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Book Review: In the Presence of the Poor: Changing the Face of India by Kay Marshall Strom

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Born into an Indian family sold out for God, Dr. B.E. Vijayam, a second generation Christian, spent much of his life surrounded by poverty, injustice, and caste-differences — the pain of a fallen world. Plagued by the question, “Why does God make so many people poor?” he turned to an ardent dedication to Marxist communism as a teen.

Through the faithful teaching of his church-planting father during times of family worship, Vijayam came to a startling understanding that the answers to poverty, violence, and injustice are found not in revolution, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ. Immediately entering into an evangelistic ministry, Vijayam’s heart for the lost has remained undiminished throughout his life, leading to the establishment of several training programs for ministers of the gospel.

Blessed with a penchant for academics, Vijayam entered into the sciences, and has been involved with the establishment of several programs dedicated to bringing technological and agricultural advances to the poor of India at a grassroots level. Combining his heart for evangelism with his experience in reaching Indians with technologies that allow them to be self-supporting, he approaches the gospel holistically — seeking to provide the hurting with their vital physical needs, and their deep spiritual need for Jesus as well.

Author Kay Marshall Strom shares Vijayam’s passion for the downtrodden and is dedicated to mobilizing western Christians through her writing. After visiting Dr. Vijaham and the projects he’s spearheaded in India, Strom is bringing his story to the western church, to encourage, and to inspire action.

As supporters of native, or national missionaries in India, In the Presence of the Poor is of particular interest to my family. The parallels Strom draws between the natural shift in the methods demonstrated for evangelism in the New Testament church of Acts and the presently occurring shift in mission-senders in the modern church are new to me. While native missionary work has always seemed practical and efficient, Strom’s thoughts provide examples from scripture to support this growing method.

Strom is an accomplished author who writes in both Christian fiction and non-fiction. While this modern day missionary biography isn’t as stirring or captivating as her splendid novelization of John Newton’s life Once Blind (after which I became a devoted fan), readers with a heart for social justice and missions will find a kindred spirit in this, Strom’s latest. News from the frontlines in the 10/40 window (where the majority of the world’s un-reached people groups dwell) is both encouraging and inspiring to read.

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