15 Mar Taking What Matters To India – The Calling of Serve India Ministries
By: Elaine Tomski
Living in right relationship with the God who made us. Following Jesus Christ. Faithful obedience from the heart. This is what brings joy and hope. This is being blessed. This is what matters to every single person created in God’s image. Here’s the problem; not every single person knows who the Savior is. Many don’t even know His name.
Today in India, more than 800 million people have not heard the Gospel. More of its people are unreached than in any other nation. But how can we take what matters to a nation with 1,652 different spoken languages and dialects? How can we physically cover the 1.269 million square miles to reach those oppressed by social, economic and religious structures? Just how does one transform the big nation of India with the hope and joy of new life in Christ?
Ask Ebenezer Samuel. He has been serving the Lord in India since 1977. These many years of experience have shown him both productive and unproductive ways to reach India for Jesus. So, Ebenezer Samuel and a team of like-minded individuals founded Serve India Ministries in 2006. Their mission to reach all of India with the gospel is a big vision. But, they have an even bigger God. They are answering the call. The vision is to train and equip 20,000 native missionary/pastors for the task of planting churches in 100,000 unreached villages, all by the year 2020.
Serve India Ministries (SIM) is finding success in a big way by keeping some things small. “The key to everything they do is to start new churches in unreached villages,” says Andrew Gingerich, Regional Development Coordinator from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Their success comes from training native pastors in small villages across the nation. This strategy solves the problem of language, culture and distance. These pastors realize their people are hopeless without Christ. They realize it so deeply that they have to share the good news, even in the face of opposition. The personal stories of these pastors reveal how SIM is reaching India in this generation for Jesus.
Meet Pastor Jeyapal in South India. Born in a Hindu family, he didn’t know God. His parents worshipped many gods. Jeyapal hated his young life so much, he wanted to commit suicide. God provided a local missionary to talk him out of it. The first time Jeyapal prayed to God, he heard God saying “Follow me.” This is when he believed and began following God’s lead, and God gave him a new Kingdom purpose. He obediently went into the villages, shared God’s love with others and told them what God had done for him. Jeyapal shared the Gospel saying “Jesus is the One True God.” Pastor Jeyapal now bikes to thirty villages. The training received from SIM equips him to carry out his vision. He wants to tell people about Jesus every day and bring God’s love to others who so desperately need Him. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom heaven. Matthew 5:3
Consider Pastor James who grew up in a family of idol makers. When his father became ill, he found no help or healing from the idols made by his own hands. The gods he believed in were useless. A Christian schoolteacher in the village invited James’ father to trust God. He invited Christ into his heart and was healed. At 16, James also gave his life to the Lord and was called into ministry at age 27. He is grateful for Serve India’s monthly training. James and other native pastors are taught the Bible and are able to pass on what they learn to their churches. Many people in the villages sacrifice goats for their sins, they are sorry for their sins, but they find no forgiveness there. How sad. Now they can know Jesus is the only Person who has died for the sins of the whole world. When they realize that Jesus died on a cross for their sins, they want to follow Him. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Take a look at Pastor Kunjumon. “Whatever you need, you can ask of Jesus,” he says. Pastor Kunjumon has the opportunity to share with smiling children during a session at The Egg Project Center. SIM equips its pastors to open after-school tutoring centers. At the centers, children receive help with their schoolwork, a healthy snack, and the opportunity to hear the Gospel. These children are often the first in their poor, oppressed families to get an education. Homework assistance provided by pastors and community volunteers is essential. The Egg Project Center is also a way for pastors to gain the trust of families in new villages. One day, at the Center, a young boy named Albin had a need for prayer. He was listening when Pastor Kunjumon reminded, “Jesus hears your prayers.” His parents often quarreled and fought. It made Albin so afraid he would run and hide. One day, after he had come home from the Center, Albin’s parents began to fight again. This time, he didn’t run and hide; he knelt down right in front of his parents and began to pray silently. His parents paused and questioned him. He said, “I’m praying for you. The pastor told us, whenever you are in danger, or you are in need of something, you can pray and God will hear your prayers. So, I’m asking that God would make you stop fighting from now on.” Albin’s parents stopped quarreling from that day forward. Jesus answered little Albin’s prayer in a big way. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
“Amazing transformation” is the phrase one might use for Pastor David. Growing up in a family of gangsters, David did his father’s bidding through violent intimidation. Because of his reputation, no parent would allow their daughter to marry him. That’s when David went to his cousin and told her she must marry him that evening or her parents would be killed. She agreed, and they were married. Although her parents were spared, she was violently battered. On her birthday, after he once again hurt his wife, guilt caused him to attend church with her. Upon hearing the Gospel, he received Christ’s forgiveness and was forever changed. David says, “Every day the Lord is giving me patience to lead my family.” God gave him a new vision to set things right with those he had persecuted. He also began to notice mentally ill people left to die on the roadside, a common plight of the mentally ill in India. God spoke to David and asked him to share the Gospel with these people. He knew God had chosen him for this purpose. So, he along with his wife and children, have taken in the mentally ill. They feed them, wash them, and brush their teeth. Most importantly, with Biblical training from SIM leaders, David shares God’s Word with them. Many have become believers. Pastor David says, “Some people think I’m crazy for living with crazy people. Yes, I’m crazy. I’m crazy for God!” Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6
