NOTES FROM THE FIELD (FOURTH IN A SERIES)
In this series, those involved with CLC foreign missions profile one area of our overseas endeavors.
(Note: because of the risk of persecution, the full names of individuals, as well as place names, have been left out of the following article.)
Martin Luther Bible School
Martin Luther Bible School is the training center for the Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church (or BELC) in India. Until recently, their building was a rented facility. About the time school officials were notified that the building was going to be sold, funding was made available through a special gift to the Mission Development Fund (MDF). This enabled the BELC to purchase the building, and improvements have been completed in record time.
This year the graduating class is made up of twenty-two students, whose two-year course of study has been supported by Project Kinship sponsors here in the U.S. Students range in age from nineteen to fifty-eight. Several of the men have already served as pastors, or helped other pastors. Eleven were already members of the BELC. The other eleven came to Martin Luther Bible School from other church bodies, though at graduation it is expected they will declare their doctrinal agreement with and membership in the BELC.
BELC President D. Paul
The president of the BELC is Pastor D. Paul. He also serves as principal, and one of the five teachers, at Martin Luther Bible School. In addition, he serves as a chairman for two of the twenty-four districts in the BELC, and is pastor of a church in a nearby village. Despite all his titles and responsibilities, D. Paul simply likes to be called “Pastor.”
Pastor D. Paul began serving as the president of the BELC in 2002, after problems with a previous leader led to a ruptured relationship with the first BELC, which was the Bharath Evangelical Lutheran Church. The formation of the new Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church came when pastors noted the error of the former leader, and sought to remain in fellowship with the CLC.
When Pastor D. Paul was appointed as the new president, his responsibilities included overseeing thirty-five other pastors. His first term was three years, after which he was re-selected. He will continue as long as he is able, and is faithful to God’s Word. Now he oversees six other district chairmen, and with their help more than seven hundred pastors who serve BELC churches, or are studying to do so through colloquy.
Pastor D. Paul was born into a non-Christian family in 1964. At a young age he was sent to a Christian boarding school operated by the Church of Christ in Chennai. It was there, through the Word and work of the Holy Spirit, that he first learned about Jesus, his Savior.
His education after high school provided earning potential far beyond that of his parents, who were rice paddy workers. He has a degree in chemistry, and worked in a private firm as a typist. He also studied three years at South Asia Bible College, then three more years at the first Martin Luther Bible School, of the Bharath Evangelical Lutheran Church.
He was ordained by Missionary David Koenig and CLCI Pastor Jyothi Benjamin in 2003, and has served as pastor for three different congregations in the BELC. He is especially fond of God’s assurance found in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
Pastor D. Paul has never been to the U.S., nor does he seem eager to go. He and his wife, Elishapath, have seven children, nine to twenty-four years of age. This past year they also became grandparents. With all of his responsibilities at home, in the church he serves, as a district chairman, at MLBS, and with the BELC, his schedule is already quite full. Even most of the financial operation of the BELC falls under his leadership. Among his many blessings he is especially thankful to the Lord for the prayer and support of his fellow-Christians in the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that
which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”
(I Corinthians 3:11).
Edward Starkey has served as a foreign missionary in India. He is currently the pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.