How long does it take to count to a million? If you said one number every second, that would be more than 16,000 minutes, which is just over 11 1/2 days—and that is without stopping!
What about counting to 500 million? That would require counting nonstop—no sleeping or eating for about 5,800 days—nearly 16 years!
Five hundred million households— nearly all the television viewing public in India—is the potential audience Hope Channel could soon be reaching in India this year. But this breakthrough did not happen overnight.
With its diverse religions and languages, and a population of more than one billion, India is a challenge to Christians seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Television offers one potential for meeting that challenge and Hope Channel is poised to step into the gap.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in India voted in 2008 to establish Hope Channel India, and since then God has blessed this endeavor that is under the leadership of Hope Channel’s coordinator in India, Pastor Swamidas Johnson.
One of the challenges of working on the Indian subcontinent is the vast array of languages. More than 1,000 languages and dialects are spoken. Hope Channel is targeting the three largest language groups— Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. English is also widely spoken, and many of Hope Channel’s best English programs will help fill the schedule. Additional programming in other languages and dialects will be added as it becomes feasible.
In 2009, India’s minister of information and broadcasting signed the necessary documents allowing Hope Channel to begin broadcasting downlinked programming. In the same year Pastor Johnson began negotiations to include Hope Channel in distribution systems seen by 500 million households— nearly all TV viewers in India.
“This is nothing short of a miracle and will be a phenomenal opportunity for sharing the gospel and message of Hope with sincere seekers in India. Obtaining this permission has been a long, difficult process,” says Brad Thorp, Hope Channel president.
“Hope Channel is acquiring the license to distribute on all the cable networks of India. This license costs twenty-five thousand dollars. In faith, we have committed to supply this. In addition, a Hope Channel production studio is being built in Chennai (southeast India),” Thorp adds.
One man, one camera, one mission
In 2006, Pastor Ron Watts, when he was president of the Adventist Church in southern Asia, approached Thorp, asking Hope Channel to assist with local TV production. That is when Hope Channel provided Pastor Johnson with a small camera, a microphone, and a few hours of in-studio training with Hope Channel studio manager Joe Sloan.
“With an investment of just five thousand dollars, God used Pastor Johnson and his team of volunteers to produce an amazing amount of contextualized programming to air on Hope Channel International,” said Thorp.
To date, Pastor Johnson and his team of volunteers have produced more than a thousand programs. In addition, the Tamil programs have been broadcast on local cable in Chennai, and have generated thousands of letters from people requesting prayer, asking questions about the Bible, sharing their personal stories, and thanking him for the programs.
In fact, shortly after boarding a plane in the Philippines, Pastor Johnson bowed his head in prayer, as was his custom, without realizing that another passenger was watching him closely. When he finished praying, this gentleman approached him and said, “I knew you were Pastor Johnson. I watch your programs on TV.” This viewer, a businessman based in Yemen, watches Pastor Johnson every week on Hope Channel International.
In 2009, Kandus Thorp, vice president for programming and international development, visited Pastor Johnson and regional church leaders to assess the viability of Hope Channel India. The result was a plan that Hope Channel India will also feature relevant English programming subtitled in the languages of Tamil, Hindi, and Telugu.
All things are possible
And, if recent progress is any indicator, Hope Channel India may already be on the air by the time this article is published. With the studio functioning, but not fully completed, local interest continues to build. The studio will also house a Bible school and a better living center, both of which will be tied into the channel’s programming.
Hope Channel’s Indian programs can currently be seen on Hope Channel International. Those wishing to watch can visit www.HopeTV .org and click on the Hope Channel International button on the left side of the screen.
Getting results ahead of the launch
As mentioned, the Tamil programs, already being broadcast on local cable in Chennai, have produced a massive response with thousands of letters requesting prayer, asking Bible questions, and sharing stories of how these programs have touched lives. Television presentations in the Hindi language have been broadcast outside India and are also reaping big results.
Various programs on Hope Channel India will attract viewers who would never attend a traditional evangelistic campaign. Johnson believes that with Hope Channel India programming, the gospel message will reach into millions of homes currently inaccessible.
“The citizens of India are particularly attracted to information about education, medical concerns, and parenting,” says Johnson. “These are the areas where we will place much of our focus. Hope Channel India will seek to remove barriers that lead to mistrust and misunderstanding. This will be twenty-four/ seven programming reaching into the hearts and lives of countless Indian homes across the nation.”
Most Christian programming in India is American or European, and often misses the mark in being engaging or even relevant. To overcome this challenge, Hope Channel will conduct a production blitz, called “Project Hope,” to develop hundreds of locally contextualized programs. Hope Channel has conducted Project Hope efforts in several other countries with great success, producing hundreds of programs in a few weeks’ time that cover the full spectrum of Bible teaching, healthy living, social and cultural issues, music, and programs for men, women, and children.
Seventh-day Adventists across India are preparing for the expected response when Hope Channel India begins broadcasting. Members and Bible workers are preparing to follow up on requests for prayer, Bible study, and other activities. A call center to receive viewer requests is under development and staff training is taking place.
Prayer support is still needed for the Hope Channel India project. Specifically ask for God’s Spirit to be poured out on the 1.5 million Seventh-day Adventists living in India. Also pray for those involved with the production of shows and that the hearts of new viewers will be open to hearing about a God who wants to draw near to them and share His love and forgiveness.
For more information or to support Hope Channel’s outreach in India, contact the network at 888-4-HOPETV (888-446-7388) in the U.S., or +1-269-471-6050 for international callers. The email is [email protected] or visit www.HopeTV.org.