Introducing our Newest Member!

Brenna

I am excited to welcome our newest member of the NoblePurpose Team. Brenna Kaplan has chosen to join us as the Children’s Ministry Advocate. She brings with her heart of compassion a zeal of youth. This young woman is warm, and charming, and passion for caring for others. I have asked her to share her journey and look forward to seeing the Lord’s purpose continue to reveal itself in her life.

In Him,
Dan
Danny G. Nobles, Ph.D.
President, NPM

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My Walk with Christ
By: Brenna Kaplan

In my walk with Christ I have matured and learned so many things I didn’t know before. I’ve learned how to REALLY pray while letting yourself listen to God, and how to know what God wants you to do when you come to a decision. I’ve learned how to be “between heaven and mirth” as they say, and how to be an ambassador for Christ without being pushy. I’ve a learned how to praise God even “in the storm”. I’ve come a long way to get to this point though.

I was born and raised in a Christian family. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad was a deaf pastor. I was a normal little girl who was eager to please. I nearly always knew the answers in Bible class, and every single night I prayed for God to forgive my sins and bless the whole world before I went to bed. When I was nine for the first time I stopped praying to God long enough to pray with God and listen to him for once. Soon enough I started asking my mom what baptism meant. When I was nine years old I was baptized at Friendly Avenue Church of Christ. I cannot remember having such abounding joy since then! After that I started asking more questions about my faith and things about it I did not know, I was slowly becoming a more educated Christian and a better person.

However, when I turned ten I started getting my own opinions and becoming my own person. At that point I started doubting what I learned at church. I started asking myself if God was REALLY real. Several months later, some very sad things happened to our family. My parents separated and my Granny died at nearly the same time; then we had to move because my mom couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage. One night I was lying in bed thinking of Granny, I thought about how my youngest sibling Kali had gotten to see the least of her out of all of us and suddenly felt so sad for Kali. I prayed to God and asked if he were real, if he could give Kali a dream about Granny to help her to remember her. The next morning I asked Kali what she dreamed about. She said that she saw Granny packing some cardboard boxes in her dream, after that my faith the Lord was confirmed.
I grew slowly in Christ after that, but I recently have felt myself really start to want to know him more than ever. It started when I had my candles lit. In my family we have a tradition, at a girls twelfth birthday two candles are given to her; they are lit to signify changing from the earthly parents care to the Father’s care. Then on her thirteenth birthday they light them and the girl blows them out. I don’t know what this is called. At this ceremony, as I lit my candles I felt something fill me, like a breath of fresh air rushing into my lungs, but better; I believe this was the Holy Spirit beginning to guide me more.
Since that ceremony I have noticed God’s glory and God’s presence in the world more and more. I believe I have become a better person, even though I still have many flaws and make many mistakes. My life isn’t perfect.

 Sometimes I’m at an all time high, others I am in the pits of despair. I try to praise God no matter what happens, because he is in control. I have had quite a journey with Christ so far, and I can’t wait to see where he takes me next.

A Different Look at Church

Different Look at Church

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[Readers, please understand that the examples of community life are specific to the context of a situation in High Point, NC. While the vision of Church as community is the same, it must be contextualized for the place and environment where the church body finds itself.]

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INTRODUCTION

     What is church? That specific question was the basis of a discussion that led to the request for this paper. I hope that the title is not too cliché. I pray that the content is not too judgmental. However, if we are really honest with ourselves, we call worship “church” and think in terms of Sunday gatherings to sing, pray, hear a sermon, and check off the block of “Christian duty” on our To Do List. Perhaps we think of church as a name of a group of people or a particular denomination. We may even see “churches” as clubs competing for members. The one with the most people wins! These are all perversions of the picture of church given in Holy Scripture.

     Certainly, not all churches recorded in Scripture are wonderful examples of heaven on earth. A quick look at the churches in Revelation may give pictures that are too close to home. Have we abandoned the love that we had at first, like Ephesus? Are we fixated on fear of the current environment like Smyrna? Do we hold onto teachings that give license to our sinful desires like Pergamum? Do we compromise through a lethargic practice of tolerance that fails to identify sin, like Thyatira? Have we grown lazy as we go through the motions of liturgy without the life of worship, like the church in Sardis?

