In March 2016, Esther Movement took our To Know Him By Name conference on the road, travelling to three venues in Northern India. It was an amazing experience teaching on the names of God and highlights at each spot are recounted here in abridged form. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from a conference like this, or if you would like to host one, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dimapur, India: Mission India Bible College and Seminary
Our first conference was hosted by the Mission India Bible College and Seminary.
At first, the warm room and the long day conspired against us and our last sessions
clashed with dozing participants and a few lost the fight. No matter; most stayed
engaged and made it through to the end, and the others obviously needed the nap.
The second day they were all fresher and in the end they shared corporately about
what learning the names of God meant to them, including which names impacted
them the most. Whether it was as Shepherd, Provider, Master, Creator, Healer, or
Rock, it was a joy to hear how the Spirit worked through us in communicating who
He is and all He is for us.
During our time at the MI Bible College, we were encouraged and inspired by what
we saw all around us. There is a sweetness to the students that is contagious and
seeps into the whole ministry. The leadership of Dr. Kenny and his wife Dr. Paulah
is solid, gracious, and Christ-like in far too many ways to list. We look forward to ongoing partnership with them as they prepare a generation of young people excited and equipped to serve the Kingdom. As we talked with their students, we heard their hearts for orphans and addicts, some orphans themselves, seeking to train in counseling, teaching, and pastoring, in theology and practical ministry as well. They desire above all to bring the hope of the Gospel to their hurting corner of the world. What a joy to encourage them and be part, for a moment in time, of their equipping.
MI Bible College owes much of its success to Dr. Paulah, the Academic Dean and Go-To-For-Everything at the school. She is a wonder of diligence, strength, and compassion. Heavily invested in all the students, she is clearly commited to their academic success and emotional health, as well as their futures as Kingdom workers. Many of the students simply call her Mom, and she has been known on more than one occasion to offer shelter, education, and love for those left parentless and penniless. Never one to forget the lost, once a week she leads a crew of students to the Bangladeshi slum at the edge of town, offering the youngsters there hope, candy, an invitation and a ride to Sunday services at the college church. Dr. Paulah's vision for the future of the school and her tireless (though we caught her snoozing once or twice...) leadership was a joy to experience. She is an inspiration to us all!
As we head toward the tea plantations in the north of West Bengal, we say farewell to more Korean food than we could possibly have consumed, hopefully closing that food chapter with some finality for the duration of the trip. We gladly anticipate the calming affects of a good cup of Darjeeling. Will update again soon from the heart of the tea plantations near Darjeeling. Thank you for all your faithful prayers. We need them and we feel them.
Siliguri, India: Tea Garden Women's Conference
It’s just what India does: sometimes it defies articulation and renders you speechless. Words fail. I would like to recount our long drive through lush tea gardens to the colonial mountain town of Darjeeling, but words will fail to adequately relay such a surreal journey. Let's just say any lingering romantic notions of the place have been shoved unceremoniously aside by reality.
With that said, it is best left to the ladies attending the conference to speak for themselves. After three days of teaching on the names of God, this is what they said:
Because the LORD is my shepherd, I WILL NOT FEAR.
Because my God sees me, I WON’T BE AFRAID.
Because God is Almighty, I HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR.
Because the LORD is my peace, I WILL NOT WORRY.
Because my God is my rock, I WON’T WALK IN FEAR.
We could not have asked for more. These women, so precious to the heart of our God, heard Him loud and clear: they are precious to Him and He is with them. We spent our last moments at the conference center saying goodbye and embracing each and every woman, many who are considered untouchable. What a privilege to be the arms of Jesus, hugging and squeezing each of His precious daughters in His stead, many experiencing a tangible expression of an acceptance they have heard of but rarely truly felt.
Our hosts Jenny and Home have been amazing. They have fed us, nursed us, chauffeured us, laughed with us and prayed with us. They have shared their dreams and hopes for their ministries. They are very special people with incredible life stories of hardship and grace, redemption and the ongoing battles they are fighting for the Kingdom of God in India.
