God is working in amazing ways in this part of the world changing the lives of thousands of people day by day and transforming entire communities. It is simply thrilling to be a part of His great work and to be instrumental in the process of God drawing people to Himself. The work of winning souls to Jesus is much needed and good, but it is not an end in itself. There is more to the Mission of God that we are called to continue than simply adding a few more 'Christians' to the existing numbers. The Gospel narrative in Matthew describes the ministry of Jesus as, "proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness"(Mat 9:35). Jesus himself affirmed that He was sent to "proclaim the good news of the Kingdom"(Luke 4:43). What is this "good news of the Kingdom"? It is good news of humanity’s liberation from bondage and reconciliation with God. In other words, it is the good news of renewal and transformation from the 'status quo'. It is also the good news of God's transforming power over individual lives and then ultimately the extension of His reign over all the earth.
Community transformation is at the heart of all of IGL's ministry and outreach. The ultimate 'big picture' vision is to witness a huge spiritual and cultural shift take place on a large scale and on a national level. Although this may sound much like a 'pipe dream' and seem unlikely, this is indeed happening. Such a shift is coming about slowly but steadily as the Gospel continues to change and transform one village after another for the better. When we talk about 'transformation', it isn't just about people getting better and their poor living conditions changing. Transformation from our stand point is about lives changed inside out and the values of God's Kingdom becoming deep seeded in the hearts and minds of people. Transformation is about a total shift from centuries-old ingrained negative cultural beliefs, practices and world views. Such transformation doesn't happen by a few random acts of mercy and love done here and there. Tiny attempts at being good and doing good will never bring about the sustainable results that are expected. True change comes about as a result of intentional planting of the gospel seed in the hearts of people, followed by consistent nurturing through discipleship, systematic teaching of the Word, training in skills and equipping for multiplication. It involves dedicated and hard work. IGL is committed to exactly this level of transformation. Everything that is said and done through IGL’S ministry is geared toward achieving this end. With your help, support and prayer IGL teams are working in and out of season without holding back in any way.
It has taken years of preparation to get to where we are. Now the ground is prepared, ready and fertile. God has called us to live and work during a period of great receptivity. The harvest is plenteous. A very unique season of God in Kingdom advancement is observed. God’s hand is seen bringing renewal and transformation in a new way. We simply cannot afford to not be a part of it. Thank you for standing with us at an exciting time such as this.
"Where there is no vision people perish." Proverbs 29:18
India Gospel League invests an enormous amount of efforts and resources in its children's ministry. We do so with the conviction that the future of this nation is in the hands of today's children. They are the next generation leaders who will have the capacity to change the course of history toward the destiny God has purposed for His people. Raising a godly generation of committed leaders for the future is a vision that we have embraced over many decades.
Much is heard about the huge strides India is making in economic growth and progress. While this is true indeed, it must to be pointed out that a huge segment of the nation's population still lag behind in poverty, squalor and dire need. Those who suffer most are children. Their lives will not get any better nor will their future be any different unless urgent and intentional steps are taken for transformation. Causes that put children in crises need to be addressed with a holistic vision of the future. That is what IGL does.
We do not see our efforts merely as a children's ministry or outreach to children in the traditional way. From our perspective, Touching their lives now with the Gospel and through a variety of programs that make a difference in their spiritual, physical, social, economic and psychological wellbeing means making a difference for the future of the growing indigenous church and the future of a nation.
Further, South Asia sadly lags behind in developing able leaders for the future. Our institutions and programs are focused on holistic care for thousands of children and fully committed their leadership development as well. The challenge we face and the task ahead is enormous. Nevertheless, God who has entrusted us with this huge responsibility is far greater. We continue to move forward trusting Him to do His work through us. Much more remains to be done and the needs grow in proportion. May I urge you to pray and strengthen our hands as we reach out to the most deserving of God's children with His love. Your support is making a difference and I am grateful.
