A Letter From Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin, serving as RLs for South Asia
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We recently attended a conference that brought together ministry partners of Presbyterian World Mission from all over the Asia-Pacific area. This consultation proved to be one of the highlights of our tenure as regional liaisons to South Asia. The consultation was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where Presbyterians have pioneered evangelistic, educational and medical mission outreach for over 150 years.
During the months leading up to the event, we were not sure how the consultation would be received by our partners since it involved a careful analysis of past Presbyterian World Mission programs and goals. The eventual issues raised and conclusions drawn would come from our partners, but we had fashioned the exacting format. Would our partners sufficiently trust our format to honestly share their experiences and opinions of Presbyterian World Mission? Would we be able to mesh different cultural communication styles? Our trepidation was replaced by joy when the conference room reverberated with voices of praise to the LORD during our first morning devotional time, and this was followed by dynamic discussion among all the small groups. It was clear from the beginning that the partners had come with a clear commitment to make the consultation a success.
The South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India, is a strategic theological school that trains seminary professors for academic service throughout India. The academic dean of SAIACS, Dr. Havilah Dharamraj, consented to give the primary scriptural address at the consultation, based on the 25th chapter of Matthew. This theme was chosen since the PC(USA) and Presbyterian World Mission in particular have encouraged churches to be Matthew 25 churches. Dr. Dharamraj is a wonderful example of the excellent training that SAIACS provides. She gave a brilliant exposition that challenged us all to live out our faithfulness to Jesus Christ by acting like the 10 wise bridesmaids who were prepared to meet the bridegroom, the wise stewards who took the risk and invested their talents well, and the sheep who served their master by publicly identifying with the brothers and sisters of Christ who suffered for their faith in the latter days. Here is part of her conclusion:
“In each story each group has a task to do (that) … calls for committed entrepreneurship, mind and body toiling over long months or even years, perhaps. We? We are called to join into a task that sweeps across two millennia, taking to the ends of the earth the good news of salvation through Jesus, abolishing slavery and sati, bringing hospitals to the sick and schools to the illiterate, quickening the conscience of a humanity that has dulled its responsiveness to war and violence, to trafficking and bonded labor, to female foeticide and child soldiers — a whole lifetime would not be enough to serve the cause of the whole gospel.”
Suchitra Behera, originally from Orissa, India, is a good friend of our mission colleagues, Doctors Les and Cindy Morgan, who have ministered in Bangladesh for 27 years. Suchitra has a joyful, effusive personality and has used her gifts in several Christian N.G.O. groups that minister to refugees and others in dire need. Suchitra’s husband is one of the newest bishops in the Church of Bangladesh. The Church of Bangladesh has an outstanding strategy of holistic evangelism that has been particularly effective among the Santal people in Northwest Bangladesh. A number of PC(USA) congregations have given to the fund that now has built several simple churches in the area, and we were thrilled to have visited one of those congregations last year. Bangladesh is a difficult country in which to do evangelism, but the Sovereign LORD of Asia knows how to transcend political and cultural barriers to announce the Kingdom of God in the most difficult of places.
United Mission to Nepal is an excellent mission group comprised of more than a dozen Christian groups that represent well the Good News in their country. We have been impressed with their training of small village groups on the porous border with India to prevent human trafficking through coordination with the local police and the community groups trained to confront such evil in their midst. Bibhu Singh was a representative of United Mission to Nepal at the consultation, and she contributed to the analysis and goal-setting.
Thanks be to God for a new generation of Asian leaders who are not intimidated by the enormity of the task of shining the Light of Christ in a sea of indifference, prejudice and injustice. We have confidence that such partners will hear:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:34b-36
We deeply value your prayerful support of our ministry among such South Asian leaders and greatly appreciate your continued interest and financial support that enable us to carry on our service.
Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin
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Tags: bangladesh, Bibhu Singh, Chiang Mai, Church of Bangladesh, consultation, Havilah Dharamraj, India, Matthew 25, partnership, SAIACS, South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, Suchitra Behera, thailand, United Mission to Nepal
Tags: Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin
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