Sunday, July 7, 2013


internationalsWINTER 2008-09 on campus
Training Students to
Reach Hindus
Page 8
Bringing the Gospel
to our Muslim Friends
Page 12
Sharing Jesus with
Indian Students
Page 19
internationalsWINTER 2008-09 on campus
Training Students to
Reach Hindus
Page 8
Bringing the Gospel
to our Muslim Friends
Page 12
Sharing Jesus with
Indian Students
Page 19


In international student ministry,

we are always asking questions.

How do we, for example, do a better job of adjusting our attitudes
and activities to reach the different groups of international students
on our campuses? How do we discern authentic spiritual hunger?
How do we partner with God and His people in describing and
displaying the wonders of Godís grace, cross-culturally? Our prayer
is that many international students will have a genuine encounter
with Jesus Christ during their sojourn in our midst.

One former Hindu asked, ìWho was this Jesus who could break
the bondage of karma, who said he had the power to forgive sins?
I had to know.î In his search, this Hindu delved seriously into the
gospels, and in the end, he wrote: ìFor a while I tried to incorporate
Jesus into the pantheon of deities arrayed on the altar.î It
soon dawned on him that Jesus did not belong there. Jesus was
unique and utterly different. ìOne night, after meditating on the
account of the death and resurrection of Jesus in Johnís gospel, I
asked Jesus to forgive my sins, to set me free from the bondage of
karma, and to become the Lord of my life.î For a full account, read
ìChrist and Karma: A Hinduís Quest for the Holyî on page 179 of
Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians,
InterVarsity Press.

In this issue of Internationals on Campus we focus on how to relate
with South Asian students. India, for three consecutive years, has
been the number one country sending international students to the
United States. Nepal is number 13. The articles give helpful and
practical tips on crossing culture and sharing the gospel.

Lisa Espineli Chinn

National Director,
International Student Ministry

contentsReaching Indians Looks Different
than Reaching Other Internationals.................................... 4
Training Students to Reach 8
Aradhna 11
Bringing the Gospel to our Muslim 12
Keys to Ministering to 16
Thoughts on Sharing Jesus with
Hindu or Indian 19 22
Internationals on Campus is an International Student Ministry (ISM)
publication of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USAÆ.
Publisher: Alec D. Hill
Executive Editor: Lisa Espineli Chinn
Editor: Brian Hart
Graphic Designer: Gary Nauman
Photos contributed by Lisa Espineli Chinn, Brian Hart, Kathy Petersen, and K. Schmidt
are used by permission.
Names of people in the stories may have been changed to protect their identities.
© 2008 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USAÆ
InterVarsity ISM website:
Questions or Comments?
View Internationals on Campus online at:
internationalsWINTER 2008-09 on campus


Indians Looks
Different than

by Matthew Agrafi otis

India, known for its diverse spiritual richness, is the number one
sending country of international students to the USA. A majority of
these students are Hindu, believing in many gods, and are therefore
open to including the Lord Jesus in their life. Yet, few Christian
student ministries see extensive Indian participation in their activities.
Perhaps the main reason Indians and other South Asians do
not attend ministry events is that they do not connect with the
style of ministry that is so attractive to East Asians. No matter how
diverse each international student ministry strives to be, it will attract
particular cultures more than others. Ministry leaders need to
be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular style of
ministry. Though there are many important cultural issues that can
create roadblocks for student ministries to reach Indians and other
South Asians, there are three issues that must be addressed: community,
focus on conversion, and approach to spirituality.

Community is the conduit of trust

Community has a strong infl uence on Indians. A decision to attend
an event may be infl uenced more by what others say than by a

fancy fl ier or even the content of the activity. It is amazing how
fast word of mouth travels in community. ìMen and women take
great pleasure in telling others what they know about and value
mostî (Sabbamma 152). Even a community back home will impact
day-to-day decisions for students in North America. If Indians trust
a friend, more than likely, their family members thousands of miles
away will know that friend by name and other Indians on campus
will know about that friend even before they meet. Rapport with
individual Indians can be enhanced by building rapport within
the community that infl uences them. Joining in festivals, visiting
temples for special events, playing cricket, helping with basic
needs, and enjoying a meal with students at their apartment are
all ways to build trust with the Indian community.

