Almost one week after five armed terrorists kidnapped Ponnachan George from a Bible school campus in Assam, India, the Gospel for Asia (GFA) pastor is free. Details are sketchy, but GFA founder and international director K.P. Yohannan this morning said the terrorists let George go after telling him repeatedly they would kill him.
Yohannan said the terrorists had blindfolded George, tied his hands tied behind his back, and forced him to walk for hours to a forest hideout. He quoted George saying, "I was frightened and really thought I would never be freed. I thought about my wife and young children and felt helpless. That is when I began to meditate on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
George has overseen 26 Bridge of Hope centers that educate children, three radio broadcasts, a Bible college, and some 200 churches plus 300 missionaries.
Yohannan earlier this year told me about GFA's work.
American Christians sometime speak of suffering persecution in the U.S., but I suspect we should call it "harassment," and save the word "persecution" for what happens in Asia and elsewhere. … In America, persecution is someone says some bad words. In Orissa [an Indian state] 50,000 believers have to flee into the jungles for their lives. Right now we have a dear brother in prison in Bhutan for the next three years.
What's his "crime"? Preaching the gospel, baptizing people, seeing a church planted. A brother in Nepal was ten years in prison for seeing the work of God established. Just now he got released. I ran into brothers and sisters with scars on their foreheads and wounds. When they remove their shirts you can see healed wounds they received from beating and abuse. A brother saw them kill his own sister in front of his eyes for she wouldn't deny her faith.
GFA is well-known for supporting indigenous missionaries in Asia instead of importing them. … Eighty percent of the world's countries are completely restricted for others to come in and be missionaries, preach the gospel, baptize, and plant churches. Also, it takes $70-80,000 to send an American family to one of these countries. For that amount we can have 30-40 brothers or lady missionaries helping to plant a church and have it become self-supporting.
"Periodically we hear predictions of a massive movement of Dalits-those in India's 'untouchable' sub-caste-and then it doesn't occur. Is something taking place under the media radar?" Many of them are making their journey to Buddhism, some to Islam, but the majority are opting for the freedom and the hope that is in Christ. Responsible organizations will not give you all the information of what's going on because Americans are insatiable with information: They put it all over the world, and then people get murdered and rudely abused. My answer to you is God is working.
One of the ways Americans learn about things happening elsewhere in the world is through short-term mission trips. Are those valuable? Please take the word "mission" out of this thing. It is wrong for a pastor or a church or a denomination to say we have a tremendous mission program of fifty young people going to China. Having said that, I would say to the same church, please spend your money to send these kids overseas for two weeks or three weeks. Let them walk through the 5-million-people slums in Mumbai. Let them go to Kathmandu. Let them find out what's going on.
What effect do you think a trip like that would have? They will come back as an 18-year-old, their lives impacted forever so they will not end up living like their parents: Earn the new car, earn the new house, earn the degree, earn the new gadgets. Life-changing trips: Would the church rather spend money on that or buy another chandelier?