As a young boy, Pastor Daniel practiced all the Hindu rituals with his family. They brought no peace. When his schoolteacher shared The One True God with him, it changed him completely. Dedicating his life fully to Christ, he vowed to serve God even in the face of death. When his family learned of Daniel’s baptism, they disowned him. They claimed, “You have abandoned your caste, clan and religion. You are no longer our child.” But, this didn’t stop him from being merciful to his family. After being denied at his father’s deathbed and turned away at his sister’s wedding, Daniel took sand from his village back to his room and continued to pray over it. He prayed that his village would come to know God’s mercy. Pastor Daniel’s village now has a church of 60 believers, he has trained 4 pastors, is planting two new churches, 5 prayer cells and 3 children’s ministries. Since he has joined SIM, he says, “I have been more zealous to start churches in many villages and have received the courage to do it!” It is his vision to reach every one of the 40 villages in his area of South India. He says, “I will work for the Lord till the end.” Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7
Pastor Kishun couldn’t walk for the first 17 years of his life. Polio kept him lying in bed, day after day after day. One morning, a pastor came to visit. Kneeling by his bedside, the pastor prayed and Kishun trusted the Lord. Over the next several months, the Lord strengthened his legs and he slowly gained the ability to walk. He knew that God had brought healing and hope to his life. He couldn’t wait to share the Gospel with thousands of needy people in his region of North India. It broke his heart to see so many people living without a Savior. Kishun began to walk…yes, walk…from village to village. He shared the Gospel and prayed for the people. In one of those first villages, 20 souls came to know the Lord. When he joined Serve India in 2009, he received training on how to teach the Word of God for the first time. He learned to systematically preach the Gospel, and was given guidance on how to strengthen a biblically based church. Before SIM, he worked in ten villages. Today, Pastor Kishun is delighted to walk, bike and take public transportation to 35 villages! He says, “Tomorrow, I will go to another village. I will share the Gospel there. I will pray for whoever believes. I will visit each and every house. I will spend the whole day working in that village.” His heart is full when he sees people come to worship the Lord. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
Pastor Sumesh grew up in a North Indian slum where ninety percent of families, including his own, faced the problems of alcoholism. Life was hard for him and his family. It was harder still when at only seven years old, his father left them. To pay for school, he became a trash-picker and delivered newspapers at 4:00 a.m. When his mother developed a brain tumor, he and his sisters sought help and healing at the Sikh Temple, the Hindu Temple and began following Islam. No healing came. Then a pastor came to pray for her. Three months later there was no evidence of a tumor. As a result, Sumesh went to church for the first time. The pastor taught that God is our Father, and those who believe in Him become the children of God. Sumesh had a father again, a Heavenly Father! More than anything, he loved reading the Bible. He began sharing the gospel with his neighbors and many came to believe. Many broken families have stopped drinking and fighting; instead, they love each other. Sumesh knows people in the slums are important to God. He says, “I don’t want to live anywhere else.” One Sunday, Pastor Ebenezer Samuel visited his church and Sumesh received a renewed vision. Trained and equipped by SIM, his vision is to start 400 churches in his area. He envisions believers starting churches in their homes; churches where people read the Bible and pray for each other, churches where one family brings other families together for fellowship. His Heavenly Father has brought peace to his troubled heart. With a heart of peace, Pastor Sumesh is reaching his slum with the Gospel. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9
Finally, meet Pastor Joseph. One of nine children born to bonded slaves in South India, he lived in abject poverty among people with no moral character. Without an education, at age 11 he was drafted to be a bonded worker on a tea estate. At age 12, he came to know the Lord through a nurse. She shared the Gospel every day. At age 20, he began sharing the Gospel in his village. Facing opposition and persecution, he was beaten, bruised and chased out of the village nearly every day. Even his parents were against him. Still, Joseph continued to share the Gospel. Two years later many people began to receive the Lord, including his own family. He began taking the Gospel to more villages. Thinking big, he targeted 250 villages. Now, through partnership with Serve India, the vision is to reach 700 villages in the area. Eighty native pastors have been trained. Through Serve India 400 churches have been planted across his region. Christian children are being educated. People are being lifted out of bondage. This is what happens when the Gospel is shared. It is Pastor Joseph’s desire and prayer that his country should come to know and worship the Lord. He wants it to happen in his generation. He wants to bring India to Christ with the partnership of Serve India Ministries. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 10
This is the impact of Serve India Ministries; taking the hope, the joy, and the blessing of God’s Kingdom to the unreached people of India.