     This paper offers a vision, perhaps an opportunity, certainly an invitation to explore what a faith-filled community might look like. Perhaps it reflects the positive things seen in these same ancient churches described in Revelation 2 & 3. These churches were commended as they patiently worked to overcome injustices and endure trials. They were known for their love and faith and service and patience. Maybe church is like the community in Philadelphia who has little power of its own, but is faithful to draw strength from the name of Christ and enjoys the protection of His relationship.

     Let us pray that church is not just the gathering of lethargic people, practicing comfortable rituals, looking for personal entertainment and confirmation from people who live, look, and think just like us. Let us not be lukewarm like the church is Laodicea. So, this lengthy introduction ends asking the question with which it began – what is church?

DISCUSSION

     In our area of High Point, North Carolina there is a coffee shop named “Rev’s.” In terms of success, it would not be worth writing a review in some business journal. In fact, Rev is closing the doors of this entrepreneurial experiment. However, several of the regulars who met at Rev’s have consistently said this was not a business, but a ministry. Community has grown up around Rev’s. Area artist put their work on display in the café. Pastors from various Christian traditions meet and share the stories of their ministries. Ladies gather for Bible study. Musicians, poets, and comedians come to perform on Friday and Saturday evenings. Some 8 to 30 men gather each Saturday morning to just share stories of life from the previous week. People move in and out of these orbits and live life together. This is community. This is what the Greeks called “ecclesia” or the assembly of citizens. We may ask, “citizens of what?” What motivates these various groups or people from various ethnic, social, political, even denominational settings to regularly gather and share life together? There is a unity of spirit in this place, or perhaps a Spirit of Unity (as the Holy Spirit has been called).

     As I mentioned, the business of Rev’s Coffee House is closing from its current location. The challenge is how we can leverage the synergy of Rev’s and coalesce this diverse community into a church? Perhaps it is already a church, but we fail to see it because of our preconceived notion of what a church looks like.

     What is missing? Well, in short the natural response of a community of God is worship. This is a worship that is not gathering to be entertained or to attract people and “sell” them on Christ. Worship that is not even intended to evangelize and teach those who are seeking to have a relationship with God. Certainly, there is a time and place for evangelism. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 records Jesus sending out His disciples on this mission. These things are done best through life on life encounters. However, purely gathering to praise God, to hear Him speak the words of good news, to offer up prayers of intercession and reflection, and openly proclaim our thanksgiving to His is the essence of worship.

     How would church look if we were constantly gathering to share life stories, gifts, talents, and perspectives? Then, as if we could not contain the need to worship, we gathered together to focus our attention on The One worthy of all our praise, honor, and worship. Allow me to describe what it may look like. One friend described such a place like this, “We think the local church witnesses best by first providing a place as a refuge, encouragement and growth to its members. Second, it witnesses by being a light in the community because people see something different and real there (“there’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the spirit of The Lord.”) Third, it witnesses by the individual members exhibiting Christ in the world that they live in daily.”

     Throughout the week, people come together. They eat and drink together. Laugh and cry. Discuss the ministries that the Lord has placed within them. Men and women gather together and study the thing that has drawn them together – the Bible. Artists, musicians, poets, comedians come in and entertain the community. There is dancing and singing, mourning and crying. Life is shared.

     Sunday morning (as Sundays are recognized as the time to gather for worship) the doors of this meeting place are opened. People come in as early as 6 o’clock. Some bring their breakfast. Others just come to drink coffee or juice. They all join in in conversation about whatever is on their mind.

      Some have a desire to share what they have learned from Scripture. They gather with others who share their interest. Rather than the traditional Sunday school setting, these “classes” are more spontaneous and free flowing. Certainly a challenge is to ensure sound doctrine is taught in these forums. This assurance may be provided through other meetings to teach teachers and empower them. In this model there is a reliance on God’s Holy Spirit to shape and lead in ways not often experienced in many churches.

     Throughout the day, groups come together for sharing, discussion, and study. People come and go. Some share meals. Then at scheduled intervals believers gather together for worship. The worship services may vary in style of liturgy. Some gatherings worship in a traditional style with prayers, hymns, reading of Scripture. There may be formalities and symbolism that edifies those gathered and promotes their worship as they are drawn together in Sacramental worship. Other gatherings may be more contemporary with modern praise songs, prayers, and Scriptural lessons dealing with practical living. Regardless of worship style, the focus is the same. People gather to worship God. He is the object of worship. The people are blessed as a result. In such worship, the focus is how to lead the body into heartfelt worship rather than a worship style that is entertaining to the people. This may be a subtle, but essential distinction.  Finally, at the close of the Sunday those who have come and gone find their way to their respective homes blessed by the experience. They find identity in being in relationship with Christ rather than doing the things expected of them. In this community, there is doing. However, the doing is a natural extension of the being.