Rethinking the conversion process

Since not all East Asians believe in God, many international student
ministries fi rst teach students to believe in God and then encourage
them to have faith in Jesus Christ. If an atheist or agnostic
comes to believe there is a God, ministry leaders get excited because
that person is on the right track. However, most South Asian


Hindus already believe in many gods or one God that is manifested
through many avatars, so they may easily accept the incarnation of
God into Jesus. Thus, ministries focusing simply on belief that Jesus
is God may not be fruitful.

A better approach would be to consider that the Hindu will have
no problem believing in Jesus. My Hindu friends say a Hindu
believes in ìn + 1 gods.î So we should be ready to allow a Hindu
to make Jesus of Nazareth the ì+ 1î as they learn about Jesus.
For the Hindu, the process of coming to faith in the Lord Jesus
may fi rst look more like syncretism (adding Jesus to their belief
in many other gods) and later become singular devotion to Jesus
as a ìYeshu Bhaktî (devotee). Ministries should focus on helping
students experience what it means to be devoted followers of Jesus,
rather than relying solely on intellectual or emotional appeals.
Many Hindu students come with the preconception that Christians
want them to convert, which they understand as leaving their
family, disrespecting their culture, and aligning themselves with the
Western culture that colonized them. Thus, they are very cautious
about being a part of anything that is Christian. Insisting that they
need to convert and leave idolatry, without giving them a place to
experience devotion to the Lord Jesus, is unnecessary. As Hindus
mature in their understanding of Jesus as Lord and experience faith
in him, they may be ready to give up things that hinder them in
their devotion to Jesus.

Thirsting for authentic devotion

Some East Asian students come from secular, atheist, or other backgrounds
where public religious discussions are not common. They
may arrive in North America with a lot of curiosity about the Bible
and Christianity. Sometimes they may be very open to modern apologetic
approaches to sharing the gospel. However, Indians have a
very rich spiritual heritage. ìNominal Hindusî who uphold a fraction
of their religious traditions fi nd themselves much more devoted than
most sincere Christians they encounter in North America. Fellowship
meetings that are largely social entertainment may serve to solidify
the idea that Christianity is a shallow and sterile faith. Indians enjoy
good fun, but do not appreciate it as bait for religious activities. A
more attractive approach would be devotion modeled by those following
Jesus. Ideally this would happen regularly as part of daily life

and not just at a religious meeting. Hindus should be welcomed to
join in devotional activities, but not always directly invited until they
expressed their thirst for such devotion.

Marks of Hindu-friendly ministries

Scripture clearly records that humans are created in the image of
God (Gen 1:27). To reach out beyond our own culture, we must be
students of the work that God has done in other cultures and build
on that work as we share our faith. Too many times, culture has
been lost as the collateral damage of sharing the gospelóthis has
been the case for many Indians who felt compelled to leave family
and adopt Western culture to become Christians. ìGod loves
people as they are culturally. As we see from the Bible, he is willing
to work within everyoneís culture and language without requiring
them to convert to another cultureî (Kraft 391). Ministries
that connect well with the Hindu culture are marked by authentic
friendships, focus on people and relationships (rather than on
Christian programs), and demonstrate faith lived out through devotion,
prayer, and study of Scripture.

Kraft, Charles H. ìCulture, Worldview and Contextualization.î Perspectives on the
World Christian Movement: A Reader, Third Edition, Eds. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C.
Hawthorne. William Carey Library, 1999. 384-391.

Sabbamma, B.V. New Patterns for Discipling Hindus. William Carey Library, 1970.


