Build the Wall

Build the Wall

In the midst of all the politicking and the Easter Week celebrations and the new church plantings, the Christian Hospital Wall Trial section of 30 yards of the Wall was poured on April 16-18th.

This Trail Wall section was approved on April 22 as meeting the specifications regarding the strength of the Wall, the right mix of cement and stone and iron rod, and the right height.

Since early morning April 23rd, it’s been pedal to the metal to get the Christian Hospital Wall in place by the third week of June. Thanks to all of you who have helped to support the Build the Wall  campaign, and especially the good folk at Grand Ledge, we have received the greenest of green lights from Jesus to get the Wall built while it still can.

As of yesterday, 210 yards have been poured, with 150 yards cured. Let me explain why it’s 30 yards at a time: we have steel forms 30 yards long and 6 feet high. What the construction team does is hand load the cement, stone and sand mix into the form under the supervision of the masons. The form holds the poured cement for two days, since we have 3 sets of forms.

 While the first one is holding what was poured a day ago, the second form is being prepared for pouring or gets poured, depending on what the masons say. Then the third form is moved up from the already two day ago poured Wall to get ready for the next day’s pour.

On Sundays, no pouring so the construction crew can go to church and get some rest. It’s long, hard work, starting early in the morning as soon as there’s any light. Then a noon meal, while the pouring continues by part of the construction crew while the other part eats and rests. Then work on through until it’s fully dark. The Sunday break also helps with the curing of the newly poured Wall as well.

Pray for India

A big surprise just now as we came back from the night's prayer service: the Election Schedule has just been announced. Tamil Nadu on April 18th & Kerala on April 23rd. 

Voting is to start April 11th, with results announced on May 23rd. There'll be at least 1 million voting booths and just slightly less than 1 billion people are expected to vote.


Christmas 2018

Christmas Program 2018 was a huge success!

Praise Jesus, all the hard work on the Christmas Program 2018 resulted in an overflow of appreciation for those of you who supported the celebration of the Christ child here in southern India.

All 1,107 Christu Sabha congregations had their Christmas Programs. This annual event is a must for each church after these years of successive and successful Christmas Programs!

A maximum effort was made by the many Christmas Teams in the gift distribution of 5,000 blankets this Christmas Program 2018. In addition, we made sure that each of the selected 225 villages churches and the 25 urban slum churches had electricity, at least for the night, and gave what we could towards loudspeakers.

The special gift for our Christmas Program this year was a blanket. The weather turned cold during December so children and seniors were especially grateful for the beautiful blankets.

The special gift for our Christmas Program this year was a blanket. The weather turned cold during December so children and seniors were especially grateful for the beautiful blankets.

The Great Flood of 2018 Continues in Kerala

The Great Flood of 2018 Continues in Kerala

 

Here it is August 17th morning, and the flooding still continues in the state of Kerala. This is the 10th day of steady, hard rains brought by one monsoon storm and a second cyclone, right on top of each other.

Last night high winds in addition to ceaseless heavy rains. 

It feels like the days of Noah, as we talk to church people who have come out of Kerala to share their losses of house and everything in the houses. 

It is not possible for us to go into Kerala now, as all roads into Kerala are blocked by water or landslides. What our people are doing is trekking through the jungle and tea plantations above the rivers and roads to finally reach dry land in Tamil Nadu. 

Cell phone contact has been increasingly cut off, since the electricity has been shut down or the grid has collapsed. No electricity, no way to charge a cell phone, and increasingly high levels of flood water everywhere.

Here is a summary of the situation today:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/relentless-rain-savages-kerala/article24710765.ece?homepage=true

As you will see, there are at least 48 hours more of heavy rain expected to cause flood waters to rise even higher.

We are continuing to pray for God's guidance as what best to do. The South India Church of Christ Mission planted churches are planning to take up a special offering this Sunday for their brothers and sisters in the newly planted churches of Idukki District. 

The next step will be finding out ways for Christu Sabha churches to help the churches in Idukki District rebuild their church buildings. And send rice and vegetables and spices to the church leadership to share among the congregations. This especially for the elderly, sick, extremely poor and children who now are at home or have been rescued from their flooded homes.

In Idukki and Wayand District, the flooding is combined with landslides. When the earth becomes too wet, it can turn into mud. And if the roots of trees and plants are not strong enough, the mud slides downhill.

Many reports of landslide damage to houses and also deaths from those hit by landslides.

On the flat land below, the water from the rains has now flooded much usually dry land. From reports, and what we can see on TV, usually dry land is now 1-3 feet under water. This includes all sorts of roads, including the National Highways. Smaller side roads are now boat paths.

