By Daniel Lowry
A small group of men were sitting before me, taking a break from our theological training session. To pass a few moments, I asked what I thought was a light-hearted question: have you seen God do anything wonderful in your church lately? I was not prepared for the story I was about to hear.
“We discovered that there was a temple near our church that every so often would do human sacrifices. When I found out I was shocked and burdened in my heart,” the brother said. It was as though the air was sucked out of the room. Human sacrifice to a pagan idol. A spark of life swallowed up in the worship of demons. We were all suddenly burdened in our hearts.
But the story took a turn of cosmic beauty. “We began praying and praying, sometimes doing the ‘Jericho prayer walking’ around the temple itself...Now, the two priests of this temple have become Christians, and they are telling people that they were wrong, and they should not do those things anymore.” Without an ounce of shame, I gladly share that I shed tears as this brother told his story. Through the ministry of this church, two men turned away from human sacrifice to the one Man who was sacrificed on our behalf - Jesus Christ. The gospel is the *power* of God unto salvation!
Before I could even catch my breath from the first story, the brother continued with the next: “God has done many miracles through us in the church - people have been healed. There is also a witch doctor near our church that people will give money to in order to be healed from their sicknesses. Sometimes, the witch doctor will give their money back, saying ‘I cannot heal you. Go to this church of Jesus.’”
The power of Jesus Christ is so evident among this church that a witch doctor sees and notices. He recognizes that the power present among the people of Jesus is greater than his own power.
God’s power through the gospel is enough to save priests of human sacrifice. God’s power through his people is greater than the demon power of witch doctors. Praise his Name!
By Matt Forde
Some friends of Darren’s visited us today and were kind enough to show us around. We visited two notable temples; but don’t think they are museums. The participants are quite serious.
The first temple is “the center of hinduism for the nation.” The monkeys, priests, and worshipers hardly seem to notice as the tourists pass by. There was a funeral taking place; the oldest son accomplished various rituals as the family mourned and the priest looked on. The body would be burned on one of the many stone pyres that stand above the holy, filthy river. The ash is then shoved into the river as it flows towards the Ganges. They must hope that she was good enough.
The Buddist temple was humongous, with the looming tower housing the great nameless eyes supposedly seeing all. Flags fly and cylinders spin with desperate prayers hopeful of acknowledgement from the person-less supernatural. Devotees walk the wide circle or prostrate themselves hoping to be cleansed of their iniquity.
The blatant idolatry and its practice was darkness in action; the blindness and hopelessness so incredibly apparent. It’s so very sad. Their consciences seem to know some of what I know - they are sinners who cannot ever seem to get right on their own. But alas, the sin of the heart darkens the mind and hopeless roads are followed.
I had many thoughts and emotions as I viewed these things. But the strongest was simply a great appreciation for the Gospel. I need the one mediator between God and man. I need the Savior, Jesus Christ! And I have found Him...because He has found me. What grace.
But so many have not, and they are LOST.
I thank God for the reports of the church growing in this place. I thank God for His amazing people like Ben and Holly who are working to see the word of God in the common languages. And I thank God for the opportunity that begins again tomorrow - training local pastors to rightly handle the Scriptures for the glory of God in the spread of the Gospel.
This is no small, casual thing. So pray that pastors will be effectively trained, the Scriptures effectively translated, and the Gospel effectively spread so that, by the grace of God, the lost would be FOUND.
A thunderstorm is rolling in right now and I have the window open. A cool breeze is coming through our hotel room and it feels wonderful. For the last week we have been experiencing 100-110 degree temperatures, so 60 is refreshing.
Last night we stayed in Delhi and then at 6:30 departed for the capital city here. I got about one hour of sleep, I think due to my excitement of starting a new training location. We landed at 8:30am and were met by our partners who took us to the hotel to drop off our bags. We then headed to a house church which meets on the second floor of a concrete three-story building. The owner won't let the church put up a sign outside the building because he is a afraid of what his friends will think of him renting to Christians.
As the service started, Vijay leaned over to me to let me know I was preaching. Now, at Bethlehem there is a saying: on short-term trips, you must be ready at all times to preach, pray, dance or die. I was not ready. Thanks to some gatorade powder and a liter of water I made it through. The service included singing, multiple times of prayer, recitation of the Apostle's Creed and the sermon. About 30 people we there, 10 who were not Christians, but seekers. I preached on the genealogy of Jesus, focusing on Abraham, David, Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. God's grace is deep.
After the service we went to the pastor's house for lunch. It was so good. It was also the first time westerners had visited his house. After some time we made our way back to the hotel. Only four could fit in the small taxi, so Jim, to his delight and not mine, road a motorcycle.
A professional soccer team is also staying in the hotel. Jim struck up a conversation with one of the players and before they knew it Jim, Matt and Daniel were off to a soccer game at the stadium down the road. I am told Matt led some of the local cheers. After the game, the team returned and swam in the pool. Jim and Matt joined them. I could here a lot of soccer players laughing.
Tomorrow we head out with a couple I first met while I was a pastor. They got married my first week and then moved here. It will be a day of learning before we start teaching a group of 30 pastors. God has been, as always, good to us.
