Jill's J-Mail: A Report from India
Monday, September 19, 2011
September, 2011: Jill shares a report from her recent ministry trip with Stuart to India.
Jill’s J-Mail: A Report from India
Stuart and I were in India for the last leg of our ministry here. We arrived just four days before at Gospel for Asia’s new training school. Our first assignment was 40 young men and 10 young women. All sat cross legged on the floor for hours on end and listened intently as we taught. This was the first week for these freshmen, and what a joy to lay the foundation for their three years of training. This period will be interspersed by practicums as they go in teams into Hindu villages to do personal evangelism and pass on to the churches ( if there are any nearby) what they have learned.
The girls are between 16 and 20 years old, and the boys are a little older. The women are gentle and gracious and oh-so-beautiful in their Saris. They are shy and giggle a lot behind their hands! They show great respect to their leaders and to us, their visiting lecturers. Their love for the Lord adorns their faces and manner, and it’s incredible the courage they have as two-by-two they will literally be walking into strong Hindu strongholds and telling, possibly for the first time, that there is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus! Many are recent converts to Christianity and their Hindu families are not pleased they are here. Persecution is growing and is almost a given for many of them.
The last time we were here (three years ago) a whole town in the state of Orissa was torched, and pastors and their families and other Christians in their villages were tortured, some crucified and killed, while others fled into the forest. We even had some stones thrown at a house down the road (mistaken for the house where we Christian teachers were staying!).
All our teaching at this center is translated into Tamil, which doubles your stress and halves your material! I can’t use poetry or implement many of my English teaching methods, so that’s a challenge. I battle with the extreme heat plus humidity in Chennai, the old Madras. It can be draining to be on your feet teaching for hours on end, but God, through your prayers, gives us help. Through this comfort and the Spirit’s help, we continue on!
I learned today there are more people in the Indian sub-continent than in China! I believe it! I am reminded of a comedian’s joke, “I went to India but it was FULL!” Yes, I think about that every day! It is indeed “full!”
Next we moved on to Kerala in the Southwest where tradition has it the Apostle Thomas landed and established the church in this vast continent. Stuart pointed out to the students that Christianity came to India ages before it came to America! Christian religion is not a white man’s American or European idea, but in the first century AD Thomas brought the Gospel to India.
RIGHT HERE! Very old historic churches were built and named after the Apostle Thomas. (And he the disciple who had trouble believing! There is hope for all of us!) The main Seminary of ‘Gospel for Asia’ is located in this place. This amazing organization has established a training center in EVERY state of India! We have enjoyed working with this ministry for many years.
There we were teaching for a week in their courses. Last time there were approximately 600 men and women training to be pastors in this college. They have had to learn English to come, and for some, it is a big struggle as theology has its own vocabulary on top of the difficult English language that must be mastered. So we have to draw on all our teaching skills to make ourselves understood.
Again there are hours of biblical teaching, chapels, and staff meetings, plus hours of dialogue with these young potential future leaders in church and mission. What a joy and privilege to serve them, but also what a challenge. When their time here is ended, most of these young people will go all over India to Hindu villages, Sikh towns (the Sikh religion is a branch of reformed Hinduism - very strict) and Muslim areas in the North which are occasionally very militant. They will take on Maoist areas where much violence is rising, and persecution is rampant, and hundreds of other areas where multiple other gods are worshipped.
Then there are the “untouchables” among whom the Lord has been miraculously working. They live generally in the slums and poverty-stricken villages, but God is bringing them to Himself in the thousands. As I look out at these young eager faces my “Mother heart” goes out to them, and I am constrained to cry out to God for the church in India, probably the most populous and needy country in the world.
Stuart taught on taking up your cross and following Jesus. As we prayed at the end, I had a vivid picture of my cross laying against a wall rather than being carried. Was I being tempted to lay it down at this point in my life? After all, surely others could come and teach in my place. I am not indispensible, that is for sure. Maybe I had done my part and was too old now to be running ‘round the world like this. Maybe someone else would come along and carry my cross for me the rest of the way!
But everyone must carry their own cross all the way to Glory. Each must answer to the Lord at the end of the day what they did with the opportunities offered to tell others the Gospel and encourage the body of Christ. Was I expecting someone else to appear and offer to carry my cross for me as well as carrying their own? I asked God to give me strength and joy (for “the joy of the Lord is my strength”) to carry my cross all the way home. To give me power to deny myself and the things I long for at this stage in my life and keep on following until HE tells me to stop.
As I taught my last message in my series from the book of Philippians, I spoke about the race set before us and how we are not done until we cross the finish line. I seemed to sense the Lord standing by my side in the pulpit saying: “Well now, listen to you. Will YOU finish strong, Jill, or will you drop out of the race, and retire from running hard and running well?”
As I was teaching those wonderful young people, my brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters in the faith with their eager faces turned to me, I answered the Lord’s question with an instinctive prayer, using the Apostle’s words from prison: “I press to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-15).
I sensed His smile, His hand on my shoulder, and a joy that wouldn’t quit filling my heart. I reminded the students that as they “take up their cross and keep on following” the joy of the Lord will follow such sweet and ready obedience and will be their strength.
So Stuart and me in the autumn (maybe winter) of our lives go on to the next amazing opportunity that God has afforded—with joy! A short plane ride and a long and bumpy road to our destination, but as the Lord reminded me, better than a donkey! One thing we are finding in Asia is a huge respect for age frequently lacking in USA and Europe. Here seniors can step up to the plate in their latter years, and the next generation will listen. Everywhere we go we are able to tell them of tellingthetruth.org, where many free resources are available. By the time we leave, they are happily downloading radio broadcasts, sermon outlines, etc.
Wherever He calls us, He has promised to run the race by our side. Thank you for loving and praying and caring for us as we respond to gracious invitations to influence the next generation of church leaders for Him whom we love and serve.
Love in Him,
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