Training Students
to Reach Hindus

by Evelyn Stephens

I have found that the students who are most effective with Hindus
are the ones who are teachable and willing to put themselves in
uncomfortable situations for the sake of the gospel. When working
among Hindus, one needs to be particularly aware of the cross-
cultural dynamics. It is important to teach students to enter another
culture with a learning posture and willingness to go the extra mile,
so they can reach the heart of a person. This is especially important
in reaching Hindus, since most are not interested in learning new
cultures or becoming ìAmericanized.î They usually do not need
as much help with English as some internationals and often have a
strong group identity on a campus. This means it is crucial to enter
into the Hindu student world, rather than trying to draw them out
into programs and other communities.

Hindus sometimes see conversion as a change in community
identity, rather than a belief distinction. Thus, invitations to
ìconvertî to Christianity will likely not be accepted. Hinduism is
complex because it is really a way of life and a family of religions,
rather than one set of beliefs. Thus, even training students in
basic Hindu theology is diffi cult, since the majority of Hindus on
campus may not agree on one set of beliefs. Our aim is not the
type of cultural conversion that the Hindu students fear. It is to
share Jesus and allow him to draw people in and change them
completely as they decide to make him the Lord of their life.

The best way to reach Hindus is to share Jesus and talk about
personal faith and beliefs, asking about their personal beliefs
rather than getting involved in theological debates. Often such
debates center around issues that the Hindu does not even
believe, but has been taught to defend, so it can be fruitless to
argue against these ideas. The students who are most effective
with Hindus are the ones who form authentic friendships,
showing genuine love and care. These students are able to

Quick Guide to Meeting
Indian Students on Campus

Events: Get involved in Indian student organizations
and community activities such as playing
cricket. Learn about and attend Indian cultural

Food: Eat Indian food, and ask students to show
you how to cook it. Bring snacks to any gathering
where you hope to have Indian students. Serve
mostly vegetarian foods or chicken.

Bollywood Movies: After meeting people at
cultural events, you could host a Bollywood fi lm
night or a dinner gathering at your home where
you order or cook Indian food.

Gatherings: Start a get together that is focused
on creating friendships that will also help them
with their felt needs, like how to write a resume,
get an interview, and obtain a driverís license.

Friendships: Develop a few genuine friendships
rather than many shallow friendships.

tell about their personal faith in Jesus and learn about the
Hindu studentís beliefs as their friend. This often leads to fruitful
conversations where the Christian can share who Jesus is, what
he teaches about God and demonstrate what it means to give
our lives to Jesus and receive life from him. This demonstration
is more powerful to many Hindus than any well-constructed
argument of doctrine.


As a student group, we encourage our members to be a part of the
Hindu student club on campus. Together we go to their festivals and
parties. We also attend important community functions like dance
recitals and Diwali. In these ways, we connect to the culture and
have a natural meeting place to develop friendships with Hindus.
Once the friendships are formed, it is important to train students to
go deeper in friendships and really get to know one another through
giving to and receiving from our Hindu friends.

One of the most effective students I have seen in befriending Hindus
takes a genuine interest in Hindu culture. She watches a lot of
Bollywood fi lms and takes dance lessons in traditional Hindu dance
styles. She learned the basic stories of the Mahabharata and the
Ramayana. In this way, she connects with the culture and shows
her respect for their way of life. She has a love for Indian food and
clothing and also attends cultural festivals and frequently invites
Indian students to her apartment. Indian students are impressed to
meet someone who has a sincere interest in their life. Yet, because of
her genuine friendship, she also is able to share about her personal
belief in Jesus and to pray to Jesus on behalf of her friends. One of
her friends recently confi ded that he is interested in
Jesus and may want to read the Bible.

Prayer is a crucial component in getting
started in Hindu ministry. We have to seek
the Lord and ask him to lead us to the students
who are cross-cultural and able to
easily relate with Indian students. We also
have to pray that the gatekeepers of the
Hindu community will welcome us in with
open arms. Once the key people in the
community are welcoming and friends
with us, it will be much easier to
relate with the group at large. So,
we must continually put everything
into Godís hands throughout the
process of relating. Prayer keeps
us in a solid relationship with
Christ and allows us to acknowledge
that God is the one at work
through our relationships and
that God is the only one capable
of changing our friends hearts
and minds.

