Greetings in the name of Jesus who said, “If any one wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continually” (Matt. 16:24).
Let me share a story with you: Orissa is an extremely poor and backward state. However, in 1981 it was really primitive, unbelievably poor and highly unreached. The curse of poverty, particularly in southern and tribal Orissa, was very visible and common. Mothers were selling their youngest babies to buy rice in order to keep the older children alive. Tribes took refuge in spirit worship and witch-craft. Most women had only a small strip of clothes around their waist and nothing on top. Men went around in their loin clothes. Most children, even ten year old girls, would walk about naked. Roots and eggs of red ants were common food. Schools did not exist. Electricity was non-existent. The darkness—spiritual and literal—was abundant and widespread.
However, the love of God moved my heart and I fell in love with this land and the people.
In 1980 Indian Evangelical Team (IET) sent its first missionary, Brother D.N. Sahu, to Orissa. He suffered much and often had to go hungry. To encourage him I gathered my family in 1981 and decided to go and live in Orissa for two months. We traveled two days on a train and then took a bus for another fourteen hours—crowded with goats, chicken and sweating mass—to reach Brother D.N. Sahu’s village. We still had to travel further to reach the village, where we were going to live for the next two months.
After few days we hired a taxi—a bullock cart—to carry us and our goods from Brother Sahu’s house to our destination, the village of Chattahandee. The bullock cart took 8 hours to cover the 14 miles of dirt road and three river crossings. My ten year old son, Aby, and I would often get down and walk, to lighten t
On our way we passed through several villages. None of them had ever heard the name of Jesus. We made plans to visit each one of them sometime soon. On the way we stopped at seven different villages to drink water from the village well or a tribal home.
Finally we reached our village, Chattahandee. Many half naked and some completely naked tribes-people gawked at us. We were dressed funny to them, with shirts and sandals and trousers. “What kind of people are these?” they must have wondered. We finally were guided to our palace, a small mud thatched grass hut. The single room hut had no door, no windows and no bed. We slept on the dirt floor. Rats often scampered into the dark hut. Lilly cooked our food on one side. At night we would move the utensils and lie down on a mat put over the dirt floor. Often the air would start to suffocate, and I would join the other brothers sleeping outside under the tree. There was no post office, no electricity, no
toilets, no shops … as primitive as it could get. The only good thing was a flowing stream and hundreds of unreached villages all around.
We stayed here for the next six weeks. We would bathe in the stream, about a mile from our hut. We would haul water from this stream and Lilly would cook food with fire wood gathered from the wild. But, every day we would pick up our two bicycles and ride from one village to another. Two or three of us would somehow haul ourselves on each bicycle and also manage to tie our bags somewhere—a miracle now I think of it—and pedal mile after mile.
We would set ourselves up in the village square or in front of a friendly house. Ten year old Aby would take out his accordion and start to play. We would join in a song and people would gather. During the day we would then preach under the hot sun and in the evening we would again preach under the starry sky. If we were far from home, we would sleep on a straw mat under a tree or in the front yard of any hut that would have pity on us. We could then do it all over again the next day and the day after that and every single day. Whenever we could, we would come back to our family in Chattahandee.
After six weeks in Chattahandee we had covered scores of villages. Then, it was time to move to another region. We hired a taxi—another bullock cart—and reached another village. A family received us with great joy and let us sleep in their cow shed. The man of the house tied the cattle a little away and we found sufficient space to squeeze ourselves in the clearing in his cow shed. We slept and ate (on leaves) there for two weeks, and every evening we lit our oil lamps and sat on the dirt floor of the cow shed to pray. And, every evening the host would sit with us and listen to what we preached.
The smell of the cattle urine and dung was unbearable. And, the swarming mosquitoes feasting on our blood made every hot night more unbearable. But, we were happy. How could we not be? The joy of the Lord in our hearts was more than enough. And, now we had this opportunity to bring His good news to all these people for the first time. Hundreds heard the gospel, for the first time.
