India (Part 5) Graduation

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It was a “solemn joy” to participate with PTL- Institute of Mission Studies in the graduation ceremony for 49 students: 16 with M.Div degrees and 30 with B.Th degrees and two with Certificates in Theology.

“Solemn” because you know that these graduates are going out all over India in church planting at a time when persecution against the church is a daily occurrence.

“Joyful” because Christ has promised to never leave us or forsake us and has clearly said that persecution for His name will be a special opportunity to share His glorious good news (Gospel).

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India (Part 4) The Father’s Blessing

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Father’s Blessing

I spoke on the Father’s Blessing in the women’s conference today in Delhi where my daughter Marita was the featured speaker. I said that a blessing speaks to our identity and our destiny and that a blessing enables us to prosper.

As part of my presentation, I knelt before Marita, looking her in the eyes, my hand on her shoulder, as I gave her the Father’s blessing. I told her I was pleased with her, that I delight in her and that God has a great destiny for her and her family.

Marita reminded me, through tears, that I had blessed her many times but that each time was powerfully meaningful.

I realized anew that each of us carry the power to enable the people around us to prosper through our spoken words of blessing. Yet Satan often convinces us that our words are unnecessary or will be ineffective. So we withhold the blessing.

And I saw in the tear filled eyes and subsequent testimonies of the conference participants that many still long for the father’s blessing.

I told the one’s whom I blessed that while I was not their father, I would speak the words that I believe God would have wanted their earthly fathers to have spoken to them.

In fact, our blessings bring heaven to earth and enable those we bless to walk with new expectation and realization of heaven’s favor.

India (Part 3)

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After an 8 hour road trip from Khuttar to Delhi, Marita and I decided to have a friendly father-daughter competition. We will each write an essay describing what it is like traveling in the passenger seat of a vehicle ‘hurtling’ through the jam packed roads of North India.

I am convinced I will win the competition and Marita is convinced she will. Alex will be the judge. In order not to unduly create fear and undermine tourism in ‘Incredible India’ we have decided not to publish the results on Facebook.

Marita did say that the experience driving here has been like a flooding therapy which has intensely exposed her to her fears in a way which, she believes, has forever cured her of backseat involuntary exclamations while her husband is driving. She is anticipating Todd’s surprised response when he experiences her therapeutic recovery as he drives with her on the streets of Baltimore.

If Marita’s recovery proves to be sustained, we may advice others who have spouses afflicted with ‘backseat exclamationitis’ to invest in a road trip in North India.

India (Part 2)

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We asked God to refresh, empower and position the conference participants for life changing breakthrough. And God did just that. Praise His name.

Here Marita ministers to a women’s conference at Mainiya.

India (Part 1)

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Ministering with my daughter, Marita Scholtz (husband Todd), with P.C. Alexander of PTL-India for two weeks. We will participate in leaders’ and women’s conferences from near the Nepal border to Coimbatore and to Kerala, southern India. We will also participate in the graduation ceremonies of IMS (Institute of Mission Studies) at New Delhi.

This morning we ministered in Christian Fellowship Centre, New Delhi. Tomorrow Marita conducts a women’s conference near the Nepal border and I speak at a leader’s conference.

The church in India is facing great challenges. We rejoice that we can partner with them in these critical times, praying for increasing boldness and that God may “stretch forth your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” Acts 4:30.

Survivor’s Guilt

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How does one handle ‘survivors guilt’?

We just completed a great week at the Ukunda Missions School. Vaughn and I and his leadership team are in a two day planning retreat at Chale Island. The setting is beautiful and God is moving us into clarity and unity about next steps.

But then I hear from Ruth and read on line about the historic snow storm back home. I am writing this at 3 am as the waves at high tide crash against the shore, spraying me with their mist. This spot is perfect but I struggle to be present to the beauty of this moment for my mind and heart are back in the States at a home alone Old Hershey Road.

Will Ruth and everyone else be safe? She says they are fine. She will wait till tomorrow to determine if the snow blower will work properly. I am believing God for everyone’s safety.

So should I delight that I have escaped the biggest snow storm of the last 100 years or should I feel some vaugue mixture of guilt that I am not home, mixed with regret that I will never be able to say, “I lived through the Storm of 2016.”

