Having the Global Gathering in New Delhi was a bold decision in a country where less than 3% of the population is Christian. The hope was that holding the Global Gathering in the capital would encourage the government of India to be more visible in promoting religious freedom.
However, bureaucratic government regulations and unexpected costs led the Indian planning committee to suggest a venue change from New Delhi to Damoh, India. The World Convention board approved this change in September 2016.
The move to Damoh called for great effort from the Indian committee, led by President Ajai Lall. The staff of Central India Christian Mission (CICM), other ministries in Damoh, and many volunteers worked tirelessly to transform the campus of CICM into a welcoming place for over 3000 visitors from 29 countries and 21 Indian states. The hospitality of the Indian Christians was overwhelming, from the gracious welcoming ceremony each person received, to the accommodations and excellent food.
The Gathering began Thursday evening, January 12, with a plenary session held in a beautifully appointed tent, lit by chandeliers, with a large banner behind the stage with the theme, “God Breaks Down Walls to Build Bridges.” The parade of flags from the 29 countries and 21 Indian states of those present began the Gathering, accompanied by the song, “He Reigns.” Hosts Indu and Ajai Lall welcomed the attendees, followed by a traditional welcome dance by students from the Nursing School of Central India Christian Mission. Government and ecumenical guests gave greetings, followed by citations presented to Robert K. Welsh of the United States, Lyndsay and Lorraine Jacobs of New Zealand, and Leonard W. Thompson of India.
After lively singing, led by Indians, Ajai Lall spoke on the assembly theme, identifying three walls that Jesus came to tear down: the wall between head and heart, the wall between faith and action, and the wall between traditionalism and truth. Brent Liebezeit of Nelson, New Zealand, was the second speaker of the night, giving a rousing call to remember that Jesus is God with us. He ended with an invitation to allow Jesus to lead us into a revolution that takes us beyond borders to tear down walls of guilt, shame, and failure.
“Jah masih ki! That’s the Hindi phrase all participants learned on the second day of the Global Gathering. It means, “Praise the Lord!”
And there was much to give praise for on Friday of the Gathering. The day began with a greeting from Richard Howell, General Secretary for Asia Evangelical Alliance and Vice President of World Evangelical Alliance. Howell encouraged all present to be part of the Global Christian Forum. His greeting was followed by the plenary session with speakers Jeff Fife of Brazil and Andrzej Bajenski of Poland. Fife urged those present to build bridges to those who do not know Jesus and bridges among Christians. “To build bridges, we must have a servant spirit.” Bajenski had a brilliant twist on the Gathering theme, reminding us that there is a good wall, the wall that surrounds the New Jerusalem, with gates that admit the holy people of God into his Presence.
The afternoon provided three concurrent sessions for women, men, and youth. At the Global Women Connecting meeting, Sheela Lall challenged those present to unite to break walls of darkness, hurt, and fear. Abhineeta Matney presented the Aatma Vikas ministry as the service project of Global Women Connecting. David Eubanks and Brent Liebezeit spoke to an overflow crowd of youth. At the men’s session, drawing from the story of the woman at the well (John 4), Dave Stewart showed how Jesus educated the Disciples in love. David Henry urged social change brought through seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Late afternoon brought workshops focusing on unity and mission throughout the world. Before the evening session, there was a cultural program of traditional Indian dance. Evening worship included recognition of long-serving ministers to India. Denford Chizanga brought a message of peace with God in the midst of storms from Mark 4. Usha Rees called those present to bridge to others in love, saying “Stop judging how far people still have to go, and start celebrating how far they have come.” Friday was a full day of blessing. “Jah masih ki!”
Saturday morning began with a greeting from Ajay Singh, the state minister, who was honored for his protection of the Christian minority in India. This was followed by a joyful presentation in song and dance by children from the children’s home in Damoh.
Radical love seemed to be the theme for the morning session, Josh Howard called all to a renewed Restoration Movement that restored radical love, radical generosity, and radical unity. LeRoy Lawson followed with a reminder that God translated his love into body language through the incarnation and he asks us to embody that same love. With Jesus as the bridge to God, Lawson asked us to be the ramp that leads others to the bridge.