     This community is inter-generational. It is open to all and desires to benefit from the energy and wisdom of one generation to another. It is family integrated. There are gatherings of children, youth, young adults, and older people. However, families are kept together during worship. Parents are encouraged to set the example for their children. Children are encouraged to honor their parents. It is cross-cultural desiring collective strength of diversity. It is just reflecting who we are.

RECOMMENDATION

     So, what is the invitation? It is this, join yourself to this community. Commit to participate in the daily life with others in this place. Bring your talents, skills, dreams, and commitment to this place. Grow in relationship with others of the community as everyone grows in relationship through the Holy Spirit as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and children of God. Citizens of this community invite others into this community of faith. If this sounds like Acts 2:42, well that is the goal.

In Him,

Dan+

Workshop 2 Finally Draws to an End

Workshop Participants

The final workshop of this year’s trip drew to an end last night around 10pm. We were scheduled to end at noon. Many of the participants are farmers, or members of farming families. This is harvest time and they had sacrificed to be here for 3 days. However, no one departed after final comments and farewells. They asked if we could have more sessions. So, we returned to the chapel and opened discussion to whatever was on their hearts. We answered questions about my family and church. They shared stories of their experiences, both in coming to Christ and their lives afterward. There were amazing testimonies of snake bites and lightning strikes (both injuries to the same man). Some had been rejected by their families and villages due to their faith. Some had been raised in Christian families, but most were from Hindu backgrounds. All had witnessed the Lord’s power is dramatic and vivid fashion. They are driven to share the grace given to them that has been given to them.

An amazingly talented and dedicated young leader

Previously I posted how talented are these men. After our final session, they wanted to give me a taste of their culture in a way few foreigners have opportunity to see. First, they played a “bukka” which is like a game of catch, only more intense. I’ll try to describe it. The playing field is divided by a line drawn in the dirt dividing the field in half. Two teams are chosen. Then one member from Team A will run across the line and try to touch any member of the other team and get back across to his side before being captured. If he is successful, then the person touched is out of the game. However, he is out if the team captures him before his crosses onto his side. Sounds simple, but there is great strategy and capture is never pretty. They wanted to draft me into the fun, but Philip said no. Connie would never forgive him if I went home broken.:)

Catch Indian-style. Called "bukka."

Next they performed a series of mock battles to show how their ancestors had fought against rival clans and tribes. Using crude swords and sticks, they danced back and forth through a series of engagements. It was evident that many of their native dances came from this form of battle (or warriors used the dances they knew to engage their enemy). I think they were performing because of my military background. I did enjoy the show.

Mock Battle

Finally, they recreated a portion of a wedding celebration. Not the marriage ceremony, but how the families of the bride and groom form relational bounds. This was like a complicated game of follow the leader. First a member of the groom’s family would do something (e.g. a funny walk or acrobatic tumbling). A member of the bride’s family would then imitate it. Then the bride’s family took their turn to try to stump the other group. Initially it was funny. One tall and lanky young man interlocked his fingers and proceeded to step over his arms and bring them up behind his back, over his head and to the front. I’ve seen this before. But then he began stepping through with one leg, ducking his head down through the opening in his arms and weave his body through like a pretzel. It is hard to describe and I couldn’t take pictures, but it was amazing.

Soon the challenges became more intricate. They brought the sticks and old swords used in the battle demonstration. They began demonstrating native Indian martial arts of quickly spinning the weapons beside, in front, and behind their bodies. Soon they were doing acrobatics as they moved their weapons in various patterns. My daughter and grandchildren would have enjoyed the show.

With everyone exhausted and satisfied, we finally retired for the night. We will be driven to the train station to catch another overnight train to Delhi. After that 17-hour trip, we will go by Philip’s house to get one of my bags from there and then on to the airport. My flight leaves at 3am and 22 hours later, I hope to see my wife. Once again, I am reminded of Philip’s maxim, “You must be strong to travel in India.” :)

The investment is well worth it. To see the growth and confidence of the participants from last year and look forward to equal maturity in this next generation of ministers is the reward. Sola Deo Gloria!

In Him,

Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org

Miracles in India

Today was the final day of the discipleship training for Workshop 2. Tomorrow we will gather for Sunday worship, share closing remarks and farewells.

