The India (and Nepal) That I’ve Shown
For many years I have been sharing about the challenges, fruit, and unique work being carried out by our indigenous partners in Asia with many of you in Canada. For those who have had the opportunity to travel with me in these regions, they have seen firsthand the realities of what is happening on those visits. This is the India (and Nepal) that I’ve shown to them.
Suffering, Persecution and Church Growth Often Occur Together
Persecution was pervasive in the New Testament times. One of the massive waves of broad opposition is described after Saul (later who became the Apostle Paul) heartily approved of the stoning of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. “So on that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all of them, except the apostles, were scattered over Judea and Samaria” (8:1 Williams). Everywhere they went preaching the good news.
Near the end of the Apostle Peter’s strong leadership in the early church the call to testing continued on in 1 Peter 4:12, 13. “Dearly beloved, do not be astonished that a test by fire is coming upon you, as though something strange were happening to you, but so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that at the uncovering of His glory you may rejoice triumphantly.”
The India I have shown is hidden away in the shadows and secluded places.
Rejection – The rejection new believers face is often out of sight until local Hindu priests and village leaders stir up opposition. The understood percentage of lower schedule caste (untouchables) and scheduled tribes (outcastes or outside the caste system, since they are animists not pantheists) is at least 25%. This translates to 350 million of their 1.4 billion in India who are not welcome, rejected by the upper castes. Nepal has a population of 40 million. 25% is 10 million.
Isolation – Remote villages, depressed segments of cities and countless segments in between are where this mass of humanity is scattered throughout. For example, I watched in horror as a lower caste of 400 road workers, including children, broke rock at the dry river bed to help road construction near Siliguri, West Bengal. As I engaged in a 6am prayer walk on another occasion, steaming asphalt was prepared and laid with thick skinned bare feet in Kolkata each day.
Political Frustration and Powerlessness – These lowest of the low are required to follow a long, tedious and complicated process of ‘changing religion’ in order to be identified as a Christian. When they complete this odious administrative task, they are no longer eligible for school subsidized from the government. Therefore many new believers refuse to be identified as such.
Receptivity to the Gospel – these segments of India are considered to be lower than dogs with no souls. I am ecstatic to inform you that the Gospel is steadily spreading throughout India among these very peoples. How could it not? The power of Christ, the Light of the world, spreads most effectively in the utter darkness.
Submission to Godly Leadership – Wherever I have gone with many team members, the missionaries submit to the leaders with humility and gratitude. So many indigenous missionaries are not affiliated with any mission. It is striking to me that the mission leaders we walk with offer powerful encouragement and love tastefully and consistently. These are armies of soldiers for Christ committed for the long-term.
Desire to Reach the Unreached – The leaders and their missionary teams are so determined to reach the unreached that our Leadership Seminars are often duplicated and expanded through their own initiative. Long term in-depth relationships are built with determination and delight.
Suitability to the Task – What makes the indigenous missionaries so suitable? Language, culture and adaptability stand out consistently. They often have no formal training. Yet growing up with three, four or five tribal languages places them in an enviable place to speak clearly. Not only do they represent their own culture, they are also able to communicate with body language precisely. Being the recipients of almost no money has advantages. They are on the same economical level of their neighbours. Walking with the indigenous leaders in India and Nepal reveals the precise suitability of the missionaries for the work to be done.
Appropriate Sensitivity and Friendliness – We remind ourselves not to ask too many questions! The leaders can interpret some questions as being more directive than we might think. Our task, quite simply, is to listen and learn as connecting friends. When we do, they set agendas precisely suited to their situations and our learning. Most of us learn by observation. Example is the best teacher; some say the only teacher.
Suffering and persecution accompany church growth much more closely than we may care to agree. In India this fact is established. Our brothers and sisters connected to Engage Today demonstrate this New Testament principle all the time. Peter provided the Doxology as the preliminary context. “To Him (Jesus) be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (Peter 5:11).