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India and Highlands October 2013

Undisclosed Location October 4-19, 2013

We will be training pastors in Biblical Theology in India and a closed country. The pastors we work with serve in difficult situations.

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Oct  20th,  2013Day Five

By: Mike

I rose naturally at 5:15AM and did my journaling.  And then off to the stadium for volleyball and friendship building!

Still there were many jokes and teasing and trash talking on the court.  But I really enjoy getting to try to spike the ball.  Also Sasi (which I thought was spelled sissiti--which sounded too close to sissy and thus wrong) and I were able to connect.  We played against Ramu and a younger guy who I have called Robocop, because he kills the ball so well.  Lord save these men!

The last lesson of the Biblical Theology curriculum was on how the themes apply to the church.  I discussed how all of our applications of the Scriptures need to be based on the gospel and not some sort of new law.  And I also discussed how we need to see the Scriptures as a script to address any issues in the church, whether it is about doctrine or peoples' lives.  So I had everyone write down the issues they see in their own context.  And then each person had to circle the one they cared about most.  Some people told us their issues and I would ask the group what passages they would use to address those problems.  The brothers were very good at this challenge.  I was encouraged.  And then we started discussing some peculiar strands of Pentecostalism.  Apparently there are preachers who will put their hands on peoples' foreheads and then knock them down as some sort of sign.  American preachers do this too.  How sad the whole charade seems to be!  Lord deliver these false teachers! 

So at one point we began to discuss tongues.  I believe in tongues and I also believe that I speak in tongues.  But I also know that this gift is good, yet on the bottom of the totem pole of spiritual gifts.  There was quite a discussion and some back and forth between the students.  We took a five minute break but many of the men just kept discussing the issue.  I loved seeing their fervor to figure things out and to defend their positions.  Praise The Lord for the body of Christ!

So for the theme of Creation, we read Ephesians 2:1-10 and discussed how the gospel is the basis for God creating us to do good works.  I had brothers share what are examples of good works that we need to be doing.  They said dozens and I was encouraged by their participation.

The next them of Sonship, we talked about Ephesians 4:20-24.  God has saved us so that we would put off the old man and put on the new man, becoming more and more like the likeness of God, which we equate with the notion of sonship.  I asked the brothers to share what they need to put off, a time of confession.  I went first and shared how I failed to be tenderhearted with my words towards Vijay the night before.  And that I needed to put on humility and slowness to speak.  Then about a dozen men shared their struggles of anger, laziness, quickness to react to things, and many other confessions.  Vijay was surprised that there was anyone sharing because usually men are very hesitant to.  One brother even asked about how he should respond when another brother has used his confessions as a form of slandering or badmouthing.  We stressed the need of trustworthy men and mutual confidentiality.  Vijay then recommended that during the remainder of the training time for the forty days of Reach All Nations, that they find an accountability partner.

We closed by talking about 1 Peter 2:9 and its relation to the kingdom of God.  God has made us a royal priesthood and we're here to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ.  I then shared about 50 things that are great about Jesus and I was overwhelmed by the mercy of God and felt very broken.  We then had a time of everyone crying out to God to praise Him.  I felt very burdened to pray for all of the nations to be reached because of how great Jesus is.  Lord would you raise up more workers to help all of the nations to be reached?  Use these brothers to reach so many people!  Help all of us to make so many more disciples!

After Jim gave an overall summary of the Biblical Theology, there was a time of singing and ceremonial closing.  Much love and warmth was communicated.  We then gave hugs and handshakes and then had lunch.

We came back to the hotel and most people took naps.  We then had Shadrach over, a church planter who has been a part of Reach All Nations since its inception.  He has been very faithful and has called people to truly repent and follow Jesus only.  He also had dinner with us.

 The staff at Flavours were very warm and appreciative.  I took a picture of our two most frequent servers.  Thank you for that place Lord.  It was an oasis.  The best food I think I have ever had in the category of Indian cuisine.  But it might be the best food I have ever had.  Seriously.  That delicious. 

We then went to a prayer meeting and brother Jim shared very well about Philippians 1.  Thank you Lord for Jim's faithful and Christ-centered teaching.  I then had a great discussion with Karun and Satiya about the needs of this work.  Lord please meet all the needs of this ministry and church!  Show yourself faithful!

We came home late and crashed.  Thank you Lord for another great day! 





