Dr. Wesley Duewel (President emeritus of OMS International) and Rev. Tharp have been friends and prayer partners for more than 30 years. Dr. Duewel first introduced the idea of travel to India for ministry to Rev. Tharp in 2001.
“Enlarge my territory”
Early in 2001, a prayer partner in Indianapolis called and said he felt I should be praying the prayer of Jabez for Christian Renewal Ministries. I studied the prayer in 1 Chron. 4:10, and felt inspired of the Spirit as I cried out with Jabez , “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” In a matter of days I received word from another prayer partner, Dr. Wesley Duewel, telling me he had felt led to recommend me as one of the speakers for a large annual Spiritual Life Convention in Allahabad, India, and felt I should go when called in the year 2001. Dr. J. Masih, president of Allahabad Bible Seminary, was our gracious host, and my preaching partner was Dr. Samuel Kamalesa, vice-president of World Vision. I felt a tremendous anointing of the Holy Spirit on all the services as many were born again, including several militant Hindus; many believers including most of the seminarians were filled with the Holy Spirit; and the spirit of revival permeated most of the people of God who attended. From Allahabad I traveled south to Bangalore, where working through a brother I had met in “Amsterdam 2000,” we rented a hall and ministered to several hundred people for three days, teaching on Prayer, Revival and the Holy Spirit. I had never up to that time found such hunger for Bible truth on the Holy Spirit! Many were sanctified, filled with the Spirit and set free from bondage.
Then in 2002, I was invited to deliver the commencement address at Allahabad Bible Seminary and to conduct the First Annual Pastors’ Conference for the Evangelical Church of North India. Accompanying me were Dr. Mike Ross of Indianapolis and Shelly Hardy from Dothan, Alabama.
My third visit to India was to join with Pastors John Wendel and Gulshan Lal, both from Chicago, to speak at the Annual Spiritual Life Convention in February 2004. Four services were held each day: seminary students led a prayer meeting each morning from 6:30-7:00; two preaching/teaching sessions were held each morning (8:30-10:00, 10:30-12:00); then in the big tent (a capacity of 1,000) we had our nightly service from 6:00 to 8:00, sometimes running until 11:00, depending on how the Spirit was working.
God’s servants can expect opposition from the kingdom of darkness, no matter what culture they are ministering in. Satan shifts strategies from time to time, hoping to confuse and dishearten God’s leaders and mislead God’s people. On Friday night Feb. 27, the Muslims moved in to pass out their literature and seek to engage the people in conversation as they filed onto the tent grounds. But they remained nonviolent, and there was little outward disturbance. Once they became known, most of their materials were rejected.
On the closing night, Sunday Feb. 29, the Spirit definitely led me to preach on Eph. 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” The big tent was filled, and people were standing out on the grounds. I have seldom experienced such freedom in preaching, but I received a warning from the Spirit that I was about to face a rare kind of opposition. I sought to make the point that unless a good number of believers in India wakened to the need of being filled with the Spirit, their great nation would continue to dwell in darkness and miss the great spiritual awakening that God wanted to send. I invited all believers who wished to be a part of a mighty revival in India to come forward and stand in front of the platform and pray with me for a cleansing from sin and a new filling of the Holy Spirit. For a few seconds it appeared there would be no takers. Then, one by one, and finally in couples and in groups they started coming – individuals, seminarians, pastors, couples, families, church delegations – 122 by actual count stood in front of me weeping in repentance for their indifference, prayerlessness, pride, unbelief and disobedience.
Opposition from the kingdom of darkness
While I was instructing these hungry, penitent Christians, seeking to prepare them for the prayer to be filled with the Spirit, suddenly among them two men began raising strange voices, waxing louder and louder, drowning out my amplified voice. The Spirit revealed to me that this was demonic, that it was the opposition He had warned of, and He made it clear how it was to be handled. One of the disturbers was rolling on the ground and screaming in strange tones. People were frightened and some in the congregation had begun to rise, gather their families and start to leave. I asked for quiet in the Name of Jesus, and the whole scene was absolute silence. I instructed the seekers to go right on confessing their sins while I left the platform and went down to the two men to see them delivered from their bondage. A seminary professor joined me in the prayer of deliverance for the rolling, screaming one. As the demon left him, he fell to his knees and began weeping softly, repenting. I left him praising the Lord in a quiet way after he apologized to me for his behavior. I went to the second man and it was almost an exact repetition of the first. I then returned to the platform and as the seekers prayed with me for a genuine filling of the Holy Spirit, a great outpouring came and soon the air was filled with men and women, young and old, praising God for His mighty downpouring and infilling of His Spirit. What a joy it was to see the dignified, stoical Indians get free to praise God for His glorious baptism of love and power and freedom in the Spirit!
