(I apologize for the title if you are not a fan of "Les Miserables" and don't get the reference. We don't take ourselves that seriously by any means - but it seems thematically appropriate with just enough "epicness" for our kickoff post.)
Greetings...from Maryland! That's right - our departure to Chennai, India is only 24 hours away, but before we began blogging from deep in the heart of southeast India, I wanted to take a moment and introduce our Impact India 2013 mission, as well as send out a plea for help.
First, what is Impact India?
Well, thank you for asking. For those who have heard the title in passing and just thought it was a result of a deep appreciation for alliteration (see what I did there?), I assure you it is much more than that (but we do love alliteration). In 2010, Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, MD sent a team of 14 on an exploratory trip, visiting villages, slums, churches, schools and mission centers seeing how God was at work and how we might be involved. This stemmed from a relationship with David Rajan. For a more detailed description of David and his story, I can't urge you enough to revisit our 2012 blog and read his story. It's powerful. But in a nutshell, David and his family moved from India in 1986 to the United States, landing in Baltimore where he got connected with Faith Baptist Church. In the years that passed, David felt God leading him back to India to establish mission centers, plant churches and take the Gospel of Jesus Christ into unreached villages. In the past 13 years, David has planted over 30 churches and has built 3 mission centers.
David has been a faithful member of Faith Baptist Church and we have been a primary source of financial support for years. However, we felt that God was leading us to play a bigger role in supporting the ministry in southeast India, and so in May of 2012 we sent six members (as well as joining with two other former members of Faith) to be a part of the massive Vacation Bible School program that David hosts in his churches/mission centers. After serving two weeks in different mission centers, the eyes of those who were on the team were opened. Big time. So often we look at other countries and see the physical poverty and struggles they endure. Certainly, that is evident in India, particularly in the villages. However, the most alarming thing there is not the financial poverty and physical struggles, but the spiritual poverty.
At every turn, every corner and in between corners, you see idols and temples erected to false gods. Snake pits are mounted in backyards where nightly worship of serpents takes place. Pastors are frequently called upon to cast out demons. In one village, a "She-demon" prowls and entices men away from their homes. Pagan festivals are celebrated all night long and worship of the false gods can be heard from miles away. I've said it before but it bears repeating: this is Satan's playground and he is having a field day.
But right in the middle of one of these pagan villages and centers of idol worship, a mission center stands where the truth of Jesus Christ is going out and changing lives. This is why we return to India. This is why Faith Baptist has accepted God's call to partner with David Rajan and the ministries over in the villages and slums of Chennai for the next 5 years. The "Impact" on India is already being felt - we just want to follow in obedience to God's call to support that crucial work.
So what does that look like for us?
Again, thanks for asking! This year we will be working with some of the same groups and locations as in our 2012, but with increased responsibilities. Your Impact India 2013 team will be working in two VBS programs, communicating Bible stories through skits, teaching songs about God's greatness, leading "Grain Game" demonstrations and teaching individual Bible classes. We will also be taking part in village church worship - and whatever else God has in store for us.
We are going as a small army made up of teenagers, college students, parents, grandparents, doctors, chuckle-heads, young and...other...because God is calling many people's hearts to be turned toward India. We will also be joining up with the brilliant and brilliantly creative Grain Game Gurus who will working to document the work in India.
Here's the team:
Betty Jo Bennett
"Little Debbie" Gilligan
We will also be joined by two fantastic missionaries from Fort Myers, Florida:
Karena Hanneken (wife of Justin Hanneken, who joined our team in 2012)
And so now, our fervent plea for help.
We need you. We need you in a huge way. So many of you have financially supported this mission work and we gave thanks to God for your generosity and willingness! Now, we need prayer. Big time prayer. If there's one thing we learned in 2012, it is that this mission work is an intense spiritual battle. We've witnessed persecution. We've felt the spiritual and physical attacks from the enemy. And yet, we've seen God show up and work absolute miracles. Eight Americans can't accomplish what has been accomplished before on our own power. We will take no credit for anything because it is not in our strength that this work will successful.
We need your prayers. Daily. Hourly. Prayers for strength. For wisdom. For the ability to love and communicate across language barriers. For provision. For our families back home. For the work of the enemy to be stifled. For the Name of Jesus to go forth and change lives like we all know He can. This is an intense spiritual struggle and our greatest weapons are the prayers that you lift up. We are not asking selfishly. We are asking because you are as vital to this mission as those who walk on Indian soil - and those who will be walking on Indian soil acknowledge this daily. When you pray, God moves.
For instance. We found out on Monday - 5 days before our departure - that there was a problem with Little Debbie's visa. Not only had they not sent her passport back to her...they hadn't even begun to process her visa. FIVE days out. The next day on the phone, she found out that they no longer did 24-hour emergency visas. We took to Facebook/Twitter asking for prayers about this very issue. Yesterday morning (Wednesday), she was in the visa office in DC trying to work something out. They made no guarantees and it was not looking good for her to even participate in this trip she had been saving and planning for since January. That was yesterday morning. Today she received the call: "Your visa is ready for pick-up." 24 hours later. They don't do that anymore. This is just the beginning of what God has in store. When you join with us, things like this happen in abundance. We cannot express how dependent we are on your partnership in this mission.
As you pray, we will be diligent and faithful to report the miracles we're seeing every day. Please follow this blog. Each day we will let you know what God has done, what He is doing and how you can specifically pray for the work going on in India. We also would ask that you consider being a committed prayer partner for this work and sign up as an intercessor/worshipper on behalf of those serving. You can join up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040E4FAFA62BA46-pray
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
We are heading off to the most significant type of war - a battle being waged over the future of Indian children and their generation. We are not merely going to "love on kids" - but to use that love and relationship as a platform to communicate a truth that confronts EVERYTHING they've been taught about God, salvation and religion. Would you join us? Would you be a part of the work God is doing and intercede -not just for the Impact India team - but for the hearts and minds of those we will come in contact with? When you partner with us, you share in every victory, every blessing that God gives. If you don't have or want anything to do with Christ but you just checked out this blog because someone shared it, please stick around. You will hear stories of God working miracles that can be explained no other way than the active work of the Creator. I promise.
God is about to do something massive. Join us and be a part of it.
We'll see you in India!
Impact India 2013