Jammu and Kashmir is divided into three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. Kashmir Valley due to its beautiful landscape was named ‘Paradise on Earth’. Jammu is an important pilgrim centre for the Hindus. Ladakh also known as ‘Little Tibet’ is sparsely vegetated but beautiful, and famous for Buddhist culture. Jammu and Kashmir is multi religious and ethnic. , Today, the beautiful Valley remains strife torn and under developed. Efforts are on to bring about peace, development and employment. There has been a relative decrease in terrorist activity but the Valley erupts whenever there is an incident of military atrocity. Under such circumstances ministry has no doubt been arduous and difficult. It is much more peaceful in Jammu and Ladakh as people in these regions do not support militancy or the secessionist movement
UESI ministry made its foray into J & K in the late 70s with Mr P.C. Varghese visiting J&K from South India and some input from Ms Jillian Steward, a missionary from Australia. Later, Deva & Parrot Sahayam made a survey trip.
But it was only 2006 that UESI sent Mr. Jim Reeves and me to J&K to pioneer the work among students. Since it was the first time that staffs were specifically appointed for J&K we had to start from a scratch. We made an unlikely pair as Jim is from Nagaland and I am from Andhra Pradesh. It was God’s doing that we both came together to work in a place which was far from home for both of us. Jim had a special vision for Kashmir while studying in Kolkata. I was burdened about J&K when I heard in a Missions retreat while I was a student in AP that there was no student work happening here.
We were helped a lot by Emmanuel Hospital Association team in our initial days, without their help and fellowship we wouldn’t have survived. I found it difficult to travel in the hills as the terrain was unfamiliar to me. During travels encountering the army was a frightening. But God gave us immense joy when we were able to begin our work with a DTC for EHA staff and some local believers. It was something we hadn’t dreamed. When we met a CNI pastor in Jammu, he welcomed us warmly and asked us to start a Bible study for the youth in the church. On the first day itself, four students accepted the Lord. One of them was Poonam who has joined as a UESI staff. The churches in Jammu were very supportive to us and encouraged us to start Bible studies for their youth.
After a year, Jim was sent to Kashmir and I continued in Jammu. His struggles were identity, lack of response and spiritual oppression while I struggle to nurture the students as we lack seniors to mentor them. I was afraid to travel in such a rough terrain, feared losing my life in an accident. I felt lonely, discouraged and cheated by the locals.
Since the usual ways to minister wouldn’t work especially in a tough place like Kashmir, Jim tried to make contacts by teaching guitar and playing football. He taught music in St. Paul’s International Academy. He toiled on for two years and now has moved to Chandigarh.
At present J&K has one affiliated EU(Jammu ICEU), Bible studies and student contacts in Srinagar, Udhampur and Samba. This year we organize two evangelistic camps and one DTC. We have two coordinators, Miss Goyir Nyodu from Arunachal Pradesh is based at Srinagar and Mr. Ramakrishna from Andhra Pradesh is based at Udhampur. Miss Poonam Sotra is undergoing staff training with UESI. I am based at Jammu with my wife
We are working out different ways to make contacts. Mr. Ramakrishna is giving weekly classes in a school and tuitions to some students. I have started a spoken English classes and I am about to finish with the first batch.
The Christian population of J&K is a measly 0.16%. Christians do not have a good reputation and looked down upon. The reasons are varied; many local Christians do not study well, while some are addicted to drugs and alcohol. There is a great need for a revival and unity among Christians. The so called Christian students are more hardened than those from other faiths. At times we feel that they are more receptive than those who are in the churches.
The challenge before us is developing students for effective leadership and sustaining the spiritual growth of students from other faiths. Apart from this we have severe manpower crunch. We need more missionary students, tent makers and staff to nurture students and establish ministry at different places.
There 21 Christian institutions in J&K which require committed Christian teachers and there are other industries which can provide job opportunities. South Indians are generally welcomed and in fact an owner of a school who is a Muslim asked me personally to send some teachers for his school. I think we need to eliminate the fear about Kashmir from the minds of the people. There is no problem for anybody to come and work in Kashmir. Now the situation has improved a lot in terms of militancy. We need to exercise much wisdom and grace when we share the Gospel as the land is still closed to the Gospel especially in the Valley. It may be difficult to share the Gospel openly and verbally but nobody can stop us sharing the Gospel through our lives.
The Gospel can certainly redeem the people of this state and set them free from sin. But it needs a lifelong commitment and the results cannot be seen in a year or two. We need a lot of patience and a long term commitment to bring about change in this part of the country. But I feel it was worth leaving my home and toil in this needy place. Things have not been easy, but have experienced God in a real way and there are no regrets.
Praise and Prayer
Praise God for all the inroads we have made and the growth of ministry in this region.
Pray for the coordinators, staff, contacts and the groups in Srinagar, Udhampur and Jammu.
Pray for this state as a whole, peace to prevail and the Prince of Peace is enshrined in the lives of people.