All normal life is on hold as the rains and flooding continue. What people are doing is rescuing their neighbors who stayed in their houses in the hopes the flooding would end.

It hasn't ended yet though. Now the waters often force residents to the second floor or any high point on their land. Rescue boats, assisted by the Army and Navy, then have been collecting these new refugees. The problem: where is the dry land and any kind of shelter to put them?

All that we were in the Mission churches can do is pray. We know that God hears prayers and answers prayers. We pray for the suffering, praying that God in His wisdom will spare those whom might otherwise die early deaths. 

And show us how best to witness to the love of Jesus for all HIs people when disasters hit. 

What is emerging through praying and consultation with our churches is this:

Christmas Program 2018 is the best way to respond to the flooding damage.

There has never been a better time to witness to the love of Jesus for all HIs people than the largest Christmas Program 2018 push into the flood-damaged villages and slums of Kerala.

If you are considering supporting the Christmas Program 2018, please include the challenge and opportunity of the Christmas Program 2018 in a devastated and rebuilding Kerala.

Jesus needs to be there as the rebuilding starts and continues. 

This is the third great disaster to hit southern India since 2005. That was when the tsunami hit, with all that death and destruction along the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. 

Then two years ago there was Cyclone Ochki, with the huge windstorm that tore the roofs off so many houses and churches in Tamil Nadu. Our own College lost its roof in that cyclone. 

This Great Kerala Flood of 2018 is a larger disaster than Cyclone Ochki. It is actually a larger disaster than the tsunami in the numbers of people impacted and destruction of every kind of building.

So much rebuilding and witnessing to be done once the rains stop!

Your prayers are critical now. Please pray that God will stop the rains. And that Christ's church can give a mighty witness through the Christmas Program 2018 as Kerala rebuilds over the next year once the flooding stops.

College Construction

This is a video of the construction work at Southern Asia Christian College.

Cyclone Vardah hit the College hard December 12-14, 2016. The wind and rain were not only intense but with severe wind shear. When the winds and rain finally died down, half of the fourth floor had been torn out. The chapel itself was not touched.  But 4,000 square feet of aluminum wall was scattered all over the land below.

Watching the Weather

July in India is the month when the monsoon rains come---or don’t come. This year, the rains have been abundant and strong.

Last year the monsoon rains of June, July, August and September were “weak”. This was surprisingly so in Kerala, usually one of the states with the most rain. Both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were also light on rain. And so throughout Southern India, as in other states where the South India Church of Christ Mission works, including Chattisgarh and Orissa. Talk of drought and famine were in the air.

A “strong” monsoon means enough crops and lower cost of food. We look forward to the harvest this October and November. And then three more churches will be planted, bringing the total so far to 1,075. Praise God, the planting and harvest continue under the leadership of Jesus.

We are praying for at least another 5 churches to be planted before 2017 finishes!

A great majority of the people in India still live in villages or in ever-larger urban slums. Daily food and some kind of work remain the foundation of survival. When food gets more expensive because of drought, the poor people are of course the first to have to do without. The monsoon rains may make it difficult to get around in all the mud, but the sound of rain on thatch roofs is an answer to many prayers.

When the rains end, huts and shanties will be rebuilt for another year. The children are back in school again, even with the daily---and often nightly---rain. So schoolbags and uniforms, still required of all children, are sheltered under the umbrella of each child, even if they are barefoot to spare their shoes the wear and tear.

Ahead, the rain means more work in the fields for the outcaste day laborers that make up the majority of the Christians that the South India Church of Christ Mission serves. The rain brings crops; the crops bring work and food. This is the reality of India for centuries, even with all the changes since Independence.

Building and Rebuilding

1. The Physical Rebuilding, Renovation & New Construction Needs of Southern Asia Christian College

The physical building is to maintain the campus and house new programs, while responding to the needs of the emerging and existing leadership in this time of spiritual warfare. This is not only for 2017 but for decades to come as each graduate goes on to spend a lifetime in service to Jesus through their ministry.

The first part of the campus building program is to repair the damage from the recent cyclone on the 4th floor of the Main Building. Praise God, the Chapel itself and the pews were not damaged, so the main work is rebuilding the walls on the damaged section in brick. This will then support a steel frame roof designed to withstand far heavier winds should another storm hit the campus.

Under the leadership of Jesus, the campus walls were built back around 2010. The same wall surrounding the 5 acre campus would be impossible to build now, in the current political climate and several times more costly if it were possible.

Over time, as God grants, the College would greatly benefit from building  more staff housing. Through frugal management, the College administration was able to build and dedicate a model staff house that would normally cost around $25,000 but finally cost closer to $12,000. This was built using local labor, without a contractor, with the College staff supervising the construction and purchasing local materials, all of which resulted in the savings..

