The last two weeks Michael Appleton has been in India visiting, encouraging and strengthening pastors and churchs, serving them wholeheartedly and seeing great grace released through it all.
We have deep relationships in a number of places in India, but no more than in Chennai, Tamil Nadu with Pastor Premnath and Priya Samuels, and in Bhimavaram, Andra Pradesh with Pastor John and Prasanthi Christian. They are dear people, and the reports coming home from Michael have shown the heart in these people, and the goodness of God that continues to increase wherever his people are.
Here are some of Michael's comments from his time in Andra Pradesh with Pastor John Christian. He begins with a reference to John's parents Happy and Susella Christian...Happy and Susella Christian have left a large shadow in Andhra Pradesh. Happy pioneered evangelistic work in the face of staunch opposition over a region that spans hundreds of kilometres. Susella not only had the task raising the children largely by herself, but it was her pastoral love, care and discipleship that was the “glue” of the church at home. It was Susella’s faith and determination that secured the land that the church is now situated upon.
But these have been difficult years for John, Prashanti and the church. Rather than follow the Hindu custom of putting the elderly out of the house to die, or putting her into a government nursing home, John chose to nurse his mother through her time of illness. It was demanding and he needed to be on call 24hrs a day. At first, church members were able to help, but it became too difficult for them to sustain it. In the end John had to do it alone, sleeping in the same room with her lest she fall out of bed looking for him. Doctors bills and medication drained all their finances. Yet through it all, God has done something in the heart.
The whole process has required a lot of patience on behalf of the church and John. He has been unable to attend to normal pastoral duties the last few years. Numbers have dwindled a bit. But its core, Bethel Church is a strong group of people who are committed to each other and committed to John. The whole process has drawn them closer together.
Like Moses being prepared in the desert, God has been preparing John and this people for an apostolic purpose. They have been through a time of insignificance, where love for God and each other is all they are left with. While this has been a difficult process it is really mostwonderful and has prepared them for what is to come.
This was a friendship visit in the fullest sense. It was a time for renewing relationship, talking, reminiscing, sharing of sorrow, encouragement and discussing the future. The sharing of love reinforced the relationship and the whole church was renewed in a baptism of love.
The depth of their appreciation was poured out at the end of the Sunday morning service. I was asked to dedicate a child and provide a name, after which the whole church proceeded to to place garlands of flowers around my neck. Turn after turn they took, until I was so covered over with flowers you could hardly find me. The photos of this probably look a bit strange but the love in the room was so tangible and everyone was greatly moved. A fellowship lunch followed and the tangible sense of love remained. Each day this week church members have come to John’s house talking about what an amazing Sunday it was. It is very hard to find the words to describe it. We eagerly look forward to the next visit.
We have often said that God is changing the Church from being institutional to being relational, and these stories come and show us the heart that God is putting back into His people everywhere. The apostolic message is having an effect on the world. God's goodness is evident everywhere we look. God has always been wonderful, but we are seeing it more and more all the time.
Photo: Michael Appleton with Pastor Vincent Samuel, Calvary Community Church, Chennai, India