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Day 8

Hinduism 101

Over 800 million people in India practice Hinduism.


Today, Chris will take you into a Hindu temple, and together you'll discover more about what worship looks like for the majority of India's people.

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Chris' Journal

India: Day Eight

Today we visited the Hindu temple. I'm not going to lie - this was the most troubling part of my entire India trip.

Seeing people bow before statues, giving their hearts, minds and lives to elephants and idols - it's really disturbed me. To know the salvation of God and to see so many in spiritual darkness; it truly makes me want to take action. I am praying this video project inspires many more people to feel the same way.

Outside of the Hindu temple, our cameramen were getting different shots of the temple and a woman began to loudly scream at the top of her lungs. I asked what was going on - and the Indian cameraman told me that this woman was inviting the Hindu "gods" into her ... but in actuality she is opening herself up to the demonic. It is not "gods" that are entering in - but demons; and these demons are making her scream. Truly, this is nothing to play around with.

Demons are real, and they are active here. So many people are in darkness. My heart goes out to them...

Against that darkness, the light of the Gospel in India shines even brighter.

My heart was heavy after visiting the temple, but the Lord really encouraged me when I met Guna,* the former Hindu priest who is now a believer.

Guna's story is pretty inspirational. His wife was visited by the local church planter being trained by Mission India. He asked to pray with her and made frequent visits.

During this time, Guna became extremely ill and his body was covered with painful boils. He prayed and prayed to his Hindu gods - but to no avail. Guna's wife asked him to try and pray to the church planter's God - Jesus. Guna did. The next day his boils burst and he began to heal.

This certainly made Guna more interested in hearing about Jesus!

Guna was working as an assistant to the main priest of the village. One day this priest gave him a pretty unusual task. He handed Guna 100 bottles and said that he had trapped 100 demons in the bottles. He gave Guna a shovel and told him to bury the bottles.

Guna took the bottles to a distant field and then thought to himself, "If Jesus is the real God as the church planter says ... and if Jesus can heal disease and is over everything ... then I can break this bottle and Jesus will protect me."

Guna broke a bottle ... and nothing happened. Then he broke another ... then another. He broke all 100 bottles and nothing happened.

That day, Guna believed in Jesus. He confessed Christ as his Savior, left the Hindu priesthood, and followed Jesus.

Guna's income is now down by 75%. He and his family have been threatened with violence. In his own village, Guna is a hated man. But he is filled with the joy of Jesus and would never turn his back on Christ.

It makes you think - in America our confession of Christ rarely costs us so dearly ...but Guna's did. And Guna is amazingly joyful. I won't ever forget him.

*We have changed Guna's name to protect his safety.

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Chris' Photos

Today's closer look at Hinduism was certainly eye-opening, wasn't it?

See some more behind-the-scenes action from today when you click on the photo thumbnails below.

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Family Devotions

Where is God?

Today's memory verse: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24)

Imagine you had a shoebox under your bed and you could put a god in the box.

It would be kind of nice to take this god out when you were afraid. But then you could also put it back under the bed when you were about to do something bad that you did not want it to see.

Because it seems goofy to have an empty shoebox, you could put something in there that looks like god. And to make this god happy, you could put some food in the shoebox every morning, or maybe some flowers. Does that sound silly?

Some people make images of their god and then build a really big box to put it in. The image is called an idol and the box is a temple.

Read Acts 17:16-31. Does this sound like India? Why does the Bible say this is not how the Lord wants us to look at Him?

Go to the kitchen and get a piece of bread. Have you ever torn off the crust and mushed the soft bread into dough? Try it with half a slice of bread ... only half a slice. Shape that half into a little dough fish, and eat the other half of the bread. Can you imagine calling that fish made of dough your god while you are eating the other half of the slice?

Read together Isaiah 44:13-22. Instead of bread dough, Isaiah is talking about a piece of wood.

  • There is no THING like our God
  • There is no PLACE big enough to be His dwelling

But we should not think that the Lord so big or so distant that He lives far away in heaven and stays out of our daily lives. Talk about it as a family: Where is God? What are some of the ways He shows Himself to us today? Talk about the differences in how you would relate to a god you can put in a box and the Lord of heaven and earth. Why are you thankful to be a follower of Jesus?