 If it is God’s plan for the College, the College leadership would like to start on a building drive to build seven faculty houses so that each faculty member could have their own residence and bring their family to the College.

2. Developing a Curriculum for an accredited 5 Year B.A/M.Div Degree

Developing a new curriculum for a college is always a major project. Once through all the administrative issues and taking care of the physical campus, the curriculum is the spiritual work of a Bible College. It is the purpose for the existence of Southern Asia Christian College as any Christian school or college.

The College gets to fulfill a long-felt prayer of offering both an undergraduate B.Th, and graduate M.Div to the potential future leaders of Christ’s church in the Christu Sabha churches and all of Christ’s church within India.

3. The Pedagogy of a new Curriculum for the College

The work on creating a new curriculum (or adapting an existing curriculum to a College in India, suited to India’s realities) is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The choices made in selecting material for the classes and the supporting materials, notes and commentary will impact the preaching and teaching of the graduates for their lifetime.

This is where we have the opportunity, under the Asia Theological Association (“ATA”) to implement our own College curriculum. Naturally, we want this curriculum to be built on the Rock of the New Testament, under the leadership of Jesus, in full harmony with the Restoration Movement history of creating and developing spiritually strong eldership and preacher/teachers.

Now we will be encouraged to teach exactly what we want to teach.  I look forward to learning from others in our Restoration Movement Bible Colleges and their experiences. There’s a lot to be learned; and no need to reinvent the wheel.

Resurrection Month

Dear Prayer Partners,

It’s the end of March and now the churches here are preparing for April, the “Resurrection Month” centered around Easter.

The end of March is the end of the National Examinations that all school children in India have to take. These are particularly important for students in 10th Grade and 12th Grade. For the 10th Graders, it determines what “stream” they can enter for 11th Grade, which affects their future a great deal. For the 12th Graders, their Exam results will determine what College they can enter.

With the end of Exam Month in March, with the fields planted and the farmers all praying for rain, with the heat climbing higher day by day, April is nearly here. This means the Mission churches start preparing for “Resurrection Month”, as we call it.

Our Christu Sabha churches track the events of the week between the triumphant entry into Jerusalem by Jesus and the empty Tomb, focusing on the Resurrection of Jesus through the Gospels, following His death on the Cross for our sins.

Then through the account in Acts of the times that Jesus reveals himself to the disciples, including on the road to Emmaus, appearing and breaking bread with the disciples in what is called “The Last Supper” and the various meetings of the disciples in anticipation of Jesus ascending to return to His heavenly Father.

Scripts are left to the separate congregations, although the College training and all the fellowshipping through the years has helped developed a core script that calls on all the Gospels and Acts as the story of Jesus’ life on earth: His ministry, trial before Herod and Pilate, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and preparation of the disciples to become the evangelist Apostles they become following Jesus’ ascension. You can imagine how the Resurrection and Jesus ascending into Heaven to be at the right hand of God the Father is so strong a reassurance in these times of increasing persecution. The emphasis on how all the events are interwoven and part of the fulfillment of prophecy are then stressed in early morning and evening services.

Naturally all parts of the trial of Jesus, the determination of the Jewish high priests to have Jesus crucified, the Crucifixion itself, the three days of Jesus’ death, the Resurrection signified by the empty Tomb and the appearance of Jesus to the women disciples who came to the Tomb only to find it empty have a tremendous impact on the villagers or slum dwellers gathered along with church members.

The Easter Program that our Christu Sabha churches undertake every year is a perfect balance to the Christmas Program of December, which shows the fulfillment of prophecy as Jesus is born in Bethlehem. The dramas are only a part of the overall Easter Program but a critical part in terms of evangelism and outreach. The power of the Easter story acted in in the Christu Sabha drama in a village is electrifying. It has to be seen to be believed.

The roles of Herod and Pilate and the Marys and the disciples and the person chosen to act as Jesus all offer the dramatic talent of the village or slum to shine, along with the singing and now the stage effects of sound systems. And the preaching, all combining to make a major evangelistic impact lasting at least the whole month.

This is why we call April “Resurrection Month”. In the years when Easter falls in March, the congregations have to adjust to the Exam schedule and then stretch out into April, when the full attention of the village or slum can have the greatest impact.

What is even more powerful is the knowledge that the celebration of the Resurrection is happening all over the globe, at the same time, according to how local churches celebrate the Gospels event. “Jesus is Risen,” we all proclaim, having followed the life of Jesus from his birth until the final week of trials and death. “Jesus, the Christ”!