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Oct  19th,  2013INDIA DAY FOUR

By: Mike

We woke at 5:50AM because our hotel decided to deny our reservation for the whole week in the name of the love of money.  A wedding party wanted the entire hotel so we had to get out.  :) 

We had an early breakfast and met some Christians hanging outside of the restaurant.  We then headed to the compound.  A classroom of children were meeting outside and Vijay asked me to go out and teach them.  So I tried to teach them the 5 Patterns (Chaos, Creation, A Blessing or Commission, A Failed Test of Obedience, Judgment).  Then I taught them the 4 Themes (Creation, Sonship, Kingdom of God, Temple).  They were very attentive and my little friend Durgrao was on his A game.  He easily repeated everything and then was able to tell me again 8 hours later.  And Nani, a very kind 13 year old who was very close to Vijay's father, was in the class and paid attention very well. 

Jim started teaching on The Lord Jesus.  He was great and exhorted the brothers to embrace the sovereign God!  I was able to chat with Satya about how to make fly swatters and about buying some beds for people to sleep on.

I was then able to teach on Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of the hope that Israel had.  I tried to make the class very interactive and gave my philosophy on discipleship:  meeting with men weekly to hold them accountable, pray for their lives in very specific ways, read the Bible and apply it to their contexts, seek to do ministry together and then also multiply by making sure the disciples are meeting with disciples.  They seemed to embrace my challenge for them to imitate this practice.

We had a longer lunch and I played some more cricket.  I saw more animals up close.  This time I saw a hen with her little chicks.  Very cute to watch. 

After lunch we had our last session:  Concluding the Drama.  We talked through the book of Revelation and I had the students describe the evil and chaos of India.  And then we all prayed at the same time for God to change India and the hearts of the people.  I love seeing that style of prayer. 

I also tried to bring up the idea of predestination and the need for the saints to persevere.  There were great questions about why doesn't God save everyone and why would God pour out wrath.  We discussed Romans 9 and I tried to present that God wants to display His full character in displaying not only mercy but wrath.  And that seeing wrath on others makes the objects of his mercy able to know the riches of his glory even more.  A very deep and difficult topic.  But Raju and Prashant told me during the break that they have never really heard it explained like that but it was clear and that they embrace it.  I was very encouraged by them. 

After that break, there was a rich discussion about how we describe our testimony.  I tried to encourage all of us to stop using the language, "I accepted Jesus into my heart."  And there were a couple of brothers who raised concerns.  Like John 1:12 saying that "all who received him" could be the same as accept.  I tried to make the point that when Paul shared his testimony in Acts 22 and 26 and 1 Timothy 1, God is the main actor:  "God had mercy on me."  

We also discussed the need for the perseverance of the saints.  I tried to take them to several texts that talk about how God is active in our perseverance and yet we are also called to act.  The notion of both and.  This subject could have been dialogued about for a long time.  But we needed to finish the lesson.

I had the students read Revelation 20:11-15 and think about the sober nature of the last day.  The Lake of Fire is no joking matter.  I then had this class cry out for God to save people they knew to be spared.  All of these men prayed out loud and I wish there was more of this type of loud, desperate intercession in more American churches.  I'm personally helped to keep praying if I hear that my brothers are still praying.  

We concluded but then a brother asked questions about American wealth:  how did America become so wealthy and now it is struggling.  Jim did a great job making sure that we don't equate financial wealth in America with some type of health, wealth and prosperity philosophy.  Jim also talked about how the American church has a different set of problems because of wealth.  The discussion is something I would love to explore more with Indians.  The very apparent disparity of wealth is overwhelming to me.  What is there to do?

After a short time of resting, Vijay packed us into the SUV and we drove to a village that was nearby.  The students from the classes came as well.  So we walked through the alleys of this village with dozens of people.  There were so many children who were intrigued by us.  They wanted to shake hands and say hi and make eye contact and laughed when I tried to pronounce their names.  Primraj did a great job at trying to keep them quiet while Jim, Gerin and Dave all preached the gospel through Vijay's translations.  I was really encouraged to hear them boldly proclaim salvation in Jesus.  Jim was very thorough in a short amount of time.  Gerin was lively and expressive and quick to talk against idols and speak for the love of God in Christ.  Dave was very passionate to talk about how Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  Thank you Lord for these men and their faithfulness to your good news!  And thank you Lord for our brothers who set up this awesome time and did the translation.

