15th January 2015
I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year 2015, both in your personal life and mission.
I am grateful to you all for the welcome accorded to me and my colleagues when we visited you in the past year, for your encouraging letters and financial support.
During December we had a joyous Christmas programme in IMA headquarters on 6th December. Then on 9th December I spoke at a wonderful Missionary Dedication Service of the ‘Console Evangelical Missionary Movement’ in Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu. I also participated in the Diamond jubilee celebrations of the Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI) in Chennai (Dec.29-Jan.1) and apart from taking a seminar on ‘cross-cultural ministry.’ I also presented a memento on behalf of IMA. UESI which began working among students in 1954 in a small way has now spread all across the country in reaching students with the gospel of Jesus Christ and also sent many graduates to various mission fields through a variety of mission organisations. I also interacted with leaders of Campus Crusade for Christ India in Bangalore about church planting issues. We praise God for the ministries of these important missions.
As we move forward in the vital ministry that IMA is involved in assisting and encouraging missions, I request you to support IMA in the following ways.
1. By Prayer
The Evangelical fellowship of India (EFI) has designated the year 2015 as a ‘Year of Prayer’ called “ASK 365” based on Luke 11:9. IMA enthusiastically joins EFI in this effort to mobilize prayer for the progress of God’s work in our country in these uncertain times. We will be sending out to Mission leaders the EFI Prayer letters along with IMA’s prayer requests. I request you to kindly mobilize prayer for our country through all avenues available to you.
2. By Financial support
Your strong financial support is needed for IMA to stand on its own feet. I would like IMA to be supported by Indian missions, churches and Christians in its functioning and staff support. Overseas gifts can be used for various programs and projects. For this to happen I request you to prayerfully consider the following:
a) Kindly pay your yearly membership fee of a minimum of Rs. 5000/- by end of March 2015.
b) Kindly make a donation for IMA to move forward in doing vital research & publications, organise important consultations, visit member missions etc.
c) Kindly support a missionary staff of IMA. Currently 5 staff members need support at the rate of Rs. 20,000/- per month. If a large mission or a group of missions or families in a region come forward to support a missionary staff, it will be a great help and the concerned staff member can also relate directly with the missions concerned.
3. By active participation in programmes organized by IMA
We are organizing various programmes this year that will benefit missions directly to enhance their work. Please set apart a certain amount in your budget for the year 2015-16 so that you may be able to send your mission leaders to benefit from these programmes. The subsidized cost for these will be Rs. 500/- per day apart from travel.
The programmes for February 2015 are as follows:
For further information contact Mr. Solomon Babu, Training coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
With this issue of India Mission News, I conclude my Bible study series on ’Partnership in the Gospel’ (Philippians 1:5). I hope they have been useful in applying Biblical partnership principles in our varied ministries for the extension of God’s kingdom.
The theme for 2015 is “Go and make disciples of all…..nations, tribes, peoples and languages” (Matt. 28:19, Rev. 7:9). We encourage all missions ‘to make disciples’ in all communities that we are involved in this year.
With warm greetings and prayers,
Yours in His Service,
R, Theodore Srinivasagam
General Secretary, India Missions Association
PART 7 – PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL
PARTNERSHIP IN GIVING AND RECEIVING (PHILIPPIANS 14:10-18)
Paul was thankful to the Philippian church for their giving towards his personal needs. He commends them for their understanding of his needs and how they once again began to care for him as opportunity arose (Phil 14:10). He then reminds them of the beginning times of their acquaintance and commends them for their care for him to the extent of sending their gifts to him even while he was in Thessalonica, the city to which he went after preaching in Philippi (Acts 17:1). He sends them a special thank you with the words that “no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only” (RSV Phil 4:15). What an encouragement to the Christians of Philippi to know that Paul appreciated what they did for him to enhance his ministry!
However Paul says that he was not dependent on their giving, as ultimately it is God who is the provider of his needs and that he has learnt to live under all financial circumstances. What do we learn from this passage regarding giving and generosity?
1. Generous giving comes out of concern for others (4:10)
Paul commends the Philippian church and writes,’…you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it” (4:10). At the time of Paul when communication was poor, the church in Philippi continued to have a concern for Paul and his ministry, whether in touch or out of touch. But when opportunity arose they renewed their concern and sent gifts to him through Epaphroditus (4:18).
