Researching the needs and reporting on the status of the work in any given country is a relatively new aspect of missionary effort. In the past, many individual Christians and Christian organizations tended to ignore such information gathering and study as unimportant, too time-consuming and not realy helpful. But just as Joshua sent out the spies to survey the land and report on its condition before the children of Israel moved out in obiedience to God's command, many more missionaries and Christian workers are finding research information invaluable in laying their plans. Good research helps to identify the ever-changing picture of the unfinished task. It helps to identify who is working in the field and where. It helps eliminate duplication of efforts and wastage of precious resources. Research helps us know where we've been and where we are so that we can know where we should go next and how best to get there.
India has been one of the most difficult countries to research. The country is like an intricate mosaic -- many complex pieces that fit together into a whole.
Gathering acurate information about the people themselves and the state of the missionary effort there has been complicated by the deeply entrenched caste system that separates people into socially distinct and unmixable groups and by the incredibly large number of languages and dialets spoken within India, not to mention the hundreds of tribes and religious groups that make up her population.
Much progress has been made in the last few years to "spy out the land and its inhabitants" and to give an accurate and up-to-date picture of the challenges and the opportunities. The India Missions Association, in partnership with Gospel for Asia, has researched and published very informative and accurate books on what has been done so far and the work yet to be done to complete the task of evangelization within India. They have defined the work according to language groups, PIN (Zip) codes, and unreached people groups in the country. The "People of India Project" launched in 1985 by The Anthopological Society of India (ASI) under the leadership of its director, Dr. K. N. Singh, is working toward the completion of one of the most far-reaching ethnographic studies this century. Five hundred scholars spent over 26,000 field days to compile information for these volumes. The information is up-to-date and invaluable to those working to finish the task by the year 2000. For instance, it was previously thought that there were some 1500 different languages spoken by India's nearly 2800 communities. But the ASI research revealed that there were really only 325 different languages. What a difference this finding makes to those missionaries, pastors and evangelists in the field!
Perhaps never before has this kind of information on India been so carefully surveyed, prepared, well-published and distributed. In this, the North India-Hindi Belt is unique. We do not believe it is accidental. God is allowing us to "spy out the land" that we might go in and claim both it and its inhabitants for Him.
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