Meet SARLA MAHARA, our president
Sarla was born and raised in a traditional high-caste Hindu family in Nepal, attended a private boarding school there run by Thomas and Mary Varughese. These educators from India were Christians, and it was through them that Sarla first heard the Good News of Jesus Christ in 1977. At the time Nepal was an absolute monarchy, and preaching the Gospel was illegal.
Sarla’s family viewed Christianity with disdain, seeing it as a foreign religion. Desperate to find answers to her many questions about life, she sought meaning in the rituals and texts of Hinduism and Buddhism. But none of these brought her satisfaction or peace.
When she was 24, Sarla went to college in France to study interior design. Here she met members of a small church group led by Hugh Wessel, an American missionary. Seeds of the Gospel planted in her heart years ago now began to germinate, and she gave her life to Jesus Christ.
After becoming a Christian, Sarla feared her Hindu family might reject her. That concern, along with a strong desire to study God’s Word, led her to the United States in 1991.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, she was welcomed by an American Christian family—Judge Waugh Crigler, his wife Ann, and their three young children. Sarla took graduate courses at the nearby Center for Christian Studies at the University of Virginia, and attended Bible studies with young believers, with whom she developed lifelong friendships. Finding the nurturing environment God intended for her, Sarla gradually blossomed into a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
One of the remarkable people she met while living with the Criglers was Dr. Robert V. Finley. He and Billy Graham were among the first field evangelists of Youth for Christ in the late 1940s. Finley also worked with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, recruiting young people for the mission field. In 1948, he went to China to serve as a missionary, and also traveled to India, Korea, and other Asian nations. These experiences were life-changing, and Finley returned home with the conviction that indigenous Gospel workers were much more effective than Americans in winning the lost and planting churches in Asian cultures.
After nearly 40 years of pioneering support for indigenous missions, Finley was eager to train a new generation to embrace and advance this concept. Sarla was a ready disciple. He invited her to take an exploratory tour of the churches in Nepal. This was the first time she had visited Christians in her own country since she became a believer.
Sarla trekked over mountains and through remote valleys of Nepal to see how her people suffered persecution and hardship for the sake of the Gospel. Witnessing the unwavering faith of these Nepali believers and their commitment to the Lord became her seminary education on indigenous missions. After several years of training under Finley, Sarla enthusiastically took on the challenge of representing the whole of South Asia at a ministry supporting indigenous missionaries.
During her nearly 25 years there, she traveled extensively in South Asia and visited dangerous and challenging areas like Kashmir and northern Pakistan. She forged strong relationships with the leaders and Gospel workers from more than 200 indigenous ministries in the region.
In 2015, the Lord presented a new opportunity for Sarla to advocate on behalf of the people she has come to love.
Reaching the unreached with the Gospel is the guiding vision of Assisting Indigenous Ministries (AIM) International. South Asia is our ministry’s primary focus, since it is home to the largest number of unreached people groups (UPGs) of any region in the world. Northern India alone has around 2,000 UPGs. Sarla founded AIM to facilitate reaching UPGs through indigenous missions, and thus help fulfill the Great Commission.
Sarla speaks Hindi, Nepali, Urdu, and several dialects, enabling her to have direct communication with native partners in most of these areas. She understands the cultural and political issues, and she is an ideal ambassador to the ministry leaders of the Indian subcontinent.
AIM thus provides a threshold to reach the unreached in South Asia and across the globe by supporting the work of committed indigenous ministries.