I’m writing this blog (or at least starting it) in Hot James’ car with David Rajan behind the wheel. We’re beginning our trek back from Ippedu to North River after a great day of missions. I’m writing this now because by the time I sit down to write late at night I’m no good anymore. I literally fall asleep typing and it’s frustrating trying to get out what needs to be communicated. So, here we are. I hope you hang with this one. I feel like it’s going to be an important one.
Today was an entirely different day than any other we’ve had here or will have. David wanted to take some of us to see the third mission center in Ippedu so we can better understand and plan for the future. Due to the vehicle size, it came down to me and Pops. This was kind of a big deal because this left the rest of the team back at North River to carry on with VBS. I haven’t heard how things went today, but what I do know is that the rest of the Team absolutely killed it. I know this because these guys are amazing and spew out their love for these kids. That is all that’s required. However, it helps when you’re as strong as this team is. So we give thanks to God for the way He used the whole team, even though we served in totally different locations. The trip to Ippedu took about 3.5 hours, so I’m looking forward to hearing all about this morning. For those of us at Ippedu, it was a great day. We got a chance to meet some new kids and spend the afternoon loving on them. While it was great to hang with the kids and see this new Mission Center in person, there was a greater purpose in our visit. We wanted to take a look at the possibility of sending a team to be a part of the VBS program they’re doing. With some work to make the Center livable, it looks like that’s going to be a part of our mission experience next year.
Initially, I had mixed emotions about this. For one, it’s super hot there. And while it definitely would be a challenge physically, God has always provided the strength and given us exactly what we needed to get through the day. No, the mixed emotions had everything to do with the “sacrifice”. See, after two amazing years at Poonthandalam and North River Mission Centers, you grow really close with the people you are serving and serving with. There is already a very long list of people on our “can’t wait to see again” list - and every year it grows. To do something new, you have to give up something else - or at least a portion of it. And these thoughts fit in perfectly with where this blog was going prior to our visit to Ippedu.
Why have we, as a church, committed to go to India? Did we commit to Poonthandalam and North River Mission Centers or did we just commit to India? Did we commit to a man or a vision God gave a man? The answer to the first question is obvious. We committed to the work God is doing in India. The second question requires a little more examination. As a church, God has given David Rajan to us to support and he is the vessel through which the vision we have bought into has come. So, the answer to the second question is kinda “both”. The question God is asking us is, “Are we committed to the work and calling He has given to us or do we just want to do the stuff we want to do?” For me, this trip has been about evaluation of my commitment, our commitment and the role that we are to play in helping the love and light of Jesus Christ go out into the villages of India. Through conversations with ministry partners and experiences here in India, one thing has become very clear - there is great work to be done everywhere in Southeast India and the more we submit to God and follow His leading, the more we will see Him at work…and that has to be our first priority.
I want to apologize to some of you. Many - if not a majority - of the blog readers come from Faith Baptist Church and I praise God for a church that has embraced this calling. The fact that no one’s arm had to be twisted for us to join this mission is a testament to the love and faithfulness of our church body. However, a good portion of our readers have no affiliation with Faith - and I love this. We thank God for your support in prayer and worship over us these past (almost) two weeks. There’s a good chance we’ll never meet this side of Heaven, but man, when we do meet, that’s going to be a lot of fun. But there’s also a chance that maybe you felt left out because stories about team members you didn’t know showed up a lot and you couldn’t connect. Admittedly, I tailored this blog to our church because they have a guilt-induced obligation to read it and figured they would even if it was terrible. But for you who followed along, thank you - hopefully this blog will speak to everyone a little more today.
If I could take a few moments, I’d like to share a little mission philosophy that I’ve picked up from these past few years with our work in India and through conversations with missionaries far better at this than me. So much has been written on missions and I encourage you to look into it. And if you disagree with what I’m about to say, you’re probably right. But this has been on my heart since the day we arrived in India.
Last year, at the start of the second week, we moved to North River. That Sunday, a woman came to the prayer meeting who was demon-possessed. Pastor Nandekumar prayed for her and cast out the demon. Incredible story of God’s power over the dark forces at work. I may have even blogged about it. It’s a big deal. But that’s not the end of the story. The last day of our 2012 India Mission, we toured the village around North River one last time. We came to the house of the woman who had been possessed and we were so excited to see her. But then she communicated to us through David that, while she was no longer possessed, she felt very alone and empty. She felt the demons and the spiritual attacks continually and struggled with not knowing what to do. This has really been on my mind lately. Had we left a day earlier, our story would’ve been, “We were there when demons were being cast out of people. Hooray!” and the church would rightly cheer. But this woman was still suffering and needed the Church to come alongside her and carry her. Her story was not over. We almost lost sight of this. The work had to continue, but we were leaving in 6 hours. We couldn’t do the work of teaching, discipling and restoring her to where God wanted her to be. And that’s when it hit me.