We then headed to a place where we would have a meeting at 8pm.  As we walked down the streets, I would sing songs in broken Telugu and then in English and this myriad of children would gladly repeat me through song.  The children were so lively and eager to smile and give handshakes and want their pictures taken.  I love the kids here.  Lord save all of these children!  Raise up workers for your kingdom through these youth. 

As we waited for the meeting to start, we sat in someone's living room and had bread with Nutella.  We had some prayer and then entered this meeting with over 100 people.  Nani and Satya, Vijay's brothers, had been playing beautiful music and another pastor Elijah, Isaac's brother, sang with conviction and then prayed for our time.  Jim then came up and prayed as well.  Karun was translating at this point.  Dave then came up and gave his testimony.  I praise you for saving him!  Then Vijay introduced me and Nani translated. 

I began to simply share my testimony and describe how God was pursuing me by having me meet Christians at Indiana University.  I then talked about how sinful I was and asked the crowd if they had sinned.  I then explained that we all deserve the righteous punishment of Hell and we deserve to be thrown into the Lake of Fire. 

But, we then talked about how merciful it is that Jesus would be crucified!  How gracious it is that He would come and love sinners so well!  I cried and tried to plead with them to repent from their sins and believe Jesus to take away their sins.  I contrasted the criminals that died beside Jesus.  And then we invited people to come up if they wanted to trust in Christ.  Gerin graciously prayed for us and then Vijay shared a little before closing the meeting in prayer.

After the meeting, many people came up and asked for prayers for their health.  Several of the youth asked for prayers for their studies.  Two asked for prayer for their salvation.  And one man asked that God would help him to stop getting drunk.  It was a very interesting time as Jim, Dave and Gerin were praying with people.  And Jim encouraged us all to engage with them and ask questions if possible for why they wanted prayer. 

A small crowd saw us off as we finally got into the SUV again.  Thank you Lord for a wonderful, gospel-centered evening!  Thank you for the hard work of Vijay, Karun, Nani, Satya, Primraj, the students/pastors and also of our team!  You are so amazing to have the body doing so many different works of grace!

On the way to Flavours, Vijay told us that we could now have our room back at the same hotel.  That was good news for sure!  We were all willing to simply sleep on the floor.  And many people here do that as their norm.  Oh how easy it is to get used to so many comforts! 

We came back to our rooms and Jim led a helpful discussion on the importance of tenderhearted words and beneficial language that is gracious.  Jim has been very faithful to shepherd us through devotionals and conversations and prayers.  Thank you Lord for the work you have done in his life!  And how you are using him in so many others!  


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Oct  18th,  2013Day 3 in India

By Mike:

I woke at 6am and was ready to play volleyball.  I ran over to the stadium and was noticed by a group of men.  They seemed to be surprised by a "white" man running in the streets in shorts.

I was excited to see similar faces:  Sissiti, Usain, Ramu the Indian Giant (he is as tall as me, which is big compared to most of the Indians in Andra Pradesh), Prashant who is a brother, a shorter man who is constantly teased for being short, and then Bobby, a man who is a volleyball coach.  Bobby and I tag teamed to set up some very fun spikes.  And then Ramu tried to pick on me by constantly hitting to me.  I enjoyed the rivalry.  There were lots of jokes going back and forth.  I left and many wanted to say goodbye.  I was able to share with one man who spoke English.  And Prashant walked me back to the hotel.

We had a great devotion led by Jim in the book of Acts.  Jim has been very caring and wise and helpful.  We then went to have breakfast in a little hole in the wall type of place.  Very good food.  One thing reminded me of elephant ears without the cinnamon and sugar.  

It was very hot in the church facility as the fans worked intermittently.  While Jim taught two lessons in a row, I went outside and talked with Satya, Isaac, Durgrao, a boy named Isaac and Anusha.  I showed them the beginning of the Jesus Film and they enjoyed it.  

We also played some baseball/cricket with the guys.  I tried to teach them not to let the ball bounce and to hit it like a baseball player.  They enjoyed it and I also almost lost the cricket ball.  I hit it into the river.  Raju and Anusha and Durgrao and I chased it down.  Raju jumped into the dirtiest river you will ever see.  He was covered up to his shoulders.  Raju then took me to his house.  It was a hut with the size of an American kitchen.  They had a low ceiling fan and the kids didn't want me to hit my head.  There were a couple of beds and a small, small kitchen.  On the way back, Raju asked me a very insightful question, "Is my house good or bad."  I affirmed him and also had sympathy in my heart that he was concerned about his house appeared to an American.  But it is very difficult to digest the disparity of wealth in the world.  Lord help the world to address this issue!