Jenny, our conference coordinator and hostess, spearheaded this event, knowing the ladies of the tea gardens would benefit greatly from Bible teaching, fellowship, and a brief time away from labor-intensive lives. Jenny herself founded and runs a primary school for local Hindu and Muslim children, teaching them English as well as standard curriculum, and working a little bit of the gospel in there too. With 97 students and a staff of nine, she has her hands full, not to mention the nine children she and her husband, Home, are raising. Five are biologically theirs and four they have rescued from various hard situations, and in some instances probably saving their lives. Home has battled ongoing illness, adding to Jenny's workload and worries, but she is a woman who bears up under hardship, smiles at the future, and leads on. I think I can speak for us all when I say I am proud to call her my friend, and it was a privilege to work with her.
Dharamshala, India: YWAM Discipleship Training School
We seem to have come to the edge of the known world, and it was no picnic getting here. When we left Amritsar it was a mild 70 degrees. When we reached the edge of the world at midnight, we peeled out of the van in our short sleeves and flip flops only to be greeted with a wind chill factor in the 30s. Daylight revealed what the cold and whipping winds had hinted at: that we are nestled quite literally at the foot of the Himalayas. The snowcapped and jagged peaks rose imposingly behind our hotel as if to say don’t even think about coming this way.
But they do come; they come from that way. The Tibetan refugees come over these huge mountains to this little town at the edge of India. They come here for asylum, for the Dali Lama, for help, and for a future. They hike for 25 days through treacherous mountain passes to find refuge here. Many are seeking two things; they hope to find hospitality, and they want to learn English.
This is where our friends here have strategically placed themselves for the Kingdom. In this mountain village at the edge of the world, the part-time home of the Dali Lama, surrounded by Buddhist monasteries and red-robed monks, they serve Jesus by welcoming these people into their homes, offering them friendship, and teaching them English. This little outpost teaches 40-50 people a week in beginner and intermediate level classes. From this comes friendships and an opportunity to share life and hope. Many are open and seeds have been planted. Over a delicious homemade sponge cake and coffee, they told us their dream to open a café in the village, a place where they could water those seeds, and extend more hospitality and community while employing refugees and making disciples.
Our friend Jeebita has settled in this mountain town for the long haul. Overseeing the ESL ministry among the Tibetans as well as a vibrant children's ministry in another village and the DTS where we were speaking, she is providing strong and effective leadership here in a quiet and beautiful way. I met Jeebita in 2009 and I am so blessed to see how she has blossomed into an amazing woman of God and a strong leader in ministry in the last six years. She demonstrated a thoughtful balance between her daily work and her vision for the future of the ministry. Prayerfully, she considers how to move things forward while diligently cultivating an excellence in the present. She is considerate of her Hindu neighbors, mindful that she, her staff, and her students are perhaps the only Jesus they will ever know. Leading by example, she has befriended them, served them and prayed for them. They are happy to know her and maybe someday, as Jeebita and her team sow the seeds of the gospel, they may know our God. We hope and pray so.
Our teaching time has been fruitful here, especially for Jeebita's staff. The class is small with only nine students and five staff, but the setting is relaxed and intimate. The group is mixed, some Indians and some internationals. As we rambled through our notes for the third time each, we delighted to see the students’ eyes light up with each new thought, pondering things about our God they had not considered. As we finished up the week, we asked the students the same question we asked those in Dimapur and the ladies in Siliguri and here is some of what they said:
Because the LORD is my Shepherd, I will let Him guide me.
Because the LORD is my King, I will serve Him!
Because the LORD is my Master, I will obey.
Because God is Most High, I will stop asking why.
Because God is Almighty, I can trust Him.
Because the LORD is my Shepherd, I won’t be misled.
Because God is my Provider, I will not worry.
Again, we could not be more pleased. It is our hope and prayer that they will all continue to grow in the knowledge of our God’s character and His amazing grace, and that they will go boldly wherever He leads, bringing the Kingdom of God to the darkest corners
of the world.
So that was India. Lord willing we will visit again soon!