Friday, March 30, 2007

"Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It..."


Crew! After training on Monday night, a couple of you approached me and said, "It would be really helpful for us as we draft our support letters if we knew more about the 'what' that we will be doing. Can you tell us a little more?" The answer, then, is... "well, sure!!!" Here's some basic info (as well as some good pics which you should TOTALLY feel free to strip and drop into your own letters, as well as any that are posted on other blogs from other teams):

Currently, GCC works intensely with over 150 church planters in the Tamilnadu region of Southern India. These men and women are connected to GCC through our partnership with The Bible League (TBL), and most of these church planters endure rigors to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Americans can hardly even imagine, much less fathom, and regularly include beatings, imprisonment, social and family persecution, and intense spiritual warfare. Many of them are also bi-vocational, serving as engineers or tradesmen or businesspeople in various capacities during the week, and then pastoring churches in small, rural and often remote contexts on the weekends.

For many of these pastors, acquiring an "open door" in a remote village context is often difficult. Generational Hinduism is either "all embracing" (i.e. "Sure, we'll take Jesus... and add him to the 33 million other gods in the Hindu pantheon), or perceived as a betrayal of heritage, faith, family and country. In addition, many pastors are either "low caste" or have little formal education, and so are not perceived as "deserving" an audience by people they attempt to engage.

For such a pastor, one of the best and quickest ways to open doors is to have a couple of Americans following her around for a couple of days, simply listening to what she says. When people ask why Americans (who are, by nature, considered to be "high caste" and equal, in many contexts, to the status of gods) would travel 9,000 miles to listen to someone who is of low caste, simply answering that the church planter is a teacher from whom you hope to listen and learn about Jesus raises some eyebrows and causes people to reconsider their dismissal of the church planter as a "nobody".

We have literally seen church planters spend 6 months in a village attempting to cultivate relationships with people only to constantly have doors slammed in their faces. After hosting GCC members for a couple of days, however, the church planters have opened their doors in the morning to see 40 people sitting in a semi-circle around their front step saying, "Well, if the Americans came all this way to listen to you, you must have something important to say. We're ready to listen now. Please teach us, Guru!"

As a GCC team member on a 1st Timer team, you will have an opportunity to help serve these men and women in an area that is often difficult for them to achieve otherwise. By simply lending your status as Americans who have travelled across oceans and plains to visit and learn from them, you will be building them and the credibility of their Message in the contexts in which they operate.

In the process, you will be transformed as well, and cannot help but be encouraged by the tenacious faith of those who are bringing the Light of Christ into one of the last remaining and most difficult to access places on the planet!

Don't be surprised if a piece of your heart stays in India... or that you will bring a piece of it back, lodged in your own soul, when you return.

Arrigato!
-sj

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way to go team! I can't wait for India:-)

Ryan said...

Josh,

You said she, and low caste in reference to the church planters. (also bi vocational and engineers) Could you go into more details about the demographics of the church planters you work with?

Life Mission Leadership said...

Yup! Many of the most successful church planters are actually women. They face a unique set of challenges as women in India are often regarded as even lower status that the lowest caste men, but there are a significant number of really courageous ladies who are in the trenches day in and day out in village contexts that many burly men would shy away from engaging.

In general, however, the "demograph" of the "average" church planter is pretty much all over the board. There are late teen women of low caste and older men of high caste and...well... everything in between. In addition, they range in denomination, faith tradition, and heritage. Some are actually from Christian families. Many have converted from Hinduism and have been ostracized by their families.

Hope that helps! You guys rock!

-samurai jack