At noon, several persecuted Christians from different areas of India gave their testimony to a small group of those from outside India. One woman told of the attack where she was repeatedly raped and her husband was killed. A man told of being beaten unconscious, only to wake in the hospital to find his wife had been murdered. All because they would not renounce their Christianity. There was even testimony from a man who once persecuted Christians, then became one himself, and now plants churches in northern India. Such stories of faith moved the hearers to tears and to prayers thanking God for the courage of these believers.
Afternoon were the second sessions of the youth, men’s and women’s fellowships. Lydia Soko from Zimbabwe spoke to on “Loving the Unlovable” and Esline Toamavute from Vanuatu spoke on “Reaching the Unreached” on the second afternoon of Global Women Connecting, followed by a time of jewelry making and henna tattoos – trade skills learned by students of Aatma Vikas. In the men’s session, David Clayton and Vivert Lall eloquently presented on the cost of entering the kingdom and the covenants God has made with his people. Leonard Thompson and Josh Howard spoke to the youth.
In the evening, after a marvelous cultural program of Indian dance, Cynthia Peacock gave a greeting from the Mennonite World Council. Then Dave Ferguson reimagined the Prodigal Son story, helping us to feel the Prodigal’s fear of rejection by family and neighbors. He then urged that our churches say, “In this place there will be no rejection,” and who back up that claim by feeling it, telling it, and living it. The picture of a jigsaw puzzle was used by Oscar Muriu of Nigeria to reveal the apostle Paul’s teaching on gifts and unity from 1 Corinthians 12. Just as the puzzle pieces must be different for there to be a picture, so God has given different gifts to each part of the church. This forces us to work together to be the beautiful picture God paints. Muriu brilliantly applied this to the local, national, continental, and worldwide expressions of church. Each has a gift from God. that must be used to benefit all.
“Dhanyavaad” That’s the Hindi word that sums up the final day of the Damoh Global Gathering. Dhanyavaad means “thank you.” And there was much to be thankful for on the last day. The local church in Damoh joined the attendees on Sunday, swelling the crowd to over 4500, joining in lively singing, insightful preaching, and heart-felt farewells.
Ajai Lall, the President of the Global Gathering, explained the corruption, increased costs, and extortion from the media that made it impossible to have the Gathering in New Delhi as originally planned. The move to Damoh seemed like a series of impossible tasks—finding rooms for the 3258 who registered, providing meals, and creating meeting spaces. But by grace and the hard work of Indu Lall, Lashi Howard, the staff of Central India Christian Mission, and others, God worked the miracle of Damoh. The preacher for the morning, Jeff Vines, told stories showing how only Jesus can explain suffering, meet the deepest desires of the heart, and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
As is usual in our Global Gatherings, the highlight was communing through the Lord’s Supper with Christians from 29 nations and 21 states of India. Our worship was followed by a fellowship meal provided by the Damoh congregation.
The Damoh Convention was historic in many ways. It was the first in Asia. Those from outside India were amazed at the quality of the preparations made for them–meals where Christ was shared among the nations, the smiles, handshakes, and photo sessions with our Indian brothers and sisters, the encouraging words in music and sermons, and the clear call to tear down walls and build bridges. At the end of each Global Gathering, attendees will call it “the best.” But the Gathering in Damoh was without doubt a turning point in making us truly a World Convention.
“Jesus intercedes for us as our mediator before the Father; he asks him that his disciples may be one, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21). This is what comforts us and inspires us to be one with Jesus, and thus to pray, ‘Grant us the gift of unity, so that the world may believe in the power of your mercy.’ This is the testimony the world expects from us. We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal, and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst.”
This quotation sounds very much like Alexander Campbell or Barton Stone or another of the early leaders of the Stone-Campbell Movement. The words could also have come from leaders of a latter generation in the Movement like Peter Ainsley, David Lipscomb, or Dean Walker.
But the words come from the recent Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation, held in Lund, Sweden on October 31. This joint worship service begins a year of remembrance leading to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 2017. In this anniversary year, Catholics and Lutherans hope this common commemoration under the theme of “From Conflict to Communion” will “affirm the common conviction that there is more that unites than that which divides us.”
