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India Trip: Firoz

Some call him a modern-day Moses because of his leadership ability, but his name is Firoz.

Firoz grew up in a Christian home in India. Like many of his American teenage contemporaries, he lived apart from Christ despite his family’s best efforts. At a relatively young age, he got involved in criminal activity. His life spiraled out of control. He was far from the Lord. As he became more and more notorious, Firoz wound up as the leader of a mafia group.

Gangs in India are a lot like gangs everywhere else. Rival groups warred against one another for territory and influence. On on occasion, another gang put out a hit on Firoz’s life. So he fled the region.

Firoz hid out in the home of a family friend in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was there that this woman began to question him about the path his life had taken. She asked him about his faith, and challenged him as to why he was not using his gifts to serve God.

“Firoz,” she would say, “You sing well. Why don’t you sing for Jesus?”

At this point, the young man was despondent. “God cannot use me,” he said, “I’ve done too many bad things.” But the woman was sharp with her reply:

“Firoz, that is exactly why Jesus came.”

This left him wondering about his future and his walk with Christ.

One day, Firoz planned to take a trip by bus. He went to the bus station to buy a ticket. Upon arriving, an acquaintance bumped into him. As they talked, the friend realized Firoz was traveling to the area where the man was planning to drive. He persuaded Firoz to save his money on bus fare and let him give him a ride. As the weaved around steep drop-offs on the curvy road, they came upon a startling scene: the bus Firoz had planned to journey in had tumbled off the road. There were no survivors. This and other incidents led Firoz to commit his life to Christ.

He seized his second chance.

Firoz began to preach around the city of Lucknow. His audience was low caste–shepherds and even criminals. At first, the people resisted. But eventually he was given an audience. Even then, he faced much opposition.

one of the village churches Firoz oversees

one of the village churches Firoz oversees

Hindu extremists persecuted him. One night he was chased by motorcycle and shot at. On another occasion he was approached by extremists and the chief of police in the area. They threatened to persecute him more severely if he did not relent.

“My Bible says you will persecute me because of Jesus,” Firoz said, referencing verses that promised the faithful would face opposition. “So if I don’t let you persecute me my Bible is wrong.” Needless to say, Firoz’s opposition did not go away easily.

Despite the hardships, Firoz was a changed man. His ministry began to bear much fruit. In fact, it is incredible to think about the influence Firoz’s ministry has had on the region. I have stood with Firoz in a circle and prayed. There are no fewer than six men who have been trained as pastors as well under his tutelage. At least a dozen more teenage boys knelt in the same circle, having committed to serve Jesus with their lives as well.

IMG_20131011_121724_178Firoz himself preaches among several churches. Over 10,000 people are under his guidance each weekend in these congregations. There are over 100 churches in all. We visited one criminal community where Firoz has preached. The village leader was converted, as was the entire village. This is one story of 100 stories. In America, Firoz would be a mega-church pastor with offers to speak at conventions and write books and be featured in Leadership Magazine. In India, he is one of many pastors with an outstanding testimony of a changed life that is being used by God to change lives.

Keep your fancy magazine features and your speaking invitations, I think Firoz would say. He’ll just keep serving and loving the people of India.

One amazing testimony at a time.

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