During our discussion on the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, one of the aspiring cell group leader candidates said that he had understood baptism from a new perspective. We held a baptism service in the dirty, unused bathtub in Philip’s room. It was a wonderful experience for us all.

"Sealed by the Holy Spirit and mark as Christ's own forever."

In the evening, we gathered to play speed drills to find Scripture and review the topics from the past 2 days. Few had any form of biblical training. Several of the emerging cell group leaders confessed they had not wanted to make the trip, but had been “strongly urged” by their pastors to attend. All shared how this opportunity to study and fellowship was life changing for them. Each said they were eager to be home to share the Gospel by living it in their villages.

We had a few challenges. Our hired cook was less than dependable and several of the food items were “lost” along the way. The dining hall where we were to eat was occupied by others and we found ourselves picnicking for every meal. However, the Lord blessed us with beautiful weather the entire time.

We had a surprise guest on the first day. When I walk out of the guest house to go to the chapel there was a large monkey sitting on the roof, looking down at me as I stared at him. We were mutually surprised and he scurried off into the forest.

The one thing that I continue to learn with these fellow Christians is to expect anything to happen. The participants in Bilaspur proved to be as creative and full of surprises as those in Siliguri. Last night as our review ended, Philip leaned over to say there was a surprise. Those announcements from Philip always concern me. Well, the front doors of the chapel opened and a “poor leper woman” (actually one of the pastors from our group) walked in with a cane and holding a small pan with a few vegetables and coins collected by begging. Covered in rags and bandages, “she” pleaded for help from the other students. They laughed, but really didn’t want to be touched by this poor woman. She kept making her way to the front and finally ended up by me, begging for help. I prayed this person (Prakash) be helped, because anyone who can act like that really needs help. :) She threw down her cane, tore off her bandages and danced with joy. Actually, the skit was much better than I can describe. Prakash is a convincing actor and played the role very well. It was even better with the healed woman found her “husband” and hugged him, kissing him on the cheek. The husband was the oldest participant of the group and he is very shy. It was a great time to cap a blessed experience.

The happy couple reunited

In Him,

Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org

Where to Start?

After another long 17-hour train ride from Calcutta through the plains of central India to the small village of Bilaspur, we drove another grueling 2 hours across to the smaller village of Betelpur. We arrived at a mission medial compound built by the Anglican Church in 1900 to provide care to lepers. The compound has been in continuous use for the same purpose for more than 100 years. I met the doctor who directs the activities of the mission. Asking him what brought him to this place, he answered, “It was passion. I came to know Christ while in college and thought called to ministry. However, later I was drawn to medical school and now minister to the patients and staff here.” He is the surgeon and his wife (also a medical doctor) is the general practitioner.

We were blessed to conduct the second discipleship workshop in the mission chapel. A corner stone of the chapel reads, “Erected by the Mission to Lepers in India and the East. 1900-1901.” It is a pretty little building that regularly serves as a place for daily Morning Prayer service, as well as weekly Sunday worship for the staff and patients. I was surprised to see our Muslim driver attending Morning Prayer with us.

There are 29 participants in this workshop. These are talented young men. Many have college degress and a few have completed graduate studies. They are attentive, engaged, and eager to learn more. Their questions are theologically deep. It is a joy to be with and learn from them, while hoping to share somethings to their benefit. The first day of training was a success. We concluded the training with a period of reflective prayer known as Lection Divina. Witnessing the intensity with which these people pray is always profound. I wish that other Westerners could simply experience prayer as they do here. Just as in Siliguri, their faces evidenced their thirst for the Word as Philip read the story of Nicademus visting Jesus (John 3:1-21). After the readings of this passage, each participant went to be alone in prayer and to journal what he had received from the Word. Finally, they gathered into small groups to discuss what insights they had gained for their own lives.