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Land of Faiths

Religious faith is weaved into the very fabric of life in India.

In India you often see markings on people's foreheads. These markings have slightly different meanings in each region and culture.

This mother and son both have special markings. The white marking is Vibhuti ash, indicating their family belongs to the Shaivite sect of Hinduism.

Notice the red mark on the mother? This vermillion mark might indicate she recently visited a temple or shows her marital status. She also has a black bindi that is a superstitious mark to ward off evil. The little boy also has a black marking Hindus believe protect him from evil.

India is as overflowing with spirituality and faiths as it is with people and color. It is the birthplace of Hinduism, which is practiced by nearly 830 million Indians.

India is also the world's most Muslim-populated country, with 138 million followers. Many tribal people practice animism, or nature worship. There are Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, as well as followers of Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

When it became independent from the British in 1947, India became a secular nation. Secular means that there is no official religion.

Just like the United States, the Indian constitution promises each citizen the freedom to choose and practice their religion freely and openly.

In practice, however, Indian society and politics is dominated by the majority religion, Hinduism.

There are nearly 830 million Hindus in India, or 80.5% of the population. In contrast, just 24 million people are followers of Jesus - or 2.3% of the population.

In some regions of India, just 0.1% of people are Christians. One study showed that 87% of Hindus and Muslims in Asia don't know a single Christian!

Did you know that there are over 330 million gods and goddesses worshipped in India today? That's about 1 god for every 3 people in India!

Hindus believe each of these gods is a reincarnation of the three main Hindu gods:

  • Brahma - the creator
  • Vishnu - the preserver
  • Shiva - the destroyer

Some Hindu families worship just one or two of these gods, while other families worship dozens of different gods and goddesses.

Most Hindu homes have idols that represent their gods. They pray to these idols and perform puja, or worship, by offering sacrifices of food and flowers.

India also has many Hindu temples devoted to different gods and goddesses. Many Hindus will make a pilgrimage, or holy trip, to temples during special holidays or festivals.

Along with Hinduism, India is the birthplace of three other major world religions: Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism

Sikhism is followed by about 19 million Indians. Three out of four Sikhs live in the Indian state of Punjab, where the religion's founder, Guru Nanak, lived during the 15th century (AD). Sikh men wear turbans that cover their hair, which they never cut. Sikhs hope to achieve sainthood through their devotion to god and service to mankind. India's current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is the first Sikh to hold this important position.

Buddhism has about 8 million followers in India. This religion is based on the 5th century (BC) teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha ("The Enlightened One"). Buddhists hope to reach nirvana, or freedom from suffering and the cycle of reincarnation, through meditation and following moral practices.

Jainism is practiced by about 4 million people in India. This ancient religion could date back as far in history as the 8th century (BC). Jains seek spiritual development by increasing personal wisdom and self-control. Jainism does not have a creator god. Instead, Jains believe every living soul is divine. Like Hindus, Jains believe in karma and reincarnation.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights

From November 5 to 9, millions of Hindus across India and around the world will celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights.

Diwali is a very exciting and colorful Hindu holiday. Diwali is observed in almost all regions of India and has been celebrated for hundreds of years. Diwali is the Hindu New Year festival, and falls on a different date each year because the Hindu calendar is based on the lunar cycle.

Diwali means row of lights, and the main attraction is the candles and lamps, called diyas, that are lit in almost every home after puja (worship). Many Hindus also give thanks to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and pray for a good new year, which starts the day after Diwali.

Similar to Christmas, Diwali is a time when many families enjoy wearing new clothes and exchange gifts and sweets with friends and neighbors. This festival is celebrated over a period of five days with dancing, many lights, and fireworks.

Diwali also marks the end of the harvest season on many parts of India and is the last major celebration before winter.

Many kids in India eagerly look forward to Diwali

Explore some of these online resources to see how kids in India celebrate Diwali:

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Persecution in India

In India, the laws say that people can choose their own religion and worship freely.

