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The India Legacy Project

For three generations the Bandela Family under the aegis of The Gospel Association of India have been ministering to the people of India, often with great sacrifice, often with spectacular results. Many have joined with them in this effort over the years but have their efforts ever been memorialized?

The purpose of this appeal is to create a legacy record in the format(s) of a documentary film and a coffee table style book that memorializes and proclaims what God has been doing in India through three generations of obedience by the Bandela family; with those who labor with them and those who support them.

Never before has a comprehensive memorial and tribute been done that will encompass the breadth and depth and enormity of this ministry. From the founding of the Gospel Association by his Grandfather, through the obedience of Yesu‘s Father and his martyrdom at the hand of an assassin, to Yesu taking over and growing the ministry.

This project will be a comprehensive record of the Gospel Association over the years, including crusades, the television ministry and an orphanage.

This effort will be a living testament and inspiration for missions-minded people worldwide.

The film will be narrated by a celebrity or more.

The end result (film & book) can be distributed to solicit and/or reward donations to support the ministry.

The Business of The India Legacy Project

Our goal is to produce a 1 hour documentary film and a coffee table style book.

Since 1991 John Shepherd, Michael Sajbel, Michael Balog, Troy Taroy, Laurie Leinonen, Karen Covell, Jim Covell, Rock Lane, and many other Hollywood professionals have come alongside Yesu Bandela to produce half-hour Christmas and Easter television specials for the People of India. Along with the many difficulties and miracles experienced, the specials were cleared by the government censors, broadcast and seen by countless millions. They have had a far reach, not just to India but the subcontinent.

These same professionals mentioned above, who know Yesu and the Ministry inside and out, will be the ones writing, producing, directing, editing and completing this project. (See “Crew”)

Here is our Business Plan

Stages of development:

Conceive and plan the Project
Get approval and input from Yesu Bandela
Move forward with development/fundraising
Get final approvals from Yesu Bandela
Wait out the Corona Virus pandemic
Final budget in the bank
Schedule and execute production
Post production (editing, scoring, etc.)
Preview and approval of Yesu Bandela
Book design and layout
Preview and approval of Yesu Bandela
Final DVD authoring and book publication

2) Estimate Costs:

All expenses* will be underwritten from an estimated budget of $150,000*

Travel to and within India
Travel within the US
Equipment rental
crew costs
Miscellaneous labor
Ground transportation
Editorial labor, equipment
Book design and layout
Initial 100+ copies of each
*exclusive of fundraising costs

The Documentary Film: Approximately 60 minutes in length

The documentary film will be narrated by a celebrity and the structure will be to follow Yesu Bandela through India as he chronicles the history of his family and the ministry. 

The Gospel Association:

How Yesu’s Grandfather was first called to the ministry and the oppression and price an Indian family had to pay to represent Christ in a Hindu country. Then we will explore the story of Yesu’s father who was a bit of a cut-up and went to church only to ogle the girls. His father offered him one challenge: sit alone in the sanctuary for 24 hours and if God does not speak to you, He does not exist. Within that time, God spoke to Yesu’s father in an audible voice. His message? “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Then we will relive the terrible event when Yesu’s father returned from a crusade. Sometime later that evening a man knocked at the door and said he wanted to know more about the Lord. Yesu’s farther allowed that man into the family home where the man, an extremist, wielded a knife and assassinated Yesu’s father in front of the family. Days later before he went to be with the Lord Yesu’s father took Yesu’s hand and asked him 2 things: “forgive that man who did this to me” and “Son, take care of the ministry.” We will then follow Yesu as he recounts his years in ministry along with the challenges and accomplishments. 

Current and past Gospel Association pastors will be interviewed. We want to see the effect of the gospel in India through their efforts. We want to go to the places and record where certain divine experiences have occurred. We want to chronicle the sacrifices and results of this ministry. We want to reveal what God has done through his obedient servants and give Him the glory.

The Crusades:

We will highlight recent crusades and the tremendous challenge of putting them on. If film is available, we will highlight some of the speakers, including Astronaut General Charles M. Duke, Apollo 16, one of the few men who have ever walked on the moon.

The television ministry:

We will record interviews with John Shepherd, Michael Sajbel, Michael & Laurie Balog, and Karen & Jim Covell regarding their call to help Yesu with the TV ministry. We will interview government television ministry officials and how they felt it was important to allow the shows to be broadcast. We will discuss the effects of the television shows. We will interview “The Walter Cronkite of India,” broadcaster Rini Khanna, on her participation in the very first show and subsequent shows.