How much concern do we have for God’s mission and missionaries in these days of fast and efficient communication? Unfortunately 'out of sight, out of mind' is often the case. Concern and giving should be constant and not dependent on one’s whims and fancies.
2. Generous giving comes out of Christian fellowship (4:14)
Paul says to the Philippian Christians, ”It was good of you to share in my troubles” (4:14). Paul was really appreciative, that though the Christians in Philippi might have been going through various problems in their lives, they still shared in Paul’s troubles. The difficulties that Paul faced were not something remote, but felt them as though it was happening to them. This was because of the close relationship between Paul and the Philippian Christians. Christian giving becomes natural, if we are closely related to each other and so feel the pain when someone undergoes various sufferings. If God’s mission work is remote to us, then giving becomes a burden. So how closely related are we to God’s work and his workers? Do we feel the pain the mission workers undergo or are we living self-centred cocooned lives?
3. Generous giving lays up treasure in heaven (4:17)
Though Paul was appreciative of the gifts given to him, he did not covet any one’s possessions, as he says, “Not that I am looking for a gift” (4:17). He had learnt the secret of being content with whatever he had, whether in plenty or in need (4:11-13). However, he coveted one thing, the fruit, namely, “what may be credited to your account” (4:17). Their giving was not in what it provided for Paul, but what it did for them. It added to their credit. What a remarkable insight!
Accumulation of wealth benefits only as long as one lives and has no long term benefits. But giving to the needy brings credit to them in heaven (Matt 6:3-4). The story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich young ruler and various parables amply illustrate this. Jesus urged, “provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted” and went on to say, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:33, 34). Where is your treasure today?
Generous giving has two main effects. Firstly, as a result of their giving, Paul was able to minister to the gentiles. This resulted in fruit bearing such as various groups of people in various regions of the then known world began to believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and Churches were established among them.
Paul then goes on to present the remarkable aspects of this partnership. Both Paul as the missionary in the frontline and the Philippian Christians as supporters of the work in the background will both receive rewards from the Lord! What a great insight and encouragement to all prayer partners and supporters of missionary work. The glory and rewards on the day of reckoning will be shared by all involved in our Lord’s ministry!
What did the Philippian church receive in return from Paul (4:15)? Obviously he was not sending them material gifts. However he gave them his ministry, his counsel and his personal care for them. This is what partnership is all about. Giving and receiving need not be of the same kind, but something that will benefit the partners and enhance the total work of the Lord.
Secondly, their gifts were like a sacrifice offered to God, pleasing to Him and giving out a fragrant smell (Phil 4:18).He compares their gifts to him to offerings to God, as recorded in the old testament (Genesis 8:21; Leviticus1:9-17) which were acceptable to God. In this way Paul focuses their attention away from him to God and their gifts as an offering to God. What a wonderful way to take the attention of the believers away from him to God! This is what partnerships should do – draw the attention of people to God and glorify him!
Partnership is something we understand through the Godhead, observe in creation, enjoy in the family and experience in the church. Like Paul we need to develop partnerships with each other for the ministry of the gospel so that together we will be able to serve the people of our land and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rajesh Kumar Agarwal*
"The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Luke 10:2).
This is one of the few prayer requests that Jesus made, during his ministry on the earth. Nevertheless, this remains a need even after 2000 years of its first utterance. It is true that there has been exponential growth of the Church with many people turning to the Lord. The work force has also increased tremendously. In spite of all the growth that has taken place, there still remains much ground to be covered. There are more people added to the population of the world every day, than the people who actually accept Christ. The task of evangelization is far from being completed. The vision of earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14) is still not fulfilled. The Lord desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:4) and does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But the question is “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14).
Truly, harvest is great but workers are few and so we need to pray for labourers. But the question is what kind of workers? Often we think of evangelists, missionaries, pastors, and gospel workers etc., who are engaged by different missions/churches as full time work force.
Dr. Manokaran in his article “Contemporary Challenges of Indian Missions” describes three waves during the era of Post-Independence Missions. They are 1) cross-cultural missions, 2) mono-cultural missions and 3) local church missions & market place missions.
Now there is a need of a fourth wave in which the whole Church has to be mobilized to reach out to whole world. Our world can be effectively reached only when every believer is motivated and mobilized to do the work of an evangelist and a church planter. R. Stanley in his daily devotion guide writes “Believers of the early Church filled the cities with the Gospel and turned the world upside down when they were baptized with the Spirit. The entire Church was a band of (p)reachers!” It is recorded that “the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (Acts 8: 4).