Aradhna Concerts

by Robert Howe

InterVarsityís International Student Ministry at Virginia Tech sponsored
a series of concerts by the Hindi-language music group Aradhna in
order to reach out to the Indian community. Last spring around 200
people attended the Sunday night concert on campus, fi lling up all
the seats and the fl oor in front of the stage. Lead vocalist and sitar
player Chris Hale, who grew up in India and Nepal, amazed the
crowd with his fl uent Hindi as he joyfully sang and spoke of Jesus
as his master and teacher.

The response from Indian students was positive, and they recognized
Aradhnaís genuine faith through the bandís humble posture of
adoration. The concert also drew many American students and community
members, as well as other international students, who were
enriched by seeing and hearing Christ worshiped in a non-Western
cultural form.

Perhaps the greatest affect from Aradhnaís concert has been on
the organizers themselves. As the student leaders, volunteers, and
InterVarsity staff gathered to pray for the concerts, they all worshiped
God through bhajans (the devotional songs Aradhna sings).
The bhajansí peaceful and meditative quality helped them to rest in
the Lord in the midst of organizing concert logistics and publicity.

As a follow-up to the concerts, the organizers invited attendees to
a series of ìBhajan Nightsî in an Indian familyís home, where they
learned and sang together some of Aradhnaís songs. The ìBhajan
Nightsî gave curious Hindu-background students a further opportunity
to learn about Prabhu Yeshu, Lord Jesus, within a safe and
welcoming community.

We are thankful for those who came to the ìBhajan Nightsî seeking
to worship God, as well as the many students who heard the
gospel proclaimed through the concerts. Overall, the experience
of hosting Aradhna was a blessing to us and our campus, and well
worth the time, money, and energy involved.


John 3:Bringing the
Gospel to our
Muslim Friends

by K. Schmidt

The smell of freshly baked fl at bread wafts through the open door.
Inside, dried blackberries with walnuts are sold to men in fl owing
white pants with knee-length shirts. Farther up the street restaurants
prepare mutton and curry, and the menu describes desserts
from a far away land.

No, this isnít Kabul, but a small section of an American city. Forty
years ago, when my mom graduated from high school here, there
were few people of color. Now itís home to one of the largest
Afghan populations in the USA, and residents call the area ìLittle
Kabul.î Next door is the local state university, where I minister to

The university has a large Muslim population, and as I spend time
on campus I meet Afghan students, but also people from across
South Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iran, to
name a few. The majority of these nations adhere to Islam.

According to the Morgan Spurlock 30 Days documentary on
Muslims in America, when the American on the street hears the
word ìMuslimî the fi rst word that comes to mind is ìterrorist.î


And yet we would make a grave mistake if we were to think that
every Muslim is a terrorist or that every terrorist is Muslim. In fact,
one might be surprised by the variety of practices and beliefs that
can be found among people who self-identify as Muslims. Iíve
learned not to assume anything.


One of my friends, ìSara,î is a Pakistani woman who is very open to
Christianity. She had lived in other parts of the US, and everywhere
she went, she met and had significant relationships with Christians.
These experiences helped shape her opinion of Christianity. The fi rst
thing her sister-in-law said to me when she found out that I was a
Christian was, ìOh, Sara has spent lot of time with Christians!î Already,
Saraís openness was having an affect on her family members.



One day Sara asked me, ìDo Christians believe in demons?î
Talking about demons was not something that I grew up with
in my non-denominational church, but Iíve since learned that
many Muslims have strong encounters with the demonic world.
I recounted gospel stories of Jesusí authority to cast out demons
and of their compliance.