How our great God in His mercy and grace provides for us in every way!! How He cares enough for a lost and sinful humanity that He would send His only Son to earth to live the life the Gospels record and so many prophets proclaimed centuries before. The prophecies of Isaiah and so many others become the Word made flesh. And then Jesus dies for our sins on the Cross; and as prophesied, conquers death and is now at the right hand of God.

It is truly humbling to reflect on what happened when Jesus fulfilled prophecy and now is the leader of the Church built on the foundation of His life, love, sacrifice and redemption.

And each year, it’s truly humbling to be in the congregation of fellow believers in the Christu Sabha in India even while you may be in Christ’s church in Indiana or Ohio or Kentucky or Tennessee or Florida or any of the 50 states that make up the United States of America. You might think that there are cultural, language and economic differences between your home congregation and a typical Christu Sabha congregation. You are right; there are many. But when it comes to the worship of Jesus, especially on a time of celebration like Resurrection Month, you would feel right at home.

Same Bible, same passages from the Old Testament, the Gospels and Acts, same story though acted in according to local conditions. It is truly awesome to reflect upon and to share. Every week we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus and His Resurrection through the breaking of the bread and the taking of the blood of Jesus in weekly communion for those who have been baptized for the remission of sins. So we do also celebrate the Resurrection, as you do, every week. But Resurrection Month is the time to share the story of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, with all who can see and hear our celebration.

Happy Easter celebrations!

Churches in Andhra Pradesh

Please keep the faithful believers in these churches in Andhra Pradesh in your prayers. There are many prayer needs, and I am happy to say that people here are not slow to pray. The prayers here in the villages are all Telegu, of course, but I can understand key words. For rains, for a good harvest on what little was planted, for the sick, for the children to do well in school and the good health of parents and older relatives. No different than the prayers in Tamil or Malayalam or Kannada or Hindi or in English.

Their prayers were for the release of cash from banks and ATM’s so the church members could plant, either on their own small fields or for the larger landlords. Demonetization hit these outcaste day laboring and small farmers particularly hard, since all their work is paid for in cash.

The demonetization has hit the outcastes worst. Many people had to eat their seeds, and many could only pay cash for only a small amount of fertilizer. What more cash they can now get goes to seeds and more fertilizer. But the crops will be way smaller this year.

And the constant prayer for Jesus to come again soon! The term they use in Telegu is something like that in Hindi as well: the church members see the promise of Jesus returning given by Jesus as “the Deliverance.”

And when you see how hard the lives of these poorest of the poor, out caste people are, it is easy to understand why they see Jesus coming again as a deliverance from all their pains and suffering in difficult lives. John 14:1-3 is frequently quoted in prayers and sermons.

Thank God for being able to visit with them, see how much stronger and deeper Christ’s church is embedded into their communities and how many more have come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. A long way down the pathway from the original handful of churches first planted by Arthur and Ruth Morris 40-45 years ago! And all possible because of the South India Church of Christ Mission and the supporting churches of that time and since. How many saints who have gone on to heaven prayed for Restoration Movement churches to be planted in India and helped make it so!

Jesus is eternal!  The Church of Christ continues to grow stronger, brick by brick, prayer by prayer. Truly awesome to witness yet again!

Godavari District Churches

It’s been some time since we visited the East Godavari/West Godavari district churches.  We drove east on the new national highways. It would probably have taken us twice as long, if not more, in Mom and Dad’s time. Now NH 65 is fast and so much safer.

The College graduates we came to see met us at Eluru, closer to their villages. This area was planted with churches in the 1970’s and 1980’s. New church plants in neighboring villages have continued to add to the strength of the Christian community here. By 1995, the congregations were strong enough to begin driving towards self-sufficency and by 2000, they became self-sufficient in terms of financial support from the Mission. The link with the Mission work in southern Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala are the graduates of the College through all the decades.

I especially remember the flood relief in East Godavari District, especially around Kakinda. This city and District sticks out into the Indian Ocean and gets hit by cyclones more than about anywhere else on the eastern coast of India. I went on the worst of these, about as hard hitting as the tsunami, but far more flooding inland. This was in 1994. It was my first “disaster” as a newly returned missionary intern. 

Since its been a while since we involved with these Districts , we had checked with the College graduates and local congregation leaders earlier to see if there was interest in doing a Mission Christmas Program this year. Since they were so positive, we have now funded 30 villages for Christmas Programs, 15 each in West Godavari and 15 in East Godavari. We most likely won’t have time to come back up after we return from America, as the monsoon and Christmas Program 2016 will be on in all the villages where we are able to hold Christmas Programs this year.

So Christmas is in the air here, even though it’s like southern Andhra, all palm trees and village huts and rice crops where there’s irrigation.