Although India, the world’s largest democracy is seen today as a fast developing economy, the existing systems and structures provide for only a small portion of the population to benefit. There is much talk about India facing the future with its changing realities. However, there lies ahead the staggering task of dealing with traditions, culture and structures that are established. The nation is currently going through a wave of political, social and economic changes. Interestingly, with the dynamics of caste and religion playing a dominant role, all of these are closely interrelated in a way that is quite unique only to this country.
Presently, it is evident that adequate measures are not taken to address the unemployment of a majority of Indians. They are young and they are the nation’s future but they lack the opportunities. These young men and women must be empowered to participate both in the benefits of the country’s economic growth as well as contribute to it. To realize this vision, education and intensive training in skills that prepare and equip them for employment and the labor market must become accessible to them. Currently this is not happening and the end result despite the progress, is a widening divide between the rich and the poor.
Now, why should this be of any concern to us? For two reasons. First, the indigenous church is growing in the midst of this reality that cannot simply be brushed aside. Secondly, the movement toward Christ is among the poor, underprivileged, marginalized and oppressed communities. Unless issues relating to social and economic development are addressed even at this early stage of church growth, it will be difficult to break the cycle of dependency and lay the foundations for sustainability. The church should have a robust and credible witness in the community and serve as a catalyst for change as salt and light.
IGL does not see such a holistic vision as an optional add on to the Gospel or as a means to presenting Christ to the unreached. Development is a natural as well as a biblically mandated consequence as we lead with the Gospel. As the Apostle Paul proclaimed: “Our Gospel came to you not only in word but also in power . . . (I Thes 1:5).” This power of the gospel is seen at work each day through our ministry – the power that is not restricted to the spiritual change of an individual alone but the power that transforms entire communities.
IGL is deeply committed to this vision and strives to make such socially and economically uplifting opportunities available to the deprived rural masses. In our Life Centers, large numbers of young people are trained in various skills. Such training opens doors for their employment and economic development. Young men and women graduate each year with a government certified diploma from the Sharon Community college in Salem, equipped with various skills and the ability to cope with the challenges of transforming their own communities. Our Micro finance programs continue to lift thousands out of poverty. Your support at this significant time will help us step up, reach wider and do much more. The only thing that holds us back is the need of adequate resources.
2014 was a good year in many respects for IGL. Day after day we experienced God’s miraculous provision through His children helping the ministry move forward significantly with its outreach. This new year 2015 looks bright, holding great opportunities for the ministry despite the increasing pressure on minorities in India by Hindu fundamentalists. This calls for much prayer, thoughtful planning, careful and strategic implementation of our programs, exercising sensitivity on our part to the changing contexts. A strong yet silent Christian witness is the need of the hour. Thank you for standing with us in prayer and support.
May the Lord bless you with His very best through each remaining day of this year and always.
The Apostle John’s words of blessing: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (III John v2) is such an intrinsic vision of holistic and radical development that the Gospel brings into one’s life. It is with this same prayer and vision that IGL’s ministry reaches out to the people of South Asia.
The health of a community, its literacy level and economic development are interrelated in a cyclical and complex way. Along with other factors, it is proven that improved health is a result of development which is accomplished through higher income, the possibilities of which are increased through education and acquiring of skills for employment. Unfortunately, the rural villages of India lag behind as these issues are not adequately addressed. I firmly believe that the spiritual darkness that overshadows the masses, superstitious beliefs and practices that still continue to hold them captive are significant contributors to the lack of progress in these areas.
The majority of deaths in India are on account of easily preventable diseases. A significant number of people living in rural villages have to travel more than 20 miles to avail of even the barest of health care and basic medical facilities. This distance is greatly magnified, considering the fact that it has to be covered walking or using other primitive means of transportation. In other words, whole masses of the population of India are literally left without access to health care.
IGL’s medical work is very much a part of its holistic outreach into these rural villages meeting both individual as well as community needs. In regions where IGL has established a Christian witness, we have pioneered in many ways in community health. This has been accomplished through the training and equipping of rural health workers and aggressive community development efforts implemented through its Life Centers. In the entire district of Salem, IGL was the first to establish a cancer center with facilities for diagnosis and care, reaching out as the only such facility for more than 3million people. Right now we are once again pioneering in the field of tele-medicine, actively striving to connect the rural masses with basic health care using an indigenously manufactured device. Scores of IGL’s Life Centers built in remote areas nationwide provide great possibilities to set up these simple units and connect them online to the Sharon hospital base in Salem or in fact anywhere in the world. The immediate potential we have now to bring about a huge transformation in rural health care is truly incredible.
