Bishop Moses Swamidas took over leadership of BFM in 1976 which at the time included just five dying fellowships. He has since helped revive the Mission, and today it has more than 250 vibrant churches. Overcoming overwhelming odds—born a Dalit and suffering a debilitating congenital heart defect—Bishop Swamidas has worked tirelessly for years advocating for the rights of Dalits who lose their constitutionally-guaranteed benefits when they convert to Christianity. Moses is married to Vimala and has two daughters.
Partners International has been partnering with Bible Faith Mission (BFM) to bring economic, social, and spiritual transformation to the Dalits of South India since 1984. BFM’s church-planting strategy follows the biblical mandate of holistic transformation, which addresses the needs of the whole person, both physical and spiritual. Today, BFM is a key force in the establishment and development of the Dalit Church throughout India.
India is a country diverse in language, caste, religion, and culture with a staggering 4,635 distinct people groups. Hinduism claims about 80 percent of the Indian population, with Islam at 12 percent and Christianity at 2.4 percent.
Though India is a secular and democratic country, the call for “Hindutva” (return to Hinduism) is growing in strength. Several states have enacted strong anti-conversion laws which hamper evangelism and ministry efforts. Christians in North India, particularly Orissa, have undergone intense persecution in recent years.
Nearly one-third of India’s one billion people are known as Dalits or “untouchables”—outcast peoples who suffer social discrimination and economic hardship. The majority of India’s Christians come from this group, though not without great cost. Dalits who leave Hinduism for Christianity lose their place in the government quota for education and job opportunities. Thus, they are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty with few ways to improve their lot in life.
Legislation to reverse this inequity has been bogged down in the courts for years. Many believe if this law was passed, thousands, if not millions, of Dalits would come to Christ.
Despite the overt injustice they face, thousands of Dalits are finding, for the first time, true freedom and dignity through salvation in Jesus.
Sending Workers, BFM
Partners International supports the work of Dalit pastors and church planters as they evangelize, baptize, and plant churches among unreached Dalit communities. Of the more than 140 BFM pastors, half work in completely unreached areas while the other half work to strengthen existing churches, mobilizing them to start daughter churches. Fellowships typically begin with BFM pastors surveying an unreached Dalit community and later sending evangelistic teams that will begin building relationships. Often a ministry to children develops and as the number of believers grows over time, BFM introduces Bible studies and programs for women and youth.
Currently, BFM has planted 150 churches and 60 house churches in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. These churches form a strong network that facilitate the development of Dalits on a broad scale. This year, BFM’s goal is to plant 19 more churches, including seven in a new area of outreach for BFM—North India. Partners would like to invest in this effort by providing partial support for BFM’s workers. On average, the cost to support one pastor is $180 per month. Join God in His powerful movement among the Dalits by supporting a Dalit pastor.
Church Buildings, BFM
Ministry in North India, BFM
Established in the 1950s, Partners’ Sponsor A Child program works to help very poor children around the world attend school and learn about Jesus Christ. Together Partners International and Bible Faith Mission assist about 325 children through sponsorship. In addition to providing school fees and supplies, the children are taught cleanliness and hygiene, a pressing need in an area where poverty and illiteracy have long prevailed.
Bible study, praise songs, and Scripture memory are all encouraged at Bible club programs for the more than 3,000 children who attend Sunday school at Bible Faith Mission churches. Children are able to recite many Bible verses, plus references, from memory. Extracurricular activities such as games, sports competitions, essay writing, singing, preaching, and Bible quizzes are used to help the children grow not only spiritually, but in all aspects of their lives.
Children from both the BFM school and the rural government schools are in need of sponsorship. Fifty new sponsors are urgently needed. The cost to sponsor a child is just $30 per month or $360 per year.
Since 1943, Partners International has invested in the lives and ministries of indigenous Christian leaders all over the world. We’ve found that as important as financial resources are, they are only as effective as a ministry’s capacity to use them. Our vision is to help our partners develop their ministry and organizational capacities. As our partners are equipped, their ministry impact increases exponentially.
Sponsored by Partners International, staff and pastors of Bible Faith Mission will take part in a series of capacity-building training events in 2012-2013. These events will include training on the topics of Scripture storytelling (evangelism and discipleship of non-literates), mission partnerships, community health education, Christian family, board governance, and children’s ministry. In all, seven training events will be held engaging 195 people involved with the Bible Faith Mission ministry. These training events are requested by BFM leadership to develop their staff and pastors in areas of critical need.