People are supposed to be treated equally, whether they choose to be Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or any other faith.

Most people in India are Hindu. Many of these Hindus believe India should be a Hindu nation and that Christianity is a "foreign" religion. Some higher-caste people see Christianity as a threat to the power and control they have had enjoyed for many centuries over the lower castes and Untouchables.

Because of this, many Christians in India like Guna are treated badly for following Jesus. This is called persecution.

Sometimes Christians are called bad names or even kicked out of their homes by their own families for choosing to follow Jesus. Christians are sometimes put in jail on false charges. And sadly, some people in India hurt and even kill Christians.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were told to STOP speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John would not STOP. They said "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

The apostles suffered a great deal of persecution because they would not stop telling everyone the Good News of Jesus. John was imprisoned. Peter was crucified.

But the Bible says they rejoiced "because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." (Acts 5:31).

Just like the apostles, Christians in India will not STOP preaching the name of Jesus.

In spite of all the persecution and violence, India's Christians are still believing ... reading ... meeting ... teaching ... witnessing.

And by helping boys and girls in India go to Children's Bible Clubs, you are showing the love of Jesus to many families in India!

You can pray for India's persecuted believers.

The second Sunday in November is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. On this day, Christians from many countries will be praying for their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in India and all around the world.

Each week, Mission India's staff in the United States and India gathers to pray over the dozens of prayer requests and praise items we receive from our partners in India. Many of these are related to persecution.

Click here for a list of recent prayer & praise points from India.

Please join us in praying for these children and families, and praise God for the many ways He is at work in India!

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Roshan's Story

My name is Roshan.

I am 17 years old and I live in Uttar Pradesh, about 2 hours from India's capital city, New Delhi. My father supports our family of three kids on what he earns as a mason.

About two years ago I fell gravely ill. My parents didn't know what to do - the doctors gave me many kinds of medicine but nothing made me feel better.

Desperate, my father took me to various witch doctors. Each one demanded money, wine and livestock every time we visited, but their magical spells did not work on me.

A neighbor suggested we visit the home of Vivek, a local Christian who leads a Children's Bible Club. Vivek gladly prayed to Jesus for my health - I was completely healed!

My entire family received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. We removed the idols from our house and we started attending church together.

That summer, Vivek invited me to teach the boys and girls at a Children's Bible Club. I attended a teacher training session, and then I began teaching the children as a Club leader. I loved to talk with them about Jesus and to pray for them.

But there weren't many other Christians in our village. Soon, the other men in the village began to taunt my father. They said, "You have committed a big mistake by accepting a low caste foreign God. Will the people accept your daughters for marriage when they grow up? If you want to mingle with us, you ought to first denounce Christianity. It's your choice - it's either us or your low caste God."

When Dad came home that night, I could tell that the words of his friends had troubled him. The next day, Dad sternly warned us, "Stop worshipping Jesus immediately. He isn't to be worshipped as God."

But my mom and I said, "We are not going to worship or accept any other god than Jesus."

Dad was very angry. He dragged my mom and me out into the street and began beating us severely. Within a few minutes, the villagers gathered in large numbers and watched. They yelled insults at my mother and me.

My dad stopped and said loudly, "Either denounce Christianity or worship the Hindu gods!" Mom and I both said, "No."

Dad kicked us out of his house.

Soon, Mom and I found refuge at a local church. But my dad filed a complaint with the police, claiming that my mom and I were forcing villagers to become Christians by bribing them with money and gifts.

The police arrested us, but during the interrogation they couldn't find any evidence to support my dad's accusations against us. Within a few hours, the police let us go.

My father still refuses to let us come home. I am working to help my mother provide for me and my two sisters. It's makes me sad to think that my own dad doesn't want to believe in Jesus, or that he cares more about what his friends say than being with his own family. But we are still praying for him every night.

Please pray that God will continue to meet all the needs of my family, and that my dad will turn his life over to Jesus.

Note: To protect the safety of Roshan and his family, we have changed his name and not used his picture.