By Matt Forde
It’s Friday morning, the 10th of May, and we’re enjoying a little down time in our hotel before we begin our trek to Nepal. The power is on which means we have some air conditioning, and we just enjoyed a delicious breakfast of bread, Nutella, boiled eggs, and corn flakes with warm milk. Things are comfortable which offers opportunity to reflect.
It’s a challenge for me to report on the last several days for you. They were full, rich and stuffed with intensity. But I’ll give it a shot, and this morning I cannot help but summarize my report with the word, thankful. Here’s a few reasons:
1. I’m thankful for my team. I have enjoyed Darren, Jim, and Daniel immensely. I appreciate them for their passion, their maturity and skill, their character, and the hilarious moments of laughter we have enjoyed. I have been challenged by who they are and also greatly encouraged by working with them. Our sense of team is strong and it is a joy to participate with them.
2. I’m thankful for the ministry here in Ventrapragada and the surrounding region. Vijay and his family are doing incredible work; as you walk through the village where they live, meet the pastors whom they train, and see their love and service for one another and the poor and the weak around them, you cannot help but be moved by the presence of the Gospel in their community. They stand out and it’s beautiful.
3. I’m thankful for this opportunity with TLI. It has been one of the highest honors and joys of my life to invest in the lives of these precious pastors. Their situations are difficult, but their passion and conviction is strong. Teaching them how to more effectively read and interpret the Bible while also enjoying the beauty and power of Scripture together has been something I will always treasure. It has been work, and it has been worship. What an immense privilege to have an impact on these men who will have an impact on so many others in places that are nearly or even totally unreached with the Gospel. This is an effort worthy of our sacrifice and support.
4. I’m thankful for the preaching of the Gospel. I was deeply honored to be able to share the news of Jesus from Mark 5 with a village that ranks very low in the cast system. O the joy to share how Jesus loves the untouchables and calls them children of God through faith in Him. And to be there next to Vijay’s father who has faithfully plowed this ground for decades. His impact in this community is palpable. When they spontaneously erupt in praise at the news of God’s powerful grace one cannot help but be affected.
5. I’m thankful for you, our supporters. I’m thinking of my dear wife and children (if you’re reading this - I love you!), my own church family, and the large community that has contributed to make this trip and many others like it possible. Your prayers are precious, and we have felt their effect. We have enjoyed smooth travel, a good measure of health, and visible fruit from our work. We are thankful! Please continue to pray for us as we head to the north.
6. Finally, obviously, I’m thankful for the Gospel. I don’t deserve to belong to Jesus, much less to be part of His mission in the world. I’m just thankful to be a Christian, and thankful to be making a contribution to the spread of the Gospel in the world. To Him be all the glory; for me, I’m just thankful.
By Jim Rairick
I had an encouraging discussion with Vijay yesterday regarding the opportunities, needs and his desires related to equipping men for pastoral ministry and the broader church for evangelistic ministry. We asked questions like, "Who should Vijay focus on training"?; "Where should he focus his energies"? These are important questions that when answered will have long-term effects. Without recounting our whole discussion, I will share with you an important part of our talk, which may be significant in helping Vijay answer his questions.
I expressed to Vijay that Scripture teaches us that God has a unique, foundational and central role for the church. He agreed. So, we began to think about how his questions could be answered in relation to "who the church is," and "how the church might be the means and context in which his questions could be answered." Vijay began to recount how his own father's ministry as a pastor. One important focus of his dad's pastoral ministry was focused on over thirty young men. Many of these young men blossomed pastors. As young boys Vijay's dad taught them the Scriptures.
Vijay and I talked about how the Gospel and the Truth of God's Word is both "taught" and "caught." That is, Christians proclaim the Gospel both in what we say and how we live. These boys heard the Truth of God's Word from Vijay's dad; and they caught the power, beauty, love and wisdom of the Scriptures from the life of their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4.15; Gal. 4.19; 1 Tim. 1.18). The Truth, Power, Glory, Wisdom and the Love of God as revealed in the Scriptures was taught by Vijay's dad, both in word and deed, and caught by his spiritual sons. As Vijay reminisced about his father's impact on these young men, now grown men who are faithfully persevering as pastors, it provided a lens through which to think about many of Vijay's questions.
Though there were many needs in his father's ministry; and many needs in India and in the surrounding states, yet his father's faithful love for a group of men, over a long period of time, has born and will continue to bear fruit in manifold ways. Further, Vijay explained that even now his own ministry is under the oversight and care of the church which his father and brother now pastor. Though his dad has been limited in ministry in the recent past due to health, never the less, his ministry will go on through his spiritual sons, including his own three biological sons who share in the faith of Abraham and are walking in Abraham's footsteps (Rom 4.11-12).
It will be exciting to see how Vijay seeks to work in and through the bride of Christ in the years to come. I trust our Father in heaven will continue to receive much glory and honor in and through Vijay and his brothers and his many spiritual brothers which are a result of his dad's and mom's faithful life for Chirst through the church. The pastor taught both in word and in deed; both in language and in love. Father in heaven, we praise you for Vijay's father who was a faithful pastor. And Father, we pray that you will raise up many who can say that they know and love Christ more because they followed the pastor who followed Christ.