This blog is written by Alan Carton who is accompanying Jerry in India this trip.
I was excited when the opportunity came available earlier this year to accompany Jerry Schmoyer on his annual India trip. The first thing he warned me about was that this was a work trip . . . . not a churchy vacation. I was fine with that, because it is also my philosophy when I have done missions trips in the past to Venezuela and Peru. Having been on more than 20 such trips, up to 6 weeks in length, I was comfortable with the month Jerry had planned. Truly, it is a working trip, especially for him . . . . but I am finding it truly wonderful as well.
It is fun to watch a master teacher at work. Jerry has perfected the art of teaching the heart of complex biblical ideas on a level that poorly educated pastors can grasp and enjoy. Part of this involves the many magic tricks he integrates into his messages. He has adapted tricks we have all seen, but that the pastors probably have not, in ways that make the message he is conveying truly memorable to them.
India is a big country, so even though only 2 – 3 percent of the people are Christians, there are still 35,000,000 of them. In the Dhalit and tribal groups where Jerry works, the percentage is probably quite a bit higher. The churches are generally small, often house churches with 10 to 50 members. Because they are the lowest classes, it also means many of the pastors are poorly educated. They have been systematically denied education opportunities forever. Taken together, this means that Jerry is uniquely meeting the training needs of a huge number of pastors . . . critically needed training needs. As he trains pastors of all denominations, he will never run out of those needing his training.
My ministry is one of enablement, so that is the prospective that I have tended to view this work with. What do these pastors and church leaders most need in order to function more effectively? How can they be helped to reach the other 97.5% of Indians they come into contact with every day? Their needs are overwhelming. They are all poor. They have not been well educated or trained. Their congregations and those around them have incredible needs. Bibles are very hard to come by because they are expensive for poor families needing to eat. Many pastors lack even rudimentary transportation. Where should we focus?
Lepers are fairly common here. They can’t work to support themselves in most cases. That is one huge way to reach lost people. Orphans are also common. That is an outreach that touched my heart deeply when we went to see a small orphanage supported by Pastor Moses, our translator, driver and overall project coordinator. How can your heart not go out to the 20 orphans being cared for at a cost of only about $12,000 a year . . . $600 a child . . . especially when you realize there are 20 more in the street on their waiting list. Another way to help is to promote the sewing training ministries that enable women to support their families. For about $80 it is possible to teach a woman 2 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months. At the end, they are good tailors, able to feed their families.
We also visited a large tent city of slum dwellers. These are tribal people, the lowest of the low. We gave milk to more than 40 children . . . also a little candy. The slum, located on the banks of an open sewage canal, is prone to foul smells. This is public property, so they squat there for free . . . each family in a tent of 10’ x 15’ or so. They have nothing. The children’s greatest wish, one they prayed for while we were there, was for shoes and books so they could go to school. How can you not want to help these people? They make up about 20% of India’s population.
A bicycle enables a pastor to be far more efficient . . . for $100. Even better, a small motorbike allows him to bring his whole family, microphone and other things when he goes . . . for $700. $25 a month in support will hugely improve the lives of a pastor’s family.
After thinking about it, my mind tells me that pastoral training and Bibles are, rationally, the greatest need. My heart however, keeps striking out in the direction of helping those who are so severely in need. For $5 a Bible can be put in the hands of a new believer. For $1400 a 2 day pastor’s conference can be held, with each pastor given 4 valuable books to take home and study.
Long after I go home however, my heart and mind will be wrestling with what I have seen here and how best to help reach this huge treasure trove of lost people. I hope as you read Jerry’s blogs, you will engage both your heart and your mind. This is one of God’s greatest opportunities for us, His church, to touch lives. How is He telling you to help? Please pray about this.God bless you as you pray for Dr. Jerry and his amazing work here in India. I hope you too have an opportunity some day to experience it as I am right now. Alan Carlton