Let’s take a closer look at how they do it. Serve India Ministries takes Bible-based training, evangelistic tools, vision and encouragement to the native pastors. Gingerich says they’re “simple, barefoot, down home boys.” The strategy is to work with pastors who have already started at least one church, and who agree to attempt to plant five more churches in five unreached villages over the next five years.
Every month, Serve India Ministries provides a one to two-day training session for pastors in a designated mission field. The time is filled with prayer and encouragement. The Bible curriculum is taught in partnership with BILD International. This curriculum is a learning system based on the way of Christ and the Apostles. Once the pastor has completed the training he, in turn, trains his elders and other church leaders, thus multiplying the effect of the training as it also reaches nearby villages. In addition, the pastor trains the men, women, and youth of his church, emphasizing discipleship. He teaches them how to develop their personal walk with the Lord.
What is the strategy for taking the gospel to a previously unreached village? The first step is much prayer. Then the pastor distributes Bible tracts, makes door-to-door visits, and possibly shares with children at an Egg Project Center or shows evangelistic films in the village. New converts grow in faith and knowledge during small weekly Bible studies. In time, these small groups grow into congregations worshiping on Sundays. They meet in homes or in the village courtyard under a shade tree. After more time, the pastor trains a leader within the new church to take on the duties of local pastor. And the cycle continues.
Some people in our Plain communities currently support Serve India Ministries. From Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Goshen, Indiana to Millersburg, Ohio, people are supporting SIM both financially and physically. Recently, work crews from Holmes County, Ohio, travelled to India to design and build a National Resource Center. This much-needed center will be used for organization and training purposes.
You too, can be a vital part of ministry in India by choosing to support a native pastor. “Finding donors to support pastors on a monthly basis is our biggest need right now,” says Gingerich. An investment of $40/ month is all it takes to affect five villages for Christ. You can adopt a pastor for a five-year period. He will no longer be alone in ministry. Your support will not only give him biblical training, but also accountability from a godly mentor, fellowship with other pastors, money for ministry, ministry tools and a larger vision. He will multiply the ministry through new believers, new churches and new villages reached. After five years, Serve India will step aside, and an equipped independent pastor will continue to grow his ministry. 100,000 villages reached by 2020? It’s possible!
Serve India Ministries is not looking to give a handout. They are looking to transform lives with the Gospel while helping self-sustaining pastors form self-sustaining village churches. Good stewardship is their goal. It is uncommon to achieve so much ministry with so few dollars, but SIM does it. Donors are welcome to review financial statements as well as to visit India and see first-hand the impact their investment is making.
There is so much more to know about this amazing ministry than can’t be written here. You can learn more at serveindiaministries.org. Andrew Gingerich will also answer questions and update you on SIM events coming to your area. He’s even willing to speak to your church or group. You can reach him at (717)598-5503 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Perhaps you’re ready to help change lives in India? You can adopt a pastor and sponsor his training through the above website or by expressing your desire in writing to:
Serve India Ministries
PO Box 522 • Charleston, IL 61920
Please also use the above address to request a free copy of “Journey Through India” A 30-Day Devotional. It will fill your mind and heart with stories of how God is reaching India through His people. It will also help you purpose to pray for India each of those 30 days. Don’t forget to include your name, address, phone number and/or email address with any correspondence.
After learning how the Gospel changes everything in India, wouldn’t you agree? Hearing the name of Jesus matters. It matters to millions of souls in India for eternity. Blessed are the Lord’s servants in India.