After a day of sitting and study, they were ready to have some fun and games. This was a great icebreaker. I had never seen a game of cricket before, but after watching them I am not sure that I have seen a game yet. Nevertheless, they had a lot of fun laughing at themselves and one another. After this game they also played a form of ‘catch’ that was unlike anything that I had ever played as a child. Much more strategic and dangerous :)

After all of this, I retired to my room for an early sleep. Soon, one of the cell leaders was soon knocking at my door and asked for the video camera. They often enjoy playing and recording skits. The Siliguri team had performed an Indian version of the Prodigal Son. It was great fun. I download the video to my laptop and play for them during breaks. However, this time the young man insisted that I come to the chapel. After dressing, I walked down the road, was met by Philip outside the chapel door and told to just wait a few minutes. After presumably some final preparations, they opened the door and escorted me into the middle of a welcome dance ceremony. It was a huge surprise and well worth the interruption of my boring evening plans. They wore native dress with colorful head wraps. They played drums, sang, and danced a sign of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Lord. I was even drafted into the dancing, but those pictures will never find their way into this blog :)

Now it is time to begin the second full day of the workshop. Until later, may the Lord continue to bless and keep you…

In Him,

Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org

“You Must be Strong to Travel in India”

Philip is fond of saying, “You must be strong to travel in India.” This morning we left Siliguri and flew to Calcutta. We had planned to catch a train for Bilaspur, but the night train had  been cancelled. We had this same challenge last year. So, we were not too surprised. The challenge is to find a place to rest for a few hours until the next train which is scheduled to depart at 5am. Philip is very resourceful. He found that the rail station has some sleeping areas. So, we got a room and hope to get a couple of hours sleep. It isn’t a 5-star hotel. In fact, it is sort of a black hole, but we can sleep (sort of). It’s hot here and the noise of traffic and smell of something burning is constant.

There isn’t much new to report, but I will share a few pictures of the Calcutta skyline taken from our window. I’m not sure if there will be a signal to connect to the internet when we get to Bilaspur. So, this may be my last posting for a few days.

May you all know the blessing of God now and forever more…

In Him,Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org

 

Siliguri Workshop is a Success

        Today it the final day of our first workshop. Tomorrow morning we plan to fly to Calcutta and then travel by train to Bilaspur for the second training event. It has been good to see the growth in the pastors that my brother and I met during last year’s visit. Rick would be pleased to see these timid men have become leaders who are selflessly meek, but bold in their teaching. Six of twelve who attended the Bilaspur workshops in 2010 traveled to Siliguri this year. The other six will attend the second training in a couple of days.

Philip shares and translates for the group.

        In addition to seeing their familiar faces, I was excited to see that each of these pastors are mentoring other leaders who have cell groups (small church plants) who meet in homes in their own villages throughout the region. Several of these cell group leaders attended the workshop with their mentors. With the exception of Hezron, his cell group leader had to cancel due to a census in his region, each pastor brought at least one disciple. It was a good opportunity for these young Christians (most in their twenties) for training on the subject of discipleship. Everyone was engaged and eager to ask good questions and learn.

        We approached the subject first by considering Jesus calling to Andrew, Peter, and Nathaniel. Scripture describes Andrew as a follower of John the Baptist who went to speak to Jesus. Jesus discerned that he was looking for something and invites Andrew to come with Him. Andrew tells his brother Simon that he had “found the Messiah.” Jesus sees the potential of Simon and renames him Cephas.  Then there is Nathaniel. Andrew shares the news of the Messiah with Nathaniel who is cautious to the point of skepticism. However, he believes after Jesus offered to him a glimpse of the power of God. Jesus assured Nathaniel that he would witness much more. 

Catching some fresh air during break.

        The point of the first session was to encourage participants to look for the potential in disciples. Capabilities vary, personalities vary, needs vary, but the common thirst for life in Christ forms a common bond. Disciplers, look at the heart of the disciple rather than your preference of someone’s personality. Disciples seek mentors who can lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ.

Gulab disciples his cell leaders.

        We then considered the attributes of discipleship; authentic, relational, and reproductive. Jeff Myers, president of Passing the Baton, often reflects, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.” Disciplers must first be convicted disciples. Disciplers and disciples must know one another. I mean they must REALLY KNOW one another.  Motivation, desire, fears, dreams, stressors, family, and skills. This is different than evangelism that leads others to accept Christ. Discipleship is walking together to grow into authentic Christian faith. By nature, relationships reproduce. It spiritual relationship reproduction is just as predictable. It is also the means to ensure the Church functions as a body. The Church extends beyond local congregations or parishes. However, we often act as a body with an epidural or some other form of neurological blocker. Discipleship connects the global body so that as one part hurts then the whole body feels the pain and responds. When part of the body rejoices then the whole Church celebrates. Maybe social networks realize this better than the Body of Christ. They speak of one degree of separation. That is, we are all connected by knowing someone who knows someone. 

Moti leads his cell.

