I think every one of us will remember where we were when the Tsunami struck Asia on Boxing Day 2003. I remember watching the story unfold on SKY News and the incredible death toll rising every hour for the next few days. This led to an overwhelming burden as to what we could do for the poor souls who had survived? Especially the Christian brothers and sisters who in many of the lands affected would find themselves back of the aid queue because of their faith. It was my friend Martin Lloyd who pointed out to me that a ministry in Southern India who”s people had suffered greatly in the Tsunami was in need of assistance and with that Moriel supporters across the world dug deep to lend assistance.
Nearly three years had passed since I was introduced to Ps Chanti, his wife Lilly and Good News Ministry and I thought it was time we sealed our friendship with a visit and investigate the work they have been doing and so November the 9 th Salvador and I arrived at Chennai, once called Madras airport for 8 days that would open our eyes to the realities of India Mission.
First of all it has to be understood that out of an estimated One Billion people only 3% are termed ” ˜Christian’. Out of these even less are born again. That places the true believer in the vast minority, the majority being Hindu. So the reality, is that if you want to know what its like to be a marginalized people? Just ask Chanti and Lilly and their children, they have first hand experience.
Secondly, with the worship of over 300 million gods, the demonic is in your face with caricatures of their deities ornately painted onto walls, made into statues and decorating their many, many Temples. Even from an African perspective were N’songomas are consulted and ancestors worshipped, this was a bit of a shock to the system as their religion seems to dictate every area of life including art and education.
Nether the less once we had boarded the small propeller aircraft and were making our way across the paddy fields towards the coastal city of Vijayawada, these things seemed a million miles away. In fact from the air everything looked lush and green, the evidence of recent rain and localized flooding evident below us, reminding us of the volatile nature this country can throw at its inhabitants. Salvador mentioned that from our perspective in the clouds it looked as though we were going to land in paradise. Vijayawada has only a modest airport, little more than a landing strip and a small departure and arrival lounge. Everything is low tech and man handled and was really quaint. I think the first impression was the friendliness of the people. Nothing was too much trouble, service was prompt, and it was nice to fly once again with this in mind instead of being treated like mindless cattle as we have become accustomed too in the west due to the worldwide terror crisis.
The short trip from the airport to Chanti and Lilly’s home was also an eye opener, our first look at Indian life and first experience of Indian driving. Indian driving is a cross between dodgem racing and motocross, with Cattle, Donkeys and people thrown in as obstacles. From a UK perspective to see a truck heading you way on the wrong side of the road just because he couldn’t get by on his side is a bit worrying. Little yellow automated rickshaws with horns that sounded like demented Rubber Ducks also weaving in and out of the traffic made a very interesting time. Anyone knowing me will not be surprised that every road trip found me white knuckled on the back seat.
On arrival we found their home to be large, bright and immaculately clean. The ministry has invested in a large property which they have converted into a guest house. Each room is fitted with its own bathroom and air conditioning. Any guest coming to serve at the mission is made very welcome and comfortable. Lilly is also an excellent cook. I don’t exaggerate when I say if she went to the UK and opened an Indian restaurant she would make a fortune. Every meal was a real treat. This basically ended our first day in India, after 20 hours of travel it was time for some shut eye.
The next day was to see us visit both the boys and girls orphanages out in the village of Nunna. Little did we know what was in store for us as we stopped the car outside the village at the girl’s orphanage? Waiting for us, as neat as new pins in their school uniforms was the orphanage welcome committee, banners and all. After being greeted by the staff and children we were given flowers to wear and then began the procession through the streets of the village led by an Indian band. This was not just a welcome committee but also an advertisement to the community that the village had guests and that everyone was invited to the gospel meeting. The procession took us to Zion City, the HQ of Good News ministries and home for the orphans. The place was very impressive, in fact usually when visiting third world orphanages I am left a little depressed by the poor institutional conditions I see. But on this occasion the children looked clean, well fed and obviously very happy.
Situated on 5 acres, Zion City is a work in progress; we could empathize with them concerning their struggle with government on developing the various projects. Building permission has up to date been refused on the grounds that the property is situated on a nature reserve. However this has not stopped them giving permission for a mill and a community of shacks. It seems as usual that when the gospel is being faithfully preached opposition comes against the weakest members in society.
The other reason we were visiting India was to take a leaders conference with the hope of bringing some encouragement. As I said earlier this is a nation where the Christian is in the minority and these faithful people have far more to teach me about shepherding the flock of Christ than I could ever teach them. However the people were very gracious as we looked at the areas of Gods vision and the tender mercies of Christ. The final evening saw a gospel outreach to the community and this was very well attended. Salvador stepped up to preach the gospel and the Lord was again merciful with over 50 people responding to the preaching of the gospel.
Our final day saw us visit the Nightingale home for widows. This was another humbling experience as most of the ladies were rescued from the most desperate of circumstances. The home was again neat and clean and really felt homely. Chanti and Lilly have set up the home to cater for widows over 60 years of age. Everyone is a committed Christian and a prayer warrior. To listen to these ladies pray was awe inspiring and they are really committed to upholding Chanti and Lilly in prayer and also helping with the discipleship of younger women in the community.
So at the end of our brief visit what were our thoughts?
Well first of all, India is huge, One Billion souls in need of the gospel; next to China it has the largest population. It is obvious that with such a need there must come as much support as possible from the West in terms of helping the indigenous Indians share the gospel.
Secondly, Good News ministry is a ministry run well, with lots of vitality and zeal and worthy of support. I would recommend any ministry or individual desiring a unique insight and involvement in mission to contact Ps Chanti. Good News ministry has built a guest house that can cater for a dozen or so people and so if the Holy Spirit is guiding you, then just enquire with Ps Chanti.
Thirdly, we recognized a real need to train Indian leaders and encourage them in their studies. To this end we have already left training material with Chanti and are in the process of sending further material. A conference next November for up to 1000 leaders has already been penciled in.
Fourthly India has many physical needs that can act as a bridge for the gospel in rural villages. On project provides boreholes and thus safe drinking water. We have already committed ourselves at Moriel Missions to provide one for a local village. This will be opened and inaugurated with a gospel meeting on our next visit in November 2007. Again if you or your fellowship can help Chanti fulfill his vision of 100 wells and 100 churches in 100 villages this would glorify God.
Finally we would like to thank Chanti, Lilly and the leaders at Good News Ministries for the hospitality they exhibited and the warm welcome they gave. On this visit we learnt a lot and found new friends. Africa and India have different problems but the people have the same need; the Salvation only to be found in Jesus Christ.