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WELS India Children’s Homes – Fall 2018 Update

This young man, Teja, is part of a new group of former students who did not complete the seminary training at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM), our worker training school. Now, like the others, Teja has been given a second chance. It is exciting to have him return. You see, Teja is the first “graduate” from one of our children’s homes to attend the CELM program. He began the required pre-seminary program in 2013 and graduated in April 2016. He greatly desired to continue his education the following year at seminary, but his mother and uncles were pressuring him, “Why do you want to study for this job? You will be a poor man.” He was encouraged to fulfill any family obligations before attending classes. Teja reluctantly agreed. He acquired a job at a dental clinic, yet frequently asked, “When can I return to school?” The reply was always, “Wait and trust.”

Teja

During that time, Teja financially helped his widowed mother to “marry off” his younger sister and then assisted in costs for his sister’s first two babies. This is all part of the bride’s family responsibilities in India. As the only son with no father, much of this responsibility fell on his shoulders. Teja is 22 years old.

Now, family obligations have been fulfilled and Teja was excited to be back at CELM Seminary for the refresher course this past spring. He said last April, “I’m not concerned about money. I just want to share the joy.”

But the roadblocks continue. Just before the school year began in July, Teja emailed, “I don’t know if I should come to classes. My uncles say I have no life experiences. Many will not respect me.  I am young.” The story of Paul encouraging Timothy also encouraged Teja. Once again, he was encouraged to trust in the Lord.

Thanks to many prayers and the Lord’s guiding hand, Teja has returned for this school year AND has been blessed to keep his job at the dental clinic when not at classes. Our classes run two weeks of each month. A small subsidy is given students to assist while they study at the school. But now, with this chance to continue working during the two weeks off, it is a great blessing for him. The caregiver that brought him to the children’s home is also giving him experiences at the local place of worship. What a privilege to watch this young man mature physically and spiritually. Please continue to remember him in your prayers. We pray that he will be a blessing for many.


We love making connections

It is always exciting to connect with groups of people or individuals when back in the United States. We love sharing our experiences and stories. Just as exciting is making an exchange of greetings and sometimes small gifts with the children in the States and the children here in India.

Two groups did just that from Wisconsin. A VBS from Waukesha, Wis., and a Sunday School from Montello, Wis., sent very special greetings. The cultural exchange is fun and the connection is very appreciated. It’s special for the children to know that kids in India and kids in the States both like eating apples! The tangible greetings are also warmly welcomed with “oohs and aahs” and are very encouraging to the children and especially the caregivers.  They now can feel part of a bigger family from around the world.

View the video of Mt. Calvary’s VBS in Waukesha, WI singing Jesus Loves Me with the Indian Children’s Home.


Independence Day

August 15 is India’s Independence Day. This year the day was quite rainy, but that did not stop the celebrations. The Indian flag was raised, the Indian national anthem was sung, and the pledge was said. As CELM seminary classes were in session and nearby, those students also joined in this special celebration. We all crowded into the larger classroom and enjoyed various national songs sung by the children and heard many speeches, “I am proud to be an Indian!” Afterward, the CELM students enjoyed interacting with the children and expressed how this reminded them of their elementary school days. We pray that India is blessed with leaders who will guide this large democracy well.


Heavy Monsoons

The monsoons were heavier than usual this year. One of our children’s homes was affected. They live near canals which help provide a couple seasons of crops. Due to a poorly managed water dam and heavier rain fall, some canals overflowed, destroying rice paddies, and caused damage to the house. Fortunately, our two homes in the area were not as seriously affected but the children from one home did have to evacuate to higher ground for a few days. Cleanup has started, and WELS has provided assistance to cover these costs. We are thankful the government has also assisted in flood relief. We hope the upcoming cyclone season brings only the needed rain.


To learn more about WELS work in India and the India Children’s Homes, visit wels.net/India.

 

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Heavenly Connections

One of the greatest joys my husband and I have when back in the USA on furlough is connections with WELS members who support mission work, especially our work in India. One particular connection culminated at a special Vacation Bible School program at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Waukesha, WI.

Early this summer, my husband and I were on furlough in the States. One pastor on our South Asian Administrative Committee mentioned that a friend of his had reached out. This friend wanted to connect with the Indian friendly counselors to discuss supporting our work in some way. To make a long story short, we met this friend – Amie Klemp-Saar – very soon after and the rest is history.

“Jesus” of Jesus Loves Me

Amie was passionate to make real connections with missions, this time through the Mt. Calvary VBS in Waukesha. First, my husband and I excitedly shared our work about the children we care for with Amie and the VBS team she was a part of. Amie said many times, “I want to make real connections with the VBS kids here and with the kids you care for in India. I want the VBS kids to see how we can show our love of Jesus in a very real way to others.” Then, over our conversations, many ideas were thrown out on how we can make those real connections. This was one, “Let’s have them all eat KitKat bars! Can you get them there?” “Yes!” was my reply. “Let’s do it!” Thanks to my co-worker and husband (who returned to India earlier then I), KitKat bars were bought in India and eaten at one of our children’s homes. KitKats were also eaten by the VBS children in Waukesha as a snack. Pictures were taken on both sides of the world and shared. We were also able to share our presentation about the children’s ministry in India, so the VBS children learned more about India and our mission. One couldn’t help but be drawn into the excitement of the whole venture. The sharing still continues with all our Children’s Homes and Grade school in India.

