Defining our Partnership in India
What comes to your mind when you think of the word “Partnership”? Several things come to mine….under one authority, having the same direction, working together, coordinated, matched strengths and weaknesses.
The Apostle Paul made frequent reference in his letters to various people being “co-laborers” or “partners in the Gospel.” If we look at these relationships, we find that they were all placing themselves under the authority of the same God, the living God of the Scriptures. And they were working with one goal in mind: the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus through His church. They were coordinated, each using his/her giftedness to help the other. Some things are noticeably absent in Paul’s partnership with others…there was no gender, age, ethnic, economic or educational partiality. He partnered with a poor Gentile slave as readily as he partnered with an educated and culturally-sophisticated Jewish couple, as readily with a young man as with an older woman.
For the past 9 years God has placed us in a wonderful partnership with His church in 3 locations in Ethiopia.
The Gondar, Burji, and Alaba churches have become close partners in the Gospel business over that past years.
We love these people of Ethiopia and will continue to partner with them in the Gospel.
Now God is appointing to us to add the churches in the northeast section (what I call “the neck”) of India known as the Peniel Gospel Team.
How does our partnership with them work? It works the same as our partnership in Ethiopia and Paul’s partnership 2000 years ago. We work under the same authority (the Spirit and the Scriptures), for the same purpose (the building of His Kingdom through His church), and by the same manner (through our diverse gifts, under the guidance of the Spirit, in a coordinated effort).
In conjunction with Joel Bradsher, a local pastor who is coordinating Team trips to India, we are focusing upon 3 primary aspects of assistance to these Indian brethren. We will….
1) Represent the Work. We want to be a voice for these Indian churches among the other churches in America and around the world. You will begin to see things regularly posted on DBO about what God is doing in India. If you are on our email prayer list, you will be getting private updates. And if you are in a church, we are happy to come (at our complete cost) to share with pictures and stories about the glory of God in this far-off place. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added to our prayer list or if you would like to schedule a time to present the work to your group or church.
2) Act as a Liaison for Gifting Purposes. As with the love gifts for Ethiopia, those led to share in the financial burden of the work in India can send their checks to us, and we will forward 100% to India, according to your designation. Please make the check payable to Bethel Hill Baptist church, write “Operation Nations” in the memo section, and attach a note if you want it designated to a particular need (for example, to sponsor an evangelist, or to buy a bicycle). Send the check to Becky Black, 2691 White House Rd., Nelson, VA 24580. We will send you an acknowledgement, and at the end of the year, our treasurer will send you a tax-deductible receipt. As with the Ethiopia work, Dave and I have covenanted with the Lord to bear all the administrative expenses of the work in India. We do not take a salary; we do not deduct any portion for “shipping and handling.” We work voluntarily so that 100% of your gift goes directly to the Peniel Gospel Team.
3) Facilitate growth towards a self-supported Work. Currently 75% of the funds needed to support the evangelists, orphans and do the work are coming from outside of India (primarily USA). This creates many problems.
· The India government becomes suspicious of the funding and the work; in the context of Hindu nationalists, this invites persecution.
· The local community becomes cautious about anyone associated with Peniel Gospel Team, since they know their strong connection to foreigners.
· Additionally, the community does not consider themselves as benefitting from the funds sent to PGT, so this breeds local hostility.
· Finally, the “security” of the funding is questionable. Any new law of the Indian government, any change in the exchange rate, an increase in the banking fees, a further decline in the American economy, a vanishing of emotive giving….all of these things contribute to great instability in financial operations. So the Work is on again-off again, depending upon how the funds are flowing. The evangelists cannot minister in a consistent manner, and the orphans struggle with their needs for food, clothing, education, etc.
You might be asking, “Why don’t the people support themselves through their offerings, just like we support ourselves through our offerings?” Good question. First, 80% of the population around PGT lives below the international poverty line; this means that 80% of the people are living on less than $1.25/day. This is a higher rate of poverty than in over half of the poorest African countries combined. Additionally, the vast majority of the population is under age 30. In a recent BBC news article, it is estimated that soon 60% of India’s population will be below age 34. Amazing! Now factor in the lack of education in India; most of these people are day laborers, working in the field picking tea leaves to put in our teas. They are living hand-to-mouth already, and it is simply impossible for them to carry the financial load of the work. Secondly, the work is a new work. The believers are new; all of them are first generation. It is not like our country where many have been in the church for generation upon generation. They are learning to pray to the living God, they are cleaning their mind of Hindu doctrine, they are learning to worship and serve with their spiritual gifts….and they are learning to give out of their poverty. As with all new works there is much investment from the outside initially. (Here in the USA, we access the bank for “outside funding,” but this is not possible in India.) How can 200 very small congregations, made up of people below the poverty line, most of them of the “untouchable” class in society pay the needs for 400 evangelists, 110 orphans, a Bible school, and all the other outreach ministries that PGT is doing? It is impossible apart from our help.
And now comes the question, How do we help intelligently? There is a saying in Africa “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” It requires more investment to teach him to fish, but the benefit lasts much longer!
If God is prompting you to sponsor an evangelist or an orphan, month by month sending $75 or $35, then you must obey. After all, HE is Lord, not we ourselves.
But what if there is a way to pool our resources, and “teach them to fish”? What if our gifts to them can empower them for financial stability for decades to come? What if our empowerment actually is an expanded ministry as well as a financial venture?
Stay tuned….and prayerful.
1.2 billion souls are waiting!
(Next: Building for the Future.)
February 28, 2013