We had another awesome lunch and everyone seemed to be tired by the heat.  But God was gracious to give us energy to keep teaching.  I taught on the growing hope that exists through Genesis to Deuteronomy and then throughout the prophets.  I asked one pastor to share his testimony in one minute.  And he told us how he was Hindu, and then possessed by demons and then met some Christians and became free from demons and then gave his life to Christ.  I also tried to ask lots of questions and then tried to make practical applications about how we should have hope and long for the day when death will die and we will shine like the stars in the universe in the new Heavens and Earth.  

We then walked through the village that is right by the church facility.  A baby had just turned 6 months and there is a custom to have a pastor come and feed solid food for the first time to the baby.  The baby's name is Mercy and was sleeping.  The mother immediately put the baby into Dave's lap.  It was a precious sight.  Jim shared the gospel through Vijay's translation and we prayed for the child and then attempted to feed Mercy some rice.  I tried to take a picture of a water buffalo and was warned that it might try to kiss me.  Funny animals all around.  Another water buffalo started to charge at me.  Thankfully, it had a rope around its neck tied to a small stake.

We then went to Buji's house.  She is a part of the church.  But her husband is not a believer.  We prayed for her to win her husband without words, with a quiet and gentle spirit.  Vijay kindly translated.  Mr. Johnson, one of the older men on staff with Reach All Nations, told me that Vijay's family used to go through the village everyday and meet with people.  What a testimony! 

I then asked a teenager if I could borrow his bike.  I began to ride through the alleys of the village and that was a lot of fun.  We then went into the house of Isaiah and Bantsi.  Isaiah is pronounced Ishaiah.  He is not a believer but has heard the gospel and his wife is a believer.  Vijay asked us to share the gospel with him before we prayed for his health.  Jim and I attempted to share the bad news and then the good news and pressed him to decide today.  There were children at the door who were intrigued by us.  Isaiah and his wife told them to get out.  And at that point, I told them, "Jesus welcomed children."  He seemed very warm towards us and what we communicated and even said, "I was doubting if God loved me.  But it is no accident that you came here today.  I see that God sent you here today."  Lord save Isaiah!  Do it soon! 

We then said hi to the numerous school girls that were following us around.  And we headed back to the church facility.  I spent time on video conference with Beth, Caleb, Katelyn and Nathan.  Lord thank you for my family and help them to persevere without me.  Thank you for the godly love that Beth shows towards me and to our children. 

I also was on FaceTime with Joey Eaton, a man I went to India with in the past.  He is a dear brother.  I also saw Kurt Bekins, my closest friend in Grand Rapids.  Thank you God for faithful friends.  

We had another meeting at night where brothers were encouraged to share their testimony in one minute.  Many brothers talked about how God had healed them.  Very intriguing how The Lord is at work in India.  There was then a question and answer session and the brothers asked about parables, theophanies, eternal security and predestination.  Very awesome to hear such thoughtful questions!!!

 We then went to my favorite Indian place:  Flavours!  I started to engage our server, Funny.  That's his name.  Funny.  Isn't that Funny?  I am not sure how he spells it.  But that reminds me of an Indian friend named Happy, who lives in California.  Jim then shared more with him through Vijay's translation.  Funny's wife is a believer.  Please Lord give Funny genuine faith.  Let him talk more with his wife.  Bring him to true repentance.  

We came home and crashed.  Thank you Lord for a very full and delightful day.


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Oct  18th,  2013demon possession in India

The pastors and students in India have expressed great eagerness to receive the Word of God.  They are engaged in the classroom which becomes evident after I finish a statement, then the translator speaks, and the pastors respond with a hearty "Amen!" or a variety of expressions in Telagu.  Yesterday as I began my second teaching session I shared with the pastors a particular trial and hardship that my family is facing.  The pastors began to pray, and one older pastor began to weep and pray.  I stood up front, realizing that though I did not understand him, The Lord was hearing his prayers and God would accomplish His purposes as a result of this man's prayers.  