Yet the most inspirational thing happened on the last day of Mt. Calvary’s VBS. I had the opportunity to attend and witness an outpouring of love for the Savior. The connection this time was singing Jesus Loves Me. Thankfully, Dan Saar (Amie’s husband) recorded it:

View the video of Mt. Calvary’s VBS in Waukesha, WI singing Jesus Loves Me with the Indian Children’s Home.

I joined in singing and signing Jesus Loves Me with 140 VBS children at Mt. Calvary, while the children of the Indian Mercy Children’s Home sang on the screens behind us.

Signing “belong” of Jesus Loves Me

For me, to make a connection with that song was amazing, as I have been personally teaching it to the children in our homes and school. It was hard to hold back the tears of joy. The outpouring of love was humbling. Some parents and visitors were so moved and came up to me personally, “I want to help.” The Sunday after VBS, the children sang this again and more were moved. What was the most humbling was witnessing the Holy Spirit’s power, not ours, to turn people’s hearts on fire.

This connection was just the beginning of the bigger picture. It will be very, very encouraging to the children, caregivers, and teachers here in India to see this outpouring of love and encouragement from fellow Christians in the United States. It will show them that they are not so isolated after all and how deep and wide their connection with fellow believers is. And with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can look forward to the biggest connection of all in heaven. May his Word continue to change and move hearts all over the world.

Written by: Wife of a WELS Friendly Counselor to India 

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God Willing, No Waiting in India

One-third listening; two-thirds waiting.  Imagine you’re teaching in a classroom and for every 10 seconds that you talk you have to pause for 20 seconds as your students sit there and wait for more.  That means you’re only teaching for one-third of the time you have with your students.  And if you’re a student that means you have to fight the temptation to drift off and zone out for two-thirds of the time you’re sitting in class!

This is just a taste of the challenge we friendly counselors in India face with our students for each seminary class we teach.  There are 22 official languages in India.  The students at the CELM Seminary primarily come from the regions of Andhra Pradesh (and Telangana) and Madhya Pradesh, where the primary languages are Telugu and Hindi, respectively.  Since our students come from the lower, Christian castes their English level is often not very high.  This means that, if we want to teach them about being shepherds for God’s flock, the English sentences we speak have to be translated into both Telugu and Hindi for each class.  One-third listening; two-thirds waiting.

Two-thirds listening, or even one-hundred percent listening in a second language?  The friendly counselors and their wives try to overcome this great challenge in a few ways.  One way is by offering English classes.  Teaching English to the students slowly increases that 1:2 listening to waiting ratio over their time at the seminary.  And God willing, by the last few years of classes they’ll be able to learn in English-only classes.  While it would still be using their second and not native language, it does give our counselors more class time to teach them God’s Word.  This also allows the students to use the numerous English resources available for Bible study and to converse more with the counselors on a deeper personal level.

One-hundred percent listening to a non-native speaker?  Conversing with the students both on a personal level and in class without a translator is the ideal situation for the friendly counselors.  Because of this, the counselors are also in the process of learning the Indian languages.  While this presents its own immense challenges, it provides another opportunity to improve that one-third listening amount.  It also equips the counselors to respond better to questions asked in class and during study periods.

One-hundred percent listening to a native speaker?  That’s the goal.  In order to get there the seminary is using a method that has already been mentioned: providing in-class translators.  How does that overcome the current listening-to-waiting ratio?  If members of our national faculty do the translating then it allows the seminary to transition better to national-led classes in the future.  The faculty members doing the translating are then, in essence, auditing the classes and preparing themselves to teach the class in the future.  This naturally leads to the ultimate goal: seminary classes in India being led and taught by Indians.  One-hundred percent listening; no time waiting.

With God’s help, the friendly counselors in India are overcoming the three-language challenge more each year.  Once one-third listening becomes one-hundred percent listening, the Lutheran pastors in India will become more effective pastors and evangelists.  That means not only will there be more listening and learning in the CELM seminary, but someday there will be even more voices singing and praising God in heaven whatever their language on earth may have been.

Brock Groth, Friendly Counselor to India

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Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries, WELS’ sister church in India, supports Gentle Shepherd Lutheran School, which serves more than 200 students. In an effort to continue improving the school, in 2016 the teachers requested an English class of their own. WELS’ friendly counselors and their wives meet regularly with the teachers to help them practice and improve upon their English. The teachers have begun to transition Gentle Shepherd into a school where all subjects are taught in English, offering its students a great educational advantage. Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries serves more than 5,000 souls in 120 congregations. 