We are not the “Front Lines”.
We may have a team on the ground for two weeks teaching, playing, building relationships, visiting villages, encouraging the saints and showing Christ’s love, but the hard work - the work of marching into the spiritual battle every day to go to war against the evil that is so prevalent in these villages - will be done by the men and women here who God has appointed to be the Front Lines. After decades of dual citizenship, Rajan made the call to move back to India full time instead of spending half a year in India and half the year in America. He did this because he knew he couldn’t give himself fully to the ministry God has called him to if he was only in India for six months out of the year. To be the Front Lines, you have to be here, in the battle, going to war.
But to an American, this isn’t a fun message. We like being the Front Lines. That’s where the action is. That’s where all of the “cool” stories are. That’s where the numbers are. We Americans like quick results and big banners to wave that tout success. I’m not knocking that - we need to be cheerleading over what God is doing. But sometimes that mindset creeps into our definitions of ministry success. If the numbers aren’t up to what we think they should be, we get the sense that something went wrong or we were ineffective. Being the Front Lines makes us feel significant - and that’s a good feeling.
And please do not mistake this as a slight on any mission experience or mission team. Just the opposite. Instead of trying to be something we were never called to be, we should be embracing and celebrating whatever role God has called us to play. We should be celebrating just the fact that we have been called by God in the first place! When we embrace our purpose, our role and our calling, then we will experience the joy of living in faithful obedience and filling our God-given purpose. God doesn’t judge success by our numbers but by our obedience. We have been given a calling - something God specifically wants us to do. It’s the “members of one body” idea. When we do our job the way we’re supposed to, we thrive. But the minute the kidneys decide to try and be the heart, you’re dead.
So what does that mean for us? For all of us - not just Faith Baptist. For anyone with a heart beating for India - or for any other people group or mission - if we are not a Front Liner, we’re the support system. Embrace that beautiful role because it’s exactly what God called you to be. Being a support system is critical for the success of the mission. We provide resources. We make the ministries and the missions possible. When we serve, we serve under the authority of the missionary who IS a Front Liner. We go where the identified need is, trusting that the missionary or whoever the Front Lines are knows far better than we do how to make the most impact for the Kingdom of God. When we move and work in obedience to our calling, we will see God do mighty things.
When we leave here in two days, the work isn’t over. It didn’t start when we showed up. We’re all just trying to play our part the way God has called us to. And I am overjoyed because it is quite clear that God is continually stirring hearts to move towards India. The work here is significant and uphill the entire way. But with every step, God reveals Himself in miraculous ways. This is why everyone who participates in these India mission experiences either returns or promises to return. We are just support players, but in that role we see God move in ways that change our hearts permanently. I pray that you will consider joining us on the ground. But if you can’t physically do that, there are always ways to do your part from home.
And that brings me to the story I couldn’t wait until late tonight to share. Sunday was Pops’ birthday and he guest blogged for us. In it, he communicated a story about two orphan girls, Joys and Anandhi - two very intelligent girls who wanted an opportunity to pursue medical school following the completion of their studies. But that program costs more money than they’re currently receiving. When Pops asked Rajan if and where that money would come from, Rajan’s answer was simple: “God will provide.” On the way to Ippedu this morning, we had the privilege of vision casting and dreaming about what God might be up to with this partnership and the ministry David has started. I was trying to encourage David by sharing how many of you support him and us and this mission. I know your hearts and told David that if we went to church and said, “Two orphan girls need another $25 a month to go to medical classes”, people would be crawling over each other to sign up. Thirty minutes later we were sitting at a little restaurant for a quick breakfast when I received a message from a friend: “Where do I send the money for the girls to go to medical school. It’s taken care of.”
Just like that. Done. I can’t tell you the celebration that took place at our table. God provided from someone we didn’t even know was following our trip/blog. And all of this because a “Support System” guest-blogged and advocated on behalf of two orphan girls whose lives are about to change. This is how the Church works. This is how God works. I am amazed at what God will do when we are obedient to Him. Praise God all day for what He’s doing through His Church. When we join Him in His work, we will see Him do what He does best. I’ll share some more about what you can do and where we might be going tomorrow.
You have joined us in prayer and on mission these past two weeks. But the work doesn’t end and neither does our responsibility to it. Let’s see God move.