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September 2020

Encouraging Words From Galatia

How do we encourage someone? In one instance, Paul and Barnabas shows us how this is done. They encouraged the Galatians “to continue in the faith. . . . appointed elders for them in every church.” (See, Book of Acts 14:22-23.) This act of appointing leaders is their way of encouraging the believers.

And yet, in just a few years, Paul writes to these new believers in Galatia and calls them “foolish Galatians.” (See Galatians 3:1.) He is frustrated with their fickle mindedness. He is surprised that they were easily persuaded by another gospel. (See Galatians 1:6-9.) So, what we see in The Letter Of Paul To The Galatians is a series of reminders to these believers. Paul explains the gospel of Jesus Christ and the role that faith has for the believers of this gospel. He concludes with the Fruit of the Spirit as evidence of those who walk by the Spirit of God. Those who are truly encouraged by the gospel will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. How do we then encourage someone?

So, encouraging words is not enough. We need to establish systems and introduce structures so that new believers continue in the faith and are not persuaded by heresy or other forms of the gospel. We move on and equip the leaders with good teaching and sound biblical theology.

In South Asia we try to leave a long lasting encouragement to our brothers and sisters there. Just like Paul and Barnabas, we appoint elders to lead the work of many local Christian communities. We nurture groups of leaders who are expressing dynamic service. We coach these leaders to establish indigenous political structures that serve their needs and function naturally with their newfound faith in Jesus. We encourage them with a theology that makes sense to the South Asian world.

We have to give credit to Paul and Barnabas though. They tried to encourage the Galatians with more than just words. They visited the churches for the second time on their way back to Jerusalem (Acts 14:21). They appointed elders over these churches and committed them to the Lord (Acts 14:23). They warned them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (verse 22). They prayed and fasted. And when they got back to their home base in Antioch, they shared the Galatian work with their sending churches. They declared what God is doing in Asia and Galatia.

In South Asia, we want to leave long-lasting forms of encouragement to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Whenever we are there, we give them good pastoral training that is both biblical and Wesleyan. When we leave, we remind them of the prayers of the global family. Would you join us in praying for the leaders of South Asia? Let us “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Would you pray for God’s work in South Asia?

To The South Asian God: Resham Tamang

Paul’s sermon in Athens in the Book of Acts chapter 17 always fascinates me. In this speech, Paul is able to connect the Creator-God concept to the reality of the Savior-God. I saw this connecting line in one of my conversations with a South Asian gentleman, Resham. But before we go to Resham’s story, let us look at Acts 17. Now, if you do not have a lot of time to read the whole chapter, you can just read with me a few verses which I included here (below). 

(Acts 17:23-24, 31, ESV). “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . . [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him [Jesus] from the dead.”

Let me share Resham’s story. 

Resham is a Christian from South Asia NP. I met him last year in Kathmandu. He shared to me an encounter he had with Jesus. Before he became a Christian, he was a teenaged boy living in a remote village up in the Himalayan mountains. At that time, his father was working in West Asia as a migrant worker. After four years, his father came home and was telling everyone about following Jesus. Apparently, his father became a Christian when he was working in West Asia. He was the only Christian in the village. That time, if anyone became a Christian, they were persecuted for their faith. The village's authority would come and ask them to leave the village under threat of physical harm. This happened to Resham’s father and yet he kept sharing his Christian faith, even going to other villages in the mountain area. Without any sign of fear, he kept trying to convince the whole village to follow Jesus. Resham even witnessed his father invoking the name of Jesus for the healing of village people who were sick and infirm. He did not necessarily agree with his father. He could not bring himself to fully embrace this new found faith in the family. But he respected his father and tolerated this situation.

At one time, Resham’s father was not home and out of the village somewhere. One night, a group of people from another village came to Resham’s home carrying a sick person. They were expecting Resham’s father to come and heal their sick friend. They were so disappointed that no one was going to pray for their sick friend. They still needed to go back to their own place which is a few hours of walking and they did not want to bring back a sick person with them. In their desperation, they asked Resham to pray for the sick person. Resham relented and prayed. The sick person was healed and the visitors went home to their own village.

Resham was not a believer when he uttered the prayer for healing. He later shared with me that he consented to the people’s request for prayer out of pity for the sick person and nothing else. His prayer was like this: “I pray for healing for this person in the name of the God that my father believes.” He recounted to me that he has seen his father say “In Jesus Name!” many times while praying for sick people or laying hands on those who ask for prayer. He simply imitated that prayer because he did not know what else to do. He did not expect anything to happen. However, God intervened and brought healing to the sick.

Now, Resham and his family are active members of a local church in the city of Kathmandu. He also helps the local pastor with occasional preaching and with some other leadership responsibilities. Resham, on many occasions, has helped me with translation work and documentation. His story testifies of God’s intervention in spite of the people’s inadequacies and limitation. God is in control. God is the Creator and the Savior of the world.

Prayer For Justice (2017-2020)

I am praying for a country, where there is "justice for the fatherless and the widow, and love [for] the sojourners, giving them food and clothing" (Deut. 10:18 ESV). I am praying for its President and "for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to him for what we do with our lives" (1 Tim. 2:2 PHILLIPS). I am praying for the citizens of the land to "be generous to the poor, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim freedom to prisoners," even those in bondage to addiction and those who are blinded by racial discrimination (See Matt. 11:5; Luke 4:18-20; and Luke 11:41 NIV). I am praying like Jesus did, with the "Spirit on him; he’ll proclaim justice to the nations" (Matt. 12:18, and Isaiah 42:1 NIV). I am praying for "justice [to] roll down like waters; and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24 NASB). Let us humbly pray and seek God's face so that healing will come to our nations (See 1 Chronicles 7:14). I am praying. Please pray with me. (DWC, Sept. 2017)

Don't Be Surprised

Weather in Michigan can be very confusing. One minute it is 70 degrees and sunny. The next could turn to 45 degrees and chilly. Don’t be surprised when this happens.

The Bible tells us to “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you” (1 Peter 4:12. ESV). We should not feel  as though something strange is happening to us. Peter states that we should rejoice because we have the opportunity to share in the suffering of Jesus. Does this spiritual truth surprise you?

One time I was on a video call with Pastor Abraham from South Asia. He reported that Pastor Samuel from R-district is moving “freely” in the villages, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. These last few months of the Covid pandemic, five people were baptized and their weekly fellowship grew from ten people to twenty-five persons. To be honest, I was a little surprised. What is strange about this video call report?

We often assume that because of lockdown, quarantine, remote work, and other restrictions, the work of God is on hold. Not so in South Asia. My pastor friends continues his report: 20 baptism from Pastor Uddhav and one new church plant in his area; 10 baptisms from Pastor Prem; and three decisions for Christ from Pastor Suk. God is at work in Asia. These pastors are not surprised with the difficulties brought about by the pandemic. Yes, they are suffering. Some of them are probably starving because delivery of food and other basic services are limited. And yet, they continue to share the gospel and serve our God.

Are we surprised that these hardships are upon us? What trials are you experiencing during these months of restrictions and physical distancing? Can we say with Peter that God is at work in our communities? Are you rejoicing in the midst of your pain and difficult life experiences? Let us read Peter’s admonition again.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”  (1 Peter 4:12. MSG) “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19. ESV).