June 17, 2003
ST. LOUIS – If the fields are white unto harvest for evangelism in America, Bansi Brahmbhatt is confident the fields in India, his home country, are overripe.
That’s why Brahmbhatt, the international pastor at Tower Grove Baptist Church, St. Louis, is headed home early next year. He says God is calling him to return to his homeland because there is such a hunger for the Gospel message in India.
His wife also will be returning to India, but two children will remain in St. Louis.
"I don’t want to go back to India," said Brahmbhatt, who has been in the United States the last seven years. "But I believe God wants me to go.
"The harvest is ripe in my home country, even more so than in America. People are starved for the truth."
Hinduism is the dominant religion in India. Christians make up less than 1 percent of the country’s 1.12 billion population and 4,000 people groups. About 17 percent of the population is Muslim.
Brahmbhatt has returned to India several times to lead crusades. He has witnessed 20,000 conversions during the crusades, including 4,000 salvation decisions when he preached an Easter crusade in Bombay, India in April.
Information in the June issue of Decision, published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, corroborates Brahmbhatt calling.
"The Evangelical church is growing all over India, not just in pockets," Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told the magazine. "We see similarities between the 19th century missionary movement in south India and the 21st-century missionary movement in north India. One major difference is that in the 19th century, Western missionaries did the church planting. Here, local people are doing it, in partnership with Christians from all over the world."
Tower Grove has given Brahmbhatt $40,000 to purchase land where a Baptist church will be constructed in his home state in India. The Indian minister says it will be the first Baptist church in the region.
Plans call for the construction of a 1,500-seat sanctuary. Brahmbatt said he expects multiple worship services to bring at least 4,000 to the church every Sunday.
The church will be constructed in the state of Gujarat on the west coast of India, Ghandi’s home state.
According to the Billy Graham organization, the ECI is planting churches throughout India at a rate of two or three every week.
It was the persistent prayer of an Indian Christian that helped reach Brahmbhatt, a former Hindu, find Christ about 35 years ago.
"I was born as a Hindu Brahmin," he said. "My Hindu religion taught that I was born into the Brahmin caste because of my karma. I had a strong belief in reincarnation. My family could have nothing to do with the middle caste or lower caste of society."
"My friend kept inviting me to a Christian youth camp. I finally went just to see what was happening. I heard the Gospel preached for the first time. Four days later, I was saved."
Brahmbhatt was disowned by his family and forfeited a sizeable inheritance when he became a Christian.
Brahmbhatt said he originally had no desire to come to America. A friend who owned hotels in America persuaded Brahmbhatt to go to the American consulate and apply for a work visa. It was approved.
"At first, I didn’t understand why God brought me to America, but I understand it now," he said. "He brought me here so I could get some evangelism and theological training so I could return to India and preach the Gospel," he said.
Brahmbhatt will be returning to India one more time before returning to establish the church next April. He will be joined by Missouri Baptist evangelists Jim McNiel and Clyde Chiles in a crusade effort this October.
Danny O’Guin, Tower Grove pastor, will be making his seventh trip to India in July to preach another crusade. In the past 10 years, O’Guin said he has witnessed 7,000 respond to the Gospel.