Church Planter - North India
Connor H. is working with a group of HeartCry missionaries in a very unreached part of North India. His ministry involves church planting and leadership training.
Testimony of Conversion
I am from the United States, and for the most part I grew up in a Christian environment. My parents were faithful to keep our family attending a church throughout my childhood. Sunday school was not necessarily an event that I looked forward to. It was during Jr. High that a youth pastor reached out to me and we built a good relationship. I quickly got involved with the youth group events and began to enjoy it. Our family eventually settled down in that church.
During those same Jr. High years, I made new friends at school who were not Christians. I invited them to the church outreaches, and they also soon became involved. In reality though, we did not care much about God or eternal things. We liked the youth group. We liked the youth pastor. But we did not truly love God or want to serve Him.
My friends and I acquired the sinful habit of tearing people apart with our words and with our humor. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,”1 and we rarely used our tongues for life. We lived to laugh at the expense of others. We rarely spoke a serious sentence. While I do believe humor and laughter are gifts from God, our particular type of humor was very dishonoring to God and destructive to people.
As I entered high school, the opportunities for sin multiplied. We pulled many pranks, some of them dangerous, cruel, harmful, and unlawful. But they were hilarious to us. I became a thief with multiple offenses, yet never was caught. I started getting drunk early in High School, but few knew about it. My church did not know. My family did not know. There was one shameful occasion when I “led worship” for a youth outreach while inebriated. But no one knew.
Not only did I live for empty humor, I also lived for my own glory. My friends and I were in a band with aspirations to make it big. If you are familiar with the local music scenes, you know that most of it, if not all, is vanity. Those on the stage love the worship and admiration from the crowd. Those attending the concerts are usually concerned with the latest clothing fad. It is a fashion show for individual glory and self-exaltation. The anthem of this sub-culture is, “let us make a name for ourselves.”2 I lived and thrived in this scene. I cannot speak for everyone in my band, but my motives were for my own glory.
Ironically, during all of this my friends and I became increasingly involved in the youth group, and I was even seen as a spiritual leader. There were some that lifted me up as an example for others to follow. Many complimented my maturity and spiritual growth. If only they knew who I really was. I was a hypocrite.
Oftentimes I wish I had a date that marked my conversion, or even a year that I could point to. But I don't. God saves some men with a glorious show for all to see, like the Apostle Paul, while he saves others secretly and quietly, like Timothy. The reality is that until the middle of High School I did not understand the Gospel. I knew that Jesus died, but I didn’t understand how His death on a Roman cross could remove my sins and my guilt. There was a big disconnect in my mind. I deserve hell, not just a cross. So why did Jesus just die on a cross? How did that take care of my sins? I had no clue that Jesus died as my substitute under the wrath of God.3
When I was 16 years of age, there was a new church plant in my city. I had a relationship with a few of the pastors there and decided to begin attending this new church.
It was during this change of churches that my life also started to change. I began desiring to follow Christ and was given a disdain toward my sins and the activities my friends and I partook of. God opened my eyes to the vanity of my pursuits. I quit the band. I felt as if I was no longer my own, like I belonged to another.4 When I would sin, my conscience would smite me. I developed a love for the Scriptures. I began to slip away in private to spend time with God. I found hiding places, whether in the hills of East County, or on the coastal cliffs of La Jolla where I would spend hours reading the Word of God and calling out to Him in prayer. These were sweet times. For the first time I felt like I was beginning to know God directly, and not second hand.5
The first pushback I received was from my friends as I spent less and less time with them. I was ridiculed for it. They said that I was trying to be “holier than thou.” When I did spend time with them, they said that I was different and not fun anymore. What they meant as a critique, I now look back as a testimony that God was changing me.
I do not remember a specific time when I sat down, repented of my sins, and put my faith in the person and work of Christ. But I was increasingly living a life of repentance and faith. When I learned something new about Christ or His Gospel, it resonated with my heart and the truths became my own. My conscience grew in sensitivity. Somewhere in this whole process, God had converted my soul.
Call to Ministry
When I was twelve or thirteen, I remember having a sense that I would one day end up as a preacher. When I was 18, shortly after my conversion, I went on a short term missionary trip to India with one of my pastors. Our focus was to visit some orphanages and indigenous missionaries. During that trip I met men of God who had few possessions, yet possessed everything. They were planting churches in remote villages. They had been beaten, stabbed, and some almost burned alive for the sake of the Gospel. I saw their unswerving faith in God and love for Christ. That encounter with those men woke me up to the reality of the Christian life in light of eternity.