Mission Stories: CELM

From snake worshiper to Christian pastor

David Beckman

He was born the son of a snake worshiper. His mother led villagers in the worship of the cobra. Nahgah is the word for cobra in his native language. He still knows the song of praise to the cobra, a god in Hinduism. Deekoo, deekoo, deekoo, deekoo, nahgah, nahgahna! His mother taught this song to all the children of the village, her son included. They sang it as they walked out to the cobra nests on the edge of the village.

This trip to the cobra nests was a part of their indigenous ritual. Their brand of Hinduism chose to venerate the cobra as a god. They believed a cobra could give them blessings. Therefore the worshiper had to keep the snake god happy by offering it gifts. The worshipers would place little bowls of milk and honey near the cobra hole. They would offer songs and prayers to the snake. This was especially important for young girls. If they offered their gifts and prayers faithfully, then the snake god would make it possible for them to have children later on in life. No gifts, no children, so they said; so they believed.

Download a PowerPoint slideshow showing the WELS mission work in India.

Sometimes the snake god would visit one of their homes. He would slither into a corner of the house and curl up. “What a blessing this is,” they said. “A god is visiting our home!” But in one of the homes a ten-year-old boy got too close to the guest god. The cobra bit him. He was dead in less than 20 minutes. So it goes with false religion. Satan giggles as people worship “gods” that kill.

BECOMING A CHILD OF GOD

Into this satanic trap, Badavathu Balaji was born. But he did not remain there. Our gracious God led him out of the trap of Hinduism and cobra worship and placed him into the gracious arms of Jesus. We now know him by his Christian name—Pastor Yacob Naik. The path to get there was not an easy one.

Yacob is a “tribal person,” India’s version of indigenous peoples. Their residence in South India predates peoples who migrated from the north. A skilled eye can still pick out a “tribal.” Their features are slightly different. They have their own dialect of the local language. They dress differently. Most noticeably to an Indian is that they are on the bottom rung of the caste “ladder.” Most live in the hill country. Most live in poverty.

As if life wasn’t difficult enough for Yacob, he faced a severe health issue at age nine. A blood vessel in his brain was bulging, and he needed brain surgery to survive. The surgery left behind not only a scar on his head, but it also impaired the use of his left arm and leg for life. Yacob walks with a limp, and his left hand is nearly useless. But God had a plan to make this young man strong!

When Yacob was 15 years old, a Christian preacher visited his village. He gave Yacob a Bible. Yacob started reading it, and he found a gracious Savior. The words drew Yacob into that Savior’s loving arms. No longer did Yacob have to live in fear. No longer did he have to offer gifts to a snake and hope for the best. Yacob believed that God’s Son crushed the serpent and all of the devil’s power. The Holy Spirit led Yacob to believe that he is God’s child through faith in Christ’s forgiveness.

God’s first task for Yacob was to lead his own family to Christ. The gospel did its miracle, and Yacob and his parents were baptized into the Christian faith.

SHARING THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST

But God wasn’t finished with Yacob yet.

Another pastor came to Yacob’s village—a Lutheran pastor who knew about the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM) seminary in Guntur. CELM is the Lutheran group assisted by WELS in India. The missionary urged Yacob to attend, but it was a long way away from his village. It was a seven-hour bus ride to get there. It was also a long road to finish the training—seven years of part-time classes (one week per month for two years, and two weeks per month for five years). In spite of the long bus ride and the years of study, Yacob attended faithfully and completed his seminary training, graduating in July 2012.

It wasn’t easy for Yacob. Each month he had to leave behind his young, growing family of a wife and four children. Sometimes he would miss the bus and have to hitch a ride with a truck driver. Imagine climbing up into the truck’s cab with an impaired left side, a book bag, and duffel bag slung over your shoulder. Even in the classroom, the matter of keeping two Bibles (Telugu and English) open while writing in a notebook was a major task. Yet nothing could hold Yacob back. He was determined to finish his training. His family supported him. He has a passion to release people from Satan’s grasp. He knew the tragic bondage of worshiping other gods. He had been there. He knew how sweet that release is!

Gifts from WELS make it possible to reach and teach people like Yacob. These gifts also enable Yacob to reach others. Shortly before his graduation, Yacob’s new church building was dedicated to the glory of God. It’s a simple structure in the village of

Kuchipudithandi. The price tag was quite low. The dividends, however, are as high as the heavens. In that simple church building Christ is preached.

Pray that Yacob’s faithful proclamation of Christ leads many others to “change their tune”—from Deekoo, deekoo, nahgah to “Glory be to Jesus!”

Dave Beckman serves as a friendly counselor to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries in India.


 

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries

Baptized souls: 5,500
Congregations: 120
National pastors: 45
Gospel workers: 48
WELS friendly counselors: 2 couples
Seminary students: 16
Pre-seminary students: 24

Unique fact: WELS individuals and groups support seven children’s homes in India, which care for the physical and spiritual needs of more than two hundred children. They also fund Gentle Shepherd Lutheran School, which provides a Christian education for 220 children.

Learn more at wels.net/missions.

 

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Author: Dave Beckman
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

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