It is said that at the core of the 10-40 window is India. In the core of that core, there is Northern India. And at the core of Northern India, in the very heart of the 10-40 window, there is Bihar.
Known as the "Heartland of Backwardness", Bihar is home to over 100,000,000 people. The average lifespan is around 53 years, and the per capita income per person each year is around $67 USD. It is both "first" and "last" in India; first in poverty rates (40%) and last in literacy rates (63.82%). The first Google search result for the state reveals a series of articles on a recent school "topper" scam, where parents paid money for their children to receive higher grades and exam results. And out of the entire population, less than 1% are a part of a Christian church, or know the love of Jesus.
It is with this in mind that the New India Evangelistic Association joined with volunteers from the Beyond Borders, Bangalore team to organize a Vacation Bible School for children in three different areas of Katihar and Purnia districts. From May 19th-28th, students were given the opportunity to receive clothing, food, play games, and learn about the message of God’s love.
In the south-eastern Katihar district, almost 400 children came out to enjoy the event from May 19th-21st. The VBS was broken up into two sessions: the first was aimed towards the younger children, from 4-12 years old. Here, the kids learned songs and dances that taught them about the Bible in a fun and imaginative way. After that, they heard from a few of their leaders. The leaders told them stories from their own lives, including how they came to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, and how their lives have changed since then. In the second session, children ages 13 and up gathered together for similar songs and dances. They were treated to a skit that demonstrated messages from the Bible, and heard the testimonies of a few of their leaders as well. They also had a time of general learning about the Bible, God, and the Gospel message. After this, they broke up into small groups to discuss what they had learned, their lives, and how they could be prayed for. Leaders from each group prayed for their students, and afterwards, they all returned together for a time of games and fun.
The next two days followed similar patterns- children were taught songs, played competitive games, heard stories, and went to classes to learn more about the Word. As a special treat, a ventriloquist visited and performed for the children as well. The older group enjoyed skits every day and were able to spend time with their leaders in community and prayer. At the end of the three days, students were given the opportunity to follow Jesus, and many did! This time of encouragement was vital to many of the students, including one of the older students from a remote rural village background.
"My family members and other relatives started talking against me and my faith but I have learned the power of forgiveness through the VBS program. The experiences Uncle George shared in the program really motivated and encouraged me. I realized that there is God who has a better plan for me and my future and it will come to pass even though there are so many challenges in my life at present."
–Premlatha, Student at Kewatiya VBS
From there, NIEA and the Beyond Borders team moved to Purnia district, where they hosted their second VBS with the theme "Unstoppable". Like the Katihar VBS, this one was held over the course of three days from the 23rd-25th. And even though the first day was filled with rain, almost 320 children came out to enjoy the fun.
Their days were split up between two sessions: a morning one for children 4-12, and an afternoon one for the youths 13 and older. Both groups were treated to VBS classes where they learned Bible stories and lessons from Scripture. They also had time for playing games, drawing pictures, learning activity songs, and watching skits. Throughout all of the lessons, the same message was emphasized: if God is with you, you have nothing to be afraid of.
For one meeting, the session leader, George Ebenezer, spoke about what it means to be hungry for the Lord. Other leaders shared their testimonies with the students, and led them in small group times where they were able to lift the children up in prayer and counsel them. At the end of the VBS, there were many children who accepted Jesus into their hearts.
The final VBS was held on May 26th-28th, in the Purnia district. The lessons here were based on Psalm 18:29, which also followed the theme of "Unstoppable". Each day, the NIEA and Beyond Borders teachers and volunteers focused on a different aspect of God: His power, His promise, and His passionate love. Around 350 children were able to take part in this program, even children as young as four years old.
Like the other locations, the students were split up into two sessions: children 11 and under took part in the morning meetings, and youths 12 and up took part in the afternoon ones. Each session contained songs, skits, and stories from the Bible. Children worked to memorize Scripture and competed in games against each other. At one point, the adolescent girls got a special evening session of their own. There, they were able to discuss unique issues, receive mentoring, and enjoy fellowship with one another.
At each of these events, children's needs were met spiritually as well as physically. Food and medication were provided for over 1,000 children, and for many, the VBS served as a time of encouragement and strengthening in their faith.
"Uncle George has shared his testimony that has influenced my life… [I have] decided to grow and read the Bible daily. Now I am attending church regularly [and] praying regularly. Please pray for me."
–Ashok, Student at Bindhtola VBS
The New India Evangelistic Association has made an impact in other areas of Bihar as well. Through medical care, Bible training, church planting, Scripture translation, and children's ministries like Vacation Bible School, they stay true to their motto: "Serving the neediest in society, being innovative, and facilitating transformation."
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At NIEA, we are in the business of envisioning a New India. Serving in a largely under-developed part of India, transformation is what we seek. Transformation is the progressive and ongoing measurable supernatural impact of the presence and power of God working in, through, and apart from the Church on human society and structures. It addresses the plea “Lord, may your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Over the past 2 years, we have seen the power of God's Word go forth as eager listeners and readers have access to Scripture in their own heart language. Lives are changed, and as committed disciples engage with the Living Word, dramatic results ensue.
Individuals are being called to be conformed to the image of Christ. Churches are being challenged to be renewed. This motif encompasses every facet of human society and calls for an understanding of the Greek word “metamorphoo” which means to change from one degree of glory to another, with ever increasing glory (see John 4:14; 2 Cor. 3:18, I John 3:9).
Through the multi-faceted ministry of training, church planting, child care, education, medical services and scripture translation, our focus is to see the nation transformed -one by one, village by village, state by state. God's peace and grace be with you!
Leading as many as possible to Christ, especially the most needy in society,
by growing the ministries we offer