Following this study on discipleship attributes, we discussed the growth process of faith. Pastor Jerry Branch, pastor of Dallas Baptist Church, Dallas, PA (as well as my friend and cohort in our doctoral program at Trinity Theological Seminary) provided the study material for this portion of the workshop.  We considered faith as it is first observed (Look) in the biblical story of Nicademus’ visit to Jesus. Next, we studied how faith is discovered (Learn) by the Samaritan woman’s encounter with the Messiah.  Finally, we focused on faith expressed (Lived) by the Samaritan traveler who cares for the injured man.

After each session, we prayed over the biblical account of each example in the form of Lectio Divina. We used the style of prayer that Steve Breedlove had taught during our most recent AMP Retreat (Anglican Missional Pastors). We also illustrated those stories with laminated characters that had been prepared by Chris and Jessie Meriwether from my church-family. We gave copies of these stories to the participants. They eagerly received them, as well as the ribbon bookmarks that had been made by my sister-in-law and other Christian ladies in Alabama. The bookmarks are made of various colored ribbons that can be used to share the salvation story. My point is that this workshop was successful due the Lord’s blessings through many people from different locations. Their work was all molded in the unity of the Holy Spirit so that these people received blessing and God’s name is glorified.

Workshop Participants.

 

In Him,

Dan

http://www.noblepurposeministries.org

Discipleship Workshop in Siliguri

The Holy Spirit is described as the Spirit of Unity among other things. He orchestrates the body into a perfect symphony. Yesterday, we arrived at the compound for the first of two discipleship training workshops. After checking into my room, I heard voices speaking clear English. There is a group of Christians from Nova Scotia visiting to hold a training conference with about 150 participants. Their topic is discipleship. When I met their pastor we were surprised that the opening Scripture that each of us had chosen was Matthew 5. He was beginning with Jesus’ sermon on the mount and moving to the Great Commission where I had planned the opposite approach, but nearly the same points. Some of his parishioners were listening and asked how we had collaborated for these lessons. The Lord moves in mystery!

We began our first workshop this morning with worship. While I don’t understand the words of the song or the prayers spoken, the heart of the worshippers are unmistakably pure. There are 19 of us here.  It has been exciting to see old faces from last year, as well as several new emerging leaders. Today we began by considering Jesus calling Andrew, Peter, and Nathaniel. We discussed how very different each of these men were and how Jesus revealed their uniqueness in his call to them. We discussed 3 attributes of discipleship; authenticity, relational, and reproducing. Tomorrow we will continue to look at discipleship is intended to plant the seed of faith in the disciple’s heart. For that we will begin by looking at Nicodemus.

In Him,

Dan

http://www.noblepurposeministries.org

Beautiful Siliguri Training Center

 

Students on break in the courtyard

 

Philip Interpreting

 

Sidnath leads group discussion of prayer exercise

 

Moti leads his group

 

Sonjay leads his group

And your young men will see visions…

        Tonight Philip and I sat with a group of 12 young people. One as young as 8 and the oldest was probably 17. They had asked to meet with us. I’m still not sure of their desire, but we enjoyed the time together. These young people live in the same little mountain village. Their cottages reflect the material poverty that is common here. Parents (and older children) work in the surrounding tea gardens for about 30₵ a day. No cars, no malls, no electronics. However, you would be very wrong to guess they have no hope.

Up the Mountain Trail to School

        Philip asked each boy and girl what they hoped to become in life. Their answers were much like we would expect from our children. Singer, doctor, nurse, policeman, and pastor. They all have dreams and visions of a bright future. Most really want to make life better for others. They are extremely bright. This group had taught themselves to read, write, and speak English. Their skills varied, but they all were eager to learn. They thirst for school and learning. Many attend a small Catholic school that is farther up the mountain and at least an hour-long walk along the narrow, rutted road. Several play guitar which they taught themselves. During our praise time a very small boy (maybe 6 years old) plays the drums to accompany the 8-grader who plays guitar and leads the singing of the church.

Church in the Tea Garden

        They are very curious. Their questions are never simple and when given an answer they begin reading to critically consider what was said. For example, the oldest young man (probably 17 years old) who had stopped attending school in the 5th grade, asked “The Scriptures tell about Adam and Eve’s son Cain. Cain was sent away from his home and married a woman. Where did she come from?” Philip, with his quick mind answered in his excellent English (but with an exaggerated accent), “We will turn to Dr. Dan to answer this one.”

