Zachariah’s parents died when he was about 8 years old. He is from a tribe called Valmiki. Zachariah says, “My fraternal uncle took advantage of my father’s death and used me to take care of his cattle.” From morning till evening he was used like a hired servant boy. But he desired to attend school. “During the noon hour, I used to slip into a village school,” Zachariah confessed, a twinkle in his eye. With the help of a cousin who went to that school, Zachariah started learning the alphabet and math. His appetite for education began to increase.
His mother’s sister came to his rescue. Though very poor, this aunt admitted Zachariah into a tribal hostel. He began to search for fellowship and somebody who would love and care for him. He often felt lonely and abandoned. A small church group near the hostel conducted worship services and Sunday school. The singing attracted him to Sunday school. His desire for Christian fellowship and service grew, and he regularly attended Sunday school and youth meetings. A social and spiritual vacuum was being filled through Christian fellowship. Zachariah sensed a calling to enter ministry. After he finished his 10th class, he joined Agape Ministries as an evangelist.
Zachariah was married to Pachamma, a relative by maternal lineage, when he was only a teenager. Initially, Pachamma was not in favor of marrying Zachariah because he was an orphan. As days went by, she heeded her mother’s counsel to marry him; they now have five children. Three of their youngest children, Esther Rani, Madhavi and Ushen, are supported through International Child Care Ministries (ICCM).
Zachariah, now 35 years old, is energetic, outgoing and unassuming. The Lord has used him to plant new congregations in three different places. Zachariah left the first two churches in the hands of co-workers. Currently, he is reaching out to an unreached people group, living in a hilly, densely forested area about 50 miles (80 km) from his first church. The area is almost unapproachable, but Zachariah felt he should go there. After three years, the congregation has grown to 48 members. Even from this location, he has an outreach ministry which has resulted in eight families coming to the Lord.
Education for their children is a real concern for families like Zachariah’s. Having come from a poor and orphan background, he knows the value of education. Many of India’s pastors and church planters receive meager support from Agape Conference or the local church. The sponsorship funds from ICCM come as a tremendous boost to these servant-families working in the Lord’s vineyard. Because of ICCM support, the children of church planters and pastors are sent to school or admitted in a nearby hostel. This reduces the burden of raising finances for their children’s education and keeps them free to serve the cause of the mission.
The ICCM program has a big stake in the church planting ministry, including Zachariah’s ministry.
Click here to read other articles from the April-June 2012 issue of World Mission People magazine