As I ascend on my dozenth flight rising above Mumbai toward home, my heart is full with many praises and yet heavy with many burdens after spending the last 12 days in India.
We had the privilege of encouraging and building into leaders and their families and doing training with indigenous pastors and church planters. From the slums in the massive city of Mumbai to rural villages along the border of Pakistan in northern India, we have seen God at work in four distinct states: Maharashtra on the west coast, Andhra Pradesh on the east coast and the two northern states of Punjab and Rajasthan.
My burden for seeing the Gospel made known to all people is at an all-time high. The weight and burden of lostness for the nations has never been more real to me. It continues to intensify for those in my own community and neighborhood and for those among the nations with a simultaneous gravitas. For my good and His glory, God continues to use the missionary journeys I am sent out on from here to multiply Kingdom fruit in and through His global Church.
In northern India alone, there are literally hundreds of thousands of villages without access to the Gospel. On many fronts, the Church faces hardship and opposition. Beyond the already overwhelming challenges of abstract poverty it faces daily, their opposition also comes from increasing numbers of hindu radicals.
One of our faithful partners over the last eleven years in India is Vision Nationals (www.visionnationals.org), based in the city of Vizag. They have equipped and sent out leaders to plant over 500 churches since 1992 in Andhra Pradesh and surrounding states and regions. The ministry was founded by a national and friend of mine, Arjuna Chiguluri, who faithfully leads the vision today. Arjuna took us to rural villages to do training that included faithful leaders from the bordering state of Odisha. I had the high privilege to meet some church leaders from there who literally face loss of life everyday for their commitment to advancing the cause of Christ among their own people. There are over a hundred documented cases in the last seven years of Christian leaders being martyred...many burned alive in an attempt to stop the Church and yet She is still growing and on the move there. One faithful pastor came to me after a day of training and asked me to pray over him. He looked at me and in his broken English spoke three words very clearly... "Pray... Family... Protect." He then bowed his head. As I slowly laid my trembling hands on his head, I begged the Father to give me words to pray over this faithful man. It was an unforgettable honor.
In the northern state of Punjab, we were introduced to a faithful man named M.Preet who is leading the vision for every man, woman and child in the state. He introduced us to leaders who are targeting fifty villages along the border of Pakistan where we did a day of training and envisioning with leaders who gathered at a central location. Just days before, there was news of a suicide bomber who killed 50 people. In one of the villages, I talked to a 12 year old boy named Raul who was making bricks by hand and likely will be doing so for life. Child labor is normative; It is an acceptable practice for families to either sell their own children or have their entire families become bond slaves to survive. Sadly, 12 yr-old Raul was not one of the younger workers I saw. Three hours from that village back into the main city of Ludhiana, we met with house church leaders that had started fifty-seven churches (20-100 people in each) mostly within the last eighteen months. Last week they had 22 baptisms, showing us pictures of new believers throwing their statues and pictures of their hindu gods and idols into the river before being baptized in Jesus' name. Each of their stories involved miraculous signs and demonstrations of God's power over their gods. Amazing!
From the state of Punjab, we flew to Rajasthan which is one of the least-reached states in the nation with less than one half of one percent of the 70 million people living there being evangelized. In this state, there are various active sects of both ancient hinduism and extremist groups. Some sects are mixed with animalism and others false religions. In addition, this state has the largest number of unreached tribal groups in the country.
One sect even includes child sacrifices. Families go to an ancient temple mount and sacrifice their daughters to unknown gods in hopes to appease them, earn favor, and also gain sons in their place to carry on their families’ religious duties while they go into the afterlife. It was so difficult to comprehend that this was still being practiced just minutes outside this top tourist destination of Jaipur. I was sitting in a hotel just forty-five minutes from this temple, surrounded by western tourists enjoying life, oblivious to the darkness they were vacationing in the midst of.
We spent two days with a faithful national leader named Trevor whose ministry covers a vast geography, working in 32 regions and cities, setting God's vision for reaching every man, woman and child in their geography and state. Although his family has very little, their vision for their state fuels them to give all they have to God's vision, regardless of a lack of outside help. One ministry he has seeks to reach a nomadic tribal group that has prostituted their own children out for generations as part of their religion and for provision for their community. What an incredibly dark state! I could not seem to get past the challenges of what it must take to truly own the lostness of these people when they are so deceived and entrenched in these false religions. It was overwhelming and yet I knew and had confidence that God's Spirit would give them everything they needed to do His will for that state.
Clearly, opposition is growing in India, and the light of the Gospel still has not reached much of this part of the world. However, in the midst of it, there are endless accounts of God demonstrating His power through miraculous signs and wonders, supernatural healing, deliverances of the demonically oppressed, and divine protection and provision. He is building the faith of His Church and multiplying it's impact among the lost. As I write this, I am reminded once again that there is no hope for them apart from the Gospel. In the very same way, there is no hope for anyone...including myself, apart from this Gospel. God is at work there. In the last 30 years, the church has grown from approximately 125,000 to more than 700,000 expressions among 1.2 billion people. It is a true movement of God unlike ever before in the history of the Church. We are privileged to serve our brothers and sisters there as they continue to fight the good fight of faith and finish the task of reaching their nation with the Gospel.
While exhausted at this moment, I'm overjoyed and blessed to be part of a body that shares the burden for both our community and for the nations. As His Church, Jesus has commissioned and empowered us to fulfill His great commission locally and globally through seeing disciples, leaders and churches multiplied to the ends of the earth.
We, as His Church, have been purposed with this task. It does not primarily belong to networks, denominations, missionaries, or missions organizations. He initiated His Church for the purpose of making Himself known to ALL peoples. The others can help us, but let's not abdicate to them the high privilege and responsibility to which He has entrusted us. Let's continue to run hard after proclaiming the Gospel to all people, everywhere. Let's leave it all on the field and make every day count for the cause of Christ. Until all hear His name, let's be faithful to make disciples that represent the Gospel to every man, woman and child.