By Mark Ellis
In one of India’s most remote areas, among one of its most primitive tribes, Pratik* wandered aimlessly among the predations of the jungle and the tangled muddle of his own mental illness, seemingly lost for weeks at a time.
He periodically came back to his senses and returned to his wife at their home in an area of Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest and most illiterate states, according to a report by Christian Aid Mission.
For six years he fluctuated between sanity and insanity, wandering between his home and the jungle and its perils. His wife feared for his life.
This cycle might have continued indefinitely if a missionary named Siddharth* had not been gripped with a passion: to reach thousands of people groups in India yet to hear the message of salvation in Christ.
Siddharth began his outreach with the Gonds of central India, idol- and nature-worshiping animists who suffer daily from hunger and poverty. With the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit, he and his team of indigenous missionaries gradually saw Gond villagers’ addiction to alcohol turn into zeal for the Lord, according to Christian Aid Mission.
Then he and his team went to unreached areas among the Sahu, Oravan, Khadia, Kanwar Chamar, and Korwa people, and 50 churches were planted.
One of the new converts among the Korwa was a friend of Pratik. This new believer ran into Pratik early last year during one of Pratik’s periods of sanity – a reminder of God’s sovereignty and providential care.
“He heard about the Lord Jesus Christ through one of his friends, and he wanted to know more about the Lord,” Siddharth told Christian Aid Mission. Amazingly, Pratik walked 31 miles on jungle paths and dirt roads to reach the Korwa church.
Once he was there, the power of the Word and the Spirit began to touch Pratik’s heart and mind. The church surrounded him in prayer and God moved powerfully to bring healing.
“The Lord delivered him from the mental illness, and he has become completely normal!” Pastor Siddharth exclaimed.
Pratik put his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and he became a new person in Christ.
“After tasting the love and deliverance of our Lord Jesus Christ, he started visiting the villages in a 15-kilometer radius and preached the gospel, telling what the Lord had done in his life,” Siddharth reported to Christian Aid Mission.
“Within six months he has planted five congregations in five villages, and in a few other villages he has brought one or two families to Christ. During my last visit to his village, the Lord enabled me to baptize more than 50 Korwa people.”
In that area, more than 400 Korwa have come to Christ though the ministry of Pratik and an indigenous missionary, one of the ministry’s 60 indigenous workers, he said.
The Joshua Project describes the Korwa people of India as unreached, defined as evangelicals making up no more than 2 percent of the population. The Korwa of India (they are also present in Bangladesh) are 1.02 percent “professing Christian,” and the percentage of evangelicals is “unknown,” according to the Joshua Project.
“The Korwa are the most primitive tribal people in central India,” Siddharth said. “As far as we know, no other mission is working among this people group in this part of central India. Their villages are usually on hilltops or covered with thick forest. They are animistic, and they also believe in magic and witchcraft. Witchcraft plays a very important role in their social life.”
Nearly all Korwa people, including some children, are addicted to liquor made locally from rice powder and a jungle flower, he noted.
“We are the pioneers to work among them with a special concentration on them,” said Siddharth, whose ministry also works in neighboring Jharkhand state. “The Bhuiya people group is also unreached in the area where we work. The Munda and Oravan people groups have strong churches in three districts of Jharkhand, but in one district of Jharkhand they are mostly unreached, and therefore we concentrate our ministry among them.”
From September through November of last year, the ministry reached 4,050 people who had never heard the gospel in 135 villages; they were from the Korwa, Gond, Bhuiya and Khadia groups, he said.
Of these people, 1,196 placed their faith in Christ for salvation and seven churches were planted. During that period, 271 people joined the fellowships and another 287 people were “ready to join the Lord’s fold,” he said.
“There are so many young believers, both young men and women, who have turned to Christ from the Korwa, Munda, Oravan and Bhuiya people groups,” Siddharth said. “We teach them the Word of God and train them in techniques of church planting in the mission field context at our satellite school. We Praise God for what the Lord is doing through the life and witness of these very simple new believers.”
*Names changed for security reasons
For more information about Christian Aid Mission’s work in India, go here