Incredible India - August 2006 Ministry Report
Greeting friends, prayer partners, and financial supporters,
The slogan of the India tourist board - "Incredible India" - is an accurate summary of this amazing country. India is arguably one of the most incredible, diverse, religious, and fascinating places on earth. It's a place of high-tech call centers and rural villages. Mountain villages touch the Himalayas, and tropical rain forests house some of the world's last remaining tigers.
After three weeks in four locations on a recent Development Associates International (DAI) ministry trip, the word "incredible" is perhaps the only place to begin. With Borthwick DAI ministry travels in 2006 exceeding any previous year - taking one or both of us to Cambodia, Egypt, the Philippines, South Africa, India, and (ministry yet ahead) to Malaysia, Uganda, and Northern Ireland, I doubt that any trip will surpass this recent journey to Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, and Mussoorie, India.
THE TRIP IN REVIEW:
DELHI: the trip launched for Paul as he joined members of the DAI team in Delhi for an orientation to teaching in the M.A. in Organizational Leadership program that is offered in India. We know that we need more Indian Christian leaders teaching to help us respond to the demand.
GUWAHATI: then it was off to NE India for four days with DAI Himalayan specialist Cindy Perry for leadership training being offered to Baptist leaders, Lutheran leaders (working close to the border of Bhutan), Christian literature workers, and the staff of the "Priscilla Center," a ministry that empowers poor women by helping them start small businesses.
MUMBAI: a flight all the way across India ended up with the M.A. cohort in Mumbai. This group of 10 (pastors, business people, lay women - all Christian leaders) is in the final year of their M.A. studies. In this module, Paul introduced the "Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity" course that he has been working on (in part related to his Doctor of Ministry studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). PRAYER NOTE: please pray that he will complete his dissertation for a May 2007 graduation!
The course was well received and now the students will work through the course manual and associated readings for the next 15 weeks, interacting with Paul by email.
MUSSOORIE: a flight back to Delhi and then an 8-hour hair-raising ride (if Paul is capable of a hair-raising) to Mussoorie (a beautiful place at 7000 feet). The journey included a stop in Deradune and the New Theological College, where Paul's colleague Tim Tennent (of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) teaches every Summer and where our home church, Grace Chapel, has heavily invested in that school's vision for church-planting in North Indian villages.
In Mussoorie, Paul joined DAI co-worker Wolfgang Riedner in introducing two M.A. courses to another Year 3 cohort - this one a group of 20 that included doctors, hospital administrators, a consultant, a Bible School principle, pastors, and even a Christian publisher! Wolfgang introduced the new DAI course on "Mentoring" and Paul introduced the "Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity Course."
Before offering some impressions and thoughts about India and DAI's ministry there, a few bullets of answered prayer:
MAKING SENSE OF INDIA. One of India's business magazines carries the slogan, "Making sense of India." On previous India trips, we've had impressions on India's complexity, but this trip magnified our understanding of just how difficult India is to summarize or minister within. Consider this:
- Praise God for the caliber of the people we got to work with in each of the ministry locations throughout the trip (more on this below).
- We thank God for James Das, Cindy Perry, and the entire DAI-India team and the wonderful foundation they have laid for influencing men and women who are truly influencers in India.
- We praise God for safe travel, lots of energy, & good health throughout the trip.
- Thank God that the "Culture, Ethnicity, & Diversity" Course has really hit a nerve amongst these leaders who serve as Christian influencers in a country deeply affected by ethnicity, religion, and caste.
- And personally, we thank God for Indian technology that allowed Paul & Christie to communicate almost every day - very inexpensively!
Incredible - Complex - Religious - Diverse - Huge >>> that's India
- URBAN & RURAL: India has three cities with populations that each exceed 15 million (Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata) - which means that each of these cities has a population that exceeds the six-state New England region. And, yet, in spite of these urban challenges some estimate that more than 70% of India is rural.
- A RELIGIOUS MOSAIC UNLIKE ANY OTHER PLACE: the Indian sub-continent is the motherland of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and it plays host to the second largest population of Muslims in the world, and perhaps the largest population of Zoroastrians (the Parsis).
- A CULTURAL MOSAIC TOO: in three short weeks of ministry, we on the DAI team had an opportunity to minister to Christian leaders who were ethnically Tamils, Bengalis, Nepali, Garhwali, Malayali, Naga, Bolo, Marati, Sindhi, and Punjabi. Some came from a Christian heritage that traces back to the arrival of Thomas the apostle in SW India in the first century. Others were from families that were formerly Hindus or animists. Their diversity hinted at the complexity in a country that has between 1600 and 2000 languages!
- ANYTHING YOU SAY˙ IS PROBABLY TRUE: in exploring the complexity of India, someone said, "Almost anything you say about India is probably true - give the population, the diversity, and the cultures."
- India has some of the poorest people on earth˙ and a middle-class population (an estimated 300 million) that exceeds the population of the entire USA.
- India has thousands of Christian missionaries being sent out and it has millions of people who have never heard a presentation of the Christian Gospel
- India has historical Christian congregations that trace their heritage back to the Apostle Thomas, but India also has regions were Christians are under severe oppression and persecution by radical Hindu groups.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS? In this report, can we make three appeals - two related to Development Associates International's work there and one simply requesting your prayer for India?
FIRST, AN APPEAL FOR INDIA: given its size, its global influence, and its challenges to the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can we request that you add India some place in your prayer list? Choose a people group, a particular Indian state, government leaders, or a particular religion prevalent there - and make India part of your prayers?
SECOND, A REAFFIRMATION of the "MASTER-LINK" PROGRAM. Meeting and interacting with the extraordinary leaders that DAI has the privilege of partnering with in the M.A. program has intensified our desire to get individuals, families, fellowship groups, and churches interacting with these leaders directly through the Master Link program. Would you be willing to take another look at this? Check it out at: www.daintl.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=63&Itemid=130
FINALLY, A REQUEST FOR PRAYER about the "Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity" course that these Indian leaders are currently engaged in. Please pray that the course is practical and useful in helping a very diverse church come to experience "the one new humanity" that Jesus died to create (see Ephesians 2:15).
Thank you for your interest in us and the work we are called to,
Paul & Christie Borthwick