February 25, 2020
January 27-February 14, 2020
I’m on my way home from a most rewarding trip to India. I crammed as much as is humanly possible into 2 ½ weeks – teaching and speaking in three theological colleges and a 10,000 member church to their young people during their mission emphasis weekend. Each setting required nimbleness to speak to the different contexts and varied audiences, but in each place I sensed God’s presence and power pulsing through my veins, giving me what seemed to be needed and was appropriate for the setting. I have always made a habit of cramming as much as I could into a brief amount of time to get the best return on investment of my time because of the high cost of airfares.
Although it was a very rewarding trip, it certainly wasn’t all “fun and games.” Most of my time was spent in the mountains of Nagaland in North East India and it was so cold because there is no heat in the houses and buildings that I slept in my sweat suit overtop my pajamas on more than one occasion, instead of getting up and running my daily 4-5 miles.
I started my trip at New Theological College in Dehradun that went unusually well. All I wanted to do was to visit and get acquainted because I had heard so many good things about the school. However, the Principal, Simon Samuel, put me to work as soon as I got there, speaking to a mission class within two hours of when I had arrived from Seattle. I conducted a faculty seminar on contextualization on the first afternoon, taught in two mission classes and spoke three times for their mission emphasis event. I really found a kindred spirit in the Principal, Simon Samuel. The rest of my time was in Nagaland in NE India. On a six-hour trip over bumpy, winding, mountain roads in Nagaland we stopped at a roadside “hotel” for lunch and I got some bad food that put me out of commission for 30 hours, but when it came time to speak to 350 young people I rose from my sick bed and felt the power of people praying for me. On every one of these trips I am sensing the power of people’s prayers for me.
Nagaland has an important place in mission history. American Baptist missionaries first went there in 1872 and encountered the stereotypical “naked head-hunting savages.” Within a generation most of the Naga tribes had become Christians while simultaneously losing so many positive and God-given elements of their traditional culture. Today Nagaland is the only state in India that identifies itself as a “Christian state.” Ironically, it is also plagued with corruption and they told me that was the reasons the roads are so bad.
However, as often happens when the Western form of Christianity is disconnected from the heart of their culture and there is a lack of discipleship, within three to four generations the churches become spiritually nominal if not dead, while remaining a dominant social institution in the community concerned primarily with their own preservation and lacking any sense of mission to the rest of the world. So my teaching that God invites ordinary people like ourselves to join God’s mission in the world is both encouraging and convicting according to the feedback I received. People often said, “We’re so blessed by your life and teaching, but also so convicted.”
I’ve been invited to return to each of these theological colleges and invest more time in them because they just don’t have people with my missiological perspective to train the next generation of church and mission leaders. And of course this is the very reason I founded Global Development to be able to go to places like Nagaland that don’t have the financial resources or personnel to have people like myself contribute to their training.
When E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist missionary in India who was a friend of Gandhi, turned 75 he prayed to the Lord to give him 10 more years of active ministry. When he turned 85 he said, “Oh, why didn’t I ask for 20?” ☺. Well, I’m asking for 17 more years that will take me to 90, for as long as God continues to give me abundant passion, good health and a sound mind, I intend to keep going until I drop because I believe these are becoming the best years of my long rewarding life.
All of this is possible only because of the prayers of the saints and the generous financial support to Global Development.