        It was a fun and exciting time that was followed by a worship service in their little church building. They meet together often to sing, pray, and hear from God’s Word. In spite of having little, these people have much. Their wealth is in their faith that I admire need to emulate.

        Philip, Bedu, and I had traveled earlier in the day to a little village at the top of this mountain. It was an hour drive up the same rough road. Occasionally we would meet another vehicle on its way back down. The road is hardly wide enough for one small car, but things get interesting when you meet another jeep or cargo truck. The unofficial right-of-way is given to the vehicle going up. The other finds someplace to pull over and stop. However, they drive on the left side of the road here and the sheer cliff of the mountain’s edge is on the right as we drive up. I don’t know how high we were, but my ears were popping and I was looking down at some clouds. Anyway, I didn’t think much about it until we were driving down and it was our turn to pull over. Talk about high adventure!

Yielding the Right of Way

 

        We went to the mountaintop village to speak with a man, his wife, and their 13 year old daughter. He has a heart to plant a cell church. He has studied the Bible, but doesn’t feel equipped to pastor to others. However, he is burdened with the responsibility to share the Gospel and help lead his village into a relationship with Jesus. We talked, Philip taught some basic evangelism tools, and we prayed for this family. We prayed by his arthritic knees and his daughter’s ear which is deaf from infections. The site is common now, but as we sat around a small table to drink tea and eat crackers they offered the sparse conditions of this life struck me. Here this man with a servant’s heart lives with his small family live in a 2-room hut that together is about 8 by 10 feet. No electricity, no water, no heat. Both end walls have huge holes across the top. Philip asked him about cold weather and he responded that it isn’t too bad because the wind come across the front. I looked at the front where the doorway is covered by a thin curtain and no real door. I’m not sure how that is better. However, there were pictures of Jesus image hanging on their walls and their prize possessions were their Bible and a small prayer book.

Mountaintop Village

        The close the day’s activities, we were invited to dinner with the goldsmith and his family. He had been working on a new order. I sat and watched as he took a gold nugget that his son had molded into a teardrop shape. The father was using a small hammer and an edged tool to make swirled grooves up the teardrop, like the domes one might see on the Kremlin. It was fascinating to watch him patiently tap the chisel-like tool, hardly making a mark on the nugget. He said that he wanted to mold the shape and not break it. Soon the little grooves began to appear and before the evening was over, the smooth swirling grooves were completed as he had planned.

        I was glad to get back to my room for some sleep. However, Bedu knocked on the door and soon we were talking. Ministry is challenging here and Bedu just needed to share. He reflected on last year’s visit and talked about the relationship that I enjoyed with my brother. Rick had come with me on that mission. Bedu shared about the persecutions and challenges that his has faced and dreams for his family. We prayed and after an hour or so, Bedu left to prepare for our departure scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Bottom L-R Archana (Bedu's wife), Bedu. Middle L-R Diwash (14), Dipesh (12). I'm at the back

 

My friend Dipesh dreams of becoming a pastor

 

         I regret leaving this place. This was my favorite location last year and my appreciation for it has grown many times greater this week. May the Lord bless and keep these people. May He raise up leaders who will deliver them from oppression and bring them into deep relations with Him. When I look into the eyes of the young people, I believe that He is raising them to be those leaders.

In the tea gardens with Dipesh & Diwash

In Him,

Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org

Finding the Kingdom in Strange Places

Each day brings blessings of its own. Today we visited a few families in the area and enjoyed their fellowship. This morning Bedu, Philip, and I visited Bedu’s sister. Her husband had traveled with us to the tea garden last night and invited us to breakfast. However, he had to leave for work before we could get there. Generally, time is not an appointment, but a suggestion here. And I struggle with some with nonchalant schedule keeping. Just ask our church staff. :)

We walked to the home, passing through narrow streets and well worn paths. We walked through the yard of the high school and many curious students who was curious about this westerner. One young lady smiled and said “Jaimashi” which means “Jesus is master.” It is the common greeting among Christians here in this northern region. It is also rarely spoken in public. She didn’t appear concerned and I returned the pleasantry.

