Mallanna was born in a Lingayat community in the state of Karnataka. As a college student, after losing his father and sister he began to wonder about life after death. None of the religious books he had could answer this question. However, after a classmate gave him John’s gospel, he was powerfully affected and later put his faith in Christ. Immediately after his family discovered he had become a Christian, he was expelled from his home. Mallanna joined the World Literature Crusade in 1980 and served as an evangelist until 1995. Later, with a burden to reach his own community for the Lord, he launched South India Gospel Outreach. Mallanna is married to Ruby who directs SIGO’s women’s ministry. The couple has three children.
In 1986, a consultation was held to consider the suggestion made by the late Donald McGavern that if India was to be reached with the Gospel, we should consider having separate churches for high-caste Hindus. The participants at this consultation did not agree with this idea, however the discussion prompted leaders to consider a focused attempt to reach high-caste Hindus, as most of the Christian work was being done among low-caste Hindus. In 1992, a group of these leaders chose the Lingayat group as a target for outreach. Today, their work goes by the name South India Gospel Outreach (SIGO). Their vision is to proclaim Christ and train native leaders from within the Lingayat community.
“I have read the New Testament twice. Afterward, I asked many people if they could get me a complete Bible where the Old Testament and the New Testament were together, but I could not find one. Thank you for providing me a complete Bible. God has indeed answered my prayer! My neighboring villages also received Bibles. I think the Bible is a lamp in every village. Though I have read many Hindu books, no book transformed me so much as the Bible did. It is truly the Word of God that can melt and change stone-hearted people. Now that I have one I can share the truth with the people in my village.” —Alesh, evangelist
The Lingayats are the 12th largest unreached people group of India with a population of more than 10 million. The Lingayat come out of a Hindu tradition, but the founder was opposed to animal sacrifice, caste hierarchy, and societal divisions, and thus the Lingayats hold a number of beliefs that stand in contrast to traditional Hinduism.
A Lingayat is one who wears the linga, a small spherical object that the Lingayat believe represents God. Lingayats also wear special beads and are led by gurus and jangamas (traveling religious teachers).
Lingayatism is not well known as a religion outside South India primarily because most Lingayat literature is in the Kannada language. In 1991, it was estimated that there were less than 1,000 Christians among this group. Today it is believed that number has grown to 5,000.
Lingayats are primarily found in the South Indian state of Karnataka. Most Lingayats have never seen a relative or close friend live out the Christian life, yet they are open to the Gospel. At the same time, those who have converted to Christianity face tremendous opposition from religious militants. Several new believers have been arrested, beaten, and threatened.
Discipleship Seminars and Training, SIGO
Due to recent instances of persecution, many Lingayat believers gather in house churches with people they know well. They are afraid to openly mingle with main-line Christians due to their strict adherence to their religious values including vegetarianism. Despite these challenges, it is important for Lingayat leaders to gather for training so that they can effectively lead house churches and cell groups within their culture.
Bibles and Literature, SIGO
MentorLink Training, SIGO
A high priority for Partners International is the development of indigenous ministry partner leaders. Partners International is working with MentorLink International, a like-minded organization that equips men and women to increasingly grow into leaders with Christ-like character as well as to engage in mentoring and long-term leadership development. We are leveraging their expertise for the benefit of our ministry partner leaders in India. A three-day conference will treat the topics of humility, forgiveness, mentoring, and servanthood, and allow special time for personal reflection and prayer. One participant said, “To have disarming, vulnerable, and highly respected elder Asian leaders model personal vulnerability, and then equip others to do the same for their own lives as well as for those whom they mentor—this was a strategic and deeply meaningful contribution.” Your gift will help 20 SIGO missionaries and staff attend this key training in Christian leadership and mentoring.
Bridges for Women Training, SIGO, India
Globally, four billion people are known as “oral communicators,” or non-literates, and do not yet have the written Scriptures in their mother tongue. A like-minded ministry called Scriptures In Use (SIU) has developed a successful methodology to reach non-literates with the Gospel which includes storytelling, drama, cultural adaptations of Scripture to song, and memorization. The training provides Christian leaders with evangelism methods that are culturally, linguistically, and spiritually in tune with the worldview and learning styles of the people they minister to. This year, Partners hopes to invite 100 women associated with SIGO to attend a three-day SIU conference especially for women. This course is an excellent teaching module that trains women to use 120 stories of biblical women to teach others about the Gospel, motherhood, suffering, wisdom, love, and many other topics. Using these methods of biblical storytelling, participants are energized and equipped to reach out to others.