The Gospel Association of India was founded by Bro. Rajaratnam Bandela in Andhra Pradesh, in the southeastern coastal plain of India. Rajaratnam accepted the Lord on September 10, 1944. He felt the call of the Lord to fulltime ministry and resigned his position as headmaster of a school on October 16, 1944, when he began to preach the gospel. GAI recognizes this day as its anniversary date.
Rajaratnam Bandela risked everything to begin the evangelistic ministry of the Gospel Association of India. Under his leadership, thousands came to know the Lord. The GAI team of pastor-evangelists grew to 22 full-time pastors and 50 churches. These pastors loved the Lord and wanted more than anything else to give every person in India one fair chance to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rajaratnam faithfully led the organization until 1967 when tragedy struck, and Yesu Bandela’s leadership began.
It was June. Yesu had come back for the summer to Vijayawada, his hometown in southern India, to participate on his father’s evangelistic team.
“That morning my father had returned from a series of conferences,” Yesu said. “After lunch he went to his room to rest, pray, and to read his mail.” Unexpectedly, a stranger came to the house asking to see him. Yesu’s younger sister took him to her father. While they were talking the stranger asked him to pray. While Rajaratnam was preparing to pray, the stranger stabbed him, then fled from the room madly chasing Yesu and his mother with the bloody knife. They miraculously escaped this evil assault when others stepped in to help.
“I went into my father’s room and found him lying in a pool of blood,” Yesu said. “Yet the peace which God gives His servants in time of need was tremendous.” Yesu’s father gave him careful instructions on how to bind his wound so that he could be taken to the hospital.
As Rajaratnam Bandela was rushed to the hospital, he turned to his son, Yesu, and said, “Where is the brother that stabbed me? I forgive him. Do not harm him.” Yesu was shocked by the statement and wondered, “How far should a Christian go in forgiving someone?”
Filled with a spirit of love, Yesu’s father had one more concern before he went into surgery. Putting his bloodstained hand into Yesu’s, he said, “Son, take care of this ministry, and take care of your mother.”
Three days later his life ended—a martyr at the hands of an enemy of the gospel, an enemy who tried to destroy the witness through which thousands had committed their lives to Jesus. Yesu was frightened and confused, knowing that some radical Hindus also wanted to kill him. “But the Lord gave me His grace to forgive my father’s murderer and the courage to stand for Him,” Yesu said.
As a child, Yesu was taught and nurtured in Christian values. “But I did not know the Lord,” he admits. During his college years, Yesu experienced a lack of peace in his heart and purpose for his life. In 1957, his desire to know Christ overwhelmed him, but he feared the cost of making a commitment. “Finally, I told my parent about my need,” Yesu said, “and they led me to the Lord Jesus.”
While he was in college, Yesu felt the Lord’s calling into full-time ministry. He first studied economics and then enrolled in Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India, completing his Master of Divinity degree in 1965. A year later he graduated from Nagpur University with a Master of Arts in economics. He continued graduate studies in preaching and evangelism from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He received a Master of Theology degree from Northwestern Theological Seminary, and he has earned a Master of Arts in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Missions. Yesu received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from The Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration, and he is currently working on a doctorate in contextual studies at Bethel University.
After his father was assassinated, Yesu assumed leadership of the Gospel Association of India. Under his direction, GAI has grown from 22 to more than 250 full-time pastors in 2015. They serve more than 450 congregations and are ministering in 500 villages and towns. GAI’s continues to reach out through a wide range of ministries to lead people to Christ and to disciple them.
Every year, GAI organizes large evangelistic meetings in Vijayawada that reach up to 125,000 people. Many other evangelistic meetings are conducted in neighboring cities reaching thousands more with the gospel.
Since 1990, Yesu has produced Christmas and Easter television specials that have been broadcast on India’s national channel throughout the country, and in many neighboring nations, at Christmas and Easter.
Today, there are large numbers of people from India in many of the countries of the world. Yesu splits his time between India, the United States, and other countries as he preaches the Gospel and raises friends willing to support GAI’s ministry.
The grave site of Rev. Rajaratnam Bandela, founder of the Gospel Association of India, is located on the grounds of Gospel Hall in Vijayawada.
Baptism has always been a Biblical statement that a follower is committed to Jesus Christ. This is a 1994 baptism in a river.