Specialized training in tele-medicine is currently included along with nursing, community health, lab and x-ray technology in IGL’s training college in Salem. We envision such training programs established in several locations of India and Sri Lanka over the next few years. Graduates going out of these centers will be able to bring health care to the unreached rural areas. Thank you for sharing the vision of holistic development brought to these nations as the Gospel is proclaimed and the Church moves forward. Together we can make a huge difference.
Let me speak very frankly from my heart. I am a father with grown up children and quite a few of them! We don’t have to go into all the details now. I cannot claim to be the ideal father nor the best father that the world has seen. Although over the years I have collected a stack of cards, plaques, coffee mugs and other mementos presented by my children. They claim that I am the best. I have always questioned the veracity of that claim. I am also one of those who in the pursuit of my growing ministry and related travel missed quite a bit of their growing up years.
I am sure many fathers my age who read this feel the same way. No matter what, as fathers we always feel we have not done enough. We wish we could have given a little more of our time and energy. We wish we could have loved them a little more, or we wish we could have disciplined them a bit more. We wish we hadn’t missed out on so much of our children’s growing up years. I must confess that there have been times when I have felt utterly worthless as a father. On the other hand there are also times when with much gratitude I am able to look back and honestly say, “I don’t know what I did well but my children turned out great.”
Then, you may be a younger father with young children and you are asking, “How can I be the best?” What I am trying to say is that there is no fixed formula that can be applied which in turn will produce angels. Nevertheless, the Bible lays down several fundamental principles for Christian fatherhood that can produce godly individuals. Let me briefly highlight a few of those, not necessarily in the same order of priority as they are mentioned. They are not conclusive either. These broad yet fundamental guiding principles have over the years been of great help to me.
First, we must recognize that each one of them is uniquely created in God’s own image. The Bible teaches that we are ‘God’s workmanship (poiema- in Greek)’ meaning God’s masterpiece of creation (Ephesians 2:10). Each one has unique needs and responds to these needs in unique ways. Fathers must learn to recognize and address this uniqueness in each individual child. Secondly, we must understand that God loves our children and cares for them much more than we can ever do. Love them as much as you cannot love them anymore than you possibly can. Third, endeavor to live a life before your children honoring God in everything. Know that your life speaks louder than words. We have a heavenly father and we read in Matthew 5:48 that we must be perfect as He is perfect. Finally, for me one of the most difficult principles to learn and embrace, is: when time comes, release your children and hand them over to the care of their creator. God knows their future and it rests in His hands. Fathers are only caretakers for a relatively short period in the lives of their children. Of course, we can help, support, provide counsel whenever needed but we have no ownership over them forever. God does.
Read on. There is so much more in this issue of Revive on fathers and our role in not only bringing up our children but raising brilliant Christian leaders who can revive the Church. Fathers have a unique and significant role in the Kingdom.
Be encouraged, be blessed.
Dear Friends, 2015 was a year of dramatic growth for the church in South Asia, by God’s grace. It was also a year of increasing pressure on Christians.
The political climate in India today has shifted in favor of Hindu fundamentalism, which has led to a noticeable uptick in Christian persecution. One study by the Catholic Secular Forum noted more than 365 attacks against Christian institutions in 2015, up from 120 just a year earlier. Eight Christians are known to have to have been martyred last year, and more than 8,000 reported being attacked or severely harassed by extremists. Reports emerged throughout 2015 of “forced reconversions” – that is, believers in Jesus being forced to conduct worship rituals for Hindu idols. Of course, many attacks go unreported due to ongoing threats.
Believers in other South Asian nations face similar difficulties.
