An Interview with Pastor Sylvio


We recently asked Pastor Sylvio, who has travelled with us overseas twice, a few questions about working with Engage Today and connecting with Nirmal, one of our partner mission leaders.

Tell me about how your church came to be connected with Nirmal?

After retiring from teaching in a bible school overseas, my friend and mentor John C became involved with Engage Today.  He needed a pastoral reference and didn’t have one so he asked me to be his.  I was interviewed for John’s application – it’s kind of weird, I know! – and was invited to consider giving Engage Today a hand in the future.

In 2018, John asked me if I would join him for a trip to India in the fall.  I considered it but the timing wasn’t right.  I ended up going with him in February 2019.  That’s when I met Nirmal for the first time, even though John had told me about him.

When you began working with Engage Today, did you have hesitations? What were they?

Because I came in touch with Engage through a trusted friend, I saw the invitation as an opportunity to serve the Lord with John in a unique setting.  It could have been just about anywhere else and I would have gone!  The main hesitation was the cost, but I was willing to take the time off and pay my share, trusting that the God who gives the vision gives the provision.  Little did I know that the Lord would confirm his call to India by providing almost twice as much money as I needed for the trip!  I was thankful and honored to see that my church was all in with me on that trip!

How was your first trip to India?  How was the second one?  How were they different?

My first trip to India was… special!  When I got to the airport, I wasn’t aware that, earlier, Pakistan had shot down two Indian jets and that all the airports were closed.  I managed to leave with a 48-hour delay but some mechanical problems forced me to spend the night in Toronto and leave THREE days later than planned!  Those three days were my days of briefing and of planning with John how we would deal with the evenings.  I got to the seminar on time to teach the second session!  I hit the ground running…

This amazingly disappointing delay after months of preparation had an unexpected impact on my heart.  It made me see the spiritual warfare and tested my determination, but, more importantly, it increased my desire to be “there” with the brothers and sisters I didn’t know.  Just like parents love their unborn child, my love increased for those unborn relationships.

My second trip was very different.  I had a different teammate: Bruce, a “stranger” to me…  And we had the so very important discovery time to visit places and people.  In my first trip, I consider that I was able to give what I had gone there to give, but I felt that I was robbed of much of what I could have taken back with me.  This second trip, I wrote pages and pages of notes of “people stories”, of how God is at work in many different edifying stories.  I came back having received a lot.

I need to add that, during my second trip, Bruce and I had the privilege of staying at Nirmal’s instead of lodging at the hotel.  It’s a great bonus as far as my experience of relationship, of family and of culture.  I was supposed to have the privilege to receive Nirmal in my house a few weeks later, but I came back on March 11th 2020: the day the word “COVID” became a common word in Canada.  No visit from Nirmal yet!

Tell me about some of the ways that you and your church have worked together with Nirmal?

After my first trip, church was blessed to find out that the leftover money was sent to help “Nirmal’s pastors”: that’s why it was given.

After returning from my second trip, I presented pictures of my trip.  I also explained what I was understanding from the brothers I stayed in touch with: our beloved brothers and sisters feared famine more than the coronavirus.  I also presented the need for Indian brother John and his pregnant wife for a place to live.  We raised a few thousand dollars for “John’s room” and for COVID relief.

At the end of 2020, our annual Christmas fundraiser was geared toward helping our Indian brothers and sisters once again.  We raised a few thousand dollars again.

At the end of 2020, I was asked to preach in a Sunday morning service through Zoom.  That was a great honor in spite of some technical challenges.  As I’m writing these lines, I’m preparing to participate to a three-day leadership seminar through Zoom!  No delayed flight this year!

What are some of the blessings for your church in being connected to Nirmal?

I asked my pastoral team to help me answer this question.

It widened our horizon beyond the walls of our church.  It was good for us.  People still pray for the brothers and sisters over in India.  They are still touched and inspired by their stories.

It was a privilege for us to participate to what God’s doing over there.

We are edified by the zeal of our Indian brothers and sisters who live in hard conditions and opposition.  They are doing such great things with little material means: that teaches us a lot.

It is clear to me that we have more to learn from our Indian brothers and sisters than we can teach them.

Through my many presentations – I even did an interview with Nirmal! – people have faces to associate with the stories.

How would you like to see the relationship grow and develop between your church and Nirmal’s ministry?

We were supposed to have Nirmal over and we hope we will!  We need to have regular news to upkeep the relationship and our prayers.

I am not doing as good at keeping my people informed as I think I could or should.  I’m hoping that next week’s leadership seminar will put me back on track.  Keeping in touch amidst the COVID craziness of the past year had been quite a challenge.