Caring church opens its doors at center of Indian community

Pastor Vijay Gurrala with church member Garnepudi Vidyasagar outside a Houston Indian restaurant.India House is at the center of the 40,000 strong Indian diaspora living in Houston. It serves as a cultural center and frequently there are Indian holiday celebrations, cricket on the weekends and the savory smell of hot curry wafting through the halls of the building.

On Sunday September 23, India House played host to its newest tenant, Our Redeemer Telugu Church of Houston, pastored by Rev. Vijay Gurrala.

The service of inauguration was a kick-off for a new location for ministry for the Telugu ministry, which has been operating as a LINC partner for several years.

Gurrala hopes the new location will provide a strong foothold in the Indian community of Houston.

"About 98% of the people who come in and out of India House are not Christian," said Gurrala, "there is major traffic in and out of that building everyday."

"In the past I used to go seeking for non-Christian contacts, and I still do, but now they also come to me at India House," he said.

The inaugural worship welcomed over 130 people to enjoy a traditional Telugu Lutheran liturgy and hear from guest speaker Rev. Dr. B.C. Paul, who heads up Emmaus Ministries in India and is a former seminary professor there.

At the gathering a generous donation was collected to purchase new hymnbooks for the worshipping community at India House. They will use this to reach out to Telugus living in Houston who are either disaffected from the church or not familiar with Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

"Telugus in the U.S. face a bit of an identity crisis," said Garnepudi Vadyasagar, a member of the church.

"Anything that is familiar to them - whether it is language, liturgy or life celebrations - it is an effective outreach," he said.

Embracing traditional Telugu liturgy and setting up shop at India House are just two of the ways that Pastor Gurrala and his congregation plan to spread the Gospel among Indian Americans in Houston. They also are there to provide care when families and individuals are in need.

"You can't just talk about God in a general way," said Gurrala.

Vidyasagar echoed his pastor's sentiments and said, "With Indians, talking about Christ is different. They can just add him to other gods, other deities."

He said, "They can say, 'I know Jesus' and add him to their pantheon."

Beyond pointing out the peculiarity and particular promise of Christ, Gurrala insists that his church must know the people, tell the people and show the people the Gospel.

"In a crisis, we want to be the place they come" he said, "we want to be where they look for help and support."

So far, they have done well. Recently, a young man returned to worship after a couple years battling cancer and having one of his legs removed up to the knee. Still recovering and using a walking cane to move around, he came to the inaugural worship because Pastor Vijay and others were there for him during the treatment, even when the government, his university and others were not.

That kind of care, presence and prayer ministry is what will end up having the greatest impact among non-Christian Indians in the Space City.

Gurrala said, "We are coming in contact with the community of Indians here in Houston so we can bring the good news to the people."

He said, "By the Holy Spirit, we pray it will be done."