Sara came to an evening service at my church, and afterward she
and I went into a side room with my husband, the pastor, his wife,
and a believer from our congregation with an Iranian Muslim background.
We talked about Jesusí authority over the supernatural, his
power to free from Satanís grasp, and that his death and resurrection
was to free us from sin. We then prayed for her in Jesusí
name. When we asked her what she thought about Jesus and his
message, she said that she was still ìchecking it out.î Sara and I
had other occasions to pray together before she left to go back to
her familyís home.

The other day, I got a call from her via the internet. She is still
experiencing a lot of bizarre and fearful incidents. As we spoke, I
encouraged her to read the Psalms, or the Zabur, of David, from
the Bible I had given her the year before (provided by a generous
donor). I also spoke of Jesus as the power over any evil, a name to
be called on in moments of distress. At the end of our conversation,
I prayed for her to be free of anything that is not of God, in
Jesusí name (I asked her fi rst if I could). We are now trying to get
her connected to Christians there.


ìAmina,î an Afghan friend, considers herself a practicing Muslim,
yet she was willing to meet with me to look at the biblical story of
Moses. She is involved in the Muslim Student Association on our
campus and knows that I minister there. But we have a friendship,


and she knows that I will not ridicule her for what she holds dear,
as some Christians have done. However, this does not keep me
from lifting up Jesus and the gospel message. She was shocked
to fi nd the biblical Moses to be far more sinful than Musa in the
Qurían. Yet, this was a perfect opportunity to point out that God is
gracious, forgiving, and loves us enough to forgive us and give us
a second chance. For which of us has not sinned? Let us not forget
to share the most intriguing aspects of the gospel story!

Last year, God gave me an opportunity to explain the gospel to
Amina during Ramadan (the Islamic holy month of fasting) at an
iftar (fast-breaking meal). I was able to share with her the story
from John 2. When asked for a sign, Jesus replied, ìDestroy this
temple, and I will rebuild it again in three days.î They thought he
was referring to the physical temple ìbut the temple he had spoke
of was his bodyî (v 21). I then explained about Jesusí resurrection,
to which my friend, shocked, exclaimed, ìYou believe Jesus rose
from the dead?!î Even in the most unusual of places, such as an
iftar, Godís story can be told.

Friendship Opportunities

Worldwide, there are currently fewer than three Christian
missionaries for every one million Muslims. Are we reaching
Muslims in the USA, in such a strategic place where there is
freedom of speech and freedom of religion? Perhaps the lack of
relationships is due to confusion over current political situations,
thoughts of September 11, 2001, lack of knowledge about Islam,
stereotypes, and the idea that Muslims already ìhaveî a religion,
so why should we introduce them to ìoursî? However, Muslims
are also in need of the Savior. Many are searching for spiritual
truth, but they donít know that the truth theyíre looking for is
Jesus. Muslims need friends who will speak about Jesus. They
have come to our doorstep. Now letís step outside.



Keys to
to Muslims

by J. West

Prayer is the cornerstone of ministering to Muslims. If you have
students or volunteers befriending and reaching out to Muslims,
then the most important thing you can do is be consistently
praying with them and for them. If you are reaching out to
Muslims, fi nd partners to pray with you and for you. In addition,
do not be afraid to pray for visions and dreams for your Muslim
friends to see Jesus! (Eph 1:17-19; 3:14-19, Isa 61:1-4, Rom
8:15, 1 Pet 2:6)

When witnessing to Muslims you should be building same
gender relationships. Sometimes it is acceptable for a couple to
minister to a single student or colleague, but the pursuit of the
friendship should be done by the person of the same sex. While
there may be rare exceptions to the rule, there are far more
stories of heartache, struggles, and barriers raised toward the
gospel due to cross-gender relationships. When a Christian of
the opposite gender is the fi rst contact with a Muslim, then he
or she should fi nd a Christian of the same gender to befriend
the Muslim acquaintance and become the main contact.

Muslims often come from areas of the world where community
and relationships are important. We must remember that
our Muslim friends are not a project. We must pursue them
for who they are. Be careful about making assumptions. Ask
questions, be genuine, and invite them into your life and model
what you believe.

