The state is known as the Silicon Valley of India because of the pockets of wealth and technological advances. But that’s not all that’s here. It’s in this state you find a dusty village, the home of a poor, blind man. His contagious smile tells a story of resilience and faith in God despite the painful circumstances in his life.
Shantivardhan (Shantha), lost his father to cancer when he was 10 years old. Since then, his mother, Venamma, has been his primary caregiver. Now in his 30s, he stays in a ramshackle house in this humble, poor neighborhood in Andhra Pradesh, South India. In this nondescript village, it’s common to see dogs loitering, cattle foraging for food, and women sitting outside their homes gossiping. The residents are mostly elderly, and they stay alone without much care.
The majority of the residents belong to the lowest rungs of the caste system. There is little development, and politicians only make promises to win their votes. They never actually follow through.
Shantha was excited that Bobby, a Communication Specialist from Bible League International, was visiting him. Dressed in loose blue trousers and a white shirt, Shantha had the biggest smile in town. Clenched tightly in his hand, his Audio Bible remains close to his heart and his ears.
“Praise the Lord. I cannot read the Bible, but I’m so happy that I can hear God’s Word,” he cries with tears of joy.
Shantha was born with a deformed pupil and cornea. He is totally blind. He is the youngest in his family and has two brothers and three sisters, all devout Hindus. “God saved me, among everyone in my family,” he says with his hands raised.
For 35 years, Shantha and his mother have lived in this dilapidated concrete house that’s literally falling apart. They welcomed Bobby inside graciously. Clothes were strewn across the house. A tiny room with a stove, cooking gas, and a few utensils on the floor made for a kitchen. There were few vegetables, a sack of grain, and bare essentials in the home.
The government provides financial support for the physically challenged, and that’s how they manage their household expenses. The home does have electricity and running water, a luxury not available in many villages in India. The local government provides water only at fixed intervals, so there is a frantic rush to fill the vessels during the evening hours.
Bobby expected him to share his struggles. One would think that someone in his situation would lead first with the troubling circumstances. But not Shantha. His words oozed with hope and faith in God.
“We have been staying here for around 35 years,” he begins.
“I was blind by birth. I cried every day. I would ask myself, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ I wanted to die.”
Shantha’s father took him to several doctors to treat his son’s eyes, but the answer was always the same. It was impossible; his sight would never return.
Shantha’s Hindu family worshipped idols and the sun. But he and his mother turned from that faith when they encountered Jesus. “I came to Jesus along with my mother when she was watching a Telugu movie about Jesus,” he says. “God gave me hope, and I felt an urge to live and not die. My mother and I believed in Jesus and were baptized.”
He and his mother began longing to learn more of God’s Word, but he couldn’t read the Bible for himself. His pastor connected him with Bible League to find the answer. He received an Audio Bible and his life changed. “This is the first time I could hear God’s Word without the help of anyone,” he says.
“I can operate it on my own, go to my favorite passages, rewind, fast forward and listen whenever I want. This is my Bible,” he beams.
Today, 70% of the world’s people live in an oral culture—they prefer to or must learn verbally, not through the written word. Comprehending God’s Word is essential to the Christian faith, so people in these cultures are often at a disadvantage.
The Audio Bible offered by Bible League has been life-changing for people around the globe. In Kenya, some Bible League-trained church planters are using Audio Bibles among the Maasai, often described as a “listening community.” Church planters will often go to local marketplaces with the audio and play some specific passages.
As people gather around to listen, the church planter has an opportunity to evangelize people, and invites them to come to the market again or to his church to listen to more. Soon, the church planters are forming “listening” groups—small group Bible studies using Audio Bibles.
Bible League recently presented 150 Audio Bibles to a village in Bangladesh. The Bibles were enthusiastically welcomed and became a vital instrument to ministry in the area. Lalmiha, a 60-year-old farmer, was raised in a very poor family. He did not go to school so he could support his family, meaning he was illiterate. The Audio Bible was a true gift. “I listen to the Word of God every day,” he says. “I just love it very much. I thank you for the special gift for me to learn the Word of God.”
Audio Bibles often reach more than just the owner of the Bible. Certain models can reach up to 10 active listeners, and others can reach almost 100.
Shantha has reached groups in his community through his testimony and Audio Bible. “I started group prayer after I received the Audio Bible,” he says. “All the blind people gather in a group call to listen to the Scripture.”
Despite his physical challenges, Shantha’s powerful faith in the Lord has impacted those around him. He loves to pray for others.
“People call us for prayer. There are many affected by family issues, bondages, sickness. I pray for them and share God’s Word, and they experience a breakthrough,” he says. “I’m part of group prayer in the evening. God has given me a burden to pray for people.”
For years, Shantha prayed to regain his eyesight. But now, he accepts the journey God has set out for him.
“I do not ask God to open my eyes. Maybe, If I did, I would forget God,” he admits. “Now, I do not pray for eyesight. Jesus has given me eyes to look to Him always.”
On this month’s Action Podcast, Bobby gives a firsthand account of his meeting with Shantha. Listen now!