Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 25, 2008

Are You Going Bald?

   I received an invitation to lead a prayer-walk in India in 1998. I must confess that my initial response to the invitation was less than positive. I wanted to do something more than pray on my next trip. I resisted the idea of the prayer-walk for several days until a friend gave me a book on prayer-walking and asked me to read it. The more I read the more convicted I became. Finally, I asked God to forgive me of my wrong attitude and concluded that I needed the prayer-walk more than the prayer-walk needed me. So, I contacted three friends and my travel agent, and within a few months we were on our way to India. My friends and I traveled to Orissa, probably the most devout Hindu state in India. As we traveled through the villages, the sights, sounds, and smells of our journey seeped into my heart and ascended to heaven in the language of prayer. It was an amazing experience.

   I was again reminded of the need to continue praying after we returned home. Two months after our visit, I learned of the death of 58 year-old Graham Staines, an independent Baptist missionary from Australia. Graham and his two young sons, Timothy (age 7) and Phillip (age 10), were asleep in their old four-wheel drive Willy station wagon in Manoharpur village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district. While they slept, a mob encircled their vehicle, doused it with gas, and set it on fire. Graham and his sons embraced in a futile attempt to protect one other from the flames — an embrace memorialized in their charred remains.

   The violence against Christians in Orissa continues to the present day. Soon after visiting friends in Orissa in November 2007, Hindu extremists launched a 10-day rampage in an attempt to cancel Christmas in the Khondhamal district in Orissa. These radical Hindus destroyed 103 churches, burned or vandalized 819 homes of believers, displaced thousands of believers, and killed nine. These attacks make 2007 one of the worst years of violence against Christians in India’s history.

   I returned to Orissa a few months ago, accompanied by my pastor and some friends. We traveled to Orissa to encourage the believers there and to offer practical and financial assistance to churches that were either damaged or completely destroyed. Things seemed to be returning to normal. And then, on August 23, a Maoist group killed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Swamiji Laxmanananda Saraswati and four associates. Although not committed by Christians, these murders resulted in an eruption of renewed persecution against Christians in Orissa.

   I receive news several times a week from my friends in Orissa — messages quickly dispatched from internet cafes. They tell me that according to reports by the local media, 127 church buildings in 94 villages have been destroyed, 4042 homes of believers have been burned, damaged, or destroyed, a nun was gang raped, and 32 people have lost their lives. Sadder still, approximately 200 people have renounced their faith in Christ in order to escape painful torture and death. These individuals have been “reconverted to Hinduism,” wrote one friend, and have had their heads shaved as mute testimony to their reconversion. Imagine that! Having your head shaved so that everyone in your village will know that you have renounced Christ and returned to Hinduism and its multiplied millions of gods.

   It is easy to criticize these frightened apostates. But, honestly, what would we do in the same situation? What if we lost one strand of hair every time we denied Christ by changing the subject at the office or using bad language or telling coarse jokes in order to blend in with the crowd? When was the last time you allowed conveniences and compromises to escort you to the barber to take a little off the top? What if we were to lose just one single strand of hair every time we behaved as though we were ashamed of our faith or hid our light under a basket? If that were the case, we might be surprised by the number of bald people in the pews.

   Things are tough for believers in Orissa. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters there and for those who, like Peter, have denied that they know the One who gave His all for them. And while we are at it, let’s make sure that we are not going bald in the process.


  1. Ohhh, you’ve convicted and inspired me again, Pastor Omar. Thank you for sharing this. I needed it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: