From 2013–2017, Cherrydale’s missions program focused on an unreached people group in India, the Kalal. (An unreached people group is one which would likely never hear the gospel in their distinct culture and language). Through prayer, local partnerships, and short-term missions, tens of thousands of these Hindu people have heard the good news about Jesus and over 75 house churches were established.
Background on the Kalal
As there are over a million Kalal people, speaking four main languages and spread throughout India, Cherrydale chose to focus on a smaller sub-group (200,000 people). These Marathi-speaking Kalal live in a rural setting in the Andhra Pradesh region of southern India. With an abundance of palm trees, palm wine collection and production serves as the primary occupation among the Kalal. As a result, alcoholism plagues many families.
Reaching the Kalal with the gospel
In 2014, through the help of an international ministry organization, Cherrydale partnered with a local people group to engage the Kalal with the gospel. God had been doing amazing work among that people, the Banjara, with over 2,000 churches planted. Cherrydale began supporting five missionaries and their supervisor from the Banjara who would regularly reach out to Kalal villages by sharing the Jesus Film, leading evangelistic Bible studies, and mobilizing short-term missions teams to serve.
In just four years, outreach to the Kalal has grown to include discipleship training, rather than just evangelism, encouraging new believers to share their faith with others. The ministry is equipping house churches with the elements necessary to be healthy and replicable bodies of believers. They are also providing training for those who accept Christ but are unable to return to their profession (i.e. wine makers), providing Bibles in their native language, and offering ministries for children.
Cherrydale summer mission trips
Cherrydale sent teams to minister to the Kalal every summer from 2014–17. As the Kalal live in rural areas, the team would stay in the nearest town and then travel out to the villages each day with translators to interact with people—and hopefully share the gospel. It never seemed difficult to start conversations, as this group of foreigners attracted a lot of attention. People wanted to hear about American culture and would welcome team members onto their porches to talk. Other villagers showed them how they collected palm fruits, demonstrating their skills at climbing trees. Some even led team members to temples where the Kalal worship Hindu gods.
Conversations at people’s homes provided opportunities to share testimonies, or discuss spiritual concepts. Surprisingly this was not too difficult, for compared to Americans, the Kalal are naturally open to talking about spiritual things. The teams soon learned that telling stories would hold people’s attention longer than just talking. Stories that could convey the gospel—those with a sacrifice and redemption theme—were an important part of their toolset.
The power of the gospel to touch and transform hearts was demonstrated time and again. Listeners eagerly wanted to know more about a loving God who desires a personal relationship with them. After one trip, a team member shared:
“Hearers smiled and clapped their hands when they learned Jesus didn’t remain in the grave! As I shared the message of a loving God coming down in human form, they were on the edge of their seats. I know this is not because I was riveting, but because the concept of this truth is mind-blowing. In fact, my gospel-sharing techniques need refining! As I explained that Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for our sins and was buried in a tomb, they were wide-eyed.”
Over the four years, the teams have heard stories of how God has been revealing Himself to the Kalal through dreams, answering prayers for healing and restoration, and opening hearts to accept the gospel. Not only have the hearts of so many Kalal people been affected, but many mission team members themselves have been stretched and encouraged in their faith. Sharing the gospel in a different context helped them hear it anew and provided refreshment to their souls. They were reminded that God is at work, revealing Himself to people as far away as India, bringing light into spiritual darkness.