Jan 22, 2008

Ministering to India

by Stan Barringer

Two campus pastors and 24 Liberty students experienced a holiday of dust, grime, intense heat, poverty and overcrowding in the busy streets of India. Pastor Johnnie Moore led a missions team to Kota, India, while another team went to Calcutta. Light Ministries organized both trips, which were held over Christmas break.

“We spent most of our time working and serving a movement of Indian Christians that have Christian schools, seminaries, and orphanages throughout India,” Moore said. “We went with the intention of serving these believers in whatever way we possibly could.”

His group served with poor children in Kota, the desert state of Rajasthan, which was ruled by at least 150 kings prior to India’s 1947 independence from Great Britain. It is now one of the nation’s most impoverished regions.

Moore’s team partnered with Light Ministries, the Helms School of Government and private donors to purchase clothing and gifts for Indian children. Moore said some aid organizations estimate that as many as half of the world’s impoverished children live in India.

Moore and his team worked alongside Hopegivers International (HI) founder M.A. Thomas, who addressed Liberty’s convocation on Oct. 8, 2007, and his son and HI president Samuel Thomas.

“Most memorably we spent time with Drs. M.A. and Samuel Thomas. Both men have undergone steep persecution and imprisonment for Christ.  Each has narrowly survived more than 20 threats of assassination by radical, anti-Christian terrorists, and they anticipate that they may die a martyr’s death,” Moore said.

Moore said his group witnessed strange scenes while in the country.

“A trip to India is always an adventure. I was hit in the face with a rat. Our team took pictures with a camel caravan. We slept four different nights on trains. We watched a Hindu man carry his dead child to the banks of the Ganges River to toss her in hoping the polluted waters would take her to heaven,” he said.

Eighty percent of India’s population follows the Hindu faith. Christianity shares a tiny minority along with Islam, Jainism and Sikhism.

Kota is part of the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan which borders Pakistan. Moore’s team traveled to several cities in the region, including Kota, Varanasi and Agra.

Varanasi is regarded by Hindus as their most sacred city, and it lies on the banks of the Ganges River, which is also considered holy. Agra is home to the world-famous Taj Mahal.

On the other side of India, the second Light Ministries team in Calcutta. Twelve students joined them for nine days of concentrated ministry from the Bangladesh border to the Ganges River delta.

“The trip was very intense. We did in between three to six ministry outreaches each day,” senior Luke Garvey said of his first foreign missions trip. “The first five days we were in the city of Calcutta.  The next four days we sailed south on the Ganges River aboard the ‘Salt & Light,’ a boat owned by Christ Mission Ashram.”

Christ Mission Ashram, headed by 2005 Liberty University seminary graduate Dr. Sukrit Roy, is a Calcutta-based program for training and planting native pastors throughout India.

With a population only a third of the size of India’s largest city Bombay, Calcutta nevertheless suffers severe overcrowding. Calcutta is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet with approximately 85,000 persons per square mile.

The Indian government’s online profile of cities said crowding in Calcutta has reached “intolerable proportions.”

According to a 2001 Indian government census, the residents of Calcutta are predominantly Hindu (80 percent) with less than one percent identified as Christian.

“Even when our boat got stuck in the Ganges River for eight hours because we had to wait for the tide to come in, we walked four miles to a nearby village to preach and minister to many who probably had never heard the gospel,” senior Molly Morgan, also a first-time missions worker, said.

“The memory that sticks out most is God’s saving grace and His mighty power to save even through the language and culture barriers,” Morgan said.

The primary language of eastern India is Bengali, which created a significant language barrier for the team. Nevertheless, they were able to communicate the gospel to many villagers. They held large gospel gatherings and handed out Bibles —so many Bibles, in fact, that they ran out at one point.

The team agreed that the hardships of third-world living were well worth the payoff for witnessing changed lives.

Contact Stan Barringer at spbarringer@liberty.edu.


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