I was invited to witness this historic service since its theme of Christian unity is at the heart of the mission statement of World Convention:
In Christ, all are reconciled to God and to each other, and in the Spirit, God calls us to proclaim this good news throughout the world. World Convention (Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ) embodies and encourages fellowship, understanding, and common purpose within this global family of churches and relates them to the whole Church for the sake of unity in Christ Jesus.
In relating World Convention to the whole Church at the Lund meeting, we also were living out our heritage as Stone-Campbell Christians, since both Campbell and Stone saw their work as continuing and enhancing the Reformation with its emphasis on Scripture. They also often spoke of their work as “catholic,” that is, reflecting what the whole church has always believed.
For more on the meeting in Lund, see https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/press-release-rediscovering-who-we-are-christ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plkK6zNHP_0
In just five months, World Convention will have its Global Gathering in New Delhi, January 12-15, 2017.
For over two years, Christian leaders in India have been praying and planning for the arrival of Christians from throughout the world. Here is a photo of a recent planning meeting of pastors:
There is still time for you to make your plans to be at this Gathering. There you will hear stirring testimony of how God has worked in the lives of Indian Christians in the face of opposition and persecution. There you will hear encouraging words of good news from speakers from around the world, all on the theme of “God Tears Down walls to Build Bridges.” There you can join your voice with thousands, praising God in dozens of languages.
Do not miss this once in a lifetime experience! Here is a guide for going:
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO TEAR DOWN WALLS
The theme of our Global Gathering in India is “God Tears Down Walls To Build Bridges.” It will be a blessed experience of joyous fellowship, worship, and teaching. How can you help?
First, pray for the Gathering. For financial support. For safe travel. For the Holy Spirit to bring life to all who speak, who listen, and who praise.
Second, come to the Gathering! There is still plenty of time to make your plans to attend. For a step-by-step guide on how to attend, see the article below.
Third, if you cannot attend, send a donated registration. That is, pay the registration fee that will go directly to the expenses for the Gathering.
Four, you can give a generous donation of any amount designated for the expenses of the Gathering.
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR ATTENDING THE NEW DELHI GATHERING
It is time to finalize your plans to attend our Gathering in New Delhi. There you will experience the blessings of worship, learning, fellowship, and service together.
STEP ONE: Register for the Gathering on our website. Make sure you hit the Register Now button after you fill out the form. Then pay your Registration fee. http://www.globalgathering2017.com/registrationform.html
STEP TWO: Book your flights. You may want to look at international websites to compare fares: http://www.expedia.com/ or http://www.vayama.com/ among others. You might find cheaper flights if you wait to book six months or so before the Global Gathering.
STEP THREE: Book your hotel. Look on the website of the Gathering http://www.globalgathering2017.com/travel.html for the list of hotels. Choose your hotel. Note that the links go to the hotel’s website and that you might get a better rate by looking at http://www.trivago.com/ You might find cheaper room rates if you wait to book six months or so before the Global Gathering.
STEP FOUR: Apply for your Indian visa (you should already have a Passport). First look on the chart here https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html to see if you can apply for a tourist e-TouristVisa (eTV).
STEP FIVE: Look at the program: http://www.globalgathering2017.com/event.html and anticipate the blessing God will provide as we meet with brothers and sisters throughout the world.
STEP SIX: Pray for traveling mercies, leaders and speakers on the program, the church in India, the church in your own country, the church throughout the world, and the world God loved enough to send his Son to bless.
IF YOU CANNOT COME TO NEW DELHI, START AT STEP SIX. Do continue to pray for the ministry of World Convention.
There are several Christian leaders in many parts of the world that would like to attend the Global Gathering of the World Convention in New Delhi, India, January 12-15, but they cannot afford to do so on their own.
Would you help to send them?
Just go to our website, http://www.worldconvention.org, click on the “Donate Now” button, enter the amount you wish to give, and in the special purpose box put “Sending Fund.” Or send a check to us at World Convention, P.O. Box 50998, Nashville, TN 37205-0998, and tell us it is for the Sending Fund.
The Global Gathering in India will be a life-changing experience. So, not only should you send others, you should go yourself! For more information, see http://www.globalgathering2017.com
It was a joy for me last week to be a part of a celebration of the ministry of Robert Welsh upon his retirement as President of the Council on Christian Unity. For decades, Robert has brought graceful leadership to unity efforts among Christians not only in the United States but throughout the world.