I preached two to five times daily. My sermons were short--just 15 minutes. But these simple people understood. They understood a leper coming to Jesus, praying to Jesus, worshiping Jesus, receiving healing from Jesus, and becoming a disciple of Jesus.
And the Lord worked miracles among them. I thought perhaps He loved them more than others. On some days, 97% of the people who came for healing were touched by God. For the first time in my life I saw two totally blind people healed on the same day.
Yet after two months we returned home thinking we had achieved nothing. No one made any serious decision to follow Christ and no one was baptized. But we all were invigorated with the enriching experiences.
However, our two months in Orissa was a tipping point for the brothers to work harder and to preach the gospel in village after village. The Book of Acts started to happen. As our friends all over the world prayed, God began to move in an unprecedented way.
In 2000 I was visiting the area in Orissa where we had lived and ministered in 1981. I was conducting a seminar for our church planters. On the last day I was taken to a village to dedicate a newly built prayer hall.
The white washed mud wall of the 20 by 40 foot hall looked majestic in the poverty-stricken area. I well knew that the building would fall in three to seven years from the heavy rains and would have to be rebuilt again. But we didn’t worry about that then; this was a time of rejoicing.
I stood there, amazed and moved at the gospel taking roots in this soil for the first time. Brother D.N. Sahu came up and asked me whether I recognized the village and the zigzag mud path we had come up to get there. “Should I?” I asked. Then he said, “We traveled this path in 1982. I walked with you and Aby (my son). Aunty Lilly and the kids were in the bullock cart. We stopped in this village to have a cup of black tea.”
His eyes shined as he continued, “On that day we stopped in seven places to have a cup of black tea or a glass of water from a house when we were thirsty. Wherever we stopped for a drink, today there is a church building and a strong assembly. Whichever house that gave us a glass of water now has a Christian preacher – a woman or a man.” D.N. informed me that, in fact, all of the villages we went to on our bicycles now had a healthy church. Every one of them! The man who gave his cattle shed for us to stay in was baptized along with his whole family within a few years and two of their boys now are in full-time ministry – one is a junior leader.
I sobbed! Joy indescribable!
Well, the seeds bore fruit and it still grows today. More than 1000 pioneer churches could be traced back to our 1981 visit to Orissa.
Recently I felt a tug in my heart to go back to Orissa and do it all over again. So, in obedience to His nudgings, Lilly and I have decided to go back to Orissa in November and do it all over again.
Orissa still continues to be poor and very backward. In addition, Orissa has also become one of the states with greatest persecution of Christians. However, our lives are His.
In November Lilly and I will go to a village and build a hut. We will then travel to villages around it, sharing the gospel wherever we are allowed to. During the day we will stand in the village square or under a tree and share the gospel. At night we will stand under the starry sky and proclaim the truth in His power. I hope that these seeds will one day bear seeds for His Kingdom.
I am asking you for four things:
2. Pray for protection. Orissa is witnessing the worst persecution in the history of India. Several thousand Christian homes have been burnt in recent times. Every day Christian workers are attacked and several are killed. For us, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
3. We will need tools—a jeep, Bibles, P.A. system, and finances to build the mud hut. I also want to leave the missionaries there with sufficient tools to establish and further grow the fruits even after we leave. I anticipate the tools for our two weeks will require about Rs. 9,00,000. And, I estimate that we will need another Rs. 10,00,000 to purchase tools for our brothers to continue the work for the next two years (motorcycles, Bibles, bicycles, lamps, etc.). Would you pray for this, please?
This life is not ours. May we use our lives and all that we have for His Kingdom. My life belongs to Him, completely. Join with us through your prayers and support.
P G Vargis
P.S: My life story, Compelled, was written anew and published in the USA in March 2009. A gifted writer and friend, Dr. Jim Kerby, wrote this book well on my behalf. The first printing is sold out! The second print is in the process, however. This book is currently available only in North America. I would ask that you visit our website www.getmissions.org or www.ietmissions.org and order the book. I believe that the stories will move your heart and encourage you to walk closer to our Lord.