Let us then pray to the master of the harvest that each and every believer will be mobilized to reach the unreached. Only then the fourth wave will be ushered in.
After we had the Neighbours Conference in 2013, Hyderabad, we found that there were a few missions interested and burdened to start a separate mission wing in their mission organizations to work among Neighbours in India. There was a great need of resources and training for that to happen.
The IMA Neighbours Core Committee, after discussing the matter with General Secretary Dr. Theodore Srinivasagam decided to have an Advance training programme for the missions and leaders working among neighbours. We as IMA Neighbours Network are committed to bring various tools to the notice of missions and help them to decide which tools work for them.
We had altogether 34 delegates from different parts of India and from different back grounds for the 5 day Training programme that was held in the IMA Vision City campus, Hyderabad on November 18-22, 2014. It was a mixed group with leaders coming with a rich experience and also leaders who had just started to work among Neighbours. Among the leaders we had 6 from Muslim background from different regions. But I believe all of them were benefited from these 5 days of intensive training.
Some of the participants at the Advanced Neighbours Training, 18-22 Nov 2014, Hyderabad
By the grace of God, we came to know about Life Challenge Africa and also about Dr. Walter Eric. He has been working in Africa for the last 30 years and his material and other evangelistic resources have brought many to His Kingdom. Therefore, we decided to invite him as our resource person not only to teach but also to share his rich resources to Indian Missions which are very much in need of such resource materials. Many of the participants were truly blessed by his teaching using Training manual and books and training modules given to the participants.
We also invited Rev. Erwin from Switzerland presently based in Delhi. Rev Erwin taught about how to share the Gospel with Muslims through Discovery Bible Study (DBS) using some basic approaches. His teaching was very practical for the new leaders who wanted to get involved in reaching Muslims. Mr. Ibrahim from Singapore, a Chinese Muslim background leader, shared about contextualisation in the ministry. He was able to make us understand both the importance and dangers in contextualisation. We were also pleased to have Dr. Mobin Khan as one of resource persons. He shared about the International scenario of ministry among Neighbours. It was a great time of learning from his rich experience.
At the training session
One of the immediate outcomes was the fellowship, partnership and networking which began among the mission leaders involved in reaching Neighbours during the training at the IMA campus.
Many were benefited from the resources given by our resource people especially by Dr. Walter. We are really thankful to him and to Life Challenge for making these resources available to all of us without any charge.
We were also able to plan to have another meeting for 2 days for leaders working among Neighbours for Fellowship. We also selected Rev. Robert Milton as Prayer Coordinator.
It was also decided that we will have another training Programme exclusively on Church planting among Neighbours in 2015. Even though many questions and issues were raised, it was decided the Coordinator will come up with some suggestions to the committee which will then decide upon those issues.
I strongly believe this is the most exciting time in the history of Indian missions as God is raising many more missions/churches and individuals than ever before to work among Neighbours.
IMA Leaders with the Resource People
My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Theodore Srinivasagam, General Secretary of IMA and I was personally blessed to have him with us for the full 5 days guiding and encouraging each one of us. I also want to extend my thanks to Mr. Solomon Babu, Training Coordinator who worked very hard and fulfilled his responsibility with excellence. At the same time I express my gratitude to all the IMA staff who worked hard towards the success of this training programme.
Please continue to pray for the IMA Neighbours Network.
Solomon Babu, IMA Office Manager and Training Coordinator
IMA staff and former staff with their families gathered to celebrate Christmas on 6th December, 2014 at the beautifully decorated hall in the IMA Vision City Campus. Around 30 people participated in this get together.
The celebration began when Rev. Dr. Wati Longkumer, IMA Associate General Secretary, warmly welcomed all the participants. Everybody was given time to introduce themselves. After that all of us had a great time of fun and fellowship by playing various games that were designed for adults, couples and children. Later IMA children sang a Christmas song and gifts were distributed to them.
IMA Staff with their families and friends at IMA Christmas Day Celebrations
Lastly, Dr. Theodore Srinivasagam, IMA General Secretary, shared the word of God about the “Reactions of people in the Bible about birth of Christ and its implications for today”. The programme came to an end with a delicious lunch. Throughout the program we were filled with joy and were constantly reminded to meaningfully celebrate Christmas.
