Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reflections: From the Heart of Rob Wegner

What amazed you most about India?

The people! More specifically, the church planters.

Let me tell you about Anon. Anon is an electrical engineer. He has a full time job. In addition to that, he has planted a church among an unreached people group called the Malayali. In the area he is working in, Manure ( say it just like it reads), there were no Christians before he came.

So, along with two other team members, I got to visit one of the three villages Anon works in. There are no roads that lead to this village. We drove on the paved roads until they ended. Then we drove off road until the trails ended. Then we hiked up a mountain 10 kilometers to 8,000 feet. That’s Anon's ride to his ministry. So, get this… Anon puts in a 50 hour week. Then on Friday, he gets in a bus, takes it a couple hours outside the city of Salem. When the bus stops, he gets off, climbs up the mountain and spends the whole weekend, every weekend, in the village. He gets up Sunday morning at 3:00 am because he has to be back in Salem at 8:00 am for work. He does this every weekend! It takes me 10 minutes to drive to GCC. I’m complaining about the cost of gas.

Experiencing life in this village was like going hundreds of years back in time. Houses made out of mud and thatch. People have millstones on their porches so they can grind wheat to make bread. People live their entire lifetimes up on this mountain. For example, when I was preparing to speak, I asked Raj, “Hey I want to use the illustration about a train.” He said,”They won’t know what a train is.”

They don’t get visitors in this village. As far as anyone knew, we were the first white men in this village. So you can imagine, ministering in this village is not without it’s challenges. In fact, the first three months of his ministry, they wouldn’t even come out of their homes to speak with Anon. But he kept coming back, week after week. I was thinking, “You know what…I’d be done after 2 trips. I’d be thinking…You people are hard-hearted. Jesus gave us permission to dust our feet and leave a town that’s unreceptive. That’s what I’m doing. I’m out of here.”

But Anon kept coming back. He’d bring little gifts. Eventually, one family broke the silence and spoke to him. One of the first things they asked him, “How did you make it up the mountain alive at night?” He’s thinking, “It’s not that hard of a climb.” They said, “The demon gods... did they not attack you? The evil spirits fill the countryside. We won’t go down at night.”

Anon proclaimed, “That’s why I’ve come. You don’t need to fear evil. I come to tell you God has sent his Son to set you free from fear. He has come to set you free from death.”

No response. Blank stares. No interest. He leaves the village that night discouraged.

Next weekend, when he returns, this family runs to greet him. They said, “We know your God must have power. Every night, before you came, we hear the demons at night. The rocks would always rumble, the sound of an avalanche, at night. Since last weekend, the rocks no longer rumble. The demons must be scared of you.”

OK, that’s a Twilight Zone episode. I know the cynical, rationalist, western mindset wants to punch that full of holes. But let me say, “Is God God or not? Does God speak through culture or not?” So, for Anon, the conversations began at three months in. Still, no one has decided to follow Jesus.

On our climb up, Anon says, “About six months in, I was ready to give up. No converts. So few resources. It’s so hard.” He said, “I sat down at this very rock where we are sitting right now. I told the Lord, “I’m ready to give up.” He said, “Jesus spoke to me. He appeared to me.” Jesus said, “Anon, if I loved these people enough to die on a cross for them, the least you can do is climb up this mountain.”

I was thinking, “Ouch. Jesus Smackdown! Jesus, why do you have to be so rough on him?”

But then, he said something I’ll never forget. Anon took Jesus’ words in the exact opposite way I would have. He trusted the heart of God more than I would. He said, “Immediately, my heart filled with joy because I knew Jesus didn’t die on the cross, rise from the grave, and then call me up this mountain, so this village would remain lost.” He said, “I knew then that the whole village would know my Lord. Not only that, but that they would send out missionaries to reach all the other villages in the area. I immediately rose and went up the mountain filled with hope again!”

Let me say I stood in awe at Anon’s totally confidence in God’s love for him and God’s ability to pull the impossible off. I still stand in awe at his relentless commitment and tireless hours of work. Now, there is a thriving church up on that mountain. The week we were there another couple dozen villagers decided to leave their old gods to follow Jesus.

Anon comes from another church we have been mentoring. They’ve grown to 600 in less then three years and they’ve already sent out 30 church planters! Anon is just one of them.

It blows my mind to think that GCC had a little part in helping Anon reach the Malayali people. The Malayali will be in Heaven now. The Malayali people are now included in the present Kingdom of God. Before Anon went up the mountain, this wasn’t true, but it is now. We’re a part of that, friends.

The brothers and sisters in Christ you will meet in India will leave an indelible mark on your life. Go ready to listen and to learn. Sit at their feet. Ask good questions. Listen intently. And ask, "Jesus, what would You have me do to serve these great people?"

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