By Richard Greene
Among the many people groups TWR is trying to reach within India, one is an agrarian tribal community tucked away in the central part of the vast country. The Koya people live in the forested hills and plains on both sides of the Godavari River. Living mostly in wood, thatch and mud houses, they’re subsistence farmers, with tobacco and rice as their primary cash crops. But they’re also fierce hunters, known for their prowess with the bow and arrow.
The Koya used to live in the northern part of India but migrated to the central states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. A common belief among them is that life originated from water, therefore they live close to the river.
The vast majority of the Koya practice their own ethnic religion, but they also worship multiple Hindu gods. Village priests carry out sacrifices, and yet they don’t believe in heaven, hell or even reincarnation. According to the Joshua Project, “When a person dies, his body is carried on a cot that is covered with grain, liquor, new clothes, money, and a cow’s tail.” The body is then cremated, and the ashes are put into a clay pot. “The Koya believe that their spirits either linger about the clay ancestor pot, patrol the sky over the village, or wander about the village disturbing daily life.”
The Koya people are among the few multilingual tribes in India. While they can also speak Telegu or Gondi, they prefer to speak Koya (also called Koyi), the language they can best understand.
And that’s one of some 230 languages of hope TWR speaks! God is using The Word Today program broadcast by TWR to reach the Koya people with the truth of the gospel.
A man named Aarav (a pseudonym) belongs to the Koya tribe. He says that most Koya are spiritually blind and “are considered one of the backward tribes due to high illiteracy and poverty.”
But despite all that, God touched Aarav’s heart through The Word Today broadcast. “I got a chance to know the truth and learned how to pray and worship the true living God,” he says. “This was possible only because of your program in our language via the radio.”
Now Aarav has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and enjoys a daily walk with him, growing in Christlikeness.
“I am grateful to the people who have taken the efforts to reach out to us with the truth,” Aarav says. “It has indeed become a great privilege for me and our village.”
Less than 1 percent of the Koya people are evangelical Christians. So please pray that more and more Koya – like Aarav – will tune in to The Word Today and have their hearts and minds opened to the truth of the Scriptures.
Richard Greene is a longtime journalist and feature writer who has traveled to more than 60 countries. In addition to serving with TWR, he worked for The Navigators, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. He and his wife, Lynda, live in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Photo: The Godavari River, which is the second-longest in India and runs through the homeland of the Koya people