To know Pastor Ageshwar is to know a warrior and a hero. His life, like Paul’s, sees his physical limitation as a source for spiritual growth. If Jesus could benefit from suffering, surely that possibility exists for us also.
This is his story:
Pastor Ageshwar Verma dropped out from school after the 8th grade and started working as a daily wages labourer atconstruction sites. Finding an aptitude for the job, he developed himself as a Mason (a craftsman who works with stone or brick). Pastor’s family belongs to the ‘Lodhi Community’ who’s primary occupation is agriculture and farming. The Lodhi’s are categorized as an “Other Backward Class”.
With a steady job and steady income with a Construction Company, he decided to settle down. Marriage with Rajni in 2014 was all that he had expected and life was good.
However, an unexpected tragedy in November 2014, crippled him. Pastor Ageshwar accidentally fell off from a 5-story building, while plastering the walls, landing on the hard pavement below. Death would not have been surprising but by the grace of God, he survived the fall. Barely able to breathe, his injuries were pretty significant and hope for recovery seemed dim.
Admitted to Balaji Hospital in Raipur and after a battery of tests, x-rays and scans, Doctors identified that his backbone had been fractured in places. In spite of specialized treatment and 21 days in hospital, Doctors finally asked the family to take him home as they could not guarantee his complete recovery, since the fracture had paralyzed him waist down and lost the use of his legs.
At home, Ageshwar faced a lot of ordeals. Crying out to his gods, making offerings for healing produced no results. Frustrated at being bed ridden and dependent on others even for his basic needs and the lack of progress, led to arguments and struggles between him and his wife. To his great disappointment, his wife Rajni left him. Abandoned by his wife, with both legs paralyzed, wheel chair bound, his life ahead looked hopeless and wretched. Filled with despondency, he attempted to take his life many times, unsuccessfully.
It was on one such day, that he received a call from a friend Mahesh, a Christian and a student in a Bible College at Jagdalpur city in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. He encouraged him with Bible verses and suddenly Pastor began to see a ray of hope in his life. Hearing about Jesus for the first time, about how He can transform lives, this Hindu by birth prayed for the first time in his adult life. This friend encouraged him to trust and follow Jesus as his Saviour as all things were possible with God.
After the call, Pastor began to ponder on their conversation. The more he pondered, the more the desire to know about this Jesus Christ was quickened in his heart. After around 15 days, he made up his mind to go to AG Church in Bilaspur, around 55 kms from his residence.
At AG Church at Bilaspur, under the guidance of Rev. Ajit Daniel, he started growing spiritually, was baptized and filled with Holy Spirit. As he now unshakably believes, God does listen to heartfelt prayers, and miracles do happen.He found accommodation at the Church campus and life was peaceful.
One day, he heard the voice of God, directing him to this verse:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” – Matthew 28:18
God instructed him to go back to his native village and tell them about Jesus Christ. Trusting in God implicitly, he went back to his village Ghorba, Tehsil Navagarh, District Bemetara, Chhattisgarh.
Nothing in life is as exciting and satisfying as introducing Jesus to people who have never met him. From April 2016, Pastor Ageshwar began to boldly proclaim the Gospel. He started the Church at home. His mother, Jetttiyabai and 4 other family members were the first fruitsthrough his proclamation. Soon, through word of mouth, multitudes started visiting his home for prayer, for healingfrom all kinds of sickness – every form of physical infirmities and mental illnesses diseases, both physical and spiritual. In 8-months’ time, the village was flooded with visitors from villages near and far.
Sitting on a wheel chair, Pastor used to shepherd a Church of over 4000 believers, who met to worship every Wednesday and Sunday. Just as when the disciples in the Book of Acts19:29 visited the cities, the “whole village was in an uproar”
Words spoken by a man, confined to a wheelchair, bearing patiently through the disability that God sent, submitting to His will, and being peaceful and cheerful in the midst of suffering, through faith in his Savior — such a sight, even without many words, is hard to ignore or disbelieve. That such a man would have a message of hope, to a world that is hurting, motivating the heavy laden, to learn of trust Jesus, to follow Him and find rest in Him, was touching and inspirational.
During this time, his father Unniram Verma had a massive heart-attack and was very serious and hospitalized. When Pastor prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, his father was completely healed and discharged from the hospital.Through this experience and grateful for the miracle,Father Verma committed to follow Jesus Christ.