Whatever I should feel, I do feel something of all of the above.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13:

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content….For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

So thank God, He enables us to enjoy Him whether we are in a blizzard or on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Amani

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On my way to Ukunda to teach for a week in the Ukunda Mission School.

Spent the night at Amani Gardens Inn, a beautiful oasis in a Nairobi region booming with new construction.

The password for the Wifi was a clue that this Inn used to be known as the Mennonite Guest House. The password was Zurich followed by a date in the fifteen hundreds when the Mennonite Church was born.

I felt connected when Lillian, the gracious Kenyan manager at the front desk, both knew the origins of the password and knew my son Vaughn, founder of Ukunda Mission School and a not infrequent guest at Amani Gardens.

The assistant to the manager had no clue as to the origins of the password. So I proceeded to give him a free lecture in Anabaptist history. And he gave me a free lecture on the meaning of Amani (peace).

Doctorate for PC Alexander

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The Bible says in Romans 12:10 that we should take delight in honoring one another. I took delight today in honoring my friend P. C. Alexander by participating in the granting to him of an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree and by participating in his ordination as a Bishop. He can now be referred to as Dr. P. C. Alexander, Bishop of PTL India.  

His humility does appear intact as he is most of all focused on the ultimate honor: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of thy Lord. “

Whirlwind Trip to India

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Bishop Stephen on the left; Alex on the right.

WHY DID I GO TO INDIA FOR THIS WHIRLWIND TRIP

These are difficult times for the Christian church in India. The entire Christian Church in India represents 3% of the population. ( Hindus represent 80% and Muslims represent 13%). However 3% of the 1.2 billion population of Indian still represents millions of people.

Radical Hindus in India often view Christians as agents of the West with an assignment to change the culture. These Hindu activists are predicting that within a few years they will achieve their goal to eliminate Christianity from India and restore India to its fully Hindu roots. The present government in India, the world’s largest democracy, has alliances with the radical Hindus. Consequently the government often does not effectively respond, turning a “deaf ear and blind eye”, when churches are burned or pastors and church members are persecuted for their Christian faith.

Historically following India’s independence from Britain in 1947, the Anglican Church had a recognized position with the Indian government.. By contrast the rapidly growing Evangelical/ Pentecostal churches were organized originally as independent societies without the legal definition as churches. As a consequence they often needed to get someone from a church within the Anglican tradition to give legal validation to their marriages.

As pressure develops against the church, the independent evangelical/pentecostal churches found that there was a need for more administrative structure for their own protection. Thus they attempted to position themselves within the administrative structures recognized by the government for churches so as to have the legitimate support of those structures, as long as such positioning did not lead to compromise of their faith and values. Recently Evangelical/ Pentecostal churches have formed organizations which meet government specifications and give participating pastors an administrative structure with legal authorization to legitimize marriage ceremonies and to do the other functions of church life.

One of these organizations is called CEFI (Churches Episcopal Fellowship International). CEFI organizes pastors in dioceses with bishop oversight. Pastors must have passed basic theological studies. Thus CEFI offers independent pastors the opportunity to be organized under one administrative umbrella. Pastors credentialed by CEFI are recognized by the state and have a certain protection from the State. Although CEFI uses an episcopal administrative structure , the CEFI doctrine and mission remains fully evangelical/pentecostal. This CEFI administrative structure relates to how pastors and churches relate to the State and does not involve itself in the administration or control of the church apart from the state relationship.

For over ten years I have partnered with PTL-India, a church with over 20,000 baptized believers and organized in 100 congregations. This network of churches, primary/secondary schools and a college was founded and directed by my good friend and brother, P.C. Alexander (“Alex”). I chair a board which represents the interests of PTL-India in the States. this board is called PTL India Partners.

Recently I learned that P.C. Alexander and his pastors were thinking of joining CEFI. Alex asked me to pray and participate with his leaders in the discernment process. As we sought to hear the mind of the Lord, it became clear that God was calling PTL India to join CEFI. The leaders of CEFI share the same heart and vision for missions as do the leaders of PTL India. I met and interacted with the bishops and leaders of CEFI. I found them to be men of prayer, of faith, of love and of good works. They have a love for and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord which makes them immediately recognizable as brothers. I was honored to have learned to know them.

