The Grace Ministries (GM) Study Bible is a response to a vital spiritual need. Similarly, Grace Ministries is also responding to other challenges, other needs, inspired by the love of God.
The Koyas and Kondareddys are tribal people found in South India. They live in small groups, in remote forests and high mountains, having little contact with the outside world. Their dialect has no script. Corn and rice forms their staple food, supplemented by the meat of small animals hunted in the forest.
These tribals are animists and celebrate many festivals with liberal consumption of locally brewed alcohol. They worship their ancestors, and consider the dead to have a strong influence on the living. Each family and clan has its own god or goddess, though there is usually a main goddess for the whole tribe. Witchcraft is common, especially as a means of dealing with sickness and threats.
Largely illiterate, they have little access to modern medical and educational facilities. Even minor ailments, such as the common cold or diarrhea, can lead to death. Life is hard for Koya women, who fetch water from distant springs or streams, raise children, cook food, cultivate the crops, keep the house, and do much else besides. Men hold positions of responsibility in the tribe.
Most Koya and Kondareddy villages, in the area where we are working, are unreached. Many of these habitations are isolated groups of three or four houses, that can only be reached by walking and climbing along jungle tracks for several hours.
There is great receptivity to the gospel. Our evangelists take basic medical aid to these isolated tribals for whom Christ died. These aboriginals of India are among the most neglected and underprivileged people in the world. They have no access to even basic healthcare, sanitation, and safe drinking water. Long dependent on the forest for their livelihood and existence, they are now under threat due to influx of commercial agents and large projects. When displaced, they migrate to nearby towns, but have no skills for decent employment.
Many of these forest dwellers are finding hope and new life in Jesus through our outreach. GM has also provided two borewells for several villages that have no access to drinking water. And to help some promising young men to generate income, we have given a buffalo, an autorickshaw, and a water pump. This has been possible due to the generous and timely donations by friends of GM.
Saroja’s world is a dusty little tribal village. Her parents cannot come up with her age. When asked, “when was she born?”, they scratched their dust covered, matted head and replied, “Oh, when…the great tree fell outside the village.” Or, “When Chikkanna’s (their neighbor) cow was hit by lightning”. My guess is she is less than 10 years old.
Saroja and her people are Koyas. She has never gone near a school. She has no clue how to count, and has not ventured outside her small and abysmally poor hamlet. Small built and malnourished, Saroja does chores just like other little girls in her village. She washes the cooking vessels, blackened by smoke from open wood stoves, and fetches water from distant sources. Her village has no pipelines, no electricity, no running water, no wells, no toilets, and no roads. Every day, she walks bare-foot along the forest paths, plucking out thorns from her foot, occasionally dodging a venomous snake, to a water hole half a mile away. The stagnant water here is home to millions of fast-breeding mosquitoes. These insects spread malaria and other diseases among these villagers with a missionary zeal. There is also a resident king cobra with a reputation for dispatching several village live-stock to the other world, and several kraits. The only watering hole for miles around, it attracts members of the local bears’ association. Village buffalos use this facility as their jacuzzi every day.
And on the sandy shores of this hole sits Saroja, washing her utensils. She also bathes in that water, like others in the village. The same water is carried home for drinking and cooking. No wonder that in Venkagudam, the infant mortality is extremely high and the villagers do not live to see many moons. Oh, for a glass of clean drinking water.
Clean Water at Last
This scenario changed when folks like you, friends of GM, stepped in and made a great difference to the life of Saroja and her village. We drilled a tube well for this village, financed by your generosity.
It was quite an undertaking, an adventure. How do we get the drilling rig to that village where even taking a motor bike is not easy? The villagers took leave from their forest foraging for food, their work in the few fields they cultivate, and leveled the way for the drilling rig to come through. At about 40 feet we hit water, but went down to 160 feet through rocks. Clean, pure, crystal clear water began to gush out, right next to the village. The Koyas clapped and danced in excitement, their faces beaming with joy, relief and gratitude.
What did this cost us? Pastor Brian May, a board member of GM, recently received a quotation to drill a tube well from someone in India. It was for $16,000. The GM tube well cost about $530. This includes the expenses of the exploratory trips to the site and fees of a consultant who visited the village, fetched the drilling rig, and stood by managing the entire operation in the hot sun.
We have a verse from the Bible on the tube well. You guessed it right, “….whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst…”
Thank you for making a difference.
A young tribal, Reddy, lay bedridden and bloated in his village last year. He would likely have died but for our Grace Ministries evangelist, who took him to a nearby town. The doctor found him suffering from kidney stone, jaundice, malaria and heart enlargement. Reddy was kept under observation in a nursing home for 10 days. The doctor said that if the patient survived those 10 days, he would live.
Reddy is one of the few literate people in his village. His parents are small time farmers, growing a single paddy crop on two acres of land. The family was just managing to survive. Their financial condition prompted GM to take care of the medical expenses. Pastor Mohandas cared for young Reddy and shared the gospel with him. Some believers came, prayed, and Reddy believed. A month-long treatment led to recovery. He stopped his habitual drinking and started coming to church, and asked for baptism.
Reddy says, “God healed me. I stopped drinking because it is a bad habit.” The practical concern of Mohandas gave ample evidence of the love of Christ, and is now being seen in the young believer. “I'm burdened for my own people, the Kondareddy tribe," says Reddy. "I want to take God's word to them.” With that desire, he is presently in a Bible school, completing the two year course.
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Both these brothers are blind. Their names: Srinivasa Rao and Rama Rao, from a small village in South India. These men became blind in their late teens. They and their parents believed it was because of black magic by some relatives.
The truth is that both became blind because of untreated Glaucoma as no medical help was available then. Not even now. Then came the day when the great I AM opened their inner eyes to see and experience the ‘Sotiras’. Since then, Srinivas and Rama Rao have been first generation followers of the Way. Successful shepherds, partially supported by GM. Srinivas’s son Srujan is 13 years old and now has Glaucoma. We brought them to Bangalore, after an 18-hour train journey from their village. They stayed with us for over a week and had consultations with a doctor. We were advised that Srujan needs urgent surgery, else he will go blind very soon.
The best surgeon for this is Dr Ronnie George, in the city of Chennai, six hours from Bangalore by train. However, he is booked solid till the end of July 2018, but the Almighty made a way for us and granted us favor. Dr. George met us last week.
We are glad to tell you that the surgery for Srujan will be tomorrow morning at 8 am. Dr George, the Glaucoma specialist, assured us that he will do it personally.
Now Srinivas faces a fresh challenge. He cannot afford the surgery. What will it cost? He needs over $1500 to cover the surgery and medication costs.
We are with him and his family, shuttling between Bangalore and Chennai. However, we and GM have little finances. Please join us in prayer, that this need will be met and the teenager's sight will be saved.