The ministry of Christian unity is a difficult one. Robert was faithful in that ministry, full of faith or trust that God has made us one and that God will someday make our unity completely visible.
World Convention is a ministry of Christian unity, based on the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that all who believe in him might be one so that the world would know the love of God. It is a ministry of faith, not sight. As such, it is a ministry of sure and certain results, since our faith and hope is in a God who keeps promises.
And God calls men and women throughout the world to continue that ministry of unity. Before we celebrated Robert’s ministry, we in worship affirmed the call of Seung Un (Paul) Tche as the new President of the Council on Christian Unity. Paul is a man of faith. He will be a great blessing to many.
God calls us to unity. Jesus still prays that “all may be one.” Have you heard that call in your corner of the world? Have you joined Jesus in that prayer?
We live in a time of walls between people. Just watch or read the news.
There are walls between women and men. Walls between young and old. Walls between natives and immigrants. Walls between political parties. Literal walls (both existing and proposed) between nations.
And it seems that our world is bent on building more walls between “us” and “them.”
There are even walls between Christians and others. Most shameful of all, there are walls between our kind of Christian and their kind of Christian.
God hates walls. Jesus hates walls. He came to tear them down.
But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
It took a cross to tear down the wall between Jew and Gentile. It takes a cross to tear down the walls between us today.
Christians in India have chosen the theme, “God Tears Down Walls to Build Bridges” for our World Convention Global Gathering in New Delhi, January 12-15, 2017. They have chosen that theme because they know what it is like to live with “other” people who like to build walls of indifference and hostility. They chose it because they know the cross is the sign of love for neighbors.
God hates walls. Jesus tears them down. But God in Christ does not stop there.
He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Ephesians 2:15
The cross is also our bridge to God, to our neighbors near and far, and even to our enemies. The bridge to understanding, fellowship, and love.
Come to New Delhi and experience the fall of walls and the building of bridges.
This is an invitation to a great blessing.
One year from now, January 12-15, 2017, you have a chance to experience a life-changing few days. On those dates, World Convention will have its Global Gathering in New Delhi, India. You are invited!
How will you be blessed?
- By worshipping together with thousands of Christians from all over the world, praising God together in dozens of languages.
- By hearing the good news of Jesus proclaimed by speakers from every continent, focusing on the theme, “God Tears Down Walls to Build Bridges.”
- By participating in programs for children, youth, or those of Global Women Connecting.
- By listening to the moving testimony of dozens of Christians who have been faithful to Jesus under trials and persecutions.
- By receiving reports of what God is doing in our churches on every continent.
- By eating with Christians from other nations, sharing your stories of faith.
- By experiencing the people and places of India through tours or mission trips.
- By gaining a wider view of God’s kingdom work in our world.
- By having a foretaste of the day when an uncountable number from every nation, tribe, and language gather around the throne of God in praise.
You have a year to get ready for the experience of a lifetime! Watch our website, worldconvention.org/gatherings/global-gathering-19-india/, for upcoming information on registration, hotels, and tours.
You will be blessed and be a blessing!
For the last few months we have focused on ministries in India. This month’s focus is on some who plan to attend our Global Gathering in India in 2017.
I was blessed to be part of the Conference of the Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland, held in Bournville, England on October 17. The Fellowship Churches began 35 years ago with twenty-four small congregations. They have been intentional about being missional–emphasizing church planting and community engagement. Their college, now called ForMission College, is led by Martin Robinson and focuses on church planting skills. As a result of this missional focus, there are now about 50 churches in the fellowship.
The Conference itself provided opportunity for worship, fellowship, classes on multicultural outreach, and a moving presentation by guest speaker Joel Edwards (a speaker at our Brighton Convention in 2004). National Coordinator Dan Yarnell (who is also a board member of World Convention) and National Administrator Andy Vail provide leadership for the Fellowship.
Martin Robinson, Dan Yarnell, and others from the Fellowship are planning to be at the Global Gathering in New Delhi to share their experiences of church planting and growth and to learn from those in India and from around the world.
