Hello All — The following comes from Missionary David Koenig, who is serving as the CLC on-site missionary in India. Our CLC mission program is supported primarily from local “mission” offerings to the CLC General Fund, as well as through your congregational contributions to the Mission Development Fund (MDF).
— Pastor Bruce Naumann, Mission Board Chairman
An exciting development in the BELC, India, is the start of the Martin Luther Bible School at Nagalapuram. Nineteen young men have begun the two-year evangelist course. Pastor D. Paul teaches the bulk of the coursework, with assistance from Missionary Koenig. Project Kinship sponsors are making this instruction possible, by providing $35 per student each month. This is an important step in the development of the BELC, which up until has only been able to provide pastoral training on a monthly “seminar” basis.
Fishing for Men
CLC Missionary David Koenig
Late April, 2007
Whenever we get too wrapped up in how we do things, thinking it a great way, the best way, really even the only way, it is good to remember the scene at the shore of Galilee. The night before breakfast from the Lord on the shore the disciples caught nothing. Jn. 21:3 As day was breaking Jesus from the beach gave the instructions, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” 21:6 ‘Some’ was the Lord’s understatement. “They were not able to haul it in for the quantity of fish…v.8 dragging the net full of fish…large fish, 153 of them: and although there were so many, the net was not torn.” v.11
If we follow our Lord’s instructions in outreach, He will so bless us. I have been critical in the past of an ‘organizationalism’ that at times has seemed to trump the Lord’s directions and had a ‘theology’ all its own. Labor all night man’s way and what will you get? Also in dealing with our brothers overseas working with them must be under the Lord’s directions in great things and in small or we forfeit in part or in full what blessings God has prepared for outreach efforts. Think of the human view “the fish aren’t biting” according to our methods. And can you just hear us saying in the boat, “we can’t take that many in, as the nets will break!” Oh we of little faith! Look at Him of the calm composure on the shore fixing us breakfast and be assured yourselves.
Renigunta District (Moses) — The ‘old’ group of pastors now will be reduced to one day a month meetings. About fifteen new men will be admitted for study. I met 14 of the proposed 15. Catechisms and the 14 pamphlets will now be studied by these men. All, both old and new, will be in class to study Mueller’s Dogmatics.
Rajampeta (Victor) — I delivered the catechisms as well as Telegu copies of the 14 pamphlets for these new men to begin to study. At Kadapa we reduced the men down to one day from two with this savings moved over to Kurnool expense. The twelve new men at Rajampeta serve 451 souls.
Random Observations for April — Seeing congregations of illiterates where it would be no use to give a Bible as they cannot read reminds of the importance of the preached Word. Just so one does not get the idea that they wait for us to supply building materials, as I visit congregations I see what they have set up for worship or what they are working on. In one congregation an aged man, who has that skin condition that turns his skin white, was being supported by members of the congregation. There is no ‘safety net’ here with its guarantees, of which some Americans are so concerned. It is lovely to know the true net is woven of God’s love and does not depend on government largess. Upclose you can see the need and it is not only with the mass of poor, but even in a case like one of Benjamin’s twin daughters who is of so-called lower middle class. In one congregation of about 150 the witness is to an area of four panchayats with a population of around 8000 and no other Christian church. These are the areas we especially want to zero in on. The fellowship among the brethren outside of the worship service is also important and enlivening. One pastor who got married in Jan. and wanted me to be at the service, though I could not as I was in Nigeria, had a meal after a recent service to thank me for coming. I was introduced to his bride. After another service we were provided a meal by a Hindu converted family and were able to discuss the blessings of being a Christian. As we look at building progress at various places by members before they ask for our help it is encouraging. But the real encouraging view is the building of the church in hearts and minds and the new living stones being added into the structure.
June 1, 2007
June 25, 2007
A Prelude – Beneath an India Sky
Proceeding from our hotel to the graduation ceremonies, we whisk along the highway. Along the road are the flame of the forest trees ablaze with their profusion of bright orange/red blossoms reminding us of the Spirit’s work to inflame the graduates to continue in the Word for Him and His work.
