It has been an amazing few days! As we traveled around to do some sightseeing on our first day in New Delhi, the words of Matthew 9:36 were troubling and constantly on my mind. “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (mentioned earlier in our reports). The most recent two days of our trip have been something entirely different.
Our second full day was consumed by a flight to the north and a drive through the countryside of India. We arrived in the evening at the main destination of our trip—the city where the graduation of the students from the Church Planting Initiative would take place over a two day series of events. We were blessed to have the chance to rendezvous with two additional partners, D and A, from the States who are working in a nearby city. This was a special reason for thanksgiving since they both speak Hindi.
After a chance for a full night’s sleep and breakfast for all of us plus our wonderful partner, Brother E, we headed to the church compound to meet the graduates, plus family and friends. The first of the two day event was one of worship, teaching and testimony. Josh taught from I Timothy and Matt on the Marks of a Healthy Church.
We heard many moving testimonies from graduates. One man, who had been a government employee told us how he had a deep desire to learn the things of God and to know His Word. Through the training he felt equipped and was ready to go village to village and make disciples. Another graduate, a former policeman, who had come to know The Lord and had been serving Him since 2006 had a strong desire to do more. His life has been transformed. Now, because of the program and being built up by faithful pastors like brother E, it is his heart to not just make believers, but true disciples.
Others mentioned how the program had helped them revitalize churches they had been pastoring and plant new ones. A recurring theme was how truly thankful the participants were for the opportunity to complete this type of program on a seminary level, which might otherwise have been cost prohibitive for them. Their sincerity and gratitude was truly overwhelming. It is abundantly clear that The Lord had been working mightily in their lives and that the future holds many great things for them.
Marylou and I (Susan) had the privilege to share some verses and words of encouragement in the afternoon. And, of course, the afternoon included a much welcomed “Chai Break!” The final part of the day was distribution of caps and gowns for each graduate and a practice run for the logistics of the next day—the much anticipated graduation.
One truly enjoyable aspect of this two day gathering was the chance to see and spend time with these students and families over an extended period. We had the chance to have meals with them and engage for more than just a few short hours as been the case in many past trips. Lindsey, despite a bit of illness, managed to be quite a magnet for the children and could always be found playing games with them. Liz, too was often at the playground or otherwise engaged with one or more of the totally adorable children who were the subjects of many of our photos. The meals were somewhat of a production—feeding close to 200 people and getting fresh baked naan straight from the tandoor oven were special treats!
Finally—graduation day arrived! We all gathered for breakfast and everyone donned their graduation attire. Even those of us from the FBC group had very “fancy” velvet robes. The sense of accomplishment and joy was palpable. After prayer, praise and worship, we heard testimonies from two graduates. JG who had been pastoring for 6 years reported how he now truly had direction for doing the Lord’s work. This same man later received the Best Student award with tears in his eyes. One of the women graduates, S had already initiated the planting of 3 churches and another women in one of those churches had started an additional church in her home.
Our own Pastor Matt had the honor of delivering the commencement address using Romans 1:16-17 as his theme on “Gospel Power.” “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Liz and Lindsey also shared words of greeting and encouragement.
As each name of the 120 graduates were read and the diplomas and certificates were handed out by Matt, Josh and Pastor S from the Seminary, Marylou and I had the privilege to congratulate and hand each one a new Hindi Study Bible. Seeing the joy on each face as they crossed the stage, received their certificates and then their Bible was an indescribable experience I will never forget. It was a special blessing that the wife of Brother E was among the graduates.
It would be a gross omission if I did not mention one of the most poignant and humbling parts of this day. The last graduate to receive his certificate was A.D., a young man of 28 from a Hindu family who accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior at the age of 14. He was physically disabled from he age of 3 and could not walk, but depended on others to care for him and carry him from place to place. But, he wanted so much to serve the Lord. After learning about the Church Planting Initiative, he convinced the directors he could do it. He did not miss a single class and already has a church meeting in his own home where 30 to 45 people are attending. What a lesson! If The Lord give you the desire to do something, He will help you to accomplish it. The cheers and applause for this graduate may have been heard many streets away.
It seems I have gone on too long, but it is hard not to be effusive about these days. However, I will close with our thanksgiving that God has already accomplished many miracles through this ministry even though the work had just begun. We are confident that “the harvest is plentiful” and now there are 120 new capable, equipped laborers that the The Lord has sent out into His harvest.
All praise and thanks be to God for his grace and provision in the safe travel to this event and in the smooth running of the many details required for such a celebration. We are also eternally grateful for the incredible work and sacrifice of Brother E without whose efforts, this may never have been accomplished so well.
Please pray with us for these faithful servants as they embark on a new chapter of service.