Our elder Ali Scott and FP intern Dan Soar have just returned from India. Find out what they got up to...
Our time in India was split into three segments: the Transform conference and Mumbai, Nashik, and Pune.
Transform and Mumbai
After flying in to Mumbai we stayed one night there before leaving for Lonavala, where Transform was being held. It was an amazing conference with people from 15 different nations spanning 5 continents. It was an intense few days, filled with worshipping God and hearing His word. There was much joy and dancing, people coming to God hungry for more of Him. Ali preached on the Friday afternoon on the temporary nature of the worldly things around us compared with the eternal riches of God's glory. Steve Oliver was there and preached using the story of Rahab, exhorting us to take risks for the Kingdom of God, laying hold of the purposes He has for our lives.
After travelling back to Mumbai on the Saturday afternoon, we attended One Nation Church, Mumbai on the Sunday morning. This is the church that Pankaj and his wife, Tressa (who both attended the UK Transform), have recently moved to from Dubai to be raised up into leadership there. Steve shared a challenging and encouraging message on the subject of prayer. It was also great to hear some of the testimonies about Transform given from some of the young people there; it had a profound effect on many.
On the next day we joined with about 50 or so men and women in leadership roles within the five Regions Beyond churches in India. It was a fantastic time worshipping together and praying for what God is doing in India and around the world. We also heard from Steve about the future leadership structure of Regions Beyond around the world. The primary elements of this (which he has also shared already with UK leaders) are as follows:
i.) Leadership Forum – Steve is asking 24 people to form a leadership forum who he will meet with three times a year to decide vision and direction of Regions Beyond.
ii.) Task Teams – task teams will be set up to strategise and implement various areas of the work of Regions Beyond. They will include such things as teaching & training, communications, finance, justice and next generation.
iii.) Specialist training- at different points, Steve will take a way a small group of people to invest in them in a specific area. The first one in September will be with those who have served in church leadership for a long time.
iv.) Accountability – Steve has asked three or four men to be around him to challenge him and speak into his life as he leads Regions Beyond forwards.
On the Monday evening we travelled to Nashik where we stayed a few days with Edgar, Isobel and their son, Joash, who are responsible for two churches there. One is a church which works mainly into a slum community in the city. We spent lots of time in the slum, visiting the homes of families in the church, hearing their stories and praying with them. We were warmly welcomed and generously hosted. There are many sad stories of brokenness, particularly with the fathers among whom alcoholism is a severe problem. Yet there were also incredible testimonies of miracles, Jesus appearing in visions, and faithful provision.
We also visited a slum village outside of Nashik which some of the young people go out to every week to do church there. It was an incredibly poor place with very simple mud huts. We held a service for those who have become Christians there and had a powerful time of prayer ministry afterwards. God's presence was so evidently there in that place! They also run a kids' club simultaneously for many of the children in the village. It's an amazing opportunity to tell the children about Jesus, but sadly numbers have dropped significantly recently because of parents hardening their hearts towards Christianity. Please pray for more breakthrough in that village.
Edgar has recently handed over the leadership of this church to two young elders (Nilesh and Santosh). We had dinner at each of their homes, having encouraging times of fellowship and prayer together. It's exciting to see these two young families being raised up into leadership. This has released Edgar and Isobel to plant a second church in the centre of the city, aiming to reach the educated and influential in Nashik. This is a very recent plant, pray that God uses it mightily to influence the city.
Early on Thursday morning we travelled to Pune to stay with Colin and Navaz Dcruz and their two children, Andrew and Jessica. Colin leads Word of Grace, the Regions Beyond church there in Pune. There were incredibly kind and generous in their hospitality and welcomed us in love. We spent much time getting to know each other and hearing about the joys and the challenges that face them in Pune.
Pune is a large city with an enormous student population and is a place that many young people move to in order to find work. It is the norm to work twelve hour days and long weeks with unhealthy shift patterns. There are many call centres there which require night shifts so as to serve western companies. Moreover, people only stay in the same job for an average of two or three years, before moving on to a different job, often elsewhere. These factors together lead to an environment in which it is difficult to cultivate a stable church community. It is difficult to find times to meet together and there is a very high turnover of church members.
Despite this (or perhaps because of this) the church is an incredibly close family of believers who are extraordinarily welcoming. Ali led a day's training on Discipleship for the extended leadership team and then preached on the Sunday morning. It's an amazing church and we greatly enjoyed our time there with them.
We travelled back to Mumbai early Monday morning in order to catch our flight later in the day.