Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dedication in India

By: Dennis Hilman

My month in India is drawing to a close. The pace has been much more relaxed since the rest of the team returned to America. I have spent the whole time, most enjoyably and with many blessings, in Pastor K's area, headquartered at the ALM Church Center in Kapileswarapuram (I have even learned to say the name of this village!). The first two weeks of this month the team was here. They began with several days of pastors seminars, then many evening services, church services, and prayer meetings as the Gospel went forth. Our whole nine member team was involved, with the young people very active with the children here at the ALC Children's Home which is also located here, and with women's Bible studies and so forth. It is so impressive to see the organization Pastor K and his wife Ruth direct from this center - and in such a warm and human, compassionate and spiritual way.

I use the word "dedication" in the title of this article for two reasons. One is a focus that the Lord gave me on this trip to lead the dedication of a new church in the Vizag area. The whole idea of the need for a new church in that area was laid on my heart when I first visited here two years ago. It was then God spoke to me about the young Pastor Isaac and his congregation - a growing group of faithful people who had no outward place of worship. So I prayed about that but did not mention this need to anyone. At the convention that year Jack Bergstedt approached me, quite by surprise, and asked if I had any particular need from the mission field on my heart. I didn't even dare tell him since I felt that the need was probably far greater than what he had in mind. But later I did tell him and lo and behold he offered to support the building of a church for Isaac and his congregation in the village of Chinna Doddi Gallu (now get your tongue around that one!). That was a little over a year ago. Arrangements to build the church began immediately. In the later stages of building it was evident that additional funds would be needed to complete it. Cal Niemela provided those funds. The beautiful little temple of God was completed in November and now dedicated on February 9, 2011 with the whole team participating. More information and pictures from the church dedication below.

The second reason I use the word "dedication" is in reference to that incredible quality exhibited by the faithful in Christ Jesus here in India. They are totally committed to the hearing and reading of the Word - with an amazing ability to find passages in the Bible. Besides that they can sing spiritual songs for hours by heart and are most devoted in prayer and the need for personal prayer.Naturally their pastors lead them in these traits of dedication. And then of course there are all of the unbelievers who also show a great interest in the word and prayer.
Pastors seminar in progress with Pastor Phil Wilson teaching and Pastor K translating. I shared the teaching responsibilities of this three day seminar with Phil while John Ruotsala preached sermons in line with the themes we taught.

While we were teaching the young people on our team were often busy in other areas. Much time was spent with the children - singing, teaching, playing, and just being a loving disciple of Jesus with them - since the children themselves have so much to give. Leona Matson led many of the activities with her paper constructions and other creative ideas..

About 70 pastors and church workers attended this seminar - here together with all of our team in front of the church at the ALM Church Center in Kapileswarapuram.

Everywhere you go in India you get a royal welcome. Here is all of our team with the sign welcoming us to the ALM Church Center and ALC Children's Home. Hope you can fit the right name with the right person.

One evening the children put on a spectacular rendition of the Garden of Eden for us - the creation and fall of man. The whole hall was turned into a very conviincing Garden of Eden with half a forest being carted in, a plethora of little animals (stuffed, plastic, you name it) throughout paradise and of course the familiar trees - like the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil all hung with its forbidden fruits. In the course of the play God created Adam, then Eve from his rib, the serpent enters the Garden and tempts Eve and she and Adam are forced to leave paradise after the fall,the Messiah is promised, their sons are born, Cain kills Abel and then even Seth is born. It was all very dramatic and graphically portrayed by children of different ages but very hard to get a good picture of in the poor light. Luckily they had signs on everything and everybody so you knew who they were, Later my dear little friend Joshua posed for me by the Tree of Life - with its bananas this time!

And what would be India without going traditional from time to time. Our American/Canadian/Finnish team all dressed up for the evening. They say you can't really understand an Indian (get it?!) before you have walked a mile in his moccasins - or in this case his pastor's shirt or draped elegantly in her sari! By the way saris are an everyday mode of dress - they are worn in all situations, for work and play - girls even wear them swimming - and of course grace every church sanctuary and meeting with their multicoloured elegance and beauty.