Looking back down the climb to Bedu's sister

Arriving in the sister’s neighborhood, we were greeted by a maze of concrete steps that seemed to go up into the clouds (actually there were small clouds loitering in some places). We began to ascend and went from one flight of steps to another. I was laughing so hard at Philip that I nearly fell. We reached the sister’s home and Philip was exhausted. I was too, but would not show it. Bedu’s sister greeted us with tea, bread, and potatoes. She apologized for the cramped quarters of her little house. It is a small two room house with very low ceilings (about 5-1/2 feet high). Many people here are Nepalese descent and very small. Then she offered breakfast with tea, bread, and potatoes. I didn’t feel hungry until we started. but the food was welcomed just fine. It was very good.

Similar to the house of Bedu's sister

Her daughters and two of her three grandchildren were there to visit with us. The granddaughter was very shy, but the grandson (Jaymal) only stared in wonder at these strange people. Tomorrow is his first birthday. The sister asked for us to pray for Jaymal that he may grow in favor with the Lord. I prayed a blessing on him and we left. Going down the labyrinth of steps was as hard as climbing them in the first place.

R-L: Bedu's Sister holding Jaymal, Niece, & Bedu

We then visited a goldsmith’s shop. We walked again, but not up into the clouds. We ventured through alleys and apartments and came to an indiscrete doorway that was open. Entering the front room we were met by a smiling man sitting behind a little desk and shuffling papers. He led us into the back room where two more men sat behind miniature work benches fill with hammers, pliers, and awls of all shapes and sizes. The older man spoke into the air and a young man of about 13 appeared with two trays of food and tea. He then began to explain how they shape the gold into bracelets, rings, and brooches. I couldn’t understand his Nepalese, but between Philip’s translating and watching him work I managed to get the main points. He handed me large nuggets of gold as if they were one of the tools on his workbench. Then he took out a stack of jewelry catalogs from different places. He boasted how he could copy anything for much cheaper than I could buy in the United States. I’m sure he is right and it is all handmade.

Shop Owner and Patron

Son hammers out gold

 

It was fascinating to watch them work by heating, hammering, and shaping the gold into the design of their choice. But there was a deeper design to this man’s work. While he continues in the trade handed down through many generations before him, he quietly uses the

Melting golden beads

 profits to spread the effective love of Christ throughout the area. His youngest of four sons is a pastor. The others work in the father’s trade. The oldest of two daughters is a nurse and her sister supports the family business. However, the real story they have an ongoing food and clothing distribution ministry throughout the many mountain villages of Sikkim state. In the largely Hindu and Buddhist Himalayan region of India these people are spearheading a Christian movement that is changing the culture. From behind the scenes in little shops, Christians are the Gospel message incarnate. They are, in the words of St. Francis, “preaching the gospel always, when you must use words.”

An example of their craftsmanship

     

A closer look

 

        This was more spiritual nourishment than I had received in a long time. However, the day wasn’t over. In the evening we meet with a small church in an upper room of an apartment complex. My brother and I had worshipped with this church last year. It was good to see them again. We sang and prayed. Several asked for healing prayers and we

Meeting in the Upper Room in Jarethang

prayed together. Prayer is much more effective in this place. Perhaps it is similar to Jesus healing many throughout the land except in his hometown where their lack of faith kept him from doing “mighty work there.” (Mark 6:1-6) After worship we shared dinner with another of Bedu’s sisters. She lives in a small one-room apartment and works in a beauty shop. But she also leads Bible studies for the women in the area. She prepared our food over a propane fired hot plate sitting on a table in one corner. The big gas tank sits at the foot of her bed, which doubles as a sitting area for guest. A small wardrobe and two wooden chairs finish out her furnishings. Large chunks of concrete appeared to have be bitten out of the back wall of her little house. That was evidence of the earthquake that occurred a few weeks ago. We ate and talked. Soon the whole family was packed into the room with more Christians from another church-family who wanted to visit. It is amazing, but here I keep finding the Kingdom in strange places.

        Today is dawning and promising more adventures. Philip told me last night that the young people at the Tea Garden church have asked if I would meet with them this afternoon. They have an “English Club” that meets to discuss opportunities to share the Gospel with other youth. I feel totally inadequate for this, but how can one refuse? There is no real topic or agenda, so we will see what the Lord has in store. Then the church wants to worship tonight and I will preach again for them.

        Tomorrow we will drive back down the mountain to Siliguri for the first workshop that begins on Sunday. All this and we haven’t begun what I thought was the purpose of the trip. I have to laugh at my own foolishness each time that I’m surprised that my plans have been eclipsed by the real purpose, which belongs to the Lord.

        Peace to you all…

In Him

Dan

www.noblepurposeministries.org