In response to the persecution against the Gospel for Asia native missionaries that took place at the Ardh Kumbh festival, Simon John, a GFA regional leader in North India, traveled Uttar Pradesh yesterday (January 25). Although he visited to encourage the missionaries and leaders who endured beatings and arrests while ministering at the festival, he was greatly impacted by one missionary’s story.

Simon first visited Ishaya, one of three missionaries beaten by anti-Christian extremists for handing out Gospel tracts at the festival. Ishaya received the worst beating and suffered several serious injuries.

“He is a small brother, and very young,” Simon said. “When I asked him what happened, he calmly replied, ‘I just remember them ripping my tracts out of my hand, and then they started hitting, kicking and tearing my clothes. I had about 200 rupees (about US$4.50) with me … they took those too.’”

“It started to hurt a lot, and I could see myself bleeding in different areas,” Ishaya said of the beating. “Eventually I fell down, and that’s when they left me.” Ishaya was hospitalized for a day, and then released. His wounds are healing quickly.

“You know,” Ishaya told Simon in a voice broken by tears, “I am so glad that at least in this small way I could partake in Christ’s suffering. I feel so privileged!”

Simon said the commitment to the Lord that this young man possessed greatly encouraged him.

After visiting Ishaya, Simon met with Janu Madhu, the GFA state leader in Uttar Pradesh, and a women’s ministry team. The women’s team went to the festival to hand out literature after the men were beaten. When they realized the men could not go back to the festival, they said to Janu, “Let us go in their place. They can’t beat us—we’re women!”

Simon says all the missionaries are “encouraged and fired-up” to preach the Gospel.

This year Uttar Pradesh leaders set a goal to hand out at least one million pieces of Gospel literature at the Ardh Kumbh festival. They exceeded this goal and placed at least 1.5 million pieces of literature into the hands of the pilgrims attending the event.

“The people who have come for the Ardh Kumbh are from hundreds and even thousands of villages all across India,” Janu said. “These are villages we may not be able to personally reach in our lifetime. But the tracts we have given out will be taken back to these villages and read by many.”

All of the native missionaries who participated in this event believe that God will use the tracts to lead many people, and even whole villages, to Christ.

Ardh Kumbh is a massive festival during which millions of Hindu pilgrims bathe in the confluence of two rivers which they view as sacred, the Ganges and the Yamuna, in the north Indian town of Allahabad. An estimated 60 million people are expected to take the ceremonial plunge before the 45-day event ends on February 16.