NEWS FROM INDIAN MISSIONS
Grace Counseling India, Kottayam, Kerala: The purpose of this mission is to equip committed Christians and ministers for taking Christian Counseling as a profession, to be practical Christians with better understanding about themselves and to find lasting solutions to the problems they face. A month long Christian Counselor Training program was held at GCI center, Kottayam from 21st April to 22nd May 2014. All the trainees were greatly blessed and benefited. Grace Counseling India is planning to have their upcoming training in two modules starting from 13th April to 16th May, 2015. Please contact email@example.com for further information.
Christian Foundation for the Blind India: CBFI is working among the visually and physically challenged people. They conducted Festival of Joy for the Blind (FJB 2014) in Vellore, Dharamapuri & Krishnagiri districts on 15th November and in Kanyakumari on 22nd November where about 500 visually challenged brothers attended. On 29th November FJB was held in Chennai and about 300 visually and physically challenged people attended. Pray for them as they plan to have FJB in 6 more districts of Tamil Nadu by the end of January 2015.
The majority of the population of Assam, a state in north-east India, is Hindu. But Muslims are present in all parts of Assam, forming almost a third of the population. Assam is the second largest Muslim populated state in India after Uttar Pradesh. Dhubri district of Assam has the highest Muslim population in India. Most Muslims in Assam are Bengali in origin, but there are indigenous Assamese Muslims who speak Assamese. They are mostly in Upper Assam.
"Assamese Muslims" is a geographical term describing all the Muslim communities living in the State of Assam. They are broadly divided into two groups: the Goria (Shaikh, Sayed) and the Moria. The word Goria may come from “Gor” (to bury the dead) or “Garia” (a tailor). Gorias are the converts from different ethnic groups and tribes to Islam in the state, while Morias are the descendants of Muslim soldiers taken prisoners during wars with local kings. In subsequent years, Morias married local women and extended their families. The Deshi Muslims are yet another group who are Koch Rajbongshis who converted to Islam.
Assamese Muslims strongly identify with the Assamese culture and language and prefer to be identified with each other than with Muslims of other parts of India. There are some cultural differences between west and east Assam. The eastern Muslims are more tribal in their practice, while the western Muslims show Brahminic influences such as longer ceremonies, women not working in the fields and marriage only with more distant relatives. They speak Bengali or Assamese.
Various Muslim invasions, propagation and conversion, import of Muslim artisans and learned men by the Ahom rulers, migrations and immigrations, etc, are the important factors for the origin and growth of the Muslim population in Assam.
FORMATION & DEVELOPMENT
Some important factors for the origin and growth of the Muslim population in Assam is as follows.
1. Muslim invasions in Assam from 1206 to 1682 AD helped in the formation of the Assamese Muslim society. Towards the close of the 12th century, Mahammad Ibne Bakhteyar, a military commander under Qutubuddin Aibak, the founder of the slave dynasty in India invaded Assam in 1206 A.D. Thereafter began a series of Muslim invasions over a period of 475 years, which eventually culminated in the battle of Itakhuli that was fought between the Ahoms and Mughals in 1682. It can be presumed that some of the Muslims who survived, preferred to stay in Assam. The prisoners were allowed to marry local women and their descendants today are known as Moria. Islam did not gain significant hold until the 1600’s. But the Muslim settlers of earlier times did influence the surrounding communities, and several Islamic practices were adopted.
2. Import of Muslim artisans and educated men: Another important aspect for the growth of Muslim population in Assam is import of Muslim artisans and educated and skilled men by the Ahom rulers. A large number of Muslim artisans and learned men were brought by the Ahom rulers and were appointed to lead in various developments of the state during the medieval period. These people were mainly employed in the professions in which they possessed expertise and especially in skills like embroidery, engraving, wood carving, cannon casting, sword making and similar fine works. Muslim artisans and craftsmen belong to the Khanikar khel and under a superintendent known as Khanikar Barua. "Nawab Deka" was a post in the Ahom court only for talented Muslim nobles which carried with it a vast tract of revenue free land.
