My visit to Pastor Rajendra’s and Ravi’s ministry (Sion Assembly Churches) in Vijayawada was the busiest of my trip, with speaking engagements in 5 churches on Sunday, house visits, an open air celebration on Monday evening, a visit to Gudivada to meet Pastor Vijay, James Johnson and the orphans of Grace orphan home and then a prayer seminar back at SAC church on Tuesday evening. This is the kind of pace that these brothers routinely keep in ministering to this community. We have been praying that God would call up some young people in this assembly to devote their lives to spreading the gospel in word, lifestyle and deeds. Rajendra and Ravi have a heart to start an equipping school for that purpose and to also use television as a media to reach the local people through three cable networks that are available. I arranged for them to come down to Bengaluru for a few days just at the end of my trip to tour some of the ACTS group of Institutions and to meet Dr. Ken, Dr. Ricky, CEO Santosh and a number of key staff. Having David and Grace from the UK sharing the guesthouse was also a blessing as this couple have keen in on the ACTS history from day one and ooze the ACTS ethos.
This ethos sees life as an integrated whole where worship, work and witness simultaneously intersect every aspect of daily life. For those in Christ, everything that we do is offered to God as worship and worship is our presentation of ourselves as living sacrifices, offered continually to God. Hence there is no worship that is not work and no work that is not worship as everything we do is an offering, with which offer to Christ. In this offering, our witness goes forth by the quality and thoroughness of what we do and the humility and gratitude with which it is done. This characterizes the ACTS ethos where talented, humble servants offer up their lives to God as the serve together in this community. It is humbling and refreshing to see how simply and unassumingly they live. The challenge is to always keep the fires burning and guard against institutionalism and loss of passion. It is my prayer that Rajendra and Ravi will take some of this back with them and start engaging their own community with “out of the box” thinking.
In between the Vijayawada visit and the final days in Bengaluru, I attended an Indian wedding in Vizak (an eight hour drive), and then, after flying back to Bengaluru, embarked on a four day road trip with Dr. Jacob Varguesse and his wonderful daughter Joice to Kerela. There we visited Dr, Kunjemon Daniel’s church in Sulthan Bathery and launched the Malalayam translation of “Love’s Greatest Joy” at a Pastor’s Conference that drew people from far and wide. I am greatly indebted to Nobel Abraham who together with his wife worked late hours translating this book with a spiritual passion born of having been impacted greatly by the material. After the book launch on Saturday morning, we travelled to Irrity, where Jacob’s home is and I spoke at another church conference on Saturday evening as well as on Sunday morning. This area is the most beautiful part of India I have seen in all my visits. It looks like a tropical version of the Smokie Mountains of Tennessee, with Muskoka cottage quaintness; winding roads, rivers, lush green vegetation, coconut trees, rubber trees, coffee plantations and every home with a garden plot that includes goats, sheep, chickens and pets. A village lifestyle characterizes the community as everyone knows everyone by nickname. I visited many homes of Jacob’s childhood friends and in every one, I was the first foreigner ever to grace the doorposts. The people were so wonderfully humble and friendly and all delighted to have me in their homes. Sunday afternoon, we had a few hours , so we drove to a beach on the Arabian Sea, where I got to frolick in the warm surf for an hour.
I am now back home in Barrie, helping my wife shovel ice and snow, enjoying the tail end of the olympics and recovering from jet lag. More reflections to come.