The “JESUS” Film Project In India
To date, more than 100 million Indians have viewed "JESUS." Last year, in 1993, through the "JESUS" film, 3.4 million Indians heard of the life and message of Jesus Christ in a language they could understand. For many, it was their first encounter with the Gospel. Only in recent years have they emerged from the dark caves to dwell in mud huts. Considered among the lowest in the caste system, the Poojari people of India have little contact with the outside world.
That particular evening, a film team showed them "JESUS," the first film any of them had seen. As far as team members could tell, it was also the first time any of the 500 viewers had ever heard of the Savior.
"Whole families came to Christ," recalls Paul Eschleman, director of The JESUS Film Project, who was there that night. "Person after person told me that no one had ever before come to tell them about Jesus."
If 24 mission agencies and denominations in India have their way, the Poojari and others like them will all have an opportunity to hear of the one true God by the year 2000. In partnership together, these Christian organizations want to show "JESUS" to nearly one billion people in India. But beyond that, they want to work cooperatively to help those who respond to grow in Christ, in large part by planting new churches to care for them. If 24 mission agencies and denominations in India have their way, the Poojari and others like them will all have an opportunity to hear of the one true God by the year 2000. In partnership together, these Christian organizations want to show "JESUS" to nearly one billion people in India. But beyond that, they want to work cooperatively to help those who respond to grow in Christ, in large part by planting new churches to care for them.
In the next several years, Eschleman says, 750 film teams will be at work around India.
"There's no way that we can do this alone," he admits. "Happily, many other Christian organizations have told us, 'If you can supply us with equipment, training and film prints, we have the manpower to show the film.' We can work together to reach people who have never before heard Christ's message."
The "JESUS" film is no newcomer to India. In 1980, 10 of the first 30 translations of the film were Indian languages. To date, more than 100 million people there have already seen the film, including 3.4 million who attended 10,749 showings during 1993. Of those viewers, 54,567 publicly indicated trusting Christ as Savior and Lord.
India is one of more than 200 nations where "JESUS" is being shown. Currently 284 language versions are available, with another 120 translations in production. Although distributed internationally by Campus Crusade for Christ, 413 mission agencies also use the feature- length film. Through it, 578 million people have encountered the life and message of Christ.
In India, as with all those countries, at the heart of the numbers are individuals.
This past April, four hours outside of Bangalore, a local Hindu priest--who was also the town mayor--gave permission for the film to be projected onto the temple wall. That night, more than 500 people gathered to watch one of the first showings of the "JESUS" film in the Lambadi language. At the close, among the dozens who raised their hands to indicate their desire to know Jesus, was the Hindu priest.
Afterwards, he talked privately with a team member and, with joy, said that he now knew that the Savior lived within him.
"You are welcome here," he told them repeatedly, inviting the team to come again and show his village "JESUS."
One rarely forgets the need to move quickly in India. One thinks immediately of some of the religious and political challenges churches there face. But beyond that are personal reasons.
One "JESUS" film worker noticed a young couple weeping on the bank of the Ganges River. Approaching them, he asked why.
Seeking peace in their hearts, they told him, they had gone to the local Hindu priest. His edict: "You must sacrifice your two-year-old son to the river god. Then you will find peace." Moments before the young man came by, they had thrown their baby into the river, where he drowned.
With an aching heart, the "JESUS" film team member explained how they could know the one who offers true peace and forgiveness for their sins. They prayed and trusted Christ. ,Afterwards, they said, "If only you had come a few minutes earlier, we would not have sacrificed our child."
For the millions who long for peace, the India Project wants them to give them at least one chance to see and respond to "JESUS."