The Lord led me to return to the floor level, where for two more hours people from the congregation – United Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Christian Reformed and Friends – begged me to lay hands on them and pray for a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit. I finally went to my room filled with humility and praise for a night of spiritual victory and power. It was genuine revival! The service will live long in my memory as one of those times when God chose to manifest His glory.
Nearly killed for accepting Christ
One of the last persons I prayed for was A____ K____, (name removed for security), a 22 year-old seminarian. A____ was born into the home of wealthy parents in northern India, who are militant Hindus and deeply involved in Indian politics. A____ came under the influence of Christian witnesses in 1999 who represented the Impact India ministry and became interested in the Gospel. He was led to a clear conversion to Christ, and in his heart, he renounced Hinduism and made an all-out commitment to Christ. When he told his family what he had done, there was a typical Hindu reaction – unbelief, shock, anger, threats and ultimatums. A____ held steady and would not recant. He had begun to wonder if he might not be able to coexist with his family of Hindus. Then he became violently ill. One of his friends helped him to learn that his parents had decided he would have to be poisoned since he was so firmly committed to Christ. A____ had heard of the Allahabad Bible Seminary and decided to escape there. My friend, Dr. J. Masih, received him as a father, took him to a physician and made a place for him in his home.
A____ recovered completely, enrolled in the seminary and graduated just a few weeks ago. Now that he has been filled with the Spirit, he believes God has a place for him in the great awakening the Lord is going to bring to the nation of India.
A task unfinished
On Monday morning after the great closing service on Sunday night, Dr. Masih asked me to join him in his office for prayer and conversation. He reported that he had been bombarded all night and early morning with phone calls and visits as a result of the powerful moving of the Spirit on Sunday night. He turned to me and said, “Brother Tharp, I realize that these visits to my country require a great deal of sacrifice on your part physically and on your ministry’s part financially. But my faculty and I are unanimous in feeling that you must return this fall and take up where we left off last night. God has used you to cast the vision for revival in India. But your work is not done here yet. I am to be consecrated Bishop of the Evangelical Church of North India in October. My first event as bishop, I believe, is to conduct a Pastors’ Conference where you will teach on Prayer, Revival and the Holy Spirit. I long for all of my pastors to catch the vision of a mighty revival such as you described last night. Will you pray about returning this fall?
It took an amazing amount of grace and strength for me to promise my friend that I would seriously seek the mind of God in responding to his invitation. Finally, feeling certain that I was to return to India, I submitted the matter to the Board of Directors of Christian Renewal Ministries, and all 10 members concurred. But ministry in a place like India is a financial challenge – there are no honorariums to cover travel and hotels, and we have to help pastors with their transportation and food if they are to attend the conference. So, we are facing a budget of about $15,000.00. This is really beyond the means of Christian Renewal Ministries, but the board and I have taken a step of faith to believe God and our prayer partners and the supporters of this ministry to join with us in this venture. I am appealing to our readers to make an investment in revival in India by contributing whatever the Lord would lead you to give. I plan to personally make a sacrificial investment. Our daughter Priscilla, who will be joining the preaching/teaching team, will be paying her own way. Can we count on you to pray for us and contribute whatever you feel the Lord would have you give? If we could receive your contribution by the middle of August or before, it would encourage us greatly as we make plans for this important mission to India.
Thank you for your fervent prayers and sacrificial giving! You truly are partners with us, and without you, we could not carry on. You will share in the blessings in this life and the rewards in the life to come. We promise to give you a full report on the October Pastors’ Conference. May the Lord reward you generously for your faithful contributions!
Won’t you send the most generous offering you can to impact India with the great Harvest message we are called to preach?