When Pastor ‘Yoshi’ unlatched the door of his home to see who was pounding on it, he immediately recognised the group of men standing before him. Their saffron-coloured headbands along with the sticks and iron bars in their fists clearly identified the 10 men as members of the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad – The World Council of Hinduism) a militant, nationalist Hindu group known for beating and harassing Christians. Yoshi braced himself for the beating that was sure to come.
Their visit that evening in late 2009 wasn’t totally unexpected. Every Indian village has an informant who reports anti-Hindu activity and the village VHP informant had visited their home in India’s north earlier that day looking for Yoshi.
The Hindu activists were upset because a couple of weeks earlier Yoshi had shown the Jesus film to about 400 people in a rural village in Uttar Pradesh. Afterward, Hindu leaders accused Yoshi of being ‘anti-national’ and an American agent, serious accusations from groups whose stated goals are to cleanse India and make it a pure Hindu society.
Yoshi was raised in a Hindu family, but became the first convert to Christianity in his family after listening to Christian radio programs.. He led his wife to the Lord in 2004 and entered full-time ministry in 2006.
When Yoshi recognised Santhram Singh, the infamous VHP district leader, at his front door, he wondered if he was about to give up his life for Jesus.
We Will Burn YouSanthram grabbed Yoshi and dragged him about 45 metres down the road. When Yoshi’s 3-year-old son ran crying after his father, Aja was alerted to what was happening and came to stand beside her husband. Yoshi argued with the men, telling them that under the Indian constitution he was free to share his religion with others. Santhram slapped him in the face. “I’m not critiquing Hinduism,” Yoshi told him. “I’m telling people about Jesus.” Yoshi later told VOM workers that although he was not afraid, he knew his situation was serious. “My heart was not trembling,” he said, “but I knew only God could help me.”
Yoshi’s wife, Aja, stepped between her husband and Santhram, and the men then turned their anger toward her, telling her to make her husband stop preaching. They verbally abused her for another 30 minutes. However, Aja was unshaken by their threats. “You found us while we were alone here,” she scolded. “How about you come to where my husband is preaching if you are so courageous? See if the people are for you or for him!”
While Aja argued with the men, Yoshi received a phone call from a friend and stepped aside to answer the call. The Hindu activists continued to threaten Aja. “We’ll burn him like in Odisha!” they yelled. They were referring to an incident in 1999 in which Hindu activists burned Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons to death while they slept in their car.
The diminutive, soft-spoken Aja only replied, “Burn us. We don’t fear that.” She was sure they were all going to be killed.
Suddenly, someone realised Yoshi was on the phone. “He’s calling the police,” they said. Within a minute, the men jumped into their jeep and left.
UnstoppableShortly afterward, the pastor and his family were kicked out of their rented home. The activists had pressured their landlord to evict them. In the years since, they’ve been forced to move eight times because the Hindu activists threaten their landlords each time. Even some Christians are afraid to associate with the family publicly. But Yoshi’s confidence is in a future with Christ. He continues to share the Gospel and lead a house church of 150 people while overseeing 300 other house churches in the area. Yoshi is one of the hundreds of front-line workers VOM is supporting in India with Gospel kits, transportation tools, Bibles and other materials to help them share the Gospel.