3. Propagation and Conversion also assisted in the increase of Assamese Muslims. Many Muslim saints had entered Assam and some of them came with invading armies at different historical times. Some of them settled in the country, while others returned after a short stay. A Brahmin priest from Kamrup (near the geographical middle of Assam) was reported to have embraced Islam around the 13th century. He wrote and presented a book of tantric (mystical) practices called the “Pool of Nectar”, which was translated into Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Through this, many yogic practices entered Islamic mysticism throughout south, central and even west Asia. In 1630’s, a Muslim saint named Shah Milan (Azad Faqir) arrived in Assam and he preached social reform and evangelized the people. Revival occurred among the nominal Morias and local people converted to Islam. The Ahom leaders patronized the Muslim saints and clerics.
4. Finally, migration and immigration played a major role in the increase of Assamese Muslim population. A substantial number of Muslims migrated into Assam and settled down permanently during the period of the wars and conflicts between Ahoms and Mughals. Major growth of Islam took place between 1910 and 1931, when thousands of Bengali speaking Muslims entered Assam from what is now Bangladesh, and settled in the Valley of Brahmaputra River. Muslim skilled labourers were encouraged to enter by rulers of Assam. Muslim clerics, converts to Islam from local communities and several waves of migrants from Bengal, especially in 1911-31 and after 1947 added to the Assamese Muslim population. The early migrants adopted Assamese as their language. The 1947 and later migrants have kept their Bengali language.
The Assamese Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims in general resent the Bengali, Bihari and Bhojpuri speaking migrants of recent times. Some of the locals persecute Bengali Muslims believing that the Muslim settlers support illegal immigrants who continue to arrive through the riverine areas from Bangladesh. For this reason, time-to-time, they rely on violence, burning up their houses and killing a few Muslims.
The majority of the Assamese Muslims are cultivators of their own farmland, though a few are sharecroppers and day laborers. Main crops are paddy rice, maize, sugarcane, oil seeds and jute. In eastern Assam, some Muslims harvest agar wood oil from disease-infected trees, which creates a unique scent used for perfumes. The oil is exported to Mumbai and from there to the Middle East. There is also a small number of Muslims involved in various businesses who live in Guwahati and other cities.
Many of their customs regarding birth, death and marriage are a mix of Hindu and Muslim rituals. Women are kept in seclusion and wear “purdah” (veil). Education for girls is not encouraged. In an Assamese Muslim marriage ceremony, three elderly males must be present, one of which, the ukil, or chief negotiator will make proposals to both the bride and groom asking if they are willing to marry one another. The other two elders act as witnesses, and upon mutual acceptance of the proposal, an imam will recite verses from the Quran to solemnize their vows.
Assamese Muslims are probably the least orthodox in South Asia and widely practice the Hindu customs. This is probably due to the fact that many of them intermarried with Hindus and have historically been well treated by their Ahom Hindu patrons. A few Assamese Muslims speak Urdu, and identify a little with the larger Muslim community. Only a small minority knows the Quran, or even basic Muslim doctrine. They are in fact more likely to be familiar with Hindu Vaishnavism than with the tenets of Islam. The Powa Mecca in Hajoan is an important pilgrimage centre for the Muslims and is visited by thousands of devotees and followers all round the year. Besides this, there are numerous mosques located in the state and the people with traditional flavor celebrate many Muslim festivals.
It is very strange that Christianity went through Assam and spread extensively in northeast Indian states but never took its root in Assam. Early missionaries were not able to penetrate the Assamese people. At present, some Missions and Church Associations have started to get involved in reaching these people. There are a few missionaries working among Assamese Muslims, and they find some to be eager to learn about the gospel, but hesitant about making decisions for Christ. It is important to note that the Assamese Hindus are also largely untouched by the gospel and one of the least-reached Hindu peoples in the world.
· For the people to be open to receive Jesus Christ.
· For an effective Christ-ward movement among Muslims in Assam.
· For the present work among Muslims in Assam. Pray that God will raise local MBB leaders to work among these people with super natural power and people will come to Isa.
· For God to raise people for mobilization, training and taskforces to work systematically in Assam.
· For the Church leaders to have a vision to work among these people.
· For the seekers and believers to take the gospel into their own community.
· For the publication of a translation of the scriptures using religious terminology which would be familiar to Assamese Muslims.
· For the socio-political condition of Assam. Pray that peace, law and order be established in Assam.
- from different sources
UPCOMING IMA EVENTS & PROGRAMMES
IMA CONSULTATIONS & TRAINING PROGRAMMES
Please apply to Mr. Solomon Babu, IMA Training Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
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