As the Church began growing, religious fundamentalists started putting pressure on the local police to stop the meetings. In spite of several confrontations and meetings with the Village Head, the District Collector, Superintendent of Police and many government and administration officers, Pastor was adamant that he would not disobey Jesus Christ, who had called him to serve in the village.
However, on Wednesday, 25th January, 2017, around noon time, a group of armed Policemen, forced entry into his house, and took this wheelchair bound Pastor into custody. This was a premeditated plan knowing fully well that the following day, Thursday, 26th January was Republic Day and all government institutions would be shut – there would be no recourse to apply for bail on the following day. Pastor was released on bail after 8 days in jail. The Church was also forcibly shut by the authorities.
While in jail, like Joseph, the Lord was with him. The Lord showed him mercy and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. He was allowed to share his challenging testimony with the inmates, most of them probably not unjustly punished. Praise God for the opportunity that much good was done within the walls of the prison, among his fellow-prisoners, during those 8-long days. His testimony inspired and comforted the hardened criminals.
Pastor Ageshwar now travels around 35 kms, twice every month, to the Court, for his hearing on the false charges that he remanded – preaching to convert people to Christianity. A second false case has also been filed against him. However, he stands firm in faith stating that he was only exercising his fundamental rights.
Unidentified attackers’, in their obsession for revenge and retaliation, and in order to strong-arm and intimidate Pastor, targeted his immediate family members.
Bro. Raj Kumar, Pastor Ageshwar’s nephew, was “his feet”– literally. He took Pastor everyplace that Pastor could not travel to, with his handicap and limitations. Extremely fond of Pastor, Bro. Raj Kumar followed him around like a shadow. Always eager to assist Pastor, he would carry him in his arms, from the wheelchair to the Church. He was a committed Christian and an Usher in the Church. He stayed with Pastor, always at his beck and call, attentive to meet his needs.
In fact, when Pastor was falsely charged and arrested, it pained him that the entire village which was blessed by his ministry, never supported him. He met with the elders and village heads, telling them that they have made a grave mistake by falsely accusing and imprisoning a man of God. It was only a matter of time therefore that this lone voice crying for justice would be silenced.
Bro. Raj Kumar was found dead, hanging in his house, allegedly having committed suicide. His family knows the truth but will not speak about it for fear of further reprisals.
The second fatality was Hemant Kumar– son of Sanjay Kumar, the older brother of Pastor Ageshwar. He had left home to attend a marriage function and never came back. As the family and the Police searched for any information on his whereabouts, his remains – his decomposed body was found in a field, some 60 kms away. While Police are investigating, no one has been arrested so far.
After release from jail and despite these personal setbacks, Pastor was unwilling to be restricted by these attacls. Pastor refused to succumb to pressure tactics and was not fearful at all; as such was his passion and dedication towards Jesus Christ. He was willing to give up everything in order to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Worldly suffering was not a deterrent to him. Pastor believes with all of his heart that no challenge is too great for the God who promises to move mountains.
By the grace of God, Pastor has resumed Worship Services from March 2018 at his home. The sheep that had been scattered, are slowly returning, hungry and eager to hear the voice of love, of hope and of peace. Pastor believes that there is nothing more valuable than a person’s soul and his constant prayer is that, not a single soul would lose sight of their first love or compromise with the world.
His desire is that, not just the 4000 regular members but the entire village would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Persecution Relief had covered Pastor Ageshwar’s story in our Newspaper, “Voice of the Christians”, February 2017issue. We had encouraged the Church in India and Overseas, to pray for Pastor’s release from prison and for the ministry to resume. We praise God for this marvelous breakthrough.
Let us continue to pray without ceasing – for it God who open’s hearts and doors and it is God who prepares the field long before He sends His servants.
Let us take this opportunity to remember and uphold in prayer, all Churches across India which have been forcibly shut down, because of the threats of religious fanatics. Pray that not only would all the Churches restart their services but many more Churches would branch out from these closed Churches.
God’s plan and providence, even through hardships, physical challenges, severe poverty, dictatorship, anti-conversion bill, bankruptcy, personal loss — cannot be stifled. Let us believe that God will continue to accomplish great things through Pastor Ageshwar and the church in India, as we fix our eyes on him.
If you wish to visit Pastor Ageshwar or if God lays it upon your heart to support his ministry, please write to us at email@example.com
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