Vizianagaram, India, is known as the City of Victory due to its many businesses and colleges. However, even as the city becomes more urbanized, more and more people from lower caste systems dwell in the slums. Following a call from God, Chepa Rao founded the Bethany Mission Society, a church planting, mission organization to reach those often seen as outcasts.
In a culture of many religions, fatalistic beliefs and many gods, the Bethany Mission Society shares the Christian gospel to cultivate hope. Chepa explains that due to India’s belief in karma, its society embraces the bondage of poverty, disease and spiritual death as a recompense for sins in a past life.
Yet, the Bethany Mission society seeks to exalt the Lord, equip the believer, encourage the community, and evangelize the world. They provide medical care, job skill training and discipleship through church planting to tribal fishermen, women and young girls, and those in rural and urban slum communities.
“It was a faith walk all the way, in every circumstance,” Chepa said. “Within a short time, we could see a handful of people coming forward to Christ. The real breakthrough began in the ministry as we saw God answering prayer.”
What started as one church in a rented building, is now multiplying as others join in the mission. Chepa currently mentors 12 pastors, all of whom converted from Hinduism or Islam. These pastors are also pioneering their own church plants.
“My goal is that the people outside the church will come to the knowledge of Christ and join the churches and that those in the church will become mature disciples, resulting in their winning and discipling even more people,” Chepa said.
Bethany Mission plans to plant 12 churches of 100 believers within the next few years. These churches will be strategically located in 12 surrounding villages.
“We understand that ‘it is not by our might or power, but it is the Lord, who adds people to His church, and He builds his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’” Chepa said.
In addition to his role as a pastor, Chepa has also served as the registrar, academic dean and professor of missions and languages for Christian Renewal Theological Seminary. Chepa recognizes the need for holistic education that meets the present day challenges.
“Today we live in a complex world,” he said. “Our students engage the world everyday and they seek not only knowledge, but also the answers to life.”
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