For this reason, we continue to pray for our God’s protection of our network, which now involves more than 85,000 village congregations. The church is growing at such an exponential rate – resistance should come as no surprise to us! As Jesus explained to his disciples in John 16: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
For the first time in history, the gospel work is multiplying in this area of the world to such an extent that the statistics are beginning to change. Years ago, we estimated that more than 500,000 villages still needed their first church. Today, that estimate has fallen to just 370,000. (Still a lot of work to do, no doubt, but there is much to celebrate!) Tribal, rural areas that have never before had a Christian witness are now home to thousands of new believers – many of them young people who are boldly stepping up to live (and die, if necessary) for Christ. (In 2015, IGL churches reported more than 148,000 baptisms!)
The pastors and frontline workers of India Gospel League are committed to continuing their work despite increasing pressure from the world. In fact, the difficult political climate and the increase in resistance has strengthened our resolve – we must finish the task Jesus gave us to accomplish, we must see achurch planted in every village!
Increasing militancy against the Christian faith underscores a key reason for our strategic approach at IGL. We believe that churches should be self-sustaining, self-led, self-replicating organizations – not dependent on outside leadership or resources. And, for those of you who know our ministry well, you know this is one of the reasons for the significant growth we’ve seen over the past two decades, even with relatively few supported pastors. The vast majority of IGL work is designed to sustain itself – meaning that if the political or economic winds change, and international partnership is no longer possible, the work of the gospel will continue moving forward.
Outside support (from friends like you!) is used to help jumpstart important new work in additional villages and unreached regions, equipping pastors, offering ministry tools, etc. But once a work has begun in a given area, we immediately take steps to bring the fledgling church to a place of healthy self-sufficiency (or God-sufficiency, to be more accurate). This is one of the reasons we lay so much emphasis on leadership training, theological instruction and church-based ministry. We aren’t looking to be the “hero” in unreached villages – we want to empower churches to reach their own communities effectively.
I’d like to think that this approach makes our work much more “persecution-proof” than it otherwise would be, if IGL was run as a top-down denominational-style organization. And, because almost all of IGL’s 85,000 planted churches are self-sustaining, the light can continue shining all across India regardless of economic or political circumstances. However, our church planting pastors are still very much in need of prayers – from their own congregations, and from friends across the world. Your Partnership
When I recount all the ways God was at work through IGL last year, I really stand back, amazed and excited. Jesus is building His kingdom in ways we never thought possible, at a rate we never could have strategized to accomplish. What is happening in South Asia today is, by all accounts, supernatural. We are seeing the presence and power of God, touching lives and transforming communities! Although numeric reports can never tell the whole story (as every number represents one precious soul, one person whom God loves deeply), I want to offer you a few statistics to celebrate as we think back to last year. And, for those of you who have partnered with us in 2015, I want you to know that this celebration is yours as much as it is ours. Because you stood with us, more lives have been touched, more families have been reached, more churches have been planted, more leaders have been trained. For example, in 2015:
These and other statistics seem almost too good to be true! And yet, is this not what we expect when God is at work? He deserves all the glory for what is occurring in South Asia today.
Looking forward, I want to encourage you to keep praying. Yes, persecution is growing. Opposition lurks everywhere, and extremists are feeling empowered to carry out their dark agenda. But right alongside that darkness, a great light is shining. Jesus is building His church, just as He promised to do.
Every day, on the front lines of the gospel’s advance, lives are being transformed. Families are surrendering to Christ. Pastors are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, forging into areas that have never heard the name “Jesus.” And across the world, God is prompting more and more partners to join the work – to help us cross the finish line, to take advantage of what may be the greatest gospel opportunity in a generation.
In 2016 we are praying for God to continue exceeding our best expectations, “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Looking forward,
Sam Stephens President, India Gospel League
P.S. We currently have more than 300 church planters in need of startup support to push into new regions, about 7,600 children who are awaiting sponsorship, hundreds of pastors interested in receiving theological training, whole regions available for adoption – there really are opportunities everywhere. If you’d like to be a part of the IGL story in 2016, we’d love to partner with you, for God’s glory. Just contact our U.S. office to get started!