India — Andhra Pradesh: Continuing to Yadagirigutta

This town was founded some centuries earlier by a Hindu hermit who supposedly saw a vision of one of the many Hindu gods (one guess as to what he ACTUALLY saw).

Rocky Top Temple

Up on the top of a nearby rocky-top mountain is a large temple complex, yet another place for pilgrims to go to seek a religious experience. It too charges an entrance fee…Hindu temples are big business in India. Some of the monks or others who run them become very wealthy from the pilgrim donations. We didn’t go up to the temple, but we could see it from the town down below. It is reminiscent of perhaps one of the Greek Orthodox monasteries at Patmos…sprawling and gleaming white in the sun.

The town at the foot of the mountain was compact, with a narrow main street that was lined with stalls selling Hindu votive items…cards and posters of the gods, scarves, sandals, and colorfully cheap plastic junk undoubtedly imported from China. Since the day we visited was a national holiday (Republic Day), it is likely that the crowds filling the streets were enjoying the day off by shopping. Many were also pilgrims who had come to do whatever at the temple on the mountain, then come back to the town for rest and relaxation.

Holiday Shopping

The Yadagirigutta economy was stimulated primarily by pilgrim traffic; not only could one buy toys and devotional items there, you could have someone help you get a meal, find a room, score some alcohol or procure you a prostitute. These procurers were known locally as ‘pimps’, and could be either male or female. (It was a curious aspect of these pilgrims that they were very religious/superstitious, but not particularly moral.)

Waiting For Customers

We took a left turn down one of the side lanes of the town, past the ‘red light district’, the rows of ground floor apartments where the prostitutes plied their trade. We were travelling with a pastor’s wife, just so that no one would get the wrong impression about why we were visiting. As we drove by, there were several young women standing in doorways of the apartments, smiling and looking very pretty, decorated with gold jewelry and flowing saris. I noticed them, but didn’t make eye contact. These were the prostitutes that serviced the men who came to Yadagirigutta.

Red Light District

Another left turn down an even narrower alley, and we stopped in front of the only Christian church in the village. Called “The Well Of Life Church”, it is a small white building with one large room and a small side room. This building was sponsored by a well-known Christian radio teacher from the United States. Shortly after the construction of the church, the town council approved a measure which bans the further construction or establishment of any other Christian church in Yadagirigutta. So, until that ruling might be overturned, The Well of Life Church will be the only Christian witness in a town of Hindus.

Brother Samuel

Brother Samuel runs the church and serves as its pastor; he is a white haired, white bearded man in his late 50’s, and the Well Of Life exists primarily to minister to the needs of the children born of the local prostitutes.

The sad fact is that most if not all of the women caught up in prostitution have no other marketable skills, and thus have no other way of earning income to support themselves and their families. The children born of their liaisons will almost certainly follow in their mother’s footsteps if no intervening force interrupts the cycle.

But Brother Samuel is providing a way out for most of the girls, if they will come to the church and allow themselves to be ministered to. It isn’t a difficult choice really, for Samuel is providing many valuable services to these girls. He provides a basic education for them, and education they would otherwise not receive if they stayed at home with their mothers. He has a feeding program for them (On the day we were visiting with the girls, I saw another volunteer pull out bags of pakoras for the girls as we were leaving). Very importantly, he provides some vocational skills training for these girls, so that they might be able to have a marketable skill, such as sewing, or computer operating. Only then could they be able to leave the town, and support themselves out of the shadow of generational prostitution.

By far the most important service Brother Samuel provides is introducing these girls to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is done through the systematic Bible study program that was introduced through Bible League. Armed with study booklets, these girls come to believe in a God who created them, who loves them, and has plans for their lives…good plans. Most of the girls we met…ages ranging anywhere from mid-teens to early 20’s…had heard the Gospel and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Brianka

Brianka is one such girl whose life has been changed by learning about and believing in God. Her mother is one of the sex workers in the village, and Kiertie began coming to the church as a way to avoid the inevitable encounters her mother had with the various men who came to their house. (All of the action takes place in the home where the family lives, rather than some hotel room somewhere. The men who pay for sex sometimes abuse and take advantage of the young girls in the home as well…another sad truth about life in Yadagirigutta.)

Brianka had in her adolescence been stricken with ‘fits’, in which her body would become rigid, her eyes would roll back in her head, and foam would excrete from her mouth. The way they were described made them sound like epileptic seizures of some kind, but whatever they were, they were apparently very frightening to witness. Those who observed them said that it looked as if Brianka was dying.

As the story is told, one night, in the middle of the night, Brianka began having seizures, and, as a way to endure them, she began singing in between bouts. “Jesus Christ is watching me, Jesus Christ has died for me, and my sins have been taken away…” Imagine the disturbing sound of a teenaged girl singing at midnight, the song punctuated by strangled gasps and sobbing. To Brinaka’s mother, it was very eerie indeed, and the next day, she went straight to Samuel’s house and confronted him.

Brother Samuel was surprised to have the prostitute on his doorstep, waving her fingers in his face, and demanding to know what he had done to her. “Did you cast some spell on her? Why is she singing about this Jesus at midnight?”

Samuel made a gentle response. “We did not do anything to her, honestly. We’re just praying for her and asking that Jesus would heal her.” This answer was not to the mother’s liking.

