Christianity is growing rapidly in the world’s largest Hindu nation. Charisma looks at how the Holy Spirit is changing lives in India.
A few years ago on a hot, humid evening in Warangal, a city in southern India, about 8,000 locals gathered in a giant sports field while what seemed like 100,000 insects buzzed in the night sky. Most of the people were Hindus, but this did not stop them from visiting a Christian event hosted by a local evangelist, Harry Gomes, who is based further south in the city of Coimbatore.
As the dark-faced crowd gathered, billowing saris sparked a riot of turquoise, pink, saffron, green, aqua and red. The women in these flowing garments reclined on a huge piece of yellow fabric that covered half a football field. Men sat in white plastic chairs or stood near the edges of the field, where towering floodlights bathed the scene in a harsh glow.
Gomes, who has sponsored more than 200 outdoor evangelistic crusades in India since he began his ministry in 1996, was seated on the stage with his head bowed, oblivious to the noises from the audience or the blaring music coming from a praise team standing next to him. Accompanied by a drum machine and synthesizer, four women from Gomes’ Bible college sang Indian choruses in Telugu-one of 29 major languages spoken in India today.
After a litany of announcements and more songs, an Indian minister in a black suit announced it was time for Gomes to preach. The restless crowd settled down while the dark clouds grew menacing. The bugs provided a strange soundtrack, crackling and sizzling as they hit chairs, sound equipment and light bulbs.
A small rug was rolled out on the stage, and Gomes knelt on it, clutching his Bible in one hand and a microphone in the other. In his deep, resonating voice-obviously created for preaching-he began his brief sermon, all in perfect Telugu. (Gomes also speaks Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages.)
After the sermon the action began. Still kneeling, Gomes began to recite a list of sicknesses and ailments. Arthritis. Tumors. Blindness. Heart problems. Skin disorders. People in the crowd began to stand. To the left of the giant stage, a woman-obviously demonized-began to scream. Two members of Gomes’ ministry team ran to help her.
Gomes kept his eyes shut throughout his 15-minute prayer for the sick. He does not lay hands on people in his meetings but simply prays that Jesus Christ will reveal Himself to the Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims who come to hear him.
“It is Jesus who does the healing,” he told Charisma. “We only need to believe and pray.”
So far, about 12.4 million Indians have come to Christ in Gomes’ meetings, but that is a small number compared to the total who have embraced Christianity in India in recent years. This nation of more than 1 billion people is on the verge of a spiritual upheaval.