The Orphanage:

We will briefly detail the need to build an orphanage, the challenges, and the successes. Apollo Astronaut Charlie Duke will recount the importance of this challenge.

Those Who Support or Supported the Ministry:

We will interview and get brief thank you’s and testimonies from some of the ministry’s most ardent supporters. Dr. Thomas in India. Folks in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Others.

The Future:

What is in store for the ministry? Yesu will give a final wrap up of his years in ministry and what his hopes are for the future. In all, God will continue to be glorified.

The Coffee Table Book: Approximately 60 pages in length

Since technology has advanced to where it is, it will be relatively easy to produce a coffee table book that highlights the elements of the documentary film, reprinting images from the film with the most significant quotes alongside as text. The book will wholly stand on its own but will emulate the content of the film.


Please contact Michael Sajbel, or Mike Balog if you have any questions whatsoever. Thank You

The Crew

Most if not all of the crew have worked with Yesu from the start.

Michael O. Sajbel (Writer-Director)

I will never forget the day in 1991 when I got a call from a Producer in Hollywood who said, “There’s an evangelist in town from India who is looking for someone to write a 30-minute television special for India. And I immediately thought of you.”

Great, I thought. Someone wants a freebie (pro-bono) and during a time when TV evangelists everywhere were failing everywhere. Nevertheless, maybe heeding to the call of the Spirit, I took a meeting with Rev. Yesu Bandela. In my spirit I immediately sensed that he was the real deal; passionate, dedicated and focused. So I thought, why not? How hard can it be and how much time could it take to write a Christmas television special?

A few weeks later I got a call from Reverend Bandela telling me with great enthusiasm that the Government had approved the script. That didn’t phase me. I mean, why wouldn’t they? I had no idea how important it was, as the government, as the country, was vastly Hindu.

I didn’t realize at the time that this was the first of many miracles I would encounter working with Yesu.

After delivering the good news that the show was given the go-ahead by the Hindu censors, the next miracle was God parting the Red Sea with my secular schedule. Yesu asked me to “come along.” I quickly found out that meant to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I was working on a major project for 20th Century Fox at the time, one I couldn’t possibly postpone or abandon and God allowed the exact amount of time I needed to go to India and direct the program. In fact, I returned only the night before the studio needed me to sign contracts and move forward with an almost million dollar project!

The government reported to Yesu that almost 300 million people watched that first program, shown immediately after the Nightly News. If these numbers seem unrealistically high to you, imagine how we felt. We learned that the program was shown in the coveted spot, right after the Nightly News. That’s when everyone in India watches their sets! We even heard of a village where a large group watched on a single TV set and someone translated the English speaking parts!

As they say in the movie business, fast forward. We have been doing these programs ever since, both Christmas and Easter specials, and still command an enviable audience. And with new technologies like cable, satellite, and the internet as well as terrestrial, our program now spills over into Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other parts of the subcontinent.

But is there any record of this? Is there an accounting of the great and mighty things God has done through Yesu, his father and Grandfather, and the now over 700 pastors in Southeast India known as the Gospel association of India? That is when the idea came to me, to make an everlasting record of the achievements and the progress God has been doing through the Bandela Family in India. To keep the flame alive. To tell of God’s great works!

All this to say that we know Yesu and his ministry intimately and the exact same personnel who have worked on his past television specials, orphanage fundraising videos and other programs will be the exact ones making this legacy project.

Mike Balog (Producer-Director of Photography) 

(In your own words.) Michael Sajbel asked me to be his cameraman on his first two films for World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham’s film ministry), “Come the Morning, (1993) and “The Ride.” (1997). Michael and his work for India came on my radar as early as 1994, although I’m not quite sure how soon we actually worked together with Yesu. I just sort of fell into it.

Back then Michael was living three lives: writing and directing for Billy Graham, doing extensive work for big-time Hollywood studio movies and then every now and then he would disappear and return from India with a tan and indigestion.

I like to travel and at some point probably foolishly asked him if I could go along. He warned me of the hardships, like no pay, economy class seating on planes for 22 hours, strange food and long hours while experiencing tremendous jet lag. India is the opposite time zone to Los Angeles, a 12-hour difference. Nevertheless, I was drawn to the ministry.

