How One Texas Church Embraced an Ureached, Unengaged People Group
The Marati People of India, Embraced Unengaged by men, but not by God! (First Hand Account By L.D., edited by Ariadne Harrison*)
Keller, TX – In November of 2011 God put it on my heart to lead our church to “embrace” a second unengaged unreached people group. The Holy Spirit stirred me to pray about the needs in India. More prayer and research led me to the Marati people. All of the information I could find about them indicated that there were no known believers among them. The next step was to plan a vision trip to learn about them firsthand. Bob, our missions committee chairman and a veteran of two previous trips to India, agreed to go with me.
When we arrived in India and met face to face with our partners, our plans became clearer. We set out the next morning with a driver and an Indian translator/guide. They seemed unsure about how we would find our target people. However, both Bob and I had a quiet confidence that God would lead us to the people in His time and in His way. We drove west for several hours, and then stopped at every village, asking people if they knew any Marati people or villages. At the first stop—a fresh coconut stand—they did not know any. Then we asked some jeep drivers and came up empty again. At the third stop, we sent our translator to inquire of some auto rickshaw drivers. Meanwhile Bob and I prayed together, trusting God to lead us to the people at that moment. Our translator came back with the good news. There was a Marati village just 3 km up the road!
When we arrived, a man in traditional dress came down the road to meet us. We told him we were from America and were interested in finding out about life in rural India, so we asked them about their beliefs and life in the village. By that time a few dozen people had gathered around to see the first foreigners to visit their village.They invited us down the jungle path to a nice home in their village and served us some tea. Many of them spoke English and one young man shared his email address with us. As we ended our time in the village, we rejoiced in the warm welcome we had received.That evening, we met with a local pastor and he told us stories of the intense persecution Christians were facing. He also said he knew of a congregation of Marati believers. We were excited about that!The next day, four men from the Marati church came to meet us. They invited us to come see the village for ourselves. During the ride, one Marati believer shared with us that during a recent prayer meeting his brother had prophesied that two foreigners would soon be coming to help them. Wow! They were expecting us by faith even when no foreigners had ever been there before!Their tiny church building was full, with about half of the 60 Marati believers present. The room was sweltering as the tropical sun beat down on the metal room, but the atmosphere inside was joyful. I shared with them about our church’s desire to come alongside them to reach their entire tribe with the Gospel. Then they shared testimonies about how God had saved them and how their village was being transformed by Jesus Christ despite persecution from radical Hindus.
The bond between us was instantaneous! Their church displayed unity forged out of intense persecution. Bob and I felt like we had known these brothers and sisters in Christ all of our lives. We exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers so we could stay in contact and do some long-distance training and discipleship. We finally parted with them, promising to return. Some of them are open to going with us to other unreached Marati areas so they can share the Gospel with their own people.
A Marati family poses in front of their house in India. First Baptist Church of Keller, Texas will be adopting their people group. Then we met the tribal chief who oversees and advocates for 84 Marati villages. He was open to answer our questions and seemed pleased that foreigners were interested in his people and their needs. He told us he and his people were Hindus, but one of his companions discreetly asked our driver, “Is their God a good god?” When we asked the chief if we could visit again, he surprised us by saying, “Sure. You’re family!”
We are greatly humbled that God chose us to join Him in what He is doing among the Marati. We are ready to take the next steps of prayer, strategy, and engagement, knowing without a doubt that God has led us to the right people and places.
The Marati people have never been engaged by men, but we saw that God has engaged them long before we ever knew they existed!
*Names changed. L.D. serves in Missions and Evangelism at First Baptist Church of Keller, Texas. Ariadne Harrison is a Hands On intern serving in South Asia. Find out more about embracing a South Asian people group by visiting South Asian Peoples.