In late October and early November, Julia and I were blessed to attend the International Conference on Missions in Richmond, Virginia. There we had a booth, saw several board members, had a helpful planning session with Ajai Lall, and witnessed great excitement regarding our New Delhi Gathering. Ajai was a keynote speaker and invited the crowd of over 6000 to attend the New Delhi Gathering.
Mid-November I (along with board members Mark Taylor, Robert Welsh, and Doug Foster) was part of a ground-breaking Stone-Campbell Dialogue in Baltimore, Maryland on the theme of Racial Reconciliation. Mountain Christian Church, a congregation with more than a hundred year history in our movement, was our gracious host.
Many of you have followed the journey of Julia and Joe Keith to New Zealand and Australia. This is part holiday and part promotional visit for World Convention, since they have been able to meet with our board members from Australia and New Zealand, and with other World Convention supporters. These are important visits since it has been five years since I was able to be in Australia and New Zealand.
This month Christians from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Pakistan, India, and many other countries have personally told me of their plans to be at the New Delhi Gathering, January 12-15, 2017.
Make your plans to be there too!
As we anticipate our next Global Gathering in New Delhi, January 12-15, 2017, each month we are highlighting a ministry of the Stone-Campbell Movement in India. This month we focus on Christian Hospital Mungeli, with information from their website, http://chmungeli.org.
Christian Hospital Mungeli was founded in 1897 by the American Disciples of Christ Foreign Christian Missionary Society’s Rev. E.M. Gordon and Dr. Anna Gordon. Mr. G.W. Jackson opened the Mission Station at Mungeli in 1887. Jackson, an Englishman, built the mission station’s “Big Bungalow” on six acres the mission purchased north of the Agar River. Mrs. Jackson operated a small dispensary at the mission bungalow in 1890.
Later physicians at the hospital included Dr. A.W. Hitt, Dr. Anna Dunn Gordon, Dr. George Miller, Dr. Victor Rambo, and Dr. Dayal Suknandan. In 1971, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in India joined with other denominations to form the Church of North India, bringing CHM under the administration of the Church of North India. By that time, most foreign missionaries were leaving India, significantly reducing external funds and personnel supporting mission hospitals.
Over the next 30 years, CHM struggled. In 2003, after a change of leadership, CHM began to grow again. In 2011, Christian Hospital Mungeli had 120 beds, saw approximately 30,000 out-patients, delivered 600 babies, and performed some 2,500 operations.
Christian Hospital Mungeli is just one of many hospitals, clinics, and medical education ministries of the Stone-Campbell Movement in India. Please join us January 12-15, 2017 in New Delhi to hear more about those ministries. And pray for Christian Hospital Mungeli, other ministries in India, and the people of India.
Each month before our Global Gathering in New Delhi, I will highlight a prayer concern for India in ChristiaNet, This month we focus on the women of India. Stone-Campbell churches in India—Christian, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ—care for women in a myriad of ways through dozens of ministries supported by Christians throughout the world. Let’s focus on one of those ministries.
Eternal Threads is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects.
The vision for the Eternal Threads’ mission began in 1988 when Linda Egle traveled to south India and saw firsthand what life was like for women living in extreme poverty and also witnessed their initiative and desire to improve the lives of their families. She founded Eternal Threads in the year 2000 after early retirement from a 27-year career as a United Airlines Flight Attendant to give these women sustainable income and skills development training. The first project for Eternal Threads was established in south India with the SOFI tote.
Eternal Threads began as a mission to help one group of women in India and has become a global community of women. Even though these women live in diverse areas of the world they share the same needs and hope for the future. Because they live in extreme poverty they need a means of creating income to care for their families, preventing their children from suffering from lack of nutrition, health care, education, shelter and the possibility of being exploited or trafficked.
To learn more, see eternalthreads.org
Make plans now to attend our Global Gathering in New Delhi, India, January 12-15, 2017. More information including registration and housing details will be on this site in the months to come.
As we prepare for our Global Gathering in India, Indu Lall, Usha Rees, and others are working to get 10,000 Christians in India to commit to pray for the Gathering. We are working to get 10,000 Christians in the rest of the world to pray for India. Please commit to pray daily for this effort—Praying it Forward, India 2017.