The Gospel Coalition

 

Stories

India:  Weak Link in the World Wide Web

By Patti Richter



The average American began traveling the information superhighway a mere decade ago. Many of us patiently endured dial-up service to access the World Wide Web since we hadn’t experienced high-speed Internet. We’ve come a long way fast.

 

While those of us in the west enjoy a wealth of information at our fingertips, International travel can take us back in time. Africa and Asia especially have low levels of Internet penetration. Things are improving, but hindrances limit technology to the masses in developing countries.

 

Images of Northeast India

 

Dr. David Sorley retired to Minneapolis five years ago after a life-long career in medical missions in East Africa. As a Community Health Consultant, he trains Christians in Community Health Education (CHEd) focusing on preventive health. He travels regularly to the Assam region of Northeast India, the “thumb” of India close to Bangladesh.

 

 

The 71-year-old doctor is comfortable trekking through India’s rural regions since he grew up in India, the son of missionary parents. He works among many Hindu and Muslim people. “As we share health lessons, we share the Bible stories of the teachings of Jesus,” he says.

 

 

Dr. Sorley is familiar with the work of The Gospel Coalition--International Outreach. He recently shared with IO workers some of the limitations he sees in India, even in big cities.

 

“In New Delhi I went to the nearby Internet Café, but was unable to access my Gmail account,” he said. “Last March, In Nagaland, I had no Internet access until my last days there. Electricity was off and on, as is true across India.”

Some of the doctor’s friends in India have cell phones, but no computer, though they are professionals living in large towns. Other friends with Internet access must pay high fees to download data—very slowly.

 

Dr. Sorley knows that much of India is unreached by both the Internet and the Gospel. “I believe that India’s rural population is around 70%,” he says.

 

A 2011 Economist article estimated Internet users in India at roughly 8% of the population—compared to 36% in China and 69% in the West. While those of us in the western world can easily download a new book (even a textbook), billions of people, especially in the global south, still rely on physical information resources. Yet those resources are not easily available either.

 

Targeting Needs

 

David Sorley speaks the Assamese language, but says that English resources work better in the region because “literary and spoken Assamese are different.” Educated and young people there do speak English.

 

He shared several specific needs among the people groups of Northeast India:

  • Teams of Christian church volunteers in India are trained by CHE to reach out to a select community with practical help—clean water, latrines, etc. These workers need resources that address the spiritual needs of the people they visit.
  • Three Bible colleges in the region need more books and study materials.
  • Christians and other religious groups withdraw into their own culture, with antagonism toward the others. Resources that address issues of race are needed. And Christians need resources that could “encourage them to break out of the church.”
  • Many Muslims have come to Christ recently, “over 1000 that I know of have been baptized.” They endure persecutions for their decision. They could use resources addressing their needs as new converts from a Muslim background.

 

The Gospel Coalition—International Outreach

 

What we see in India is true in many world regions. We believe that God is calling the North American church to give attention to the under-nourished regions of the Global South. The Gospel Coalition is working on both the internet and physical resource aspects of the Theological Famine. We exist to serve the church by providing biblically faithful, gospel-centered resources through our website, our events, our publishing partnerships, and a deep network of individuals, churches and organizations.

 

TGC International Outreach is engaged in a mission of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. We are partnering with translators, publishers, and missions networks to provide new access to biblical resources, in digital and physical formats. Our goal is to strengthen thousands of congregations by helping to equip the pastors and elders who are called to shepherd them.

 

Please join us in this great global cause.

 

Patti Richter is a freelance Christian journalist—a writer of news, essays, and profile stories for several publications. She and her husband, Jim, live near Dallas, Texas.