Pentecost is a presence not alone an historical event. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh is in the vicinity visiting here and there in his ceremonies. This is evident with the police constables along the road with their lathi sticks in hand to curtail any disturbances. We press on to our destination with the peace the world cannot give tucked away in our hearts. Angel legionaires see to our safety both to our immediate objective and our ultimate. Though invisible their power is far beyond that of the bamboo lathi stick. The monsoon season has not begun yet so the ceremony can be held out of doors in the compound’s spacious courtyard. Immediately as we arrive walking into the yard the spicey aroma of India cooking greets us as well as the ever present pungent aroma of the onion, so much used in cooking here. After feasting on God’s Word we will partake of a joint rice meal for all, young and old, reminding us how God provides His forgiveness for all also. Sitting in the chairs among the increasingly large group we gaze above us at the faint whiffs of clouds turned pinkish with the setting sun. The towering Ashoka trees wave back and forth as if to the rhythm of the beating drums. Artificial lighting is now replacing the setting sun. But it is the Sun of righteousness that provides in each heart a true undiminished light in any darkness, a heaven-sent, Word implanted light, He who is unrivalled by man’s inventions. The evening is fairly mild for here what with the heat of the day having waned and a light breeze coming up. The pre-service music continues uninterrupted as will the post second coming music, an audible reminder of the joy within that lasts and lasts. A variety of men step to the microphone and hymn their praises to a wonderful Lord. The graduates are beginning to take their seats for this ninth graduation service at Nidubrolu. Ladies in their braided hair and colorful sarees add a touch of charm and grace to an otherwise strongly masculine presence. Sunday school children are beginning to settle down in front on the ground in preparation for the dances and singing. Now and then you catch the scent of the frangipani, a white flower of perfume power for ladies’ hair and adornments. Soon throughout the courtyard will spread that most fragrant of all, the
Gospel aroma that means life to life. All is just about ready… (Pastor Jyothi will be sending a full report on the graduation with pictures.)
July 6, 2007
Good News from a Far Country is Like Cold Water to a Thirsty Soul
To give you more of the flavor of the work and exposure of God’s forward movement here is a profile of one district in the BELC. (Incidentally the ‘B’ in BELC now stands for Berea, rather than the former “Bahrath.”)
Bhasker, the district chairman, has a robust laugh and a caring soul. Recently, at the executive committee meeting when D. Paul hobbled in it was Bhasker who gave his arm and help in and out and down the stairs to D. Paul. Really touching. I had the honor of preaching for B.’s wedding to Hephzibah some years back. B. was one of the original group of men who Bas trained when he came up to make his center of operations in Uthukottai in 1990. While B. doesn’t speak so much English, he knows more than he speaks. I have found him dedicated and diligent in his work. He is not located in Sri Kalahasti as that move was one thing we just could not do yet in the budget with all the other competing needs. His motorcycle gets a good workout, as his duty is to visit all pastors in their congregations (27 in Sri K. and 24 over in Chittoor). Recently, when I delivered 300 Bibles to Sri K. I was told that B. would be taking some along to each congregation he visited.
This district began with about seven or so men who were attending our meetings at Nagalapuram when we were cramped with over 50 men in the rented quarters. So we spun Sri K. off as a district. Additional men attended classes to go through the catechism and the 14 pamphlets up there. There were most recently 19 ‘old’ pastors and nine ‘new’ ones. The ‘old’ are now attending one day meetings a month instead of two, while the new men have a special class to go through the required material with B. The 19 are being led through Mueller’s My Church and Others. They meet in one of the church buildings that you have assisted with. This is Pastor Rajamini’s(we have a number of pastors who have the same name. This is not the other district chairman by that name.) which he built a lot on his own. Most recently I asked D. Paul to send up our two painting pastors, Meschack and Jecind, to paint the structure. Rajamini is a widower. The room I take a nap in at his house over lunch has his wife’s picture above me on the wall. He has had medical problems and was hospitalized recently. Loads of items to pray about. The church is at V. M. Palli.
The oldest of the pastors is Manoharan at 63 who has a wry (in the good sense) and readily present smile. He is also one of those who have been with us quite a while. The youngest attendee is Jagrutha Deepak, 19, who is an eager learner and should turn out to be a dedicated pastor. He has no congregation as yet. In our studies you would note his presence by his ready answers to questions. Ravi Kumar is also one of those who has been with us for quite a while. You may remember back a few years that there was a question as to whether he was going to go to another church from ours. When I confronted him in love on the situation, he responded with tears and a confirmation that he was with us in the Word. Of the newer pastors there is Ephraim. He came the second day of the recent meetings. You could see etched on his face the sorrow of his loss the week before of his wife who went to heaven. He has three children. Privately a couple of the men gave him some money to help with expenses. He came to us like a number in this district from the South Andhra Lutheran Church. You could not miss spotting Pastor Mani as he has one withered leg. When we gave bikes to the men, we gave an extra amount to him to get a three wheeled, pedaled by hand bike. Now three years after his bike needs repairs. In his case I gave 1000 Indian Rupees for this, while we do not do this for the normal situations. We had a discussion on the medical needs of the men and I gave 22,000 Rupees from the CLC MDF, which was part of what was needed.