“No, no, no, I do not want you doing any of that for her,” she yelled angrily. “I don’t want her coming to this place anymore.” Many of the nominal Hindu people of the town had similar reactions to Christianity. They didn’t understand it and they didn’t want it. But Brianka’s mother had no way to keep Brianka from coming back to the church; most of the time, she was too busy entertaining men and trying to earn a few rupees that she didn’t or couldn’t keep track of her children’s whereabouts.

Brianka told Samuel later, “I don’t care what my mother says; I want to come to church.” And in fact Brianka did continue to attend, and even increased her presence in the small congregation. Not only was she enjoying a basic education, she was learning about the Lord greatly, and becoming increasingly more steadfast in worshipping Him as the only God. She’s now 16 years old, and a fully participating member of the Well of Life church. Her faith in Christ has been a great solace to her, even in the midst of difficult times and circumstances. There is hope now that she will one day be able to leave the town with some skill, so that she might start a new life and not be condemned to follow in her mother’s footsteps. And the seizures? They have for the most part stopped. Brianka says that while she used to suffer from them once or twice a week, this past year, there has only been one. All Glory to God!

About Scott Thunder

I am the Media Specialist for Bible LEague International, a global ministry started in 1938. After spending 25 years behind the microphone at Christian Radio, I decided to try something new...non-profit ministry work. I love it! I still work with radio stations across the country, running campaigns that connect people with the need for Bibles around the world. This is the place where you'll enter into my world, and hear about the campaigns, the needs, the results, and the annual vision trips I lead overseas!
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6 Responses to India — Andhra Pradesh: Continuing to Yadagirigutta

  1. TO
    Mr.scott
    greetins in most matchless name of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUSCHRIST.Thank GOD for your paid visit to india in the month of june 2011.we are very thankfull toyou for kept the ministry detailes in GOOGLE.COM really i am un worthy, sir i would like to send photos regarding computer training, vocational biblical,sewing -embroidery,educational ,familyphotos.
    kindly set the photos againist to the matter ,kindly do the needful .kindly pray for income generating program for commercial sex workers in order to come out of their tradition to survive lives,
    also i like to send two girls testimonies with photos kindly help us , convey my gratitudes to VRON,TEAM bible league int.also send some full bibles to distribute them at other pilgrim centers.
    thanking you sir.
    pastor samuel

  2. pator samuel says:

    MR.SCOTT THUNDER
    greetings in jesus saviours name Iam pastor samuel from yadagirigutta who is serving the lord among prostitutes,thankq for yor prayersand effort , sir i met with mr. JhonDavid bible league hydrabad , discussed on W.BT.C.BIBLE .also there i came to know that you have left the BIBLE LEAGUE INT, some changes have come in B.L.I. mr.john david said.
    SIR ,I mailed some photos activities that are doing here in yadagirigutta from the last 7 years 1,school,2, computer training ,bible training ,sewing training ,for commercial sex workers and their children,
    SIR ,KINDLY pray &raise the sources, for 52 children orphens(2) for continuation DAVID BIBLE INSTITUTE -church planters training also church construction every year 30 students.
    For primary school children need to have small building .
    kindly povide playing items for the children of primary school ,items 1,see-saw 2,sladder
    3,meri-go-round ,4,swings ,5,globe cost of rupees 48000. in dollars $. 10000=00
    its remindable for us mr.scott paid visit india trip.
    thanking you sir
    pastor smuel
    yadagirigutta. mob- 09849304028

  3. prudhwi says:

    naku ammayi kavali oka ganta

  4. Narasimha says:

    To ,

    The people who are against hindu,
    Samuel/ scott ,

    Please dont spread bad word on hindusim just because of your livelihood .

    There are many words are coming to mind to write a strong message to you but I am resisting myself not to speak bad words just because I am human from India with Hindusim religion.

    If you want to serve poor serve the best as you are already doing I believe..keep continue..pls dont create a negative atmosphere.

    Thanks,
    Yadagiri Bhakthudu

    • Thank you for reading the blog and taking the time to post a comment. It is true I write from a Christian perspective on world religions, but there is no malice toward Hindus intended.

      • Srinivas says:

        Mr. Scott,

        Hindus name given by the Great British Empire. Our Religion had NO NAME.

        Accept That Everyone Is Different Because all people are different, everyone needs to make different choices to be happy.

        Take A Step Back And Stop Criticizing Before you point out the “holes” in another person’s religion, take a look at your own, as every religion has its faults.

        Think About Other People’s Feelings Think about it

        Do not attempt to change them.

        Recognize Similarities In Religion Another reason why hating a person based on religious beliefs is ridiculous is that almost all religions have certain similarities.

        Learn About Religious Ceremonies If you think a religious ceremony or practice looks odd, learn about it before you wrinkle your nose at it.

        Known Is A Drop, Unknown Is An Ocean.

        Christ Died For Betterment of Humanity, But What We Are Doing with It.
        One Who Follows the Christ is called Christian. Christ Nurtured about LOVE, HELPING, SERVING, PRAYING……etc. And We Simply Eating, Reading, Working, Playing, Watching, eating, praying and sleeping, Again Same Cycle, we Never follow the Words of GOD at Least ONE.
        Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

        What I Know is Maximum all Religions trying to do the same, Now what’s the point ?
        John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

        Ignorance is only way out. Following our Religious Fact Be On It with deed.

        Serving to Humanity is Serving GOD. What I Had Learned

        Have A Nice Day

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