Often people feel that they need to be an expert in Islam in
order to reach out to Muslims. This is not the case. Having a
general understanding of Islam is helpful. However, you should
be an expert in the gospel. State what you believe, clearly and
without apology, but remember to do this with grace and love.
(1 Pet 3:15)

Islam and Christianity have similar termsó sin, holy, prayer,
fastingóbut they have very different meanings. For example, in
Islam praying is a rote prayer that is repeated at different times
of day. It is not a conversation or personal dialogue as it is for
Christians. When sharing what you believe, make sure to defi ne
your terms or give examples of what you are saying.

Muslims respect the sacred
books: the Law of Moses,
the Psalms, the gospels
(the Injil) and the Qurían.
Therefore, let the Word of
God speak for itself. When
sharing, show Scripture passages
that support Christian
teachings. Thus, you place
the responsibility of doctrine
where it belongs ñ on the
Word of God. Also many
Muslim cultures use stories
when talking about their own
faith; therefore, learn to use
parables and stories from the
Bible. (Isa 55:11)


Try not to denigrate Muhammad or the Qurían. This is as offensive
to them as speaking disrespectfully about Christ or the Bible
is to us (and in some cases even more so). We can disagree
with the teachings, and so forth, but in a way that is done with


respect. For example, ìAlthough I do not agree with what you
just said, I can understand and respect your viewpoint.î Be
careful about making broad negative statements about Islam.

As a witness, avoid politically sensitive subjects, praising Israel,
or trying to defend American politics and foreign policy. In Islam
there is no separation of religion and government, so often they
see American foreign policy as representing Christian beliefs.
We need to be careful not to refer to America as a ìChristian
Nation.î You fi rst must build trust before entering into any type
of political dialogues.

The greatest difference between Islam and Christianity is that
we believe in a relational God ñ a God who loves us unconditionally,
pursues us, and desires a personal relationship. In Islam,
Allah (God) is distant and far off. Muslims have 99 names for
God and not one of them is Love!


 Share about Jesusí birth, death, miracles, and ascension.

In honor/shame societies, people are motivated by relationship;
to avoid shame in the eyes of others (to save their own and
othersí face). When shame is exposed, the consequence is relational
separation of some kind: death, banishment, emotional
distancing. An act of shaming needs to be paid back. We need
to keep this in mind both as we build a relationship and as we
seek to communicate the gospel. Honor and shame are more
signifi cant than sin to many Muslims. In other words, being
exposed or caught is more signifi cant than the actual act.

Ultimately be yourself and love your Muslim friend as Christ
loves us. All of us can remember the many ìlinksî that God
used to draw us to him. You may be the fi rst link to Jesus in
your Muslim friendís life.

Thoughts on
Sharing Jesus
with Hindu or
Indian Students

by Matthew Agrafiotis and Evelyn Stephens

Build authentic friendships. Individual and small group (family)
friendships with Hindus are most helpful. Friendship should be
pursued with the end goal of friendship, not evangelism. Drop by
to visit unannounced after you have developed a friendship. This
will show that you are interested in genuine friendship rather than
casual acquaintanceship.

Give and take. Indian friends love to have reciprocal friendships
and will give a lot for a friend. Ask your friend for help. They
expect that you will give a lot in the friendship as well. Indians are
often happy to receive second-hand items, especially after they
price new items and convert the amount to Indian rupees. When
visiting a home, it is customary for the host to offer a drink and
sometimes a snack or even a meal. It is best to receive whatever
is offered because not receiving can be interpreted as superiority.
When hosting, it is best to physically offer something, rather than
just verbally ask what they would like.

