By far, the overarching theme that emerged from our week in India was partnership. We learned how important it is to have a strong relationship with the pastors and the churches. We can’t do any work in India without them.

All of the great relationships we made were through the churches—from the school distributions to a surprising relationship with a hospital, where Peter Marshall presented Light to the CEO and he said it was perfect for them!

With a goal of one million Scriptures for South Asia over the next five years, churches can provide: safe coordination of outreach opportunities; volunteers to help with distribution; a familiar link back to the local church for future believers; and cultural input so we can adapt and provide the best ministry to India that we can. By building good relationships now, our ministry can expand beyond Bangalore and even India.

After receiving the Indian Light magazine, one of the hospital chaplains said, “This is a very touching, beautiful magazine. Simple, with a pure gospel message. I read it from beginning to end.” And that is our hope for each person who receives one of the one million Scriptures for South Asia in the next five years—that they will read God’s Word from beginning to end, and discover for themselves the pure gospel message—the saving, finished work of Jesus!

 


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