CEFI is a servant of the Church and will in no way be involved in the administration or control of PTL india. PTL India churches, as well as other churches in CEFI, continue to be “evangelical/ pentecostal from ‘head to toe’.”

Membership in CEFI will give participating pastors in PTL India the ‘legal identity’ as pastors with credentials authorizing them to legitimize marriages and perform the other duties of a pastor. This membership will also provide the opportunity for PTL India pastors to relate to an even broader network of evangelical/pentecostal pastors throughout India.

Tonight I will represent Kingdom Life Network (KLN), the global network of churches of which PTL India is a member. in a credentialing service. I will participate with the Leaders of CEFI, as they credential the pastors of PTL-Inda. Tomorrow I will participate in the ordination of Alex as a bishop within CEFI.

I came to India because, as one Indian brother said, “You have a heart in the shape of India.” I was eager to stand with Alex in this time of discernment and decision making. I wanted to insure along with Alex, that this new association with CEFI would in no way compromise the ministry and calling of PTL India. I praise God for the clarity He gave to move forward with confidence. And I praise God for the way He prepares and connects His people for even greater fruitfulness in this time of the great end-time Harvest.

Fishers of Men

fishers-of-menI feel as though I have been traveling in the biblical book of Acts this week with a flow of reports of signs, wonders and miracles. I have been talking with persons, many of whom a year and a half ago were unclear about their direction in life. During their training at Ukunda Missions School (UMS) they received input from teachers from all over the world and they received practical training in evangelism during which they saw hundreds come to the Lord through their efforts. Following the seven month training at UMS they were energized and anointed by the Holy Spirit to go to the nations of the world with the Gospel.

Ten of these first year graduates are now missionaries working from four bases established along the eastern coast of Kenya. The missionaries pray over the town, connect with the town elders and then systematically make door to door visits. They then establish house fellowships for Discovery Based Bible Study. There has been an abundant response to their efforts.

The missionaries gave reports of supernatural healing. One missionary was pondering how he could communicate with a man he just met. He noted that the man was blind and needed to be led everywhere. The missionary sensed that God wanted to heal this man. He asked the man and his family if he could pray for him, assuring them that God could heal him. I will pray in Jesus name.”

They said,“No problem, just pray.”

The missionary prayed, “Oh Lord in Jesus name, I speak healing. He is blind but I know you will heal him in Jesus name.” Although the blind man was not immediately healed, the missionary left with joy and confidence that the Lord would answer his prayer.

The next day the missionary was located by the man’s brother who informed him that his brother could now see and could move around the house to take care of his daily business without being led, for the first time in 17 years. Subsequent to this, the man who had been blind and his brother became followers of Jesus.

Another missionary on a house to house visit asked a stranger if she could speak with her. The woman responded that she did not wish to talk about Jesus. The missionary responded, “ Could you give me a minute to tell you what I wish to talk about and then you can decide if you wish to talk further based on what I have said.”

The woman agreed and the missionary shared briefly; however this led to a prolonged conversation which ended with the woman praying to receive Jesus. The missionary then prayed over her and left.

Several days later the missionary learned from a contact on the street that this new Christian was trying to find her to inform her that when she prayed to receive Christ earlier that week she had at the same time been healed of a chronic bleeding disorder of one year’s duration. The missionary had not known of the bleeding disorder at the time of the prayer for salvation.

The missionaries joyfully reported the day by direction by the Holy Spirit and empowerment to do things they had never thought possible. They pray about every step, “Lord show us which houses to visit today; show us what to say…” And God intimately guides those who cast the details of their lives upon Him.

As I spoke with the missionaries I recalled Paul’s words that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and He has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…” These missionaries whom I last saw a year ago at their graduation are now mighty in word and deed under the training and guidance of the Holy Spirit. They go everywhere preaching the Gospel.

“We have the favor of God; we are called to posses the Land; we have no fear!”, proclaimed one of the missionaries.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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