AIM’s President, Sarla Mahara, was born and raised in a traditional high-caste Hindu family in Nepal. She attended a private boarding school run by Thomas and Mary Varughese, educators from India who were Christians. It was through this couple 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 similar disdain as a foreign religion. Desperate to find answers to many unanswered questions about life, she sought meaning in the rituals and texts of Hinduism and Buddhism. But none of these brought satisfaction or peace.
At age 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 serving in France. Seeds of the Gospel planted in her heart years ago began to germinate. 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 Center for Christian Studies at the University of Virginia and attended Bible studies with young believers, where 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 is Dr. Robert V. Finley, the Founder of Christian Aid Mission. Bob Finley 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. He 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 in winning the lost and planting churches in Asian cultures than Americans. He established Christian Aid Mission to advocate that vision.
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 for Christian Aid Mission.
During her service there of almost 25 years, 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 of 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 other region in the world. Northern India alone has around 2,000 UPGs. Sarla founded AIM to facilitate reaching UPGs through indigenous missions and thus to help fulfill the Great Commission.
Sarla speaks Hindi, Nepali, Urdu, and several dialects, which enables 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.