Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good news in missionary abduction case

(Images courtesy of Gospel For Asia.
 Cover photo of church, Story photo of Assam map.)

India (GFA/MNN) ―Kidnapping, threats, terror, and ransom demands: all part of a typical action movie.

In this case, it was only too real for Gospel For Asiamissionary Ponnachan George.

Kidnapped at gunpoint on July 23 from the Bible school campus operated by Gospel for Asia, the terrorists released him on Sunday, July 29. GFA founder and president K.P. Yohannan says in Assam, India, "The chance of him coming out alive was actually a very small percentage. It's a real miracle. The local police, the state government, all authorities, and even the Central Government...everyone got involved."

GFA also broke with its usual low-profile policy for the protection of the victim in such cases as the Indian news media begins to report on George's abduction. With concerns that the attention from national press may further endanger his life, believers prayed more urgently. Yohannan explains, "When you go public with it, then they will say, 'If anybody talks about it, then for sure, without the ransom we're looking for,  we'll just kill him."

God answered in a big way, says Yohanna. "Finally, after almost a week, [George] was released. Of course, blindfolded, his hands tied back, left on the roadside" -- and without the huge ransom they demanded!  

There's only one reason this situation ended well. Initially, when word of the kidnapping occurred, GFA sent out an emergency e-mail to its supporters urgently soliciting prayer for the safe release of George. The mission agency maintains a policy of non-negotiation with terrorists for money. Although this was the riskiest case, in other instances GFA has relied solely on prayer and fasting, and God has answered through miraculous releases before.

Interestingly, Yohannan says the entire local police force, army personnel, and high-level officials--both from the state and federal governments and even the Prime Minister--got involved in the case. Not only that, but the main extremist groups, known for employing this method of operation, distanced themselves from the action, too. "Most of these leaders came forward to the media and said, 'None of these groups have done it. It's some splinter group that lives in the deep of the forests that is doing this.' That kind of support, even from the ex-terrorists, was quite a surprise."

Shortly after the release, Yohannan spoke with Pastor Ponnachan and asked him to share his thoughts during captivity. Overcome, he wept for a long time, unable to say much. "Finally he said, 'I thought about Christ suffering on the Cross, and I said to myself, 'I came here as Jesus came from Heaven to suffer and give His life. It's a one-way ticket my leaders gave me to be here to serve God."

George thanked God and the Body of Christ for the massive fasting and prayer that took place on his behalf. Yohannan added that George had surrendered his life to the Lord. "'This is the end of the journey. Fine, Lord.' This kind of statement makes me weep and say, 'Lord, thank You. This is a real life and a real call.'"

The pastor knew his life on hanging on a slender thread. The terrorists blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They forced him to walk for hours deep into the forest to their hideout. Throughout Ponnachan's entire ordeal, his captors repeatedly told him they were going to shoot him and would not spare him.

In the end, God's direct intervention through the collective voices calling for his safe return held sway.  Pastor Ponnachan's work with GFA has done a lot of good for a lot of people: schools, literacy programs, training, water wells, and many other community development projects. 

Yohannan says, "This leader provides us 300 missionaries, 200 parishes or churches, some 4,000 children at our Bridge of Hope centers, and three radio broadcasts."

Could there be another attack coming? It's possible, because the area is volatile. However, Yohannan says, that won't deter their team. The strength behind their team's faith in Christ and love for the needy was stronger than ever on Sunday. "When they released him, all our workers, all our leaders, continued to stay there--they didn't run away. [They spent the night] there and regrouped and declared, 'We are here for life. We're not going anywhere.'"

Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to serving the needy in word and deed to demonstrate the love of Jesus in developing countries in Asia. 

GFA-supported national missionaries are seeing incredible fruit in the lives of people to whom they are proclaiming the Love of Jesus Christ. Although they often risk persecution, these missionaries boldly carry on, counting it a privilege to suffer for Christ.

Gospel for Asia has 67 Bible colleges throughout South Asia, where thousands of men and women are studying God's Word and undergoing intensive training in preparation for ministry. 

Most of the Bible college graduates will go on to minister in areas where the love of Christ has never been proclaimed.

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