Bihar is a State in Northern India and shares its northern border with Nepal. While Bihar is a very fertile land, it "lags behind the other Indian states in human and economic development terms, whilst ethnic Biharis living in other states of India are victims of racist hate crimes and prejudice" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bihar). Basically, it is very poor and lacks the infrastructure needed to provide adequate resources to the people living there. The city we visited is most definitely a poor city and, for many, quite undesirable to live in. Part of the problem is that when people there become educated, they move away instead of staying to provide economic stability and growth.
A.L.D. chose to move his family to Bihar, knowing the undesirability of the city he was going to (read more about A.L.D.'s story here). This was a sacrifice he made in response to God that his daughter has also made. After attending college to become a teacher, A.L.D.'s daughter returned to her family to help teach the children in the orphanage and the surrounding community. Instead of moving away, as many educated do, she is sacrificing a comfortable life in a large, modern Indian city to live in the poorest state in India. A.L.D.'s family of 4 adults and two children are responsible for caring for over 20 orphans who range in age from around 6 - 15 years old, and they are building a facility that will allow them to care for up to 100 children! For A.L.D.'s wife and daughter, their daily lives revolve around caring for and loving these children. Not much time or energy is spent to make their own lives better or simpler. Life in Bihar has not been easy: A.L.D. has been threatened at gunpoint to leave the city; children have thrown rocks at his home and his family; but over time, the local people have accepted his presence there, and they have begun to have a positive effect in the surrounding city.
A.L.D. not only oversees the orphanage, he runs a pastor training school to educate local and regional Christians to be capable of teaching God's word and leading a church. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with some of the pastors that A.L.D. has trained during the time we were in Bihar. They shared stories of Christians, both pastors and lay-people, who have been threatened and/or murdered in the violence following the killing of a Hindu leader that was blamed on Christians in August 2008 in the Indian state of Orissa. A.L.D. shared with us that many of the pastors he knew from that region would call him and say they have been threatened and would ask him what to do. He reminded them that God was their protector and that He would keep them safe. None of the pastors that A.L.D. spoke with have been harmed in any way, but many Christian families and missionaries have been chased from their homes or killed.
Meeting these people made me recognize that persecution is real. And, it comes not just from religious sects - in many towns in India and the surrounding countries there are laws that affect Christian lay people and pastors. One pastor shared that he has been refused entry to certain towns because the leaders know he is a Christian and an evangelist and do not want him "converting" their people. We also heard of laws that limit a Christian's political rights and ability to do business. We were told that some states require you to register with the government before you adopt Christianity as your religion so that they are aware of the Christians in their region. The part that was life changing to me was that even amidst this persecution, these men stand steadfast and praise God loudly and passionately!
The pastors worshiping at the Christian Worker's conference*
*Photo and video courtesy of Steve Hurry