I finally got to go on my first big trip with Yesu and Michael about 1998. I got to know Reverend Bandela fairly well during this time and we formed a fast friendship. I found India to be exotic and challenging. Nevertheless, I immediately fell in love with the people and the food.

Then at some point, Michael and Yesu turned over the producing duties to me. I help with scheduling, working with the travel agent, coordinating equipment, hiring personnel, arranging crews, meals, making sure the editing team is hired and has all the necessary bandwidth, software and memory. In other words, I handle just about everything behind the scenes. Producing television for India, like just about everywhere else in the world, has to be of the highest quality. And I would not honor God with anything less than the best. It’s also a big plus when the Government guys in India say that our shows are of the highest quality.

I am excited about this project in particular as I have been hearing stories for years. Now, if funded, we will have the opportunity to put all of this to media as a lasting record of the legacy of the Bandela family and how God has faithfully used them for 3 generations in India.


John Shepherd (Executive Producer) 

(in his own words) I really should be before Sajbel and Balog, but I’m a humble guy. Just kidding, I work in Hollywood. My name goes above the title!

Before becoming a Producer I was a rising star in Hollywood, starring in both secular and Christian films. I would say what films I was in but my mother might be reading this. But perhaps the pinnacle of my career was my lead role in the World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham) film “Caught.” (1987) In the Christian world at least I achieved some level of notoriety, not escaping the notice of a young evangelist from India, Yesupadam Bandela. Yesu, on faith showed up at my front door in Los Angeles, literally flew to Los Angeles because this is where all movie stars live, looked my name up in the phone book (the white pages as they were then known) found my name and address and told the cab driver to drop him off at my front door. That I was home and answered the door was beyond mere circumstance. My new wife Nina and I invited him in. Over dinner Yesu explained how he would like me to get on a jet with him, fly hallway across the world and host showings of the film I was in the audiences in India. “Is it safe over there?” Nina asked.

“There is no safer place than in the center of God’s will,” Yesu responded confidently. That’s how it all began. Since then I have been helping Yesu and his ministry line up talent for his annual TV Christmas and Easter television specials. The list of co-hosts I have arranged is quite long but includes Debbie Boone and Candace Cameron Bure. It will be an honor to once again help in this effort, to memorialize the work Yesu has done. Well done, good and faithful servant!

The Covell’s. Partners and Composers.

Jim Covell
As a composer I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside Michael Sajbel and Mike Balog on
each seasonal celebration of bringing the story of Jesus to the country of India. Working with musical artists from
all over the world to bring this unique presentation has been a thrilling opportunity. Yesu Bandela’s passion has always
overflowed into his tireless work and desire to use the arts to bring the message of hope to a weary land.
Karen Covell
Yes, I’m the friend and producer who initially introduced our dear friend Michael Sajbel to our new friend Yesu Bandela!  This was decades ago!  And yes, I encouraged my husband Jim to give them the best music possible for their shows.  And then to have our friend Mike Balog join the team was awesome!  Wow, the four of them have become a creative team that has made a significant eternal impact on the people in India.  I am proud to be connected to this visionary, talented and passionate creative force of world-changers!  Thanks for the honor of hanging around and praying for all of you through the years!  Don’t stop using visual stories and music to touch hearts in India and around the world.  God gave you these gifts to spread the Good News and if you want to have a wild adventure along the way, follow the lead of Yesu Bandela, because he’s hearing from God Himself!
Please contact us with any questions whatsoever, Michael Sajbel, or Mike Balog,
Past Work


Since 1991 the Crew mentioned on this site have helped Yesu Bandela produce Christmas and Easter Television specials for the Country of India. In the beginning, the shows were broadcast on India’s main public television network, Doordarshan. In some cases, we were so favored by God that we were shown immediately after the national news when viewership is at its peak.

In later years with the advent of satellite and other means of receiving television signals, we have been informed that the show has reached parts of surrounding countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. There have also been occasions when, in recent history, the show has been rebroadcast up to 5 times, increasing the viewership dramatically.

There was a time the Gospel Association received a letter from a man, a former Hindu, who said “I have watched your show and now I follow your God.” Can there be any greater reward? Following is a flavor of our work that has spanned 30 years.

A “typical” Christmas show:


“One Fair Chance” was a fundraising video to build a new worship center in Vijayawada, India


“Orphanage Fundraiser”, a fundraising video to build a new section and update the old part of the Grace Children’s Home orphanage in Vijayawada, India


For these and every television special through the years, the crew has always worked pro-bono.