In this series, those involved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
[Ed.: The following is a report from Pastor Jyothi Benjamin, in his own words, about current activities in the
Church of the Lutheran Confession in India (CLCI). The report is lightly edited for clarity.]
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV)
Smiles spread on every face, and everybody enjoyed the CLCI seminary 2021 graduation day. The seminary graduation was a very festive and special occasion. By the wonderful grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the climax had come for the 2021 class of the CLCI seminary. Due to coronavirus, we had total lock downs in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states, and were unable to conduct CLCI seminary graduation as we planned in the month of June. Commencement was held on Monday, August 16th at the CLCI mission campus.
We call these ceremonies “commencement exercises” because graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning. The purpose of the CLCI seminary training is to lay the foundation in the lives of our students for a lifetime in the Lord’s ministry. We are very pleased to inform you that God has led another seventeen students to complete the seminary course successfully. We were able to complete the seminary syllabus for these graduates in time, despite the lockdowns.
As usual, we planned to have an outdoor graduation program. A beautiful dais was set with microphone and loudspeakers, lights and decorations. Everything was very carefully prepared. But all of a sudden, rain ruined our plans. So we shifted the graduation program indoors, to the church building upstairs.
As principal of the seminary, I congratulated the graduates and conveyed my best wishes and blessings. I encouraged all the graduates with a commencement address and told them that they should never forget their true goal. I spoke from 1 Thessalonians 5:14-25 and gave instructions to the newly graduated students as they enter into paths of service and CLCI ministry with new life. All the graduates received these instructions very attentively. Finally, I congratulated the graduates and repeated my warning to them to keep their lives pure.
Many CLCI pastors and members attended the graduation ceremony and congratulated the graduates. Many members, students, and pastors walked to the front to shake hands with the graduates. Following the commencement exercises a wonderful feast was held to honor the graduates. Everybody enjoyed chicken curry with colored rice biryani.
As principal of the seminary, I do miss these graduates. This class is really something special to me. They really did very hard work in learning their lessons throughout the tough COVID period. It was a joy for me to experience, on a daily basis, their passion, intelligence, curiosity, frustration due to covid lockdowns, honesty, doubts, and hopefulness. All of them became my good friends. It’s an amazing thing to see them, now, going out into the church as pastors. Really, I miss them in the class. But I know I should never forget that everything is happening within the framework of God’s will. God made the world. God loves the world. God is at work in the world today. In fact, God is on a loving mission to save, bless, set free, and reconcile the world. And God works through these ordinary people to get that done. I encouraged all the graduates to be faithful in proclaiming the good news, even when they meet apathy or opposition. Pastor Nireekshana and some of our CLCI pastors conveyed their greetings to the graduates and prayed for them, laying their right hands on the heads of the graduates. The principal of the seminary also conveyed the best wishes and blessings on behalf of the CLC-USA.
Some of the graduates have shared their testimony and expressed their special thanks to the seminary for its valuable training. They have more than a diploma that they can hang with pride on the wall; they have the opportunity to literally change the course of history by bringing the Word of God to bear on all the people. They also expressed their thanks to the honorable sponsors of the CLC for their kind support.
We awarded the certificates and gifts to both the correspondence students and the seminary graduates. Special prizes—leather Bible bags—were also presented to the seminary graduates. Even though the graduates enjoyed the excitement, they also shed tears and felt sad in that moment. Those of us who have passed through seminary know that there is one day that every student has to face—graduation day. A day where they breathe freedom, yet shed tears for leaving behind the place where they were transformed from ordinary men into fully trained pastors. Now they are ready to serve the Lord with their whole hearts. They will find themselves refreshed in their work by the presence of the Lord. St. Paul said in the book of Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (4:13) I am sure that each of the graduates will touch many lives during this new phase of their lives.
We have presented certificates, prayed for graduates, labored and laughed together, and this has all happened with the kind help from the honorable CLC. Your fellowship is a special gift from the Lord. We thank and praise God for the wonderful assistance we have been receiving from the respected CLC Mission Board and Kinship Committee. Pray for God’s hand of blessing to rest upon these seventeen men as they go into the Gospel field as shepherds to spread the Word of God. Please pray also that more young people will be challenged to take up the call to the ministry. Thank you!!
A Foundation Laid for A Lifetime