The pastors and students were asked to summarize the first three lessons.  Vijay translated in my class.  He said they are understanding the teaching very well.  The pastors are asking good questions from the Scriptures.  Their desire to be faithful men in doctrine and life is very evident (1 Tim 4).  It is encouraging to our team to know that these pastors have been under the good, faithful and wise care of Vijay and Reach All Nations.  Praise The Lord for these leaders and pastors.

We have had a chance to hear some of the men share their conversion testimonies.  Mike, one of our team-members, encouraged the men to be prepared to share their testimony in 1 minute.  So, last night we had an extended time for men to try to share their testimony in 1 minute.  Vijay timed the men!!  This brought excitement.  The challenge was on!  Initially the men were a bit slow and timid to share but by the end, men were standing in multiple numbers to share!  

Many pastors and students share how they were Hindus or pursuing Islam.  One pastor shared that while he was a Hindu he believes he was possessed by a demon.  He was violent; he would go around biting people.  He had physical problems.  In the process of finding help, Christians shared the Gospel with him and prayed that he would be healed.  He experienced healing and repented of sin and trusted Christ.  

Our team is very grateful for the many evidences of the love of Christ in these Christian Indians.  We see a deep hunger for the Word of God; we see the men eager to learn to teach, love, evangelize, and protect the flock of God; we see these men working through theological  and relational difficulties with humility and joy; we see a desire to serve others and to suffer hardships for the sake of Christ Jesus.  As Christians from the U. S., we have much to rejoice in The Lord for as we come to know that the Gospel is advancing through our brothers and sisters in India.  It is a great privilege and honor to work alongside them.  


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Oct  17th,  2013Day 2 in India: First Day of Teaching

This is Mike. 

 We began our time of teaching today.  I felt more comfortable and excited about teaching the basis and benefits of biblical theology.  There are a lot more brothers in this class as expected.  So that means more names to learn and there seems to be more complex names in this group.  Lord give us grace to learn who these men are and not just their names.

There are so many comforts that come with America and can easily be taken for granted.  Let's list a few:

  1. Air conditioning.  We're in a building structure that has 11 fans that work intermittently because of power outages.  Vijay has one room with an air conditioner.  But it definitely seems that AC is a luxury of sorts.
  2. Bathrooms.  Here there are four bathrooms since this is a compound of sorts.  But all them seem to be dirty in comparison to a typical bathroom.  No toilet paper but a little hose to wash your bottom.  Often no toilets but only a squatting hole.  No soap and faucet. 
  3. Traffic patterns.  In America, the roads are predominantly used by cars that have plenty of space to drive.  Here there are bicycles, walkers, motor cyclists and rickshaws and cars that you must navigate around.  And don't forget animals.  Large animals will slowly make their way across a street.  And there are also many roads that are very rocky and bumpy and hard to drive around.  And narrow roads. 
  4. Fixed prices.  There are tradeoffs with each system.  But there is a lot of time spent negotiating and dialoguing about prices here.  There are some places here that have fixed numbers but they are the exception.
  5. Family sizes in the home.  I think Vijay is living with his mother, his brother Nani, his brother Satya, his sister Santhi and her husband Karun, and then a litany of others who stay here.  But the size of the home is not 7000 square feet in an American suburb.  It's like the size of our garages.
  6. Kitchens.  Appliances are fewer and smaller here.  Cooking seems to take a long time and involves many steps.  Dishwashing is done by hand. 

So during a break, I played a little cricket with my favorite kid:  Durgrao (dur-ga-rao).  He speaks English well and has a great smile. 

I enjoyed teaching about Adam and Abraham.  Jim taught on Noah and did a great job!  He also was helpful during question and answer time.

We came home and Gerin and I went to play volleyball at the stadium.  We saw some of the familiar faces:  Bobby, Sisiti and Usain.  They immediately let Gerin and me play.  We were on opposite teams and we had fun playing.  There were dozens of kids and teenagers that gathered around our court and they were excited to watch us and they were creeping on the court while asking me questions in the middle of plays.  People were taking pictures and cheering when I cheered.  I would give a high five to about ten kids at once. 

We then went to dinner at Flavours, the only restaurant in town that really can easily be eaten by westerners.  The food there is amazing.  The chicken with garlic flavored nan and then the tandoori chicken are amazing.  A-ma-zing.  Thank you Lord for good food.

We came home and went to bed pretty quickly.  Thank you Lord for another joyful and productive day.


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