He sits silently with dignity in his chair. A man of some eighty years, he wears age with grace and simplicity. He smiles, with contentment. He is surrounded that afternoon by some of his close family and friends.
It is the first time I have met Mano, and the curiosity within me, comes out with a question about his life story.
He tells about how he was developing a small business in the town near the village where he once lived.
He goes on to say that somehow the question “What is a Christian?” came to his mind. He was disillusioned with Hinduism which his family had followed since childhood. That had proved to be difficult and financially costly.
Very few people in his tribal group were Christians at that time, so he approached a school teacher he knew, a Christian, and asked about Christianity. The teacher, a Mr Koloi explained Christianity to Mano, and then gave him a small pamphlet about it.
The pamphlet was about Christ, and how he takes us from darkness to light. Mano says the document helped him, and he decided to follow Jesus. He was subsequently baptised. That was in 1976.
Mano continues. News about his baptism circulated around the village where he lived. Most residents in the village were Hindu, and they objected to Mano becoming a follower of Jesus. They quietly pressured him to leave their village.
Mano, together with his wife and children, moved to a distant village and settled there. In his new found community he began to preach the message of hope in Jesus. Later, an evangelist from a nearby church joined him.
Limited in experience and knowledge, they would sing songs, read the Bible in the market places, and surrounding villages. People began to respond to their witness, and gradually churches were planted.
While I sit there looking at a man who has been fruitful in his many years of serving the Lord, other members of his family chip in with their comments.
They tell me that during his forty years of witness, persecution in a mild form again forced him to move with his family, this time to a neighbouring village. Yet Mano continued, communicating the Good News story.
A local pastor, from his tribal community also sits in the room. Speaking with honour, he says that Mano has been involved in the planting of 15 churches in his area.
I feel a sense of amazement. Amazed at how the Spirit of God so inspires a man, who seemingly had so little experience of what we call Christianity. I am honoured to meet a man who has boldly announced the Good News that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and in so doing planted churches in communities where once there was none.
Truly that is mission.
- Story from South Asia