Thanks again for your prayers and support for our India mission. I was in India January 10-31. We held 13 conferences and trained 560 pastors and 82 wives. We spoke to about 1500 people at 32 evening and Sunday church services. I averaged about 5 teaching sessions a day. In addition, we traveled 3,000 miles in bad traffic on poor roads. The responses of those who attended has been overwhelming. God has used these conferences and meetings to encourage and train many. The books I wrote which we gave out are also continuing to bear much fruit for the Kingdom. Words can’t describe the great impact these conferences and books have on the lives of the pastors and their churches in India. What a joy and privilege it is to be involved in such a worthwhile ministry. It wouldn’t be possible without your prayers and gifts!
Pray God continues to guide us as we support orphans and pastors in India and provide follow-up conferences for them. Pray God provides some men who can come with me to help teach these fine men and women of God.
I thank JIM HODGES for accompanying me. His presence was a great blessing and wonderful help in many ways. Here is his summary account of the time we spent:
I spent 3 weeks in India with Rev. Dr. Jerry Schmoyer in 2012 on a trip whose mission was to train, equip, and encourage local Christian church pastors who for the most part have had no formal training in the ministry. The trips particulars were coordinated and hosted by a local Pastor named Moses.
Jerry taught pastors on the leadership qualities of Nehemiah; Jesus’ divinity; Paul’s inability to find peace till he encountered Jesus; what God expects of Pastors; spiritual warfare; a Biblically based marriage; the “body” of the church; how to know if you are growing spiritually; Joshua’s trust in God under adverse circumstances; an overview of Old Testament history; the concept of redemption; how to study the Bible; praying without ceasing; God taking full responsibility to build His Church and other subjects too numerous to mention.
While in India, we held an outdoor church service and served cupfuls of milk at a Dalit campground, (the tent homes of the “untouchables” at the lowest level of the Indian caste system), held services and gave out rice at a lepers colony; and held outdoor services at a gypsy village that required 2 translators to get the message into the local dialect.
We visited numerous local churches, some quite nice but most mere huts in outlying villages, and held services most every evening. The joy and pride seen on the pastor’s faces when we arrived at their houses of worship made the entire trip worthwhile. They are so encouraged that we would come to visit them and meet their congregations. It is truly touching.
One day, after day 3 of the Leader/Pastor conference, we went with one of the attendees to a small home church meeting in what you might generously call a slum. The ground floor of his house / church is unfinished; the ceiling is the floor of the church above. Most of the walls are completed in the church. Only one room in the house is completely walled in. This man has made his church the priority over his own home. The service was full, mostly of women, with a dozen men besides. He is praying for $400 to purchase the bricks necessary to complete the walls in the church. The house can wait.
Years ago this pastor was in a terrible bus accident that resulted in the doctor’s ultimate determination to amputate his legs. He was a “priest” in the Hindu faith, but a nurse told him about Jesus Christ and his history of healing. He prayed and when the doctors came to take another set of xrays, said, you are healing. He walks just fine and has been telling his story from house to house ever since. He’s been in the car with us and knows no English at all. But he talks a mile a minute to Moses and they both laugh a lot. He has a good and kind face.
On a different day I met my own new ministry. He is the pastor of a small church with a leaky roof in a backward town, has a wife with a heart condition, 2 daughters in college, a son at home, and a church to minister to. He is quiet and unassuming, a little intense when talking, and devoted to his Lord and his people. His wife and son, who I met, are very sweet spirited and I could see that his son honored his parents and served right along with them. He is probably 14 years old, but apparently a fine man already. I called him the good son. I do not know the pastor’s name. I had my picture taken with them and could tell they were just a little surprised at that. After all I had sat in the back of the church taking pictures, why would they want their picture taken with me? But I was a visitor from America so it made sense. My 25 dollars a month will provide about one third of his monthly income.
Another church we visited was about 10 feet square. Wattle and daub walls, with the daub only reaching up about three fourths on three sides, hardly at all on the fourth. Three or four plastic chairs at the head, flour and sugar and fertilizer bags sewn together to make a carpet, and voila! A church! The total cost was $300 American dollars, which was provided by those who donate to the Indian Ministry sponsored by Main Street Baptist Church. This pastor, too, receives $25 a month from someone in the US who has committed to contributing that amount for him. The pastor was a young man we’ve met a few times already this trip at various trainings and locations, and he was beaming, as are all the pastors when we visit. But the people in this place were beyond friendly. They approached us immediately, smiled from ear to ear, and genuinely welcomed us to their village and church. Their children were active and bright and outgoing and cheerful. Right out of a movie scene.
Another pastor we visited is unusually short, even for India, and was born with a withered leg that he can still walk around on with quite a bit of rotating the hips and throwing this leg out before him. I noticed him particularly during the 3-day Leaders / Pastors conference at the beginning of the trip. First I noticed how short he was, then I noticed how his face beamed with happiness all the time, then I noticed how intently he listened to the training – how seriously he took his studies. I am thrilled he is one of 6 pastors that receive $25 a month of support from sponsors in the US. His church/house combination couldn’t have been 150 sq feet divided into 2. It is at the end of a trail at the end of an alley near the end of a side street. Half living space, half church/school, it is his home, it is his church, it is his life and he is radiant. The dedication of such men, needy themselves, ministering to the needy for their Lord, I have never seen before.
Most of these pastors heard the gospel preached, responded to it, got a Bible somehow, and in reading it and sharing their faith with their family and friends, became the “pastor” of their own church quite by accident. Once in that position, they felt led to fulfill that position full time, quit their jobs, and have been living on faith ever since.
It is heartening, encouraging, amazing and humbling to be in their presence, and to have them thank us for coming. Moses tells me that at most 1-2 percent have other employment besides a salary from an often poor congregation’s tithes and offerings. People often bring small amounts of rice as their offering. Again, where do such men come from?
One particular church service was the most convicting and encouraging of all. A building description is superfluous: 3 or 4 plastic chairs, microphone and speaker, a wire hung between two trees with a phosphorescent light suspended, blue tarps laid out on the ground next to a house and not 10 feet from water buffalo eating at a haystack, 35 or so women and children, about 15 men, more eager and attentive than any I’ve seen. No building. No pews. But worship and faith and joy and a desire to learn and grow. What more could a pastor want?
On the flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow on our way to India, I was overcome with a sense of fear and dread that called out to me to find a flight back to Philadelphia, run away and return to money to those who contributed towards my trip. What are you doing going to India? You have a business to run! How will you pay the bills? These and other such questions would cause me to lose heart. I listened for a while, and felt a frightening pounding in my chest, and realized that this was just the enemy trying to get me to quit. I’m glad I didn’t.
So, what have I learned while in India? God can do very much with very little. There are men and women in the world willing to risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherever you are, serve God there. Peace and happiness and joy do not come from things.
I am thrilled to have been able to play just a small part in encouraging the relatively young Christian churches we visited, assisting Jerry in the training of their almost completely untrained pastor corps, and documenting and photographing it for myself and he and some few readers of my emails and Facebook page.
I suspect not too many visitors to India get to see what I have seen, like the remote villages and gypsy camps. How many talk to hundreds of men and some of their wives; although sometimes just briefly or through an imperfect interpreter? Get to eat in their homes and, for a couple nights anyway, sleep in one of their stick frame beds with hand tied webbing? I suspect not many.
“Will you come back to India?” I am frequently asked. I don’t know. God laid it on my heart to come this year, so I pursued it as an assignment. If He says to come again I will do all in my power to obey.
I hope I fulfilled my mission this time.
With Hope in Him,