Avoid saying ìno.î Hindus often do not say ìnoî directly, so
doing so could hurt their feelings or insult them. Find ways to give
a reason you canít, rather than starting with a ìnoî answer. Try
also to express concern and possible ways that you can help whenever
you do have to say ìno.î

Christianity is misunderstood. Indians tend to form tight
communities based on ancestral lines that may include religious
labels but not necessarily belief. Thus, an Indian who identifi es


himself as a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or Buddhist may be
agnostic or even an atheist. Many Indian ìChristiansî do not follow
the teachings of Jesus Christ. In addition, most Indians see
Christianity as a foreign (Western) religion. The average Indian sees
an unvirtuous Christian neighbor or watches American movies,
and they conclude that Christianity promotes drunkenness, sexual
promiscuity, and other evils. Paradoxically, most Indians see Jesus
Christ as a virtuous spiritual teacher. To avoid confusion do not use
the term ìChristianî but more explicit terms, such as devotee (or
follower) of the Lord Jesus.

Conversion is negative. To many Indians, converting to
Christianity is understood as leaving their families and communities
and joining a Christian community. This viewpoint has prompted
numerous anti-conversion laws in India. However, it is acceptable
within Hindu communities to change the gods to which one is
devoted. Hindus can acknowledge complete devotion to the Lord
Jesus without leaving their families or communities.

Pray. Generally prayer is well received by most Hindus. Offer to
pray, and tell them that you will pray to Jesus. You can make it a
special time of prayer to Jesus where you go to their home and meet.
Do not treat prayer too casually, so that they do not get the idea that
you are not respectful of Jesus. Rituals are important to them.

Ask questions. Feel free to ask questions about their personal
beliefs about God. Many Indians are used to having religious
discussions, and it is likely that no two Hindus you meet will have
the same set of beliefs.

Share testimonies with humility. Describe your personal
experiences of lostness and Godís gracious forgiveness and peace.
Talk about your own spiritual life and why you follow Jesus. Be
genuine rather than formulaic. Share recent experiences of Godís
love and ways that your relationship with Jesus changes who you
are. Do not claim to know God in his majesty and fullness. Many
Hindus think Christians see themselves as the greatest people with
the greatest religion. Be careful using testimonies of Hindus who
have found Christ, since triumphalism and pride may be what is
communicated (1 Cor 8:1-2).

Read the Bible together. If they express a desire to learn about
the Lord Jesus, then it is best to do that one-on-one or in a small
group of other like-minded students in a neutral location. Rather
than teaching a Bible study, it may be better to approach the Scripture
as co-learners of the Great Teacher, Jesus.

Do not push invitations to Christian meetings. Build
friendships before explicitly inviting Hindus to Christian meetings,
but welcome them if they want to attend. If you do invite them to
an event, be open and honest about all religious content. Events
that are publicized to be only social need to be just that. Bring them
to groups where they are valued and can safely be themselves, and
avoid events where Hindus may be confronted to convert.

Do not criticize Hindu beliefs or culture. Pointing out the
worst aspects of Hinduism or the caste system will not win Hindus
to Jesus. Immediate criticism will also make them suspicious of the
aims of your friendship. Once the friendship is developed, you can
engage in meaningful conversations, ask about their experiences,
and sensitively share your views.

Live out your devotion to Jesus. Exposing and living out our
personal devotion to the Lord Jesus rather than preaching is the
most effective way to share faith among Hindus. Work into your
life the traditional Hindu (and biblical) values of simplicity, renunciation
(fasting), spirituality, and humility.

Avoid apologetic arguments. Most Hindus do not have a
developed theology, but they may argue points that they do not
personally believe. Also, many Western arguments do not make
sense to Hindus or may have unintended meanings.

Be patient in inviting a response. Our friends should set the
pace of spiritual discussions. Do not press ìJesus is the only wayî
too soon in your relationship, since it may break trust and not allow
you to tell more about Jesus. You can share that you personally
follow Jesus and only him. Pray for the right time when you will be
able to allow Jesusí words to explain why he is the way to God, so
that your Hindu friends wrestle with Jesus, rather than with you.


Idols by Satyavan

Editorís Note: Cross-cultural ministry challenges us to discern and learn from the
different biblical, cultural, and relational perspectives held by Christians. This story
provides an approach the author took to a diffi cult situation.

