Death, Destruction, and Dedication in Eastern India

In the fall of 2008 the Indian state of Orissa was rocked by a shocking wave of violence. Tens of thousands of Hindus went on a month-long rampage against local Christians. By the time the violence ended more than 60 pastors were killed, mostly beaten to death by mobs, and 100 churches or church related buildings were burned. I have just returned from doing 3 days of basic ministry training for 130 pastors and other leaders in Orissa. It was the most difficult trip I have ever taken. Not because of the forty hours of travel to get there, or the large furry rodents running at my feet as we ate in the hotel restaurant to go with the two others the kitchen staff had just killed and swept out the door. It wasn’t because of the garbage and filth that lined the streets and choked every lake, pond or canal. It wasn’t the smell of raw sewage flowing in the gutters or stepping in one of the countless cow patties left by the animals that roamed freely, everywhere. It wasn’t even the concern for my safety that my hosts had after a gang of men tried to disrupt our training. (From that point on I was not allowed to be on the street and was never alone expect when I got back to my hotel room.) All of that I expect as part of the deal. I have traveled enough to know that’s how it is and that someplace has to be the worst yet. You simply have to learn how to roll with that.

What made this so difficult was seeing the video tape from the news station that showed people being beat to death because of their faith, seeing the homes and churches that were burned, talking to pastors who hid in the woods for a month while people brought them food. Seeing all that and then seeing that these Christians continues to press ahead, longing for ways to reach out and serve the very neighbors who attacked them and then comparing it to our own situations in the west, THAT is what made it so difficult and painful. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t, and still can’t, shake the words of Jesus out of my head, “to whom much is given is much required”.

You see, even though these pastors have theological degrees and are well-educated in doctrine, church administration, preaching and the like, they have received no training in basic disciple-making, community outreach, the pastors family life, or multiplication through church planting. The training we did was the only known training conference for pastors EVER in this area. The average evangelical church member in the USA or England or South Africa has tons more training and resources in basic ministry than these pastors of churches in India. On top of that a single pastor there typically oversees 6 or 7 churches at the same time. They have nothing. Yet they press ahead in the face of life threatening opposition, seeking to learn how to love and serve their neighbor, their enemy. They are doing more with nothing than most in the west are doing with everything.

When I finished a session on The Good Samaritan and told them you do “What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are”, a number of them said that they felt guilt and shame because they had no idea that ministry was supposed to be about reaching out to those God puts in your path, those who are clearly in need. They had a time of repentance right there.

The typical reaction when hearing about this is for western Christians to express how grateful they are for the blessings God has given us, our freedom, resources, safety, etc. But as we are prone to do, such sentiments, while a good start, fall woefully short of what is really needed. What we  need to do is ask, “God, what do you require of me in light of all my freedom, blessings and resources”. Again I say, “to whom much is given is much required”. It simply will not do to stop with a recognition of our good fortune. We must go the next step and ask how that fortune is to be used by God so that others will come to know and love Him. In Orissa, Christians are asking that question in spite of the fact that the answer could lead to their death. How much more should we be asking that question ourselves?

Sacrificing for the Least of These

In a time of economic distress, brought on in large part by an unbridled lust for possessing more and more, there is a company that is doing one of the most provocative things I have ever witnessed. A small coffee company based out of Seattle is giving away ALL of it’s revenue for the month of May. The Storyville Coffee company is making an incredible sacrifice for the sake of others. They are not just giving away their profits for the month. They are giving away their entire revenue. So if you spend $39.95 on their introductory offer, they will not only send you four weeks of coffee and a set of mugs, they will give your entire $39.95 to the International Justice Mission.

The ministry of IJM, is to rescue the millions of children who are trapped in the world sex-slave trade. “International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.” From the IJM website.

Both Storyville and IJM are doing the kinds of radical things that Jesus so desperately wants us to do. What is wonderful for you is that you can be radical along with them. Go to the Storyville website, and read about what they are doing and why and then order some coffee. Go to the IJM website and learn about this ministry that is literally saving lives in the darkest of places and send them a donation and get involved. It is so easy for you to do and yet so radical a thing that will rescue others from the most terrible of circumstances.

With you in His great adventure,


Would You Give Up Your Wedding Ring for Jesus?

Imagine being convinced that God wants you to make a difference in the lives of other people by giving up your wedding ring. My friend Ali Eastburn was faced with just that situation. Ali learned about the desperate need for clean water in western Africa. People were dying every day because of unclean water when a well could be drilled and save lives. She also learned that the cost of her diamond ring could possibly drill a well and save an entire village. Then she was confronted with the fact that many so called “blood diamonds” come from that region. Blood diamonds get their name because so many people die in the mining and trafficking of illegal diamonds. It only seemed right that her diamond should be redeemed to drill a well and save a village.

As she thought more about it, Ali was inspired to begin a ministry called “With This Ring”. The concept is brilliant in its simplicity. She sold her ring and partnered with a ministry that drills wells for villages in need. She then began talking to others about her idea and people began to give her their wedding rings to turn into cash for wells. I saw Ali speak to a group of people a few months ago and after she was done, women started walking up to her with tears in their eyes. They took of their rings and asked her to use them to save the lives of people in Africa.

A few weeks ago she returned from her second trip to Ghana in less than a year. She was there to insure that the next few wells were drilled but more importantly to tell people about Jesus. She got more than she bargained for. Hygiene is almost non-existent in the area were she was. She said it was the most unhealthy environment she has ever encountered. People suffer from serious cases of Guinea Worms which infect open sores, the local shaman practices “bleeding” of people as a way to “cure” them. She was faced with at least one case of leprosy and a young girl with a broken foot who the shaman kept bleeding in order to heal. Ali ended up providing basic medical care to clean the girls open wounds made by the shaman and within a few days was overwhelmed with parents bringing their children to her. As a result of her being there she was able to make a connection with a medical college that is now adding that village as a required place for students to do volunteer work.

In little over a year With This Ring has raised 100,000 dollars and drilled numerous wells and started several churches in northern Ghana. The goal is 160,000 and 30 wells. The ministry of church planting, medical care, hygiene training and loving people in Jesus name is making an impact. It is saving lives and bringing people to Him.

Oh and if you were wondering, Ali replaced the diamond ring she gave to drill a well, with a plain band bought at Target for less than $20. It works just as well and actually means more to her than the original diamond did.

One thing I love about what Ali has done is that a ministry like this is truly provocative. People will want to know why you sold your ring. They will want to know what motivated such a sacrifice of something that has not only monetary but also emotional value. It is that kind of provocative behavior that opens the door for conversations about Jesus. I think it is the kind of thing that makes Him smile. I wonder, what provocative thing is God whispering in your ear that will make a difference for Him.

Please check out Ali’s web site and see if God doesn’t touch your heart to get involved.