In 1978 Pastor K. T. Paul from Udhampur started visiting the Jindrah area of the Himalayan foothills of India. The ride out on the bus took him past many beautiful vistas: deep gorges cluttered with rocks and the majestic, snow-capped Himalayan mountain peaks looming in the distance. In early spring, white jasmine flowers cropped out of the rocks and bright yellow mustard bloomed in people’s fields, while tulips and red roses gladdened their gardens. It was a seemingly idyllic setting.
For two years K. T. and his wife, Esther, faithfully made the trek by bus to the Jindrah area and patiently shared the gospel, but not a single person believed. No results. At the end of the day, they would get back on the public transit and make their way back to Udhampur.
One day, as K. T. and Esther were returning to Udhampur, four young men riding the bus suddenly stood up, stopped the bus, dragged K. T. off the bus, and started beating and kicking him fiercely. Esther jumped out and began screaming at the young men, “Please don’t beat my husband. Please stop! He didn’t do anything to you.”
Meanwhile, the bus driver, not wanting himself or his passengers to get involved, drove off. The more Esther screamed, the more the young men mercilessly beat her husband and kicked him in the belly, until he lost consciousness. The young men then said, “Let’s throw him over the edge.”
Esther fell over her husband and pled with them at the top of her lungs, “Please don’t do this! Please don’t do this!”
Finally, the four young men walked off and left K. T. on the side of the road with Esther sobbing over his bruised body.
K. T. lay there, bruised, bleeding, and semi-conscious for about half an hour until a cab came by. Esther hailed the cab and said, “Please help me.” The driver, with Esther’s help, lifted her husband into his car, and brought them to Udhampur Hospital. They cleaned his wounds, provided first aid, kept him overnight, and discharged him the next day to rest at home.
“After this, we did not allow any pastor to go to that region,” said Santosh Thomas, director of Kashmir Evangelical Fellowship in Udhampur. “But we long prayed that somehow the gospel would reach the people of Jindrah.”
A miracle opens the door
One day two men and two women brought a demon-possessed girl to the prayer chapel at Union Church. Pastor Cherandas, his wife Gita, and Pastor Bakshi, shared the gospel with the family and told them what Jesus would do. Finally they prayed and the Lord miraculously delivered the girl from demonic bondage. She was totally set free.
They talked with the family further and asked what village they came from.
“Jindrah,” they said.
After the shock sunk in, the pastoral team decided to visit the family in their home. So the following week, Cherandas and several others visited the family in Jindrah and taught them more thoroughly about Jesus. “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life,” they told them, “and if you would believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you and your family would be saved.”
After some patient teaching, and realizing their daughter was set free from the demon through prayer to Jesus, all the members of that family gave their lives to Christ.
The pastoral team, greatly encouraged, started visiting the family every other week for Bible teaching and prayer. Soon the family began making the hour-and-a-half journey by bus to Udhampur to worship at Union Church. After the service they returned home by bus. Every Sunday they spent six hours of their lives just coming to church to hear the word of God and worship with other believers.
One family leads to a church
Over the next two years 45 families from Jindrah accepted Christ and started attending church in Udhampur. The transit company added an extra bus to carry the passengers. By 1999 Kashmir Evangelical Fellowship decided Jindrah should have its own church.
The previous year missionaries from the ministry had met Raman, a young man passionate for the Lord. They sent him to Bible school in Jammu, and by 2001 he was ready to take charge as pastor in Jindrah.
The ministry began to look for land for a church, but the residents refused to give their land for a church. One of the new converts, however, formerly a Hindu priest, offered his personal property right on the main road. The Christians rejoiced, but the news didn’t sit well with his family.
His two younger brothers began to visit him almost nightly to beat him up. “Why did you give your property to the church?” they demanded.
“It was my property, not yours, and I can do with it what I want,” he said.
They kept up their assaults until tragedy struck them. After their ritual bludgeoning one night, they were both so drunk that one of them stepped into the path of an oncoming truck and was killed. Fear crept into the heart of the other brother, and he ceased his attempts at intimidation.
By this time, Santosh had raised sufficient funds for the building, and construction began under the direction of Pastor Cherandas.
One day a man of the community stopped Cherandas on the road, looked him in the face, and said, “If you don’t stop building that church and telling the people about Jesus, I won’t hesitate to shoot you.”
Cherandas looked right back at him, said, “My God will answer you,” and walked away.
One week later Cherandas heard the awful report that freed him to move forward fearlessly: three men from Jammu came to the man’s house and shot him dead over a dispute about some personal business.
The masonry work was completed in May of 2009, but the plastering, painting, electrical work and installation of windows and doors took two years longer. The church was finally dedicated in March 2011.
Pastor Raman now pastors the church with his wife, Sangeeta, and their three children: their son Vikas (24), training in Bible College in Jammu; their daughter, Shaloo (22); and their son Bharath (15).
Even today the community is not happy that a church stands in their midst, and Santosh told me not to take any pictures outside the building; he took them for me. Now, 40 years after Pastor K. T.’s near-death pummeling, a strong church of 100 believers meets in the building and an additional 50 believers meet in house churches in the area.