In this district we have a lot of congregations that have land. Two building projects were approved for this budget period (Sept. to Sept.). But due to so many having land I asked and the Mission Board granted three additional ones before the next year’s request.
The congregation at V. M. Palli where we meet is a friendly group. While I am there inevitably some people stop in to ask for prayers. During this last two-day meeting there were eight. In the previous meeting in March Priya ( a girl in 10th Standard Class) and a chum stopped in during lunch to offer me food. I don’t know if it was their idea or they were sent. I declined most of the food, but it was kind. This time around she stopped in to say hello with two other school chums. To make sure I knew who she was, she brought along the colored wristband I had given her last time. It is always a joy to get out and meet the members of congregations. What a fellowship, what a joy divine! — Missionary D. Koenig
Ah, the Ladies, God Bless ‘Em – Mary Slessor
When we were living in Nigeria in 1986, my wife, five kids and I all liked to get away from the village to a ‘big’ city for a weekend. This gave us the blessing of constant electricity, a hotel room with AC and different food among other things. One city that we would go to was Calabar. This old city was also the center of the missionwork one hundred years before of a hardy Scots lassie, Mary Slessor(1848-1915). She arrived in Calabar in 1876 and God used her through the years to bring His Gospel to the people.
While we would not agree with some of her Presbyterian teachings, we can certainly admire her zeal and determination to reach the primitive people of the Calabar region. It is hard to believe that this young woman worked for forty years among a people who were steeped in so horrible a multitude of evils. But it is the love of Christ that controls, impels, moves… Slavery was prevalent both in selling to whites as well as the Nigerians themselves enslaving and branding their own people. Mary worked to help the slaves and to keep them from being killed when their master died. When Paul wrote to Philemon about how to treat his returned slave, Onesimus, it was to a Christian master. But Mary dealt with a heathen people to whom killing was usual and indiscriminate.
When a chief died, his wives could be lined up and a chicken killed in front of each. Depending on how the chicken’s head flopped the woman was innocent or guilty of witchcraft in causing her husband’s death. Mary over and over sought to intervene and help these the weaker vessels. And of course when a chief died it was good to send off his wives with him into the afterlife. Mary sought to bring the love of Christ into this cruel environment.
Death was a constant in those days. Human sacrifices were practiced. Bloody tribal warfare over trivial things was practiced. We know how our Lord the great Mediator intervened to bring us to God the Father. Mary would also intervene between tribes, even on the very verge of war, to save them from the vengeful slaughter frenzy that would take over. While she was called many things over the years, at first not very complimentary things, later it was the “white Ma.”
It was a time when the law of the jungle literally prevailed. Into this she brought in word and action the love Christ has for lost sinners. One practice she worked heartily against was the killing of twins. To have twins was thought to be cursed. One of the twins had a devil as the father. Since one could not find out which, both twins would be taken out in the bush to die. Mary’s hut became a haven for these children. One time when Mary was up country a leopard came into her tent and took a baby boy in its mouth to take to eat later. Mary quickly took a flaming stick from the fire and stabbed the leopard in the face. It dropped the baby who was saved. The salvation she sought though for these children above all was to be with the Lord in heaven.
Among the many hideous, superstitious practices of the day was trial by ordeal. Boiling oil would be poured over the hand to see about guilt. One day when Mary was present an eleven year old boy had oil poured over his hand. She quickly grabbed some oil and chased the man who poured it to see if he was guilty or innocent. This kind of courage was repeated many times as she held to her motto, “God and one are a majority.” Truly, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
We, a weak and pampered American family, had to go to a hotel periodically for what we thought we had to have, rest and relaxation away from the village. Oh, how we can learn from Mary, who came into West Africa in the days when it was called the “whiteman’s grave.” There was there the saying, “Beware, oh beware of the Bight of Benin, where one came out, but three went in.” Tropical diseases were rampant. Elephants and lions were ever present dangers. And yet Mary kept going farther and farther inland in her work to reach more who had not heard the Gospel, obeying with faith the Lord’s words, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Finally, the time came for God to call her home. She prayed in Efik on her sick bed, “O Abasi, sana mi yak.”(O God let me go.) And He took her soul. When she died, this woman who had so much of what really counts, had all of her earthly possessions in a shoebox. Still today you can go to Calabar and learn about Mary Slessor. The important thing is not that her name is on a hospital or school or road, but that His name is hallowed there now as once it was not over one hundred years ago.