Saraswati Puja

I was standing in the sanctuary of the campus church where our
fellowship meets, and there was a picture of Saraswati (the Hindu
goddess of wisdom and knowledge) pinned to the cross at the
front. I wanted to go and tear it down but found myself unable to
do so, knowing it would break relationships with the people we
said could use the building.

It all started when I was handed the phone to determine whether or
not to let a group of Indians use the building for their Saraswati Puja.
(Puja means ìceremonial worshipî I found out later.) Not knowing
what either of those words meant, and after hearing them say ìIt is
all cultural,î we (the people at the church that decide these things)
let them use the building, hoping it would help us build bridges with
the Indian community. I was at the church the night before, when
the Indians were eating pepperoni pizza while setting up for the Puja.
My interest was evoked, and I wondered what this ceremony was all
about. I wondered why these college-age people were putting this
event together if they did not even observe basic Hindu dietary rules.

While standing there looking at the cross being ìdesecratedî all
kinds of thoughts began to swirl in my head. What does God think
of this? How will Christians react? Are we opening up our sanctuary
to evil spirits? This began my journey to understand idolatry
and how it affects my life and ministry.


When reaching out to South Asians you will be confronted with
idols. They are ubiquitous. Many students will have some kind of
place of worship that will have an idol.

As one traces the concept of idols throughout Scripture,they are
fi rst found in the Old Testament as the familiar handmade fi gurines,
statues, or pictures that people worship. As the idea develops into
the New Testament, we fi nd Paul talking of them as part of the sinful
nature. He even makes this statement in Col 3:5 ìPut to death,
therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,
impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.î That

passage certainly broadened my concept of idolatry. I wondered
what I had pinned to the cross in place of Jesus.

I began to think about the relationships I was forming and how
through me some of these people might come to put their faith
in Christ. Later that day I was given the opportunity to speak
for a few minutes in front of this group of people, and I encouraged
them to pursue the true giver of knowledge and wisdom.
Ps 111:10 states that ìthe fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdomî and as they spent the day celebrating this goddess of
education, why not consider Jesus and the Truth he is?

I came to this conclusion that day: just because their idols are
visible does not make them any more offensive to God than my
idols, so I should not respond in a way that communicates that
I am spiritually superior to them when I am not.


One of the most common reactions I get when telling this story is
that we opened our building up to demonic or evil spirits by letting
this go on. In 1 Cor 8:4 Paul says, ìSo then, about eating food
sacrifi ced to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the
world and that there is no God but one.î There is no god beside
our God and He resides in the hearts of people, not in buildings.
Paul also cautions us in 1 Cor 10:19-20 that other spiritual forces
may be at work. These Hindus may have opened themselves up to
evil infl uence as they worshipped falsely, though we do too with
our idols. Certainly, Hindus must deal with idolatry in their lives,
and as they come to Christ and submit to him as disciples, those
idols will have to fall away. He is God of gods and demands that
central place in their lives, my life, and yours.

As we step into relationships with Hindus, we can bring the light
of Jesus into their lives and ours. We are also confronted with our
false gods and challenged to give them up to be more like Christ
ìso that they [and we] may be saved.î (1 Cor 10:33) I have learned
that I need to allow God to deal with my idols, and I need to
release my need to remove sin from the lives of those that do not
yet follow Jesus. Just as Paul did in Acts 17 with the Athenians,
we must build bridges to encourage Hindus on their spiritual
journey to see Jesus and follow him.

This track is for Christian international students & scholars and North Americans who minister
among them. It will take place within the larger Urbana 09 missions conference. In multicultural
community participants will deepen their faith in Jesus and grow to serve Him worldwide.
This track is for Christian international students & scholars and North Americans who minister
among them. It will take place within the larger Urbana 09 missions conference. In multicultural
community participants will deepen their faith in Jesus and grow to serve Him worldwide.

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