It is always a great honor to be able to serve the men that we support. Most of the trips that I take overseas focus on doing just that. Whether it is holding training conferences or just dropping by for encouragement, there is always a sense of joy and familiarity associated with being with the men we pray for. This makes the long and hard journey worth it. However, sometimes the Lord graciously opens up a new door for HeartCry, a door of exploration. This is where we have the privilege of going into a new field, where there is no HeartCry supported missionary. Although there is unfamiliarity associated with a trip of this nature, there is an excitement which fuels the travel. This was the primary purpose of the recent trip I took to South India in August. It was an exploratory trip, a trip of breaking new ground.
Before jumping in and speaking about the details of this trip, I think it is important to review how HeartCry functions. We can do this by answering two questions: How do we know where to go, and what are we looking for? Let’s look at these in reverse order. When it comes to new areas of ministry, the main thing we look for is a hub church. A hub church is a mature, self-sustaining church that is like-minded in doctrine and practice. These hubs are overseen by men who are recognized as men of integrity and sound doctrine, who can provide a level of oversight we could not hope to attain from such a distance. We must have a church like this in order for HeartCry to function properly in any area, especially a new area.
This begs the question,
“How do we know where to go?”
The short answer is, we pray and rely upon the Lord to open the door. We don’t go into a random village or city, contact churches in that area, and then examine them to see who qualifies to be a HeartCry supported pastor. Instead, we rely on HeartCry missionaries to help us out in this process. It is impossible for us, being located on the other side of the earth, to truly determine the state of a ministry in a one-week visit or Skype calls. The cultural differences and language barriers makes that impossible. There are just some things that the western eye cannot see, but someone from within the culture would notice as a huge red flag. We rely heavily on the men we have an intimate relationship with. For example, sometimes we are contacted by a like-minded church/ministry in the States that has a relationship with a church in India whom they think highly of. Our first response is not to email that church directly and begin a dialogue. Our first response, however, is to reach out to the men on the ground to see if they know this church. If not, then I would request that they contact the church to learn more about them, invite them to a training conference, or go and visit them. We want them to build a relationship with this church and pastor. They are able to provide a level of discernment that we do not have. Relationships like this take time, and we would rather take that time, than to jump into something that would potentially hurt the kingdom and blaspheme the name of our Savior.
Needless to say, this trip in South India didn’t happen overnight. In fact, two years of groundwork had already been laid for the first church we visited. One of the hub leaders in India had been building a relationship with this church. He visited it, and they visited him. I had personally met the elders twice before at conferences. I walked away impressed both times, so I was excited to get a chance to learn more about this work. What I discovered was another testimony of the grace of God. I was blown away by their stories and the diverse backgrounds that each of the elders and members came from. Bakht Singh* himself baptized one of the elders, while some others came out of the New Apostolic cult. Each story I heard was a cause for praise. The Lord had masterfully brought this body together, and through the study of the Scriptures, the Lord had stripped away the false teaching from their past, and reformed them.
Even the rented space they met in sang the praises of the Lord, for they met in a part of the city that was under the authority of a local Indian gang. To operate a business in that district, one would have to pay their monthly “dues” for protection. Yes, monthly dues! Just like you would see in a mafia movie. However, the Lord had given favor to this church, and the gang said they would protect them for free. The head of the group even told them that if anyone harassed them, to let him know and he would take care of it.
There was nothing extravagant about the place where they met, it was simply a small square room with a couple of walls painted bright yellow. The service wasn’t extravagant either, and it was refreshing to see this self-supported church have a very simple service. They weren’t seeking to entertain the worldly. They sang several songs, had prayer, preached an expository message, and then had communion. What stood out the most in my interaction with them was their humility and desire to learn. They asked questions, and were eager to understand. They have studied systematic theology, read books, and can quote the Scriptures, but they admitted their struggle in regards to practical application. None of these men have been a part of, or seen a healthy church modeled before them. Please pray for HeartCry and this work as we pray about how we can help.
The second stop on this trip was also to visit a new work, however, this stop was a bit different. It was a visit to a newly supported HeartCry missionary, who has just begun a new church plant. This was an exciting stop for me, because Charlie is the first of what we hope to be many. Let me explain. Charlie was sent out by a hub church in N. India. He was sent back to the place where he grew up, with a desire to plant a church in his mother tongue of Telugu. Why is this so exciting? Because this is the first time (in India) that HeartCry has seen someone come through the internship of a HeartCry supported church, and then be sent out and partially supported by the sending church. In June of 2018, HeartCry agreed to come beside our hub church to help fill the gap that was lacking in his support. This will allow Charlie to give himself fully to the ministry in these crucial early stages of the work. For the next four years he will receive full support. After that, HeartCry will begin reducing the monthly support, which would allow the church to begin supporting him.
From our visit, it was obvious that Charlie has hit the ground running. In fact, the day before I visited him, he had his first Telugu Bible study. You could feel his excitement when he spoke about it. He is truly plowing new ground. After hearing his testimony and his vision for this church plant, I am excited to see what the Lord will do with his life. He is the type of pastor that India needs: theologically sharp, discerning, humble, organized, gracious, and most important of all, a man who desires to live in the presence of God.
The third stop on this trip was also to a place that we had never been before. It was to a major city that continues to explode, as it seems all of India is flooding into it. This particular stop had two goals, (1) to get to know a local minister that I had met several times on previous trips, and (2) to preach to his congregation about missions. Both goals were met with success. I had numerous opportunities to sit down and talk with the pastor, and to really get a feel for the direction he is headed in. I was also able to speak to the congregation about
“What is a Missionary?”
This was met with no less than 15 questions concerning the topic! It was great to see the people interact with the Scriptural evidence that was presented to them. The following day, we walked through Matt. 9:35- 10:38, looking at the
“Motive for Missions,” “The Message of Missions,” and the “Cost of Missions.”Matt. 9:35- 10:38
All in attendance seemed to be greatly affected.
We praise the Lord for the opportunities he allowed us to experience. From my first trip to India in 2012, to this last trip in August, I can truly say that the Lord is doing something great in this land. It may not be seen by most, especially in the midst of the noise and the false, but there is a foundation being laid throughout the land. I truly believe that the Lord is reforming his people and laying the groundwork for years to come. It is exciting. It is ground breaking.
* BAKHT SINGH IS POSSIBLY INDIA’S MOST FAMOUS CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST. HE DIED IN THE YEAR 2000, AND HAS OVER 10,000 CHURCHES ASSOCIATED WITH HIM.
Jeff began working for HeartCry in 2015. As coordinator for Asia, he currently oversees the missionaries in Nepal and India. Jeff currently lives in Virginia with his wife and four children.More By Jeff S.