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Over a century ago, a young leader of the Church in India, the Rev. V. S. Azariah, addressed the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. He asked for a new form of mission partnership between East and West: “Give us friends.”
This past November the Kolhapur Church Council in Western India welcomed an Outreach Foundation team of ten Americans and Brazilians to experience friendship and mutual equipping for God’s mission. In just over a week, we:
- Participated in the Kolhapur Church Council’s biennial mission conference. This year’s theme was “Making God’s Mission Our Mission,” and the theme verse from Scripture was John 3:17. Indian, Brazilian, and American participants took turns sharing our thoughts and experiences of how we can become more fully engaged in God’s mission.
- Visited churches and home meeting groups. In each place were inquirers seeking to follow Jesus and asking for prayer for many needs.
- Shared what each of us in our respective countries were doing in the way of church planting and disciple-making.
The US and Brazilian participants were truly amazed and inspired by the way the Indian Church, from top to bottom, has aligned itself around the vision of starting 1000 new house churches in the next six years. They call this “Vision 2020.” The mission conference we attended mobilizes the church to commit to the vision. The Good Shepherd Bible School of the Kolhapur Church Council (KCC) has adopted a sustainable, replicable way of training workers to start new home groups. Each church of the KCC–its pastors, evangelists and lay leaders execute to this vision.
To sustain a commitment to multiplying churches is not easy in a largely Hindu context. Persecution of the church is not constant, but is never far away. Even without external barriers, the commitment to church planting requires total “buy-in” from the churches of the KCC if their vision is to accomplished by the year 2020. But as the Rev. S.K. Pathane, Executive Secretary of the Kolhapur Church Council, shared with the group, “If the harvest force increases, the vision is achievable.”
With that inspiration and the catchy refrain of the theme song of the conference, we departed India having made new friends. The US participants hope to see Brazilian-style church planting next year. Brazilians and Americans alike have been invited to return to India and spend more time with youth and young adults. Both Brazilian and American alike want to invite the key leaders of the Kolhapur Church Council to share their focused vision with our respective churches. A friendship for mission fruitfulness and faithfulness has been forged.
Thanks be to God!
For this mission conference, whose theme was “Making God’s Mission Our Mission,” one of the young adults composed a theme song by the same title. Through the song we learned the Marathi phrase for “Making God’s Mission Our Mission”– “Devache seva karya.” Amen. May it be so!