When I returned to the U.S., I was quite undone. I began to feel that I would never be content to live a life as a business owner (which was the path I was on). I went on a 40-day fast with hopes to discern God’s will in the matter. As a result of the fast and through counseling with my elders, the Lord led me to go back to India, this time by myself, to live with the indigenous pastors for 3 months. This trip would prove to change the course of my life.
I was still 18 when I went to India on this second, longer trip. I expected that my time would be spent learning from these Indian men and in hours of prayer. But in the strange providence of God they had planned to spend most of our time in evangelism. For two out of the three months of my stay, we traveled to countless villages sharing the Gospel. Someone from the team usually would choose an area for preaching, mostly in the open air. We would then go around to the mud huts, houses, and out to the fields to invite the locals to hear a message in the evening. We would spend a season in prayer to ask God to bring them. Then usually around 8:00pm a crowd would gather, and we would stand on a bull cart or a hefty table and preach to twenty, fifty, or sometimes a hundred people who gathered. They usually sat on a freshly harvested cotton field or next to a water well. Other times we ministered in small mud huts to a family or two. I was preaching through a translator four or five times a week.
These were some of my first experiences preaching. While standing there preaching, I remember feeling a burning in my heart and a joy, thinking that I would never be content to spend my life doing anything other than preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those few months were instrumental in my call to the ministry. Although I now feel that I was not then mature in the faith, and probably should not have been preaching, God had His own purposes. He was calling a young man into the ministry. He took my lips that were once used for destruction, and was now using them to proclaim the life giving words of the Gospel. He had shifted my pursuit for my own glory, into a pursuit of spreading His fame and glory among one of the most unreached places on earth.
To be transparent, I came back to the U.S. as a prideful young buck. I wanted to move to India right away and felt that I was ready. My elders did recognize something of a call, but saw my immaturity and admonished me to be patient and learn while serving in our church. The Lord humbled me and helped me to submit to their wise counsel. That may well be one of the most important decisions I have ever made. They began to mentor me in what was an informal internship.
I was hired on staff at the church in an administrative role. At that time our church did not have our own facility, so I worked at the house of one of my elders. I was in his house every day of the work-week for over a year. One of the greatest benefits of this season was that I saw how he treated his wife, how, when, and why he disciplined his children, how he handled matters in the church, and most importantly I learned how to love Christ and His Word. I would not exchange that time for anything.
I began going to Bible College online, and I continued my short term trips to India over the years. As time went on, the elders gave me more and more teaching and ministry opportunities.
I now have a lovely wife and three precious daughters. When my wife and I began courting, our first conversation was about ministry and India. I wanted to know if she was willing to move there. I shared that God was not calling me to be a business man (although I ran a business at the time), but was calling me to preach the Gospel, and likely in India. By God’s goodness, she was supportive from day one, and a year later we were married. It has been nearly ten years since my first trip, and we have now moved to India.
Ministry in India
My prayer for India is that through the Gospel, India would “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”6 Some might say that our sights are set too high. Would it be better if we lowered our sights? I know we are few in number. I know we are weak in frame. But we serve the One True God of the Bible, and this is not just our ambition, it is God’s. Would it not be tragic for us to ask Him for anything less?
In India we will be a part of an Indian church that is affiliated with HeartCry. The elders of that church love Christ, they love their flock, they love the lost, and they are theologically sound. What a blessing this is for my family and I, that we can be a part of a healthy church while on the mission field. While countless laborers are needed in India, there are bursts of light that are scattered across that dark land. This is an encouraging thing, and we should not ignore its reality.
When we think of India’s enormous needs, we could easily become overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. But thankfully, God has given a clear and simple game plan that we must not change. As a minister of the Gospel, God has called me to give myself to the following things: prayer,7 the study of the Word,8 the preaching of the Word,9 sacrificial love,10 and the training of “faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”11 Beyond these things we have no strategy. I believe that by devoting ourselves to these things, the Gospel will prevail and spread in India.
If I could ask one thing from you, it is that you would pray. Remember my family and I. Pray that I serve my wife and children and do not neglect them for the sake of ministry. Pray for our transition to this culture that is very different from our own. Pray that God will continuously fill us with His Spirit, with wisdom, with patience, with endurance, with love, and with joy. And pray that God would spread His fame and worship in North India.
Note: For security reasons a pen name is used for this missionary.
1. Prov 18:21, ESV
2. Gen 11:4
3. 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Jn 4:10; Is 53:4-6
4. 1 Cor 6:19, 20
5. Jn 4:42
6. Hab 2:14
7. Acts 6:4
8. 2 Tim 2:15
9. 2 Tim 4:2
10. 1 Th 2:8
11. 2 Tim 2:2