At the Foot of Mount Meru
On October 30-31 twenty one Africans and five Americans studied the Word of God together. As we gathered and proceeded it was obvious the unity of Spirit was among us. For instance in discussions on baptism of infants it was good to hear a defense of the truth by many. We met in a hotel at the foot of Mt. Meru. This is a neighbor mountain some ways from the tallest, Mt.Kilimanjaro. In this picturesque setting we had good fellowship with one another over the beautiful Word of God. Four men came from the CLC Kenya/Etago, three from the CLC Kenya/Nairobi, one from Congo and the rest from the CLCEA. We had two visiting pastors who are investigating joining the CLCEA. All the districts of the CLCEA were represented. The five of us of the CLC USA participated in not only the study sessions but in individual and group discussions. One new pastor joined the CLCEA at the meeting.
Pastor Mayhew from the CLC USA led us in a study of Luther and the Reformation going back into the history leading up to the Reformation focusing on several individuals. He then proceeded to explain about the leaders in the Reformation. He handed out to all a booklet the men could read on their own of the Life of Luther by P. Melanchthon. He concluded “Let us give thanks to our gracious LORD for using these individuals to uphold the Biblical truth of Salvation by Grace alone through faith in Jesus. The Reformation theme remains ours today – Grace alone, Faith Alone and Scripture Alone! Thanks be to God. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” Is. 40:8 This essay was especially timely as we met on the second day which was Reformation Day.
Pastor Fred Ogendo from Etago CLC presented a study on Christian Growth. He defined a disciple as a follower who learns from someone. He led us in seeking to understand our purpose in life which can come only through spiritual knowledge. Pointing out the usefullness of Christian service he said, “As one uses a spoon to eat, God is also using pastors, teachers and missionaries to represent His service to all nations.” He led us in a discussion of seven principles of Christian growth: Bible study, prayer, personal holiness, service, giving, fellowship and worship.
Pastor Michael Gondwe of the Tanga CLCEA delivered an essay on Be Strong in the Grace, which Paul wrote Timothy of in 2nd Tim. Pastor Gondwe wrote, “Some will say: ‘Of what use is it to exhort a man to be strong in grace, unless free will have something to do in cooperation?. I reply, what God demands from us by His Word He likewise bestows by His Spirit, so that we are strengthened in the grace which He has given to us. And yet the exhortations are not superfluous, because the Spirit of God, teaching us inwardly, causes that they shall not sound in our ears fruitlessly and to no purpose. Whoever, therefore, shall acknowledge that the present exhortation could not have been fruitful without the secret power of the Spirit, will never support free will by means of it.” It all comes through the power of God’s grace. He also had in the essay a very thorough explanation of why from Scripture we view Paul’s second letter to Timothy as written from a second imprisonment in Rome.
Charles Gikonyo, who heads our CLC Kenya/Nairobi, gave “Child Baptism A Must.” After going over the reasons for baptizing all including little babies, he took us through a different approach to viewing infant baptism. “Baptism is given very strong exclamation and emphasis” in Scripture. We considered a large number of passages from the Old Testament on children, especially under judgment. He concluded, “By this I conclude that children are also not innocent of sin nor are any of us! We are all a non-people, guilty, falling far short of God’s glory and lost in our sins. Then why should children not be baptized!”
Pastor Koenig, CLC USA, led in a study of Justification. After defining terms we viewed passage teaching: Universal Justification, Individual Justification, passages including both. Throughout the essay we viewed illustrations on justification out of life: a man on death row in prison…,a man in debt and overwhelmed…,the vast bank of clouds above…,a man dies and leaves a will…,a large mango tree in the village…,in the beginning God created light and then the sun, moon and stars to receive it… Our Lord is everything to us. In Him we live and move and have our being. This most important Bible teaching comes to us with such clarity from the Word because it is so vital for our life here and the abundant one beyond this veil. The Lord is our righteousness as well as everything else. 1 Cor. 1:30
In Koenig’s second essay we considered the question Why are some saved and not others? We see that our Christian religion is one of blessed paradoxes and mysteries we must accept by faith. We went over what the answer is not: some are inclined to believe, some resist less, some are chosen in eternity to hell, some cooperate more with God, some have more good in them. All of this the Word clearly rejects. We viewed passages in which we say man rejects but God converts. We looked at three passages in particular that address this question as far as it is answered on this side of eternity: Rom. 1:20-21, Acts 14:16-18, 17:24-27. Why was one saved and not the other? Think of Judas and Peter. Judas’ rejection was his own fault, though he had great advantages. Peter’s salvation was by the power of God Himself for no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit. This is as far as we can proceed. Beyond this is the “secret, concealed, inscrutable.” Man’s corrupted mind does not like this for in pride it thinks it should know. Scripture has spoken and we believe. Speak Lord for your servant hears with faith.
Pastor Jeremiah of the CLCEA hosted this conference. Next year we will meet in Nairobi. In additon to this conference allowing us to study His Word together, our men are developing the fellowship relationship even though separated by great distances. God be praised.