Typical village scene - woman with her water buffalo. Scenes like this are at every turn as we walk through the village to pray for people. Since the team left I have even had much more time for these kinds of walks with Pastor K. We have prayed, for instance, for the opening of a little shop, for the family of a 4-year-old boy who died last week in a fireworks accident, for the sick, elderly, infirm, barren, lame, halt and blinded, and for the success of an enterprise of a faithful congregant. After each evening village service - in a little church, home or even in the street, prayers for each individual participants can go long into the night. Speaking of dedication.

"My sheep know my voice!" Village shepherds leading their ambling flock of sheep to greener pastures along a street beside the church center. Scenes like this, which take you so graphically back into Bible times, meet you at every turn in the village and country roads.

Outdoor night meeting. You have probably seen pictures like this before from India, but I just had to include it because many of our nights have been spent in services like this. I find it both exhilarating and humbling to stand before such a crowd which is so anxious to eat of the Bread of Life and drink of the Living Water. And even if the service goes easily beyond 10:00 at night there are many who wonder why you quit preaching after a sermon of only one hour! And then come the individual prayers. It is moving to say the very least.

Now we get to the church dedication. With the words "I, as a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, declare this building to be set apart to the Glory of God and to the edification of His Church in the living faith which is in Christ Jesus" I cut the ribbon at the main door. Pastor K is on the left, Pastor Isaac on the right. An indelibly moving moment.

Inside of the sanctuary of the new church. The texts written on the walls are Bible verses in Telegu chosen for their appropriateness to the temple of the Living God. To mark the festivities plastic chairs were brought in but the usual mode of seating is on plastic tarps on the floor. This way many more people can fit it. The overflow sat in a large tent outside on this dedication day.

Opening the service with the traditional greeting of "Wandanalu" - peace and blessings. I spoke on our Heavenly Father as a God of possibilities - who brought this temple into reality in such a short period of time - from the stage of many fervent prayers to a shining edifice to His glory. The theme "with God all things are possible" echoes through the Scriptures - the greatest possibility and miracle of all is that we can find salvation and peace with Him through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ!

Precious young sisters in Christ from two different sides of the globe (Bethany Helmes on the right) - here "under the wings" of the FM Administrator, John Ruotsala.

Pastor K and Ruth, myself and Pastor Isaac and Sharon at the side of the church after the dedication. We couldn't get in front of it on that day because of the tent.

The pastors trio - John, Dennis and Phil, all decked out with the garlands of honour, welcome and blessing for the dedication service.

Last Sunday I visited Isaac's church once more and preached there for the morning service. It was much more relaxed this time and the tent was gone so we could see the front of the church, but the love and promises of Jesus were still evident everywhere! Here is Pastor Isaac with his wife Sharon who is expecting their first child in June. Blessings abound.
Village wedding. Here Pastor K and I are showering the newly married couple with flower petals in blessing. After we did so all of the other wedding guests came forward and followed suit to wish the young couple happiness in this way. That wish was undoubtedly not out of place since this was an arranged marriage - and this day was the first time they ever laid eyes on each other. "Wow!" I thought as they had stood a few minutes earlier and the groom took the bride's hands to declare his marriage vow to her,"this is the first time they have ever been that close - ever touched each other!" Yes it is truly a cultural difference that we in the west find hard to fathom and yet they say that marriages in the west are far more apt to fall apart statistically than these arranged ones. Anyway I did enjoy the wedding with all of its Indian customs - maybe especially because the bride and groom sat so attentively for the message from the Word. Thankfully they are both from Christian families.

So I am now scheduled to leave here next Monday and arrive back in Finland, God willing, on March 2. It would be so nice if you would remember me on this journey

In the riches of God's love and peace,