Every other month our CLC Board of Missions updates us with recent news from various mission fields.
The largest church body with which the CLC is in fellowship is Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church of India (BELC). The BELC currently has 716 ordained pastors serving 442 churches and 1,284 preaching stations. There are approximately 38,000 members. The BELC currently ministers to people in four states in India: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Odisha.
The main focus of the work in the BELC is the training of pastors to serve congregations and preaching stations so that they may equip their members to spread the Gospel throughout southern India. Training begins with two years of study at Martin Luther Bible School in Andra Pradesh. The subjects taught at MLBS are similar to those taught at Immanuel Lutheran Seminary in Eau Claire. Around twenty students are accepted into the program every two years. In the spring of 2017, eighteen new pastors graduated and are now serving congregations. Twenty new students have just completed their first year of studies and look forward to graduating in the spring of 2019.
Training does not end once these pastors leave the classroom. The six district chairmen of the BELC organize and conduct monthly training seminars in each of the twenty-two districts to further equip these men to shepherd their flocks. A main focus of the work Missionary Peter Evensen does involves traveling to the various districts to teach at these seminars.
There is great willingness and desire to expand to include even more districts.
A new district of twenty-four pastors was started in Chengalpet in July of 2017. At our spring Mission Board meeting, we approved the addition of twenty new pastors in the Madanappalli district. There are many pastors who would like to take this training, but limited resources restrict the number of new men and new districts that can be added.
The BELC is also involved in various outreach programs. In 2017, around 14,600 children enrolled in annual VBS programs. The BELC also carries out a film outreach ministry in remote rural villages, tribal areas, and urban centers. Currently, they are showing the Jesus film (JesusFilm.org) which has been translated into Telegu and Tamil (the primary languages spoken in southern India). After showing the video, pastors preach the Gospel in detail. In 2017, the film outreach ministry was conducted in approximately fifty locations.
The CLC supports the work of the BELC in a number of ways.
• Through the general budget, the district chairmen receive a subsidy which finances monthly district trainings and travel to visit with the pastors. It also allows the chairmen to concentrate on their ministry work full time.
• Through project KINSHIP, MLBS students are sponsored, medical aid is offered, and widows are supported.
• The Mission Development Fund (MDF) helps fund a number of projects including VBS, church roofing, the purchase of bicycles and motorcycles for pastors, Bibles and Christian literature, and more.
A pro-Hindu majority party currently controls India’s national government, and this has led to a crack-down on Christianity. Despite this, there are many open doors for the training of faithful pastors who will proclaim the truth of God’s saving Word and start new congregations. There seems to be no end to the opportunities before us. We pray that the Lord would provide the necessary resources, man-power, courage, and zeal to continue in this field that is so ripe for harvest.
Robert Sauers is pastor of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Morris, Minnesota, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions