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February 2018 Persecution Magazine

“ SAVED FROM THE JAWS

“ SAVED FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH Pastor Nayak suffered severe injuries to the head after a violent attack by Hindu radicals. 26 PERSECU ION.org FEBRUARY 2018 INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN

By William Stark I was very sure I was close to the grave,” Pastor Sevya Nayak said as he recalled his run-in with Hindu radicals in India. “I could hear whispers from my subconscious saying that the chances of survival were very remote as I was being shuttled from the ambulance to the hospital. I believe it was only God that saved me from the mouth of death that night.” What brought Pastor Nayak to such a dark place, so close to death? His commitment to spreading the Gospel to unreached people in India’s Telangana state. At 28-years-old, Pastor Nayak is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian pastors whose commitment to their faith and their ministry has run them afoul of Hindu radicals and led to severe personal consequences. Unfortunately for Pastor Nayak, the consequences of his ministry nearly cost him his life. “I believe it was only God that saved me from the mouth of death that night” On October 5, 2017, Pastor Nayak rode his motorcycle into the village of Govindapuram to lead a prayer service for five families that had recently professed their faith in Jesus. These conversions had not gone unnoticed and local Hindu radicals had, on multiple occasions, told Pastor Nayak to not return to the village. In spite of this very real threat, Pastor Nayak did not want to abandon these new Christians and decided to risk the possibility of an attack. “I never thought those threats from Hindu radicals would lead to this deadly attack,” Pastor Nayak later told ICC. “I remember that night,” Pastor Nayak recalled. “It was very dark.” “Four men were standing with the wooden lathies (clubs) in the road when I was returning home after conducting a cottage prayer meeting in a Christian’s house in Govindapuram,” Pastor Nayak explained. “They blocked my motorcycle and before I could ask the reason for blocking my way, they started to hit me and punch me.” “I was pleading them to stop and tell me PERSECU ION.org INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN One pastor explains the severe consequences he faced because of his commitment to his faith and ministry. why they were beating me, but they wouldn’t stop,” Pastor Nayak said. “They hit me even harder on my head and I collapsed to the ground unconscious.” After severely beating Pastor Nayak, his attackers left his unconscious body on the roadside, thinking he was as good as dead. Alone, injured, and unconscious, Pastor Nayak’s chances of survival were slim. “I was told later that a passenger bus happened to pass through on that road,” Pastor Nayak said about his miraculous rescue. “The bus conductor noticed me unconscious on the roadside, but he thought I was dead and did not want to touch me as it might drag him into unnecessary legal complications. He went to a nearby village and called the villagers. When they returned, they found that I was still breathing. I was immediately rushed to the hospital in Mahabubabad.” “We lost hope our son would survive,” Venkanna Nayak, Pastor Nayak’s father, told ICC. “The doctors told us his chances of survival were very small as blood was coming out of his ears and nose. After some medical tests, the doctors confirmed that there was a significant blood clot in the skull and for several days he was under observation in the intensive care unit.” Despite the doctors’ worst fears, Pastor Nayak recovered and, after two weeks in the hospital, was released and returned home. Still, the October 5 attack has left its mark on Pastor Nayak. For months following his homecoming, Pastor Nayak took medication to clear up the blood clot on his brain. The clot gave him splitting headaches and left him very weak. Pastor Nayak has also completely lost hearing in his right ear and partially lost sight in his right eye. To date, Pastor Nayak has continued to visit a physical therapist to help him with a “twisting problem” where tension in his jaw muscles leaves him unable to open his mouth properly and communicate. This is likely the result of permanent brain damage caused by the attack. Although still on the long road to recovery, Pastor Nayak remains committed to his ministry. “There is no greater work than serving Jesus, particularly bringing the Good News to the tribal people that I belong to,” Pastor Nayak told ICC. “This is what God called me to.” “It has been [a] very difficult phase of life,” Pastor Nayak continued. “I am emotionally drained and my family is under pressure. It has not been easy, but one thing I know for sure is that I will continue to serve as a pastor for my people. No matter what the cost. God gave me the grace to face these times and He will be faithful even in the unknown future.” India is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for pastors, especially those seeking to bring the Gospel to unreached people. Like Pastor Nayak, Christian leaders seeking to reach these people know that Hindu radicals will use false criminal allegations, beatings, and other forms of intimidation to destroy their ministry. Still, their commitment to their faith and the Great Commission drives them forward, bringing light into darkness. “It has not been easy, but one thing I know for sure is that I will continue to serve as a pastor for my people. No matter what the cost.” – PASTOR NAYAK 27