23 Aug Amarpaani
On 11th November 1990, we visited Dhugdaa, a village in the Naswadi taluk of then Baroda district in Gujarat. We were on a study trip to the land of a people called the Dungrabhils a sub-group among the much larger Bhils of western India. The Dungra bhils speak a distinctive language of their own, have set of beliefs,practices and culture. As we were engaged in an intriguing conversation with Maganbhai we were excited to know more about their religious world views. Magan told us about a mythical waterfalls situated in a place called Veerbaar. I asked him, “Where exactly it is situated?”
“It is Madhya Pradesh” said he. “What is special about Veerbaar” I asked. He said “Those who drink from Veerbaar never die, because it is ‘Amarpaani’. . . living waters. ‘Vow!’ I exclaimed. I continued “Magan, is there any one who has been to Veerbaar and drank amarpaani living for 200 years or more in this village? “He laughed and “no not even one.” “Well. . . Magnabhai I am keen to visit that place. Madhya Pradesh is just 20km away from here. Can you or any one take me to see Veerbaar ?” I asked him earnestly. Magan started laughing louder. “No. . .no one has ever visited Veerbaar or drank amarpaani and has lived here for long years. It is just a story. This is just our belief.
We immediately opened John chapter 4 and shared about the living water. “Magan we havebrought that living water to you and your people”. Magan evinced very great interest andenthusiasm, listened to the Gospel with rapt attention and offered to take us to Kaduli Mahudi where Bachubhai the sarpanch of that village was living. When we shared the Gospel truth and Living water to a group of fifteen to twenty youngsters they expressed their desire to join ‘Esai panth.’ They asked us “Why are you so late to bring this good news. We have been looking for such a news for the past fifteen years.” “Sorry.. . we came to know about your place just recently. Hereafter we will come regularly to teach about this Way.” The very next day on 12th November, another sarpanch Rimjibhai accepted Christ at Ambadungar. A people movement was triggered.
Jesus is embedded in every culture with all diversity of it’s beliefs and practices. The beliefs and practices may be testable hypothesis or untestable hypothesis. But the message of the Gospel gently works through any systems of beliefs or practice and is unstoppable to influence their thinking which ultimately push them to make a choice to accept Christ as their Saviour or reject Him. The gospel penetrates into an individual’s system of beliefs and also permeates the social systems when an individual responds to its content on his/her own volition without any coercion or application of proselytising methods.
Has this amarpaani quenched the thirst of the Dungrabhils ? The ‘vikas’. . . development really took place only one after the other responded to the gospel message.
Just a couple of years after this encounter Sunil Mathew a young engineering graduate from Quilon EU, came with a burden to translate the word of God into Dungrabhili language settled down in Kavant. In another fifteen years down the line the scriptless language was reduced to writing and today New Testament is available in Dungrabhili. The community leader in Tanakla who belonged to the BJP took part in the releasing ceremony of the New Testament was excited and profusely thanked God for receiving the first Great Book ever printed in their mother tongue.
In missiological parlance the amarpaani story is called the redemptive analogy, the beliefs and practices which act as a bridge to lead to the Creator God revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ who claimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.”
Rev. N. Prabahar