We arrived at the airport late in evening and were whisked away to one of the nicest hotels in Bhubaneswar. In much of India, this means the room is clean, comfortable and most importantly, has air conditioning. We departed at 6 a.m. for our eight-hour journey deep into the state of Odisha to the Kandhamal District. We were there to see and visit with the Kutia people.
As soon as we reached the first Kutia village, I was swarmed by a host of young kids who are currently being taught English and Hindi (the national Indian language). I was moved as they greeted me with smiles and flowers. My hosts, Lamboi & Niangboi Suantak, proceeded to show me the fruit of their labors as they arranged for the children to sing some English worship songs. If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn that I was sitting outside a children’s Sunday School class in rural America as they sang in seemingly perfect English.
I was among the Kutia to observe the work of New Beginning Gospel Ministry International founded by my friend, the Rev. Dr. Langkhanthang Lianzaw. Their focus is to reach out to the unreached, indigenous people groups in India. The weekend before, I had journeyed to the state of Rajasthan with Dr. Lianzaw.
Please click on the photo to see the full picture:
Their strategy to reach the Kutia people is simple: lovingly serve them. India is a complex country with 121 languages each spoken by least 10,000 people. For example, a Kutia boy speaks his native tongue of Kutia, but most in his state speak Oria, the official state language. However, to get beyond a 5th grade education, he is expected to show some level of mastery of English and Hindi (the official language of India).
Pardon the humor, but “what do you call a person that only speaks one language?” The answer, “an American.” Imagine this, the Kutia are among the poorest and least educated people, but to get ahead they must speak four languages!
To serve these Kutia villages, the workers teach these kids basic English, Hindi and, in some cases, Oria. The parents are incredibly appreciative, as this gives the kids an opportunity to get a scholarship to 6th grade and higher. To date, nine kids have been able to reach this level, which was before almost unattainable.
Known formerly as the Kutia Kondh, the Kutia are an indigenous people group who, in India, are referred to as a “Scheduled Tribe.” The Kutia are “animists”, which is the religious belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence.
According to Kutia tradition, the first human, Rani Adu, and her seven sisters were born in a place called Sopanggoda under the ground in darkness. It is believed that these eight sisters became the mothers of all nations, tribes and tongues in the world. Through their children’s children the earth was filled with people.
This site is considered a sacred place, and animal sacrifices are made there once or twice per year. Human sacrifices once used to made, but they say that custom is no longer observed. According to the Kutia tradition, in the past women who attended the sacrifices were all dead within a few days. As a result, it is strictly prohibited for women to enter the area.
In India, there is believed to be over 30 million gods that are worshiped. The Kutia are no exception with the stone god, Dharni Penu, being most revered. In the middle of each Kutia village are three stones, which are worshipped as a symbolic form of Dharni Penu. They also worship Soru Penu (mountain god) and Jenna Penu (village god), Ilu Penu (household god), Malanga Penu (family god), Gonggi Penu (spring water god), and Bura Penu (sky god). Traditionally, it is crucial that each god be worshipped, as they control an important aspect of life.
What can you do to help the Kutia people? First and foremost, would you please dedicate time to pray for the 80,000 Kutia people that are living in daily fear of these evil spirits that torment their lives? Pray that their eyes would be opened to see Jesus as the one and only true God.
Second, would you prayerfully consider making a generous donation to the ministry of New Beginning Gospel Ministry International, and their efforts to reach the unreached indigenous people groups in India? Rarely have I seen such a fruitful light shining so brightly for the Lord in such a dark place. The ministry of New Beginning is a very impactful place for you to sow your generous Kingdom seed!
Thank you for opening your hearts to what God is doing amongst the Kutia